A message to the Russian people

I begin to write to you in the quiet moments of the night, having been once again awakened by the wailing sirens that warn of impending violent chaos and destructive doom.

We have been invaded by your military forces through an act of war.

Our recognized borders have been violated, our neighborhoods pummeled by bombs and artillery shells, our citizens dying, our infrastructure being destroyed, our institutions threatened, and our people fleeing for their lives in the millions.

This destruction is a result of a decision made by a man who is not restrained by international law and mores, who does not respect the dignity of human life, who does not respect his neighbors or either knows them and who cannot even admit that they are a unique and a sovereign people. 

He is an angry man, a disappointed and frustrated man, whose thinking is outdated and which belongs to the past. By all accepted civilized measures, he is a war criminal, like the Nazis, not worthy to be recognized as a respected leader of a once-proud nation. He has acted, and is, at best, secretly perceived by you as a “benevolent” master, but really, he is a reckless and unrestrained Tsar who is gambling with your future to assert his fetish in the exercise of power, both at home and abroad. He cares not for you, nor for your country. He has only stolen from you, with his band of friends, having raped you of your national inheritance.

Though he began his life of crime long ago, he now continues them on another’s land:  Ukraine’s land. Transgressing laws, both international and moral. Ordering the bombing of neighborhoods, of fleeing people, of hospitals that heal the sick and where Ukrainian mothers give birth. And he does so in your name. But of the few who still reason, and dare to be fair, we know you are in shame.

This missal is not a plea, but a message. An attempt to reason in the midst of wanton and imposed violence and fear for soon you will be overcome with hunger. it will overtake you, your body clamoring for sustenance, robbing you of the clarity of thought. So take a moment to think clearly, to establish an order of thinking based on facts and truth, and one that will suggest to you a new reality. A way of thinking that would transcend you to an appreciation of the truth, allowing you the liberty to reject the manipulative propaganda of a narrative based on lies. 

Your Tsar has ordered your sons to destroy our country. This is not some military operation, but a war. And despite what you are told, you know in your heart, that this is a war.

It is an attempt to destroy our efforts to create a societal order based on human dignity. It is an attempt to destroy our efforts to define freedom. For liberty, and its pursuit, for that is the aspiration of every human soul that seeks solace and security within the just framework of the rule of law. It is an effort to destroy us as a people, our culture and all that makes us unique.

I write to you because you must become aware that within these acts of war are contained the seeds of genocide. Are you willing to bear this burden on your soul for the rest of your lives and be stained by the black mark of condemnation and isolation for your country? 

You need to know that we will fight you and that we are ready to die, prepared to lay down, “our souls and bodies for our freedom”.

As an independent and sovereign people, we have not only rebelled against your imposing authoritarian order, but we have rejected your world. And now, we have been forced to fight you because we know that this is a fight for our existential existence.

A view of the central square in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, after being bombarded by Russian warplanes and heavy artillery.

You must know that we will resist the authoritarian order of your world. The world has seen and taken notice to what extent we are prepared to stand against you. They are with us. The world is against you. Our resistance has inspired the world.

We will not be occupied, and we will not submit any longer to those who will oppress us and who attempt to tell us how we must live. For through our suffering, we have learned that it is we who are the sole determinators of our individual and national fate. Freedom has a cost and is not free, we are in the process of paying for it.

We are a sovereign nation, an independent nation and a unique people. We are not Russians. We are not you and we have never been. We are Ukrainians and we will never again bow our knee to anyone. We will never again be subjugated to be anyone’s smaller brother. You are not our brothers and you never were. We are of two different mothers, one of the democratic West, the other of the despotic East.

Know this, when our Kyiv was the focal point of trade and higher learning over a millennium ago, your Moscow did not even exist. It was a wild untamed forest. 

Because of the lawlessness of your Tsar, you are in the process of being isolated from the civilized world. You will not be able to travel where you please, you will not be able to trade, you will not participate in the economy of the world, you will no longer be able to participate in its social, cultural and sporting pursuits. You will soon become a backward kingdom.

So you know, he was warned that to begin a war with Ukraine would mean the imposition of sanctions. He didn’t care about the potential impact it would have on you. It is because he doesn’t care about you, the “Russian people”. Your Putin cares only for the imposition of his now almost impotent will on others. His lust for power and control is unsatiated, even as his life and thoughts remain atrophied and drowning in the nostalgia of past glory. That time is over. The time to finally bury the old soviet man will soon arrive. 

