Monday May 23, 2022
Bucha — Dark despotism must not be allowed to win
Published : 06 Apr 2022, 14:45
Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, Mariupol, Trostianets — the list of Ukrainian places, which in the eyes of the world community stands for the horrors of the Russian war of aggression, is getting ever longer.
Men whose hands were bound and then executed with a shot to the head, women who were gunned down after they left their basements, bombed-out schools and hospitals — the indiscriminate killing of civilians seems characteristic Russian actions against Ukrainians in this war. Social media has been literally flooded with eyewitness accounts and harrowing pictures after Ukrainian towns were liberated from Russian control.
First the Germans, now the Russians
One of the scenes of Russian barbarism — lesser known internationally than Mariupol or Bucha — is Peremoha. Some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Kyiv, the place was largely destroyed and looted after a month-long Russian occupation. Yet Peremoha's tale of suffering is special.
Prior to 1945, it was called Yadlivka and became a symbol for the atrocities of an occupying army. During the World War II, German troops burned the village to the ground to punish the local population for supporting partisan resistance. The village was rebuilt after the war and was renamed Peremoha, which in Ukrainian means "victory."
Six decades later, as a student I was allowed to work on a special project there — over a number of years in summer camps, young Germans and Ukrainians together helped rebuild the school in Peremoha. This lived experience and accompanying attempt at reconciliation helped shape me, along with many others in Germany and Ukraine. Doing good and coming to terms with the crimes of past generations together provides a special foundation for true friendships, for looking together toward the future.
It's the best defense for assuring that the atrocities of the past never get repeated.
Friendship following reconciliation with Germany
I am happy that today's Germany and Ukraine are united by a friendship that is based on shared values such as democracy and freedom. For all the justified criticism about dodgy German gas deals with Russia and the years-long appeasement of the dictator in Moscow, Germany is now standing by Ukraine in its hour of need — whether by helping refugees or by supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine.
Eight decades following the German war of aggression in Ukraine, it is now the Russians who are destroying the country. And just like the German occupiers of decades past, today's invaders, too, lack compassion for the civilian population. For the Germans, the Ukrainians were "subhuman." For the Russians of today, Ukrainians are archenemies who need to be eliminated because their aspiration for freedom and self-determination is perceived in the post-imperial Russian understanding as an existential threat.
Hatred of 'Ukrainian traitors'
In the minds of most Russians, their lost empire never ceased to exist. And in this shockingly backward mindset, Ukraine's pro-Western trajectory constitutes high treason. According to the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization, 86% of Russians approve of what their army is doing in Ukraine.
In Stalinist society, as it is now being revived by Vladimir Putin, the "enemies of the people" receive the maximum punishment possible.
The Ukrainians knew this before the start of the war, even in Peremoha. Just 30 kilometers east of the village in a suburb of Kyiv shortly before the beginning of World War II, thousands of Ukrainians were systematically shot and buried after the Moscow regime under Josef Stalin declared them enemies.
Today, all Ukrainians are considered to be traitors and enemies if they do not cheer the occupiers.
The Ukrainians can only win
As disturbing as the indiscriminate killing and looting by the invaders is, the successful defense of Kyiv and other cities is inspiring. The West must not shy away from supporting Ukraine at all costs, even in the face of further escalation from Moscow. A victory for Ukrainians against the Russian despot would be an opportunity for all of Europe. For the Europe that is on the side of Ukraine, that is currently reinventing itself as a community of moral values.
Europe's peaceful future is at stake. A military fiasco could create cracks in Russia's cult of war, which has been cultivated for decades. For years now, the aggressive dictatorship in Moscow has been whipping up its own population into a frenzy of war through massive propaganda. The criminal regime insidiously derives its legitimacy from the myth of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany.
As long as the Russians, in their revisionist delusion, imagine themselves as invincible, there will be no lasting peace in Europe. For while we in Europe have learned from the Second World War that such horrors must never be repeated, in Russia the motto "we can do it again" enjoys great popularity. This is about nothing less than the conquest of Berlin.
Peremoha means "victory." The destroyed village will be rebuilt once again after victory over the Russians. Whether the Russians will reflect on the fate of this village, as the Germans once did, will depend in large part on what remains of Putin's criminal regime after the ruins of this war.