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‘The day my life was stolen.’ 7 voices mirror on one 12 months of Putin’s battle


It’s the night of February 23, 2022. In Kyiv, the boss of a information web site relaxes with a shower and candles. In Zaporizhzhia, a younger lady goes to mattress planning to have fun her husband’s birthday within the morning. In Moscow, a journalist occurs to postpone his journey plans to Kyiv.

Inside hours, their lives are dramatically and radically reworked. The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin launches his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Within the house of a 12 months, the battle has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands extra. It has unleashed unfathomable atrocities, decimated cities, pushed a global food and energy crisis and examined the resolve of western alliances.

We requested seven individuals near the battle – from “fixers” in Ukraine, to commentators in Moscow – to mirror on the primary anniversary of the invasion. The views expressed on this commentary are their very own.

Opinion by Diliara Didenko

Diliara Didenko is a PhD candidate in sociology and a mom of two. She works in social media advertising and marketing.

Zaporizhzhia, February 23, 2022. I went to mattress pondering that I’d have fun my husband’s birthday the subsequent day. Our life was getting higher. My husband was operating his personal enterprise. Our daughter had began faculty and made buddies there. We have been fortunate to have organized assist companies and located a particular wants nursery for our son. I lastly had time to work. I felt joyful.

Might I think about that, 22 days later, I’d be beginning my life over within the Czech Republic, and my nation could be set on hearth?

Utterly exhausted, crushed and scared, we needed to brace ourselves and are available to phrases with our compelled displacement. I might be endlessly grateful to all those that helped us come to Prague and modify to a brand new life in a overseas land.

Because of the alternatives for Ukrainians supplied by the Czech Republic, my husband acquired a job. I discovered particular wants lessons for my son. He now attends an adaptation group for Ukrainian youngsters and has a studying assist assistant. My daughter goes to a Czech faculty whereas finding out in her Ukrainian faculty remotely.

We try to dwell within the right here and now. However the fact is, we’re heartbroken. Whereas bodily we’re in Prague, our hearts have remained in Ukraine.

Mikhail Zygar headshot

Opinion by Mikhail Zygar

Mikhail Zygar is a journalist and former editor in chief of the unbiased TV information channel Dozhd. He’s the writer of “All of the Kremlin’s Males: Contained in the Courtroom of Vladimir Putin” and upcoming e-book “Conflict and Punishment. Putin, Zelensky, and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.”

On February 24, 2022, I used to be imagined to be in Kyiv. However a couple of days earlier than that, my husband broke his shoulder and we needed to keep in Moscow. At 9:00 a.m. that day he had surgical procedure.

That morning we woke as much as be taught that the invasion began. I wrote an open letter denouncing the battle, which was co-signed by 12 Russian writers, administrators and cultural figures. Quickly it was printed, and tens of hundreds of Russian residents added their signatures.

On the third day we, my husband and I, left Russia. I felt that it was some form of ethical obligation. I might not keep on the territory of the state that has turn into a fascist one.

We moved to Berlin. My husband went to work as a volunteer on the refugee camp subsequent to the primary railway station, the place hundreds of Ukrainians had been arriving every single day. And I began writing a brand new e-book. It begins like this:

“This e-book is a confession. I’m responsible for not studying the indicators a lot earlier. I too am accountable for Russia’s battle in opposition to Ukraine. As are my contemporaries and our forebears. Regrettably, Russian tradition can also be in charge for making all these horrors attainable.”

I do know that Russian individuals are contaminated with imperialism. We failed to identify simply how lethal the very concept of Russia as a “nice empire” was – now we’ve to return a good distance, therapeutic our nation from that illness.

Michael Bociurkiw headshot

Opinion by Michael Bociurkiw

Michael Bociurkiw is a world affairs analyst who in summer time relocated from Canada to Ukraine. He’s a senior fellow on the Atlantic Council and a former spokesperson for the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe.