You will suffer because of him, but we will have no joy to see you hungry. We do not rejoice in seeing the value for what you have worked so hard, be diminished and virtually disappear. But that is what his decisions have brought. Your Tsar and his cronies will never miss a meal, but you will miss many.

The world is with us. The world is united against the actions of your Tsar and for what he represents. He is being held to account. The civilized world demands responsibility and accounting for one’s actions. Yet, it is you that suffers because of his crimes. Will you continue to cower in fear like a battered woman, or will you assert your dignity?

Ukrainian soldiers help a woman across a destroyed bridge in the once-quiet residential Kyiv suburb of Irpyn.

You should be horrified of the crimes that have been committed in your name and under the colors of your flag. History will judge you harshly. But history will have to wait for you have already been judged and have been condemned by the whole world in less than two weeks as a result of the atrocities that your people have perpetrated on our land.

The world has shown that it will no longer countenance your presence within its civil community. So that it will be clear, it will not, and does not, accept the intentional shelling of neighborhoods, the indiscriminate killing of innocents, nor the disregard towards the plight of the displaced. These crimes against humanity will not remain in darkness, for they have been already revealed in the light of truth.

You too will be held to account. You will not be forgiven for the crimes done in your name. Nonetheless, it is time for you to begin to admit and repent of the evil in your midst for it is evils’ intent to kill and destroy, but that which is ‘good’ is the celebration of beauty and life that flows from freedom’s waters. You. Have forgotten this. Reject and resist evil and its darkness, and come and reside in the comfortable rays of the light and truth.

This is your trial as well, and the judgement is not yet final, but it is already revealing the tragedy of the darkness of your soul. But have hope. You will suffer. As Russians, you know that suffering can lead you to see that it is in the nature of humans to want to see and understand that which is beautiful and good. Have you forgotten the story of Dostoyevsky’s Karamazov Brothers?

As your neighbors, it has never been our intention or desire to kill your young men and then pack their charred, bloody, bullet-ridden and deformed bodies in boxes to be delivered home to their grieving mothers.

But you understand, kill them we must, for, in your name, they have invaded our home, threatened and killed our children and their mothers. We know what we ask: would you not do the same?

We, Ukrainians, are angry, outraged, but also sad at having been forced to commit violence against our will. Forced on a course that we did not want to take. You well know we are a peaceful and generous people, but for so long, our dignity has been violated by empires and ideology. Our sovereignty was maligned, our independence doubted, thwarted and disrespected. And now, we not only raise our voices, but our weapons, and proclaim, “If you come on our land with ill intent, we will kill you”.

In Ukraine, we want freedom. It is both our individual and national quest. It is our country’s evolving national narrative and it is our destiny. We are willing to die for it. Your boys, lied to and tricked, surrender. We will provide them a safe passage home.

Why don’t you join us in a similar quest, the quest for freedom? For we are all of one nature, yearning to be free. We know you understand, you’re just too afraid at the moment to admit for others to hear.

You are not cogs in a machine. You are not dogs. You are not victims. And you surely are not children who make excuses for not doing what is right and morally proper.

You must take responsibility as any adult must: to decide to do what is right, to act with courage and to affirm what is true. For when you know the truth, the truth will set you free. So, decide your destiny.

For you are human, endowed by a God-given dignity, with a soul in possession of moral agency that calls you to act out and to define yourselves as to what it means to be human for a burden has been placed upon your shoulders: will you respond and act with courage to dispose of the contaminate that now permeates your Russian soul?

For it is not only our country that stands on this precipice of this upended security order, but also you, and potentially, the world.  

I will not lie to you that when you rebel and march in protest of this war and of your Tsar’s regime, you will be beaten so that you will submit like some village dog. But know that bruises to the body will heal in time, but it is in the moments afterwards, and then forever after, you will feel the strengthening of the armor of your soul.

You will be imprisoned, but it will be there that you will experience what it means free. For a cold cell and prison bars are but the signposts for freedoms’ field that lie beyond their confines.

Remember, it was Solzhenitsyn who wrote, “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul”.

We, in Ukraine, await your answer.

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