In a video doing the rounds of the net, the unwavering voice of a six-year-old girl reverberates around the walls of a Kyiv underground bunker as she sings ‘Let It Go’ to comfort the other children seeking shelter from the invaders’ bombs. The latest UNHCR figures speak of 406 civilian deaths, of which 27 are children.
It is hard enough to stomach the senseless loss of life caused by the decisions of an unhinged maniac, but it is harder still to accept the trauma inflicted on thousands of children – the most innocent victims of this conflict. Two million people have been displaced from Ukraine. Many of those are women and children, the men having been held back to defend the nation under martial law.
Children. Sons and daughters whose lives have been transformed into a terrible ordeal. Some have now been caught in the line of indiscriminate fire. Once again, our generations have been found wanting – we bequeath an uglier, unhealthier, more dangerous world to our children. During the Cold War, we had hoped that the greatest deterrent against nuclear Armageddon would be the fact that the Russians ‘love their children too’.
Not this time. Putin and his oligarchy showed no remorse in sending their ‘doomed youth’ to carnage. The reason why Russia has not made many advances by the 12th day of the conflict is also down to the large number of young inexperienced troops conned into a war they probably do not even want to fight. Yet it is a war that rages – a non-sensical war that has become the watermark of a new age.
As I type, Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Starbucks have joined the list of big-name companies who are withdrawing operations from Russia. I still remember the Russia post-Glasnost and Perestroika when these big brands started to enter the market. Their impact was not just materialistic, but they also had a symbolic measure of a new era.
Russians are now cut off from the big symbols of capitalist trade and commodities. The men and women in the streets must be at least questioning Putin’s Potemkin propaganda and wondering how come the international community is being so harsh on what are meant to be the ‘liberators’ and ‘de-nazifiers’ of Ukraine.
Isolating Russia is important. More important is the need for concrete action to support the Ukrainian cause. Make no mistake, this is our war too. It is a war the outcome of which will define this new stage in history. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 attacks and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine stand out as watershed moments in our lifetime.
The Maltese government has gradually been shaken from its status of denial that was epitomised by Prime Minister Robert Abela’s ‘the war is far enough not to cause worry’ implications. Tuesday’s news headlines included concerns on the supply of wheat and LPG gas – direct effects of the conflict in Ukraine. Abela’s propaganda machine is also an expert at churning out Potemkin Village duds that are far detached from the real world.
Comments under a Malta Today video of a Repubblika protest outside the Russian embassy were overwhelmingly critical of the NGO. They varied from insults aimed at the activists for daring to “interfere” in a foreign conflict to the more worrying criticism that this would attract the attention (and ire) of Putin’s forces.
Do not blame the citizens parroting the hopeless lines of their idols. After all, we have a foreign minister who fancies himself as some one-man Lennon-Yoko outfit peddling the ‘make love, not war’ mantra wherever he can. The foreign minister does not miss a chance to reiterate Malta’s “neutrality” – totally oblivious to the anachronistic reality of his statements. How shocked he must have been that his attempts to sit this conflict on the fence failed to keep Malta off Putin’s blacklist of countries.
We are at war. Whether we like it or not. Whether our opportunistic government understands the stark reality of the moment or not.
We are at war, and we must take sides. We must stand up and be counted with the rest of the civilised world that is waking up to the need to oppose the mad tyranny of Putin’s oligarchy.
Our children do not need gimmick promises of no homework or free laptops. They need to know that this time we stand on the right side of history to guarantee their future in a free world where they need not fear the bombs and the wreckage of war and conflict.
Our principles and freedom cannot and must not be bought. We must stand tall. We owe it to our children.