As I write, Russia has just fired dozens of Kalibr missiles towards several cities in Ukraine, together with my adopted metropolis of Odesa. Air raid sirens blare as we bolt for shelter into enclosed hallways. My landlady brings me a pot of borscht to assist create a way of normalcy.

If something, for me, the son of Ukrainian immigrants in Canada, this has been a battle of historical past repeating itself – from the forced deportation of upwards of 2.5 million Ukrainians, including 38,000 children, to the stealing of Ukrainian grain to the wanton destruction of Ukrainians museums, libraries, church buildings and monuments.

Repeatedly because the Russian invasion began, I’m haunted by the darkness in my father’s eyes in the course of the re-telling of chilling dinnertime tales of relations shipped off to the Soviet gulag, by no means to return. Tales of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who starved to loss of life in Stalin’s manmade famine of 1932-33.

What’s modified since Russian missiles first started falling on February 24, 2022? The concern felt by Ukrainians has been changed with anger as they stand as much as barrages of rockets and drones.

An expert from the prosecutor's office examines collected remnants of shells and missiles used by the Russian army to attack the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, on Decmber 7.

Whether or not it’s going via with a wedding in the aftermath of a rocket attack, pitching in to make Molotov cocktails, shifting lessons to a Kyiv subway station as missiles fly or conserving a household enterprise open in opposition to all odds, one factor Putin’s invasion has executed is provoke the Ukrainian individuals like by no means earlier than.

It’s an unmistakable, irrepressible resilience that convinces me the arc of historical past will go something however Putin’s means.

Opinion by Sasha Dovzhyk

Sasha Dovzhyk is a particular tasks curator on the Ukrainian Institute London and affiliate lecturer in Ukrainian on the College of Slavonic and East-European Research, College School London. She divides her time between London and Ukraine the place she works as a “fixer“– a translator and producer for overseas journalists.

A 12 months into the full-scale invasion, my passport is a novel in stamps. My life is break up between London, the place I educate Ukrainian literature, and Ukraine, the place I get my classes in braveness.

My former classmates from Zaporizhzhia whom, based mostly on our teenage habits, I anticipated to perish from addictions a very long time in the past, have volunteered to struggle. My hairdresser, whom I anticipated to stay a candy summer time little one, turned out to have fled on foot from the Russia-occupied city of Bucha via the forest along with her mom, grandmother and 5 canines.

Sasha Dovzhyk works as a 'fixer' for foreign journalists in Ukraine. Her duties stretch from translating to

My capital, which the Kremlin and the West anticipated to fall in three days, has withstood 12 months of Russia’s terrorist bombings and vitality blackouts. These darkish winter nights, one sees so many stars over Kyiv which the Russians have solely managed to convey nearer to eternity.

Ukrainians have realized that they’re stronger than was anticipated of them. Have those that have underestimated them realized their classes? Army help has been sufficient for Ukraine to outlive however to not crush the enemy.

For the skin world, the thought of a defeated Russia continues to be scarier than the sight of Ukraine half-ruined. Identical to a 12 months in the past, Ukraine is asking on the remainder of the world to search out braveness.

Andrei Kolesnikov headshot

Opinion by Andrei Kolesnikov

Andrei Kolesnikov is a senior fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace. He’s the writer of a number of books on the political and social historical past of Russia, together with “Five Five-Year Liberal Reforms.” Origins of Russian Modernization and Egor Gaidar’s Legacy.”

Plainly since February 2022 we’ve skilled a number of eras. The primary was euphoric, when Putin abruptly, after a big time of stagnant scores, acquired more than 80% approval from the inhabitants.

It appeared to many on the time that the marketing campaign could be quick, just like the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Then, starting in late spring, got here a interval of apathy, when individuals tried not to concentrate to what was being executed in Ukraine.

