Will Ukrainians ever live in peace alongside Russians?

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Will Ukrainians ever live in peace alongside Russians?

Photo: Sergei Supinsky Agence France-Presse The identity of the Ukrainian people whose history has been carved by their incessant struggle against Russian and Soviet imperialism has only rebounded.

Over the past year, the more destruction and death have been sown by one camp, the more rage and hatred have germinated in the other. By militarily invading Ukrainian territory on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to destroy the Ukrainian nation. But the identity of this people whose history has been carved by its incessant struggle against Russian and Soviet imperialism has only rebounded. An identity – reinforced by each of the bombs that cut into Ukrainian territory – which is above all defined against Russia. To the point where today, many Ukrainians cannot imagine living in peace — even after the end of this war — alongside the Russians.

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< strong>See our special section A year of war in Ukraine.

For centuries, the existence of the Ukrainian people has been threatened by its neighbor, denounces Vadym Blonsky, a 22-year-old graphic designer, joined by Le Devoirin Kyiv. “When it was Muscovy, they wanted to destroy us. When it was the Russian Empire, they wanted to destroy us. When it was the Soviet Union, they wanted to destroy us. And now that it's the Russian Federation, they also want to destroy us,” the young man enumerates going back in history.

And yet, Ukraine is there, proud and standing, despite the cuts and wounds, he says. “They never managed to destroy our language, our culture, our nation, our territory. But this resistance, rooted in time and suffering, swept away in its wake any hope of appeasement. “It's impossible to live peacefully alongside Russia,” continues Vadym Blonsky without hesitation.

A reading shared by Anastasiia Verba, 29, who lives in Lviv, in western Ukraine. “This war has been going on for more than 400 years,” said the young woman, who works in the field of tourism. “I hate all Russians now,” she asserts confidently. I don't think it's just Putin doing this to us, it's all Russians. They're not going to protest anymore. They don't care about us. »


Forgiveness, today as tomorrow, is impossible, they believe. “I don't think the Ukrainians will ever forgive the Russians,” said Vadym Blonsky. Personally, I will never forgive them after Boutcha, Dnipro, Irpin, Mariupol, etc. What he interprets as the silence of the Russian people in the face of crimes committed by the Putin government and the Russian military is inexcusable, he continues. “They protested for how long… 10 minutes?” he quips. Four or five years ago, when I heard someone say they hated Russians, I couldn't understand how it was possible to hate so much. But today, I understand. »

The wound is so sharp and so deep between the two peoples that no tomorrow seems imaginable. “Can a rapist and his victim live in peace in the same neighborhood? illustrates Olexandr Solonko, 31, who worked in the field of communications before enlisting in the army on the second day of the Russian invasion. “Russia is a threat to the civilized world. It is a country based on expansion. As long as Russia exists in its current form, there will be no peace,” he thunders.

Multigenerational healing

The scars, healed by memory, could take several generations to heal, believes Anastasiia Verba. “Just before this war, our people were beginning to recover from the Holodomor,” the great famine of 1932-33 that killed millions of Ukrainians during the Soviet Union era, she says . A trauma that had made its place in the daily life of Ukrainians for decades. “My mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother always told me that I was too thin, that I had to eat more, remembers the young woman. To show your love to someone in Ukraine, you cook them as much food as you can.

It's impossible to live peacefully alongside Russia

—Vadym Blonsky

This time, too, healing , “after we win this war,” will be very long, she predicts. “We're going to have a nation of sick people for generations. »

For Oleksandra Romantsova, director general of the Center for Civil Liberties in kyiv, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, the trauma is undoubtedly immense. “Every day, in occupied towns and villages, war crimes are committed,” she denounces. People are being killed, kidnapped, displaced and are under enormous psychological pressure.

Once the Ukrainian victory has been won, the rest of the story will depend on justice, believes Oleksandra Romantsova. “It is not only necessary that the Russians leave our territory so that we live in peace, she underlines. They must be judged for what they have been doing for eight years [since the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of part of Donbass]. Because while you can rebuild buildings, you can't always rebuild people, she says. But failing to be able to return to them what was taken from them, justice will be able to try, in its own way, to patch up pieces of soul.