OPINION: My heart goes out to Ukraine's youth in a spring like no other
- Credit: Ruth Davies
Over the weekend my son asked me if it’s spring yet. The sun was streaming through the window in in our garden room and as we bathed our skin in its warmth spring certainly felt in the offing.
Digesting this treat we’ve not felt for a while, so used to cold wintry mornings engulfing our bodies while we battle the elements to school, I felt hopeful for all spring offers and the promise the peacefulness summer brings. “Not yet”, I told him, “but it’s coming.”
We could taste it, that warm reassurance of sunshine welcoming us, inviting us into more beautiful days, and then we enjoyed the calm of it together.
Hard to imagine, in moments like that, there’s a world out there with no calm and no sunshine. No sitting in silence to enjoy the commitment of harmonious days to come, and no hint, right now, of an insight to reassure.
Simultaneous air and land attacks by Russia on the Ukraine, under the guise of a special military operation, was ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
His denied (for months) attack, on former Soviet republic Ukraine, broken by missile attacks on the city of Kharkiv resulted in immediate collateral damage. I wonder, when we hear the word collateral, do we really hear it or do we say it dismissively because it’s just too unpalatable to absorb?
Not allowing it to sink into our beings, for collateral damage means civilian death, and civilian death isn’t a part of our world. Yet while I sit in my garden room pondering the need for a window clean, now that this sunshine is bright enough to highlight finger marks from children who live safely and peacefully inside, there are other children, in what feels like another world, frightened, injured and dying… And for what?!
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We could discuss the war, the corrupt behaviours and potential criminality. We could debate our own stance and whether we should be doing more than simply that which NATO allows.
There are many points to be made and stands to take. Protests, marches, questioning how our own government may be far too closely in bed with Russian money, and what we should be doing to get out of that. What we should be doing to admit to the peerages and passports given in return for the blood, now to be washed from our hands.
We could discuss any reliance on Russia and why our petrol prices have shot through the roof, but today I can only think of the collateral damage.
Children in families just like mine living in the same world we live in. The same one our children are growing up in. Only our children are growing up with a safety blanket of the Europe we don’t actually want to be a part of anymore. Ukrainian children deserve the same safety. We all want the best for our families, they are no different. And now they have to fight, with weapons, to get all which we just take for granted.
When I watch the news I see babies in makeshift NICU centres, born too soon, or with difficulty and needing the expertise of medics who know how to save them.
No longer safely inside hospitals but in basements of buildings under attack with nurses hand ventilating. I see a small child clinging on to a daddy, crying as they kiss him goodbye while he cries back and holds them tightly before releasing them to a train of hopeful safety, then… Waving them goodbye while he stays to fight for the right of his country.
I see young men, who are just kids really, staying to fight too; like 21 year old Sergiy Petroshenko who is guarding a footbridge in Kyiv entirely alone. In fluent English he told reporter Stuart Ramsay he wanted to go home but felt duty bound to defend his country. He said in his entire military career he had fired a weapon only 16 times, that’s 16 bullets on a firing range. He went on to say “And now I’m going to shoot people to protect my country? I don’t want this to happen… I hope it’s going to be OK, that I’m going to survive.”
He could be my son. I’m old enough to be that boy’s mother. It could have been him sitting in my garden room, basking in the sunlight with the assurance of spring in the offing. He is someone’s son. Another mother’s son. A son in such darkness, cold, a misery of hopelessness we can only imagine. As we queue for the petrol which disrupts our day for not being abundant, I will think of her.
There are very many things to be said about this war and what we need to do now, yes. But we need those children to be as safe as ours with, not just the promise spring brings, but the wonder of summer and many more seasons to come. Because they, like we all do, deserve life. A life where we can turn our faces to the sunshine and feel at peace. No war is more important than that. And no country should stand by and allow it to be. Including our own.
This is all happening just a few hours' plane ride away from us. Only there are no planes leaving Russia and the Ukraine right now. I am very aware of this as my 21-year-old sister and her boyfriend have been desperately trying to get back to safety having been studying in St Petersburg.
My 21-year-old sister and her boyfriend, who are the same age as Sergiy Petroshenko. We are anxious to have them home, just as will be the mother of Sergiy Petroshenko.
Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk