A full-scale war has been going on for a very, very long time. Both from us at the Support Service, and from our readers and users, you can see how people get tired of the war, even (and especially!) If it concerns them only in the background. Willy-nilly, people protect themselves from war with an emotional shield that gets bigger and bigger over time.
This shield is a fragile structure. It probably looks like a glass table: it seems to be able to withstand a lot, but there is a point that you just need to barely press – and it falls apart.
During the war, we at the Support Service tested this shield for strength many times. When they told the stories of people who lost their entire family in Mariupol and found the strength to come to the city and rebury their loved ones.
And those who left Bucha and Irpen under shelling, having lost their husband and son on this trip.
Those who miraculously survived under the rubble of a maternity hospital in Zaporozhye, and lying under the rubble heard how a mother was trying unsuccessfully to find her two-day-old child.
We talked about torture in Yelenovka, about the search for missing people in the occupied territories, about clogged tattoos to escape the Russian military.
The point of “split” of the emotional shield is different for everyone – the publication of the most terrible stories does not mean that everyone will remember the war again and try to do something to make it end. Someone, like my colleague K., reacted to the harmless and even life-affirming news about a man who put the Ukrainian flag in a three-liter jar, buried it in his garden, and when the invaders left, dug it back up.
And for example, colleague A. from our posts about the horrors in Mariupol, Bucha and Kherson only becomes more hardened, but the news about the shelling of peaceful Ukrainian cities weakens her.
Or here is an example from my own experience: my own emotional shield seems to be working well all these 10 months, but it also crashed after my colleagues sent me the news that a family of nine people died in Liman: the oldest was 55, the youngest was a year old . The names of the three dead are the Polivanovs.
Once, at an editorial meeting, I suggested doing a material about this – about things, events or phenomena that break through our emotional shield, that bring us back to the war, even if we are tired of it and want to forget for a while.
Everyone has something to say about it, but the material never came out. Colleagues from the Ukrainian part of our editorial office said: “This is bad optics. We are being brought back to war by bombings, air raids and blackouts of water and electricity.”
Or here is the case with colleague P., who came to our podcast “New Wave” with Ilya Dyer. P. is a Russian, he has been living in Ukraine for a long time. In the podcast, he says: you ask me how hard it is for me, a Russian, now in Kyiv. But in a sense, you, in exile, in Riga and Tbilisi, it’s harder. I, he says, do not and cannot have any moral dilemmas: I know that the Russian army literally, without exaggeration, wants to kill me, including me, and has been doing this for many months. There is no time to think about whether to respond to the greeting “Glory to Ukraine” or, for example, whether to raise a toast to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Even before the start of the Support Service project, which is trying to provide information to everyone who suffered from the actions of the Russian state during the war, we decided that we would definitely have editors and fact-checkers with both Ukrainian and Russian backgrounds in our team, and that they will work together on the same materials. It is easy to create “Russian” and “Ukrainian” pens within the team, working on topics together is a more difficult task.
The very possibility of this joint work against the backdrop of the war is the main result of the year for me personally. It’s not easy: to look for common ground, to discuss even the smallest issues, to change your point of view, to be open to someone else’s experience. But this is also a great creative, journalistic happiness – when you manage to reach an agreement, when you release material, for which both Ukrainians and Russians thank the Support Service. Which breaks through someone’s emotional shield.
In the end, we have much more in common than different. The war unleashed by the Russian authorities is criminal. Lives and human dignity are more important than geopolitics. Happiness cannot be built by torture. The war must end. Putin is war.