Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had a direct impact on our lives. My wife having returned from a family visit with enough life topics in itself just weeks before the invasion, suddenly these worries were overshadowed by much more fundamental questions about safety and uncertainty for family and friends.
Travel restrictions and uncertainty during the pandemic had already put an emotional toll on living far away from relatives. Now the direct threat of war kept us awake at night until we slowly established new routines to cope with the stress and uncertainty.
Following the Ukrainian resistance against the invasion and how the free world supported fighting back gave us new hope as Ukraine forced Russia out of first Kyiv, then Kharkiv and Kherson.
I now know much more about artillery, air defence, anti-tank weapons, Ukrainian history and geography than I did one year ago. Also much more than what is healthy to know. Ever chasing information trying to understand why. Trying to make sense of what seems so meaningless; such senseless destruction caused deliberately by one man and the system around him.
Being able to host relatives in our house as well as arranging a Xmas market felt like meaningful if small steps in support of Ukraine and in support of the rule of law. Donations to charities. Sending packages to relatives and friends. Attending demonstrations.
Still, I finally had to unplug from chasing news and updates by the hour a few weeks ago. The mental toll of chasing the latest turn of events only to have everything turned around the day after has left me exhausted. If I could give notice and the war would be over in a month, just like I did my job. How much easier it would be to endure the suffering.
I still believe that Ukraine can and must win. NATO and the united west must provide the means necessary for Ukraine to show by force that aggression doesn't pay in the 21st century. The destruction and suffering already caused will for everyone involved mean this is a lose-lose situation, even if Russia pulled back its forces overnight. Something valuable can still come from this, the world order for the next generations are at stake. It is hard to see a path forward, just like when maimed soldiers returned from the trenches in 1918, just like when survivors came out of the rubbles in 1945 after Hitlers defeat and the Japanese surrender.
Germany was rebuilt and reunited. Stalin's reign of terror ended. French and British colonies eventually grew into sovereign nations. UN kept communication lines open, even when opinions and interests were widely divided. Internet and globalisation brought information and prosperity to more people than ever before. Mankind could and did move life saving relief to locations struck by famine and catastrophic events that decades before would have led to millions of deaths without creating more than a headline in a newspaper months later.
Let's comfort ourselves that the last 12 months have also shown that we humans are capable of empathy and compassion. Communities self organised and found ways to help those in need driven by something inside themselves. Not by top down command and not by greed or hope for personal gain.
I don't know how and when the war will end. Likely not soon. The road to a better tomorrow is the sum of many small steps. Let's continue on the path towards a better tomorrow, a restored world order, where we once again can pursue happiness protected by the rule of law and not the law of the jungle. Let's have faith that even if we can't see all the twists and turns it will take to get there, we are on our way to a lasting peace.