February 28, 2022, Kyiv.
A picture of a residential building hit with a rocket, posted by the mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klychko.
Vitaliy Klychko / Twitter
Six days ago, the war started. Ukraine and Russia, the two of my homelands
Ми більше не боїмося Хоча страшно Але не до страху…
Нам уже не страшно Хотя страшно Но не до страха…
We’re not scared Although we are just cannot afford to…
(a text message from a woman in Kyiv)
Six days ago, the war started. Ukraine and Russia, the two of my homelands. This is incredibly painful, and yet I’m ashamed it is so for me. Because as I’m writing this, the closest person to me, my sister, is in Kyiv. I don’t know when I’m going to see her again, but she doesn’t know whether she’s going to see her flat ever again, with the graffiti she painted on the wall…
Before this nightmare started, I always called her, as the older sister, and asked for advice. When I had been in doubt about my future, she would always joke: “If everything goes to shit, come to Kyiv, we’ll meet you with open arms”. Now I don’t know if this place, which was once my capsule of freedom and acceptance, is ever going to be there for me again.
I’m incredibly angry. At Putin, at people who joke about this. At people who don’t even believe there is a war. Sometimes that makes it hard for me to wake up in the morning without seeing the darkness this situation has brought. It is especially frustrating when people in my circle call Ukrainians “fascists” or people who need to be “saved”. It is physically nauseating to write it, even inside quotation marks.
However, I also think that there are miracles happening. I see it in the people who help, I see it in soldiers who are protecting their motherland. I want to believe that there will be a consistent effort that will bring about the end of this dark part of history. That we will be able to tell our children and grandchildren that the whole world came together and that kindness won over evil. And exactly that spirit is going to be passed on through generations, not the trauma, not the ruins of the country which was once proudly called Ukraine.
On Monday evening, the Ukraine ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, read text messages from the phone of a young Russian soldier, who died in Ukraine.
“Are you really in training exercises?”. This was written nu the mother, who then talks about how the father wants to send the soldier a parcel.
“Mama, I’m no longer in Crimea. I’m not in training sessions.
“Mum I’m in Ukraine there is a real war raging here. I’m afraid.
“We are bombing all of the cities together. Even targeting civilians.
“We were told that they would welcome us. And they are falling under our armoured vehicles. Throwing themselves under the wheels and not allowing us to pass. They call us fascists. Mama this is so hard.”
The last message, according to Kyslytsya, was sent seven minutes before its author was killed.
The amount of stupidity, of delusional views which the war in Ukraine has exposed makes me sick to the stomach. The acceptance of the comedic narrative that many Gen Z magazines, Tiktok videos, and memes have shown is something I have ever seen before on such a global scale.
The Western social media bubble has shown insensitivity and invalidation of the experiences of the Ukrainian people. Nothing less, nothing more.
This is partially understandable due to the geographic difference between the countries, as well as so common lack of knowledge of geography and politics in general. However, one must ask themselves a question, “Would you tell someone who is hiding in a bunker that you are sad about the cryptocurrency fall due to the war?” Because people seem to forget that when they press the post button, whether it be on Instagram, Tiktok, or any other platforms, their content is not only going to be seen by the masses of their own social reality.
On February 24th when people in Ukraine were woken by the sound of sirens in the midst of a national emergency, a New Zealand magazine decided a great choice of words would be to title their newsletter, “Hashtag World War 3 is trending”. In itself it was the message, “Russia went into war with Ukraine”. There was no need to go to such lengths as to call it “trending” to desensitise it.
There were several Tiktoks people posted (and still are) in the Western demographic saying they’re “tired of living through historical events” – while for most of them, the war had no direct impact on their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I know humour is your “coping mechanism”. Just leave the joke for your drafts.
As horrible as it is to set the standard for gratitude that low (see thanks to Putin for this one), if your biggest impact from war is high gas prices and anxiety, you should consider yourself lucky. ( Also, when I say direct impact I mean: the possibility of annihilation which forces you to sleep in an underground subway station to avoid bombing).
We are all living through a collective destabilising experience, in no way do I mean to tell somebody to shove their feelings and not talk to anybody about it. Talk to your friends who are going through the same rollercoaster of emotions. Your parents, relatives, etc. But please be sure before you decide to say something that the other person has the resources and energy to give you support.
This is why posting on public Instagram and TikTok accounts lack that consent when we are all living through a collective event. Social media makes it very easy to express yourself without seeing how people would truly react to your “coping mechanism” joke when face to face.
Yet, it is self-explanatory that sitting in a bunker and stumbling upon some teenage girl’s post in the US that they are “sad about crypto” would not feel nice.
Madrid, Spain | Moscow, Russia
Co-founder of Harbingers' Magazine
Born in 2003 in Moscow, Russia, Eva Smolokovskaya recently graduated from high school in Switzerland. She is interested in creative writing, science and social justice. At Harbingers’ Magazine, Eva edits the Culture section and writes about social justice. She is also the editor of the Harbingers’ Weekly Brief newsletter.