It’s getting harder to hope

By Olga Rudenko

This Saturday, February 24, millions of people in Europe will wake up and go about their usual weekend business. They will be having brunches with friends, driving kids to playdates, and doing grocery shopping.
Here in Ukraine, millions of people will have a heavy heart this Saturday morning. This day, February 24, marks two years since Russia launched an all-out invasion of our country.
I was asked many times what that first day of invasion was like. I recounted it in my opening remarks at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in September 2022. I still remember it in all its details, hour by hour. One doesn’t forget hearing an air raid for the first time.
Are you still with me? If you are, thank you. Two years in, the stories of what Ukrainians go through don’t capture people’s attention as they used to. It’s human nature to grow more blunt about suffering after hearing about it again and again.

And it is something I think about every single day: How can we keep the world’s attention – and support – two years into this hell? For it is a matter of survival for us to keep it. It’s not easy to compete for attention with every country’s own internal political theater.

Lately, it has become more difficult. As it turns out, when there’s a war, your mood is inevitably dependent on the situation on the front line. The long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive of 2023 failed. It means that for the first time since the beginning of this invasion, we don’t know what to expect. We can hope – but it’s getting harder to hope, too. I see the mental and physical exhaustion of these two years catching up with everyone around me.

One must remember that Russia’s war against Ukraine has been going on not for two, but for 10 years. It started with the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014. This week marks two dates for us: 10 years of war and two years of full-scale war.

It’s not by choice that Ukrainians keep fighting. Peace negotiations aren’t an option for us: Freezing this war would effectively mean giving Russia the pause it needs to regroup and deliver the final blow to Ukraine. And not just to Ukraine. It is now an accepted truth among policy makers that Russia won’t stop at Ukraine. Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and even the Baltics are on the Kremlin’s list.

There are two outcomes that will enable and embolden Russia: letting the Kremlin win or signing a peace deal. There is only one possible outcome that protects us and the rest of Europe from the new invasions: Russia must be defeated militarily.

The main obstacle on the path to victory isn’t Russia’s military force. Rather, our biggest enemy is the myth of Russia’s imperial might and invincibility. Yes, Russia is a large country with large resources. But it’s also corrupt and ineffective. The West’s resources and military strength dwarfs Russia’s. It all comes down to the West’s effectiveness and its will to defeat Russia. If it has that, Russia stands no chance. The Kremlin knows it – that’s why they are disseminating propaganda to achieve turmoil and pit us against each other.

Ultimately, it comes down to this. Ukrainians are tired of the war but are still fighting. The West is tired of the war but it needs to keep the support – and help Ukraine defeat the authoritarian monster that is a global threat.

This Saturday, as you go around your weekend business, keep us in your hearts and minds. We are still here, we’re exhausted, and we need the world’s support more than ever.

Olga Rudenko is editor-in-chief of the independent Ukrainian news platform “The Kyiv Independent”. She gave the opening speech at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in 2022.

More articles:
Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko: Europe’s future will be decided in Ukraine

Prof. Dr Wolfgang Ischinger: A European future in peace is at stake

Anna Romandash: The West is at peace because the Ukrainians are fighting

Olga Konsevych: It seems that the world and Ukrainians are teetering on the brink of chaos

Olesia Tytarenko: Ukraine will never become part of Russia

Kai Diekmann: A genocide of the population is taking place in Ukraine

Mike Schubert: It is our duty not only to mourn, but to act

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws: This war had implications for us all

Anastasiia Ivantsova: Russian propaganda is a crucial human rights violation

Olena Kuk: War is one of the most horrible things that you can possibly adapt to