Given the saturation of images of conflict on our television screens and handheld devices in recent years, it’s easy to detach ourselves from conflicts in foreign places. But through testimony, we can attach emotion and experience to conflicts we would not otherwise comprehend through a personal lens. Year 12 student, Anna Legard, has a number of family members in Ukraine and her mother is Ukrainian; her experiences of perceiving the current war are vital in shaping our own understanding. It helps us to avoid a centring of the conflict-narratives we construct around a perspective which privileges a Western European viewpoint. Anna is personally affected by the emotional toll of the war, and the fears of losing part of her identity at the hands of what she perceives as “the Russian regime.”
Here are Anna’s experiences of the troubles plaguing her family’s lives.
What were your initial reactions to the war in Ukraine?
It was like a foreign concept, like hearing someone was bombing London, you just don’t expect it. At any time my family in the Ukraine could be killed; there are always sirens going off and although there haven’t been any bombs around where they live, the fear is always there. They live in Dnipro, a city in the East of Ukraine. The nuclear reactor out there was attacked, so there are always thoughts about that exploding. It’s something you can’t help thinking about; you can’t comprehend it – it’s possible they could die tomorrow.
What are your opinions about reactions by ordinary Russians to the War (regarding what the Western media suggests about propaganda)?
It’s odd; in my opinion the people in Russia who push forward the propaganda are simply disgusting.
Are your family members planning on fleeing Ukraine?
I think my grandparents are planning on leaving but the rest of my family, like my Godmother, are staying because she has an 18-year old son, so he can’t just leave the country.
What’s your opinion on men not being able to leave?
Most of the people who haven’t been able to leave have had military training. My Godmother’s son has to fight for example; it’s unfortunate but if they receive training they will be able to help. Right now, they don’t need to fight, they just need to stay where they are until or if they are needed. Although it’s unfortunate, it might help in the future.
What do you think about the process of leaving Ukraine with a lot of people waiting in Poland?
It’s very difficult and dangerous. If my grandparents were to come to England, they would have to take a train; the closest train station is full and there is always the fear that they may not survive the journey as the train may be attacked. They’ll have to go West but at the Polish border there are rows of people trying to get in. It’s a long and difficult process.
Why do you think there is so much media attention and an overall focus on Ukraine rather than other ongoing conflicts such as those in the Middle East?
There is always the background of those conflicts but because Russia is a major power there are a lot of fears. This feels like it isn’t a contained conflict which some in the Middle East possibly are. I feel that Russia won’t stop at Ukraine, unless the West intervenes.
Are there any more personal concerns?
There are obviously the deaths of people as I’ve mentioned, a very personal cost. There is also a loss of culture and the destruction of historical buildings that will never be the same; the infrastructure and buildings could be rebuilt but it will never be like it was. As well as the impact of death on the entire country, it’s hard to imagine how many bodies were on those streets; the death toll just keeps rising.
Do you believe Ukraine deserves to keep their sovereignty and culture intact?
Firstly, Ukraine was founded before Russia. Putin claims Ukraine is full of Nazis; I know this isn’t true. My family and I feel that Ukraine has always been there and Putin just created these lies as a way to justify his invasion. We think that Putin just views Ukraine as an extension of Russia and a place with more resources they can just take.
What do you think Britain should be doing to help?
Britain could primarily give more support to charities, those helping on the Polish border and in Kyiv, along with other places within Ukraine that have been affected through the bombings. We really need to be pushing the facts of the situation rather than the myths. One easy thing we can all do is to get our news about the events in Ukraine from reputable sources like the BBC, and not from scrolling on FaceBook or Twitter.