And within the fall, public demobilization was changed by mobilization – Putin demanded that residents share responsibility for the war with him with their bodies. This provoked unprecedented nervousness, however as an alternative of significant protests, the majority of the inhabitants once more most well-liked adaptation.

Amongst Putin’s supporters there may be additionally a bunch of aggressive conformists who’ve turn into supporters of complete battle.

Veterans and guests attend the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2022.

However everybody skilled the shock of battle otherwise. For hundreds of thousands of individuals in Russia, what occurred was an absolute disaster: Putin not solely destroyed all of the achievements of earlier life, he aborted the nation’s historical past.

By aborting the previous, he canceled the long run. Those that have been disoriented, most well-liked to assist Putin: it’s simpler to dwell this fashion when your superiors determine all the things for you, and you’re taking without any consideration all the things you’re informed by propaganda.

For me personally and my household, what occurred was a disaster to which it’s unimaginable to adapt. As an energetic commentator on the occasions, I used to be labeled by the authorities as a “foreign agent,” which elevated private danger and strengthened the impression of dwelling in an Orwellian anti-utopia.

Daryna Shevchenko head shot

Opinion by Daryna Shevchenko

Daryna Shevchenko is chief government officer of The Kyiv Independent, an English-language information web site in Ukraine.

On the night of February 23 I washed my canine, cleaned the home, took a shower and lit candles. I’ve a comfy, one-bedroom residence in a northern district of Kyiv. I liked caring for it. I liked the life I had. All of it – the small routines and the struggles. That night time was the final time my life mattered.

The following morning my telephone was buzzing from all of the messages and missed calls. A crimson headline in all caps on the Kyiv Unbiased web site learn: “PUTIN DECLARES WAR ON UKRAINE.”

I keep in mind speaking to colleagues, attempting to assemble and coordinate a small military of volunteers to strengthen the newsroom. And calling my dad and mom to arrange shopping for provides.

We’d been anticipating a battle for fairly a while and knew it might be an uphill one. I had a stable plan, and it was working.

The aftermath of a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Dnipro, in January 2023.

The life I knew began falling aside quickly after, beginning with the small issues. It not mattered what cup I used to drink my morning tea, or how I dressed, or whether or not or not I took a bathe. Life itself not mattered, solely the battle did.

Just some weeks into the full-scale invasion it was already exhausting to recollect the struggles, sorrows and joyful moments of the pre-war period. I’d keep in mind being upset about my boyfriend, however I might not relate. My life didn’t change on February 24, it was stolen from me on that day.

And moreover the apparent battles, there was one other one to struggle – attempting to assert my life again. The life Russia stole from me and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.

Anna Ryzhykova profile picture

Opinion by Anna Ryzhykova

Anna Ryzhykova is a Ukrainian observe and discipline athlete, Olympic bronze medalist and a number of European Championships medalist.

By March, my preliminary shock and concern of the battle became a want to behave via sports activities. Athletes might struggle in opposition to Russian propaganda in one of the best ways. We simply needed to inform the reality concerning the battle and Ukrainians – how robust, type and courageous we’re. How we’ve united to defend our nation.

I used to be not involved with my private ambitions. Solely the frequent purpose was essential – to lift our flag and present that we’re preventing even underneath these circumstances.

I couldn’t take pleasure in my victories on the observe. They have been solely attainable as a result of so many defenders had laid down their lives. However I acquired messages from troopers on the frontline. They have been so joyful to comply with our achievements, and it was my main motivation to proceed my profession.

This complete 12 months has been stuffed with tears and worries. I learn the information about individuals near me killed by Russians – a teammate, the director of a sports activities faculty, or a good friend’s dad and mom.

After every assault, I name my household and buddies to make sure they’re alive. The seconds of ready for his or her voices are excruciating.

Life values have modified. Like by no means earlier than, I take pleasure in each alternative to see or speak to relations and buddies. And like different Ukrainians, I imagine in our victory and that every one of us will return to our beloved nation. However we’d like the world’s assist.

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