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The price of freedom

The 24th of February 2022 is a day the world changed, but mainly for the people of Ukraine. When we look back in our history and remember the early days of 2022, we will recall "the time before the war". Here is their story, a story of a people that will never give up in their fight for freedom.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Narcis George Matache

Tanks and planes inscribed with the new sign of evil "Z" gave the people of Ukraine a rude awakening. Families had to make traumatising long-term decisions under the awful sounds of sirens and explosions. Fathers, brothers and sons stayed to defend the country while the mothers, children, grandparents and pets began their long trek towards safety, not knowing if they would ever see each other again.

That morning felt like a bad movie from the past that somehow came to life for many Eastern Europeans. It felt like the stories our grandparents told were being realised again. Yet, once again, we stood in fear of the brutality of Russian soldiers and the inhumanity of the brutal regime from Moscow.

Once upon a time, the evil shadow of the brutal regime from Moscow extended to Berlin. With a heavy price, we managed to rescue the Baltics, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians from the darkness. Today, Ukrainians, Georgians and Moldavians want to escape the bear's clutches and join the empire of liberty, freedom and democracy, also known as the "European Union".

Georgians were punished in 2008 for dreaming of freedom. Ukrainians are paying the price in blood today. Moldavians are next - if the heroes of Ukraine actually manage to derail and destroy the Russian army, this might not happen. Considering the differences in power, a mighty task that will cost many, far too many Ukrainian lives.

Why are the Ukrainians willing to fight so hard? The simple answer is that life under Russian rule is not a good life or a life worth living. Not when you know that over the border towards the west, there is a life you can live that is not lived in fear and dread.

Despite the attempts of the Russian propaganda to call the invasion a "special operation" to "denazify" Ukraine and to call the people of Ukraine "Russians" or "part of Russia's heritage", the world reacted strongly in favour of Ukraine. They recognised their desire for freedom and did everything they possibly could to help without triggering a third world war.

In fact, the Danes can say that they have more in common with Ukrainians than the Russians. The Rurikid Vikings established Kyiv and united Ukraine's East Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes. In that melting pot of multiple identities, the Ukrainians were born.

They played house with the Lithuanians and the Poles in the early days until the Russians arrived and forgot to leave. The Russians banned the Ukrainian language and culture for centuries to destroy the Ukrainian identity. However, in the underground, the Ukrainian intellectual elites kept the identity alive and came out during the Soviet Revolution (1917), hoping they could be free again.

Unfortunately, the Soviet Union did not allow their freedom and punished them with the scourge of famine in 1932 (Holodomor), when millions of Ukrainians died. As a result, the Ukrainian identity went back underground, waiting for another chance to escape. Finally, the Soviet Union fell (1991), and Ukraine finally declared independence.

However, the struggle did not end there. After centuries of being under Russian influence, separating was an enormous task. Their independence was an illusion, and Russia did not want them to go away. In the elections of 2003, the candidate for Russia won the presidential elections by using vote-rigging tactics. The people of Ukraine revolted in the "Orange Revolution" (2004) and put a pro-European in charge.

Russia did not give up. During the next round of elections, their candidate won, and in 2013 refused to sign the cooperation agreement with the European Union. As a result, the people of Ukraine once again took to the streets in what became known as the "EuroMaidan Revolution" (2014). A pro-European came into power again and resumed the course towards joining the European Union. As punishment, Russia took Crimea and started a war in Eastern Ukraine (by supporting the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk).

Today, Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and soul, making a last attempt to escape the "Z" people. Slava Ukraini!

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