1941, 2016: Our and Someone Else's war..

Author : Mykhailo Dubynyansky

Source : 112 Ukraine

75th anniversary of the attack on the Soviet Union: Ukrainians no longer perceive “Great Patriotic War” concept
12:47, 22 June 2016

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World War II Veteran Ivan Zaluzhnyy. His grandson, Ivan Hutnyk-Zaluzhnyy died a heroic death in August 2014, protecting Ukraine from the aggressor

75th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union is not a truly significant date for us. Ukrainians no longer perceive “Great Patriotic War” concept, and World War II began not June 22, 1941, but much earlier.

Today it seems to be obvious, and it is just unbelievable that until recently this concept in Ukraine competed with mythologized Soviet officialdom. This contrast is especially vivid in comparison with neighboring Russia, where the discourse of WWII has turned into a kind of religion.

In fact, this is a kind of experiment: what happens when war becomes something another’s in terms of the public consciousness? How is it different from your own? You can compare it not only to the former military mythology. Almost simultaneously with the dethronement of the Great Patriotic War, our lives became full of Ukrainian-Russian confrontation, and we live our own war.

The most striking markers associated with the perception of the war are immediately evident.

The first of them is war crimes. After recognition of Hitler-Stalin confrontation as someone else’s war, we can honestly and openly talk about Red Army looting or violence of Soviet soldiers against German women. No one will deny or justify these excesses, as it is in Russia that fiercely protects bright appearance of the grandfathers.

It does not matter that our grandfathers also served in the Red Army, and that the number of Ukrainians in the defeated Germany was no less than the number of people of other Soviet nationalities.

Related: Current situation in Europe is reminiscent of the eve of World War II

As soon as we replaced the "Great Patriotic War" concept with the Soviet-German, we have become impartial observers. For us it is obvious that war is war, and it is always brutal. The hero-soldier can be a marauder and a rapist; this is the harsh truth of life.

However, this detached wisdom does not work in term of your own war. Often we wish not to believe that Ukrainian soldiers commit war crimes in Donbas. A flurry of negative emotions will be approximately the same as Russia's response to criticism of the Red Army.

Yes, we do understand that our army cannot consist only of the angels in the white wings.

Related: 'NATO doesn’t want a new Cold War with Russia': Stoltenberg

Another marker is a victim. When it comes to a foreign war, the victims are primarily associated with the civilian population - all those weak and defenseless, who were not involved in the fighting and have become hostage to the tragic circumstances, like women, children, and old people. Shot in Babyn Yar, killed during the bombing, died of starvation in besieged Leningrad.

If the 1941-1945 war didn’t belong to us, we easily include in this list the peaceful population of the Germans killed in Nemmersdorfs by the Red Army, or refugees, sunk in the "Wilhelm Gustloff." The death of a German child or German girl seems to be more pitiful than a death of a Soviet soldier. A defenseless child or fragile girl is not a big guy with a gun.

But with your own war everything is different. The victims of the war are all those who died defending the freedom and independence of Ukraine. Young and mature men in camouflage. First of all, we mourn combatants. This sorrow does not become less because the fallen are not the weak and defenseless children.

The main thing is that they are our sons, fathers, husbands, lovers, and friends.

Related: Ukraine’s ‘forgotten’ elderly people struggle to survive in war zone

In contrast, the civilian casualties in Ukraine remain at the background.

Let us be honest: for the passionate part of the society, the volunteer who died on the front line is a greater tragedy than the death of a woman, a child or an old man at the time of the shelling Donetsk. Because this war is our own.

The third marker is common people. Unprincipled, preoccupied with their survival. We understand that the Communists and the Nazis come and go, but people need to eat something despite all these regimes. 

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"By Soviet standards, people from the occupied territories are not patriots, hence they are not people at all," this approach described by writer Anatoly Kuznetsov seems inhuman. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, who ignited peasant houses in the occupied village, is no longer considered a heroine.

But in your own war there is no leniency. A significant part of the society believes that people that left in Crimea and Donbas are not patriots, and therefore they do not deserve human sympathy. If they suffer, they must blame themselves only. Even if they did not go on the "referendums", they have simply adapted to the new order, so they remain passive accomplices of the enemy.

Ukrainians kneeling and meet the fallen soldiers

Related: Victory Day: Ukraine is reviewing its role in World War II

And no one knows how much time should pass before Ukraine would be able to look at the current events from aside.

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