Images from Ukraine

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Conflict in Ukraine, Formation, Reflections

The images that are presented to us through the press and social networks from Ukraine are heartbreaking. The invasion of the Ukrainian nation by the Russian army is excessive and apparently without provocation. We are saddened to see millions of civilians seeking protection beyond the country’s borders, fleeing their homeland with the few possessions that they can carry in a backpack. Most of the refugees are children and women, who have left behind husbands, parents, siblings and boyfriends (who joined the civilian militias to defend the homeland). People who cannot leave are trapped in towns and cities where they are victims of daily bombings that cause death as well as shortages of food, water, electricity and gas. There is no safe place, as seen by the destruction of hospitals, schools, kindergartens, residential buildings and cultural centers. However, it is encouraging to see that the Ukrainian army and people are waging a heroic battle against a superior enemy willing to wipe an independent nation off the face of map.

Of course, the loss of human life must be our first concern and we must point out the cowardice of President Vladimir Putin and the vehemence with which he uses the Russian armed forces to conquer a neighboring country. At the same time, we note in anguish that the Russian objective is not only focused on deposing the Ukrainian government and killing defenseless civilians to achieve this regime change … rather, there is also an attempt to destroy various cultural entities. We have seen bombs destroy theaters, museums, and historical churches that are obviously not military targets. Therefore, it is not a matter of merely subduing the Ukrainian people, but of destroying their cultural legacy as well. It is precisely this double goal that the Russian leader seems to have established as a result of military intervention in Ukraine. Putin has taken the war into the realm of culture in order to physically destroy it and rob the next generations of Ukrainian citizens of their cultural heritage.

We also note the courage that Ukrainian citizens show in preserving the cultural heritage, carrying works of art from museums and public buildings in order to save them, wrapping sculptures in public squares with sandbags to protect them from bombardment, since their destruction would be irreparable. Photos taken from satellites and drones help document the before and after of well-known cultural entities that, due to their value, have been designated World Heritage Sites (and yet these sites are being bombarded by the Russians military). It must be recognized, therefore, that the preservation of the Ukrainian cultural legacy rests with each and every one of us as members of the human family.

We must give voice to another injustice perpetrated by the Russian army under President Putin. Vladimir Putin wants to crush Ukraine, humiliate the people, impoverishing them physically and culturally so that he might control their lives. The Russian president goes about this in a cold-hearted manner, ordering the death of civilians and destroying symbols of Ukrainian indigenous culture. Meanwhile, Volodímir Zelenski gains the trust of his people through his enthusiastic presence and effective communication, demonstrating that this is a battle for freedom, progress and democracy, a battle not only for Ukraine, but also a battle for the whole world as well .

Max Rodríguez,
Retired professor of Humanities  at City University of New York.
Confraternity of Vincentian writers and reporters

Tags: Ukraine