Lessons in Ukrainian / Уроки українською мовою


Like most of us, I have been compulsively connected to Twitter and media networks to update the conflict. I cheer on Ukrainians fighting for a cause I feel in my bones while getting progressively more frustrated and sad as the price of our peace is being paid only with Ukrainian blood. While fighting with arms, resisting tanks with bare hands, or sending their loved ones away / fleeing their country for shelter, Ukrainians have taught me three precious lessons.(Heading)

—A lesson about the power of courage.

Here is a guy who was considered a lightweight, out of his element, about to be crushed by a major superpower next door. And it didn’t happen. Here is a nation and a leader willing to sacrifice so much for the principle of independence and the right to join the Western world. Here is a country reminding us that our model is worthy to stand for. And it is strong reminder when looking back at some of the liberal heroes of our age—Merkel or Obama for instance. They proved to be deeply pragmatic, constantly hedging, calculating and balancing interests with little grand vision or cause behind their policies, either pretending that nothing has changed or concluding that nothing can be done about it. It is a strong reminder when looking at how our culture, movies and TV shows have rarely depicted a heroic, grand visionary, in the past years, only a never-ending struggle for supremacy— From Games of Thrones to Succession—. With their bravery, they have put on hold (and hope will erase for good) this cynical-trumpist view of the world, proving us that ideals matter and conservative pragmatism is deeply limited and allows adversaries like Vladimir Putin to take advantage, exploiting caution and shortsighted selfishness.

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—A lesson about the power of words.

Almost two weeks into the war, to brutally realize how history is full of strange and tragic odysseys and intersections. His delivery straight to the camera in closeup is effective social media — unscripted, clear, straightforward, and brimming with resolve.
Here is a comedian assuming the role of Winston Churchill at the most consequential hour in Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Churchill employed the wireless, using blank-verse cadences to rally the will of his fellow Britons and his foreign allies. Zelensky employs a smartphone and the simplest rhetoric to assert his presence on the front line. “Ya tut,” he told his fellow Ukrainians as he stood on the street in Kyiv. I am here. He is largely relying on his voice to inspire his country’s resilience. The more significant part of a dispirited and fractured world has also responded to his call. Zelensky has galvanized his people through the clarity of his language. Zelensky knows this only too well. His is a voice not only of inspiration but of stark realism. “It’s not a movie,” he said. Spoken like a man who knows that he may not live to celebrate the liberation of the country he has sworn to defend. Words that remind us that realism does not necessarily rhyme with cynicism.

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—A lesson about the power of stories.

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As Yuval Noah Harari writes in The Guardian, “each passing day adds more stories that Ukrainians will tell in the decades and generations to come”: the president who refused to flee the capital and said the US that he needed ammunition, not a ride; the soldiers from Snake Island who told a Russian warship to “go fuck yourself”; the civilians who tried to stop Russian tanks by sitting in their path. Mr. Harari points out, “This is the stuff that builds nations. In the long run, these stories count for more than tanks.”

Ukrainian example and sacrifice are giving resolve to the whole world. Its leaders and population inspire courage to governments of European nations, the US administration, and Russia’s dissidence. We have the moral duty of doing something, whether to make a donation, welcome refugees or help with the struggle online. This war is shaping the future of the entire world. There is no point in remaining just observers. It’s time to stand up and be counted.