Politics Economy Energy War Reforms Anticorruption Society

Real War. No Illusions?

Real War. No Illusions? © Getty Images

A full-scale war betided our country about as suddenly as the annual winter snowfalls.

We have such a tradition – despite common sense and the numbers on the calendar, we hope to the last that the remaining heat will last for a long time. However, we also know how to listen to the forecast on the local radio and completely ignore the fact that it goes against the interactive maps.


“Short-term precipitation is expected in the region tomorrow,” the announcer says cheerfully. “But in the afternoon the clouds will disperse and warm, dry weather will continue. Have a nice weekend and see you on Monday.”

By Monday, the region will have been completely covered with snow brought by the cyclone. All major meteorological sites have been reporting about its movement for several day in a row. And only here it materializes quite unexpectedly. Just as unexpectedly, it will turn out that most of the region has forgotten to change summer tyres for winter ones. Queues for tyre repair will be several kilometres long, and on icy roads accidents will become more frequent than traffic lights. Snowploughs will be partly broken, partly underfuelled. Traditionally, hot water pipes will burst, disabling heating in a dozen houses.

An emergency headquarters will be assembled at record pace. The Ministry of Emergency Situations will deploy tents for heating. Enthusiasts on all-terrain vehicles will snake along the snow-covered roads and pull out of snowdrifts freezing fellow citizens who hoped to slide through...

...Two years ago, rockets flew from the sky instead of snow. The very rockets that all the major international agencies were shouting about while the country was listening to an announcer who promised perfect weather just right for barbeque. At the very least, a slight cooling in the eastern part of the country.

According to a long-standing tradition, only those who are accustomed to disbelieving dubious forecasts, pleasant as they may be before the coming weekend, prepared for the storm. And planned their lives for themselves and for their stupid neighbour, who will block the exit from the yard with his rattletrap, if you don't pull it at least to the side of the road.

To say that the country was ready for a full-scale war would be a gross exaggeration. And now you can say until blue in the face that an honest conversation about the real situation could have led to panic, an economic downfall, a collapse at the border or a shortage of fuel. Chances are it would. All of it just got delayed a bit and happened anyway, but to the accompaniment of explosions.

Queues lined up at petrol stations in the first few hours. A couple of days later, fuel became the most valuable currency. Shops emptied. Pharmacies closed one after another. Highways were jammed with those trying to travel inland or abroad. Cities that had seen the war only on television for the past eight years were girding themselves with hastily constructed roadblocks and preparing to meet the enemy with Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles. Most of those who went into battle in the first days did not think about victory. The goal was to survive until morning and, with any luck, until spring. Spring was still a week away.

Reality descended upon the country quickly and ruthlessly. It was too late to reproach oneself for the lack of a clear plan, too late to stock up feverishly on everything one could get one's hands on. It was too late to learn to shoot or try to get even the simplest first aid kit. The only thing left to do was to storm the military enlistment office in the hope that on the way you would figure out how to release the safety notch on the AK-47. Or to run away from the impending horror.

And then there was war. A real big war. Completely different from heroic epics and fiction films. Horrifying, bloody, sweeping away cities and destinies on its way. The country fought. Fought desperately and fiercely. Twenty four hours. Forty eight. A week. A fortnight. Surprising not only the World, frozen in anticipation of the inevitable death of a small country in the middle of Europe, but also ourselves. It was a phase of unprecedented heroism and incredible stories of drones shot down by tomato cans and tanks captured by the Roma. A stage when it seemed that the whole country had clenched into a single fist. When everyone, if not fighting, was helping. Helped those who were fighting; those who were fleeing from the suffocating embrace of “brotherhood”; those who were healing and those who were putting out fires. And the West, convinced from day one that the country would not last three days, came out of its stupor and began to slowly but surely get involved in what was happening. Step by step. From the first uncertain sanctions to the supply of arms and training of the military.

The enemy, who were clearly not ready for resistance, were losing the land they had just captured and retreating kilometre after kilometre, leaving in their wake terrible evidence of their presence. Yesterday’s civilians, who joined the regular army, turned into hardened fighters on the move. Guerrilla fighters in the occupied territories destroyed the enemy practically with their bare hands.

“Just a couple more months, and we'll be drinking coffee in Crimea,” another talking head on TV confidently announced.

“The enemy has missiles only for a couple of salvos at most,” assured the second, echoing the former.

“Pay close attention to the announcements. We are preparing a counter-offensive. You will be impressed by its results,” argued a variety of officials and not-so-official officials persuasively, as if in unison.

The country, emboldened by its own victories and the fact that it is still alive despite everything, has once again repeated the same usual mistake. Slowly but surely, it has split into those who see the war with their own eyes and those who follow it in a national TV marathon. Those who for two years now have been continuously carrying out attacks alternating with defence, buried their brothers-in-arms and raised their children via video connection, if Starlink does not fail; and those who have stopped seeing the war in the immediate vicinity of their backyard.

It was very comfortable to believe that the enemy was getting weaker by the day, while we were building up our strength. It was also comfortable to make plans for the return of territories, to discuss reintegration strategies, to return to our usual life, our usual restaurants and resorts. One did not want to let the war that had just receded back into one’s life. The idea that the army would manage without me was becoming more and more palpable. The phrases began to sound more and more frequently and boldly:

“Let the sons of politicians (police, prosecutors, oligarchs – insert the necessary word) fight.”

“We are not at war. Summonses to the army cannot be delivered until war is declared.”

And something else about rights and freedoms...

Of those who remembered how this illusion of a distant war and “they will make it without me” ended last time, there are not many left. And most of them continue to hold the line with their last ounce of strength, hoping that the country will turn off the TV and switch on its mind. That it won't be necessary to wait for a nuclear strike on Kyiv or Russian tanks near Lviv to queue up in the courtyards of military enlistment centres again. That those who fight exclusively on social networks or over a glass of craft beer will replace them on the front line and give them a chance to gain strength before the next stage. And it will start very soon, as much as we would like to believe that this year there will be no snow for sure, thus letting us put off the question of winter tyres until later.

But afterwards, unfortunately, there is not much choice. We can allow ourselves to face the truth and recognize that a terrible price will have to be paid for victory. And it will be paid not by someone distant, born for war and, no doubt, heroic. It will be paid by you. Or your children. Along with everyone else. If, of course, you still want to win. Or survive, for that matter.

Otherwise, you can switch off the war along with the news again, close the curtains tightly, make a cup of hot tea and believe that someone out there, born for war, will liberate Crimea for you, and you will be eating chebureks on a promenade in Yalta already this summer. And be sincerely proud that your home street now bears his name.

But the real war won’t go away. It will come back to haunt you. And believe me, it won’t knock delicately on the window. It’s going to hit you with the buttstock of a rifle. Or a missile. It’s a matter of luck.

Read this article in Ukrainian and russian.

Noticed an error?

Please select it with the mouse and press Ctrl+Enter or Submit a bug

Stay up to date with the latest developments!
Subscribe to our channel in Telegram
Follow on Telegram
Total comments: 0
Text contains invalid characters
Characters left: 2000
Пожалуйста выберите один или несколько пунктов (до 3 шт.) которые по Вашему мнению определяет этот комментарий.
Пожалуйста выберите один или больше пунктов
Нецензурная лексика, ругань Флуд Нарушение действующего законодательства Украины Оскорбление участников дискуссии Реклама Разжигание розни Признаки троллинга и провокации Другая причина Отмена Отправить жалобу ОК