Today my friend in Kyiv, a mother who had just been separated from her children as they were evacuated out of the city, wrote on Twitter,
‘second time in 3 months I had to hand over my baby girl, not knowing if I will ever see her again. This is a pain only a mother can know. It’s more painful than all of war put together. The hatred in me grows every day.’
This brought home to me what Putin has now done, irreversibly, to Russia and to all Russians. Germans have spent the last 80 years apologising for what their predecessors did. Putin is cursing Russians with that same burden.
I grew up around that hatred. My grandmother’s whole extended family were killed in German concentration camps. My father was evacuated to America and didn’t really know his father until he was seven. My grandfather liberated Belsen concentration camp, and never really recovered from what he saw. That deep hatred lasts for generations, not years. It becomes embedded in the collective identity and culture.
Putin is lost in his own false propaganda and twisted version of history. He does not really live in the 21st Century so he didn’t realise Ukraine has been open to the world ever since it kicked out his last puppet dictator. Westerners have been there for holidays, and Ukrainians live and work in towns and cities across Europe and America. Ukraine is not a far-away place with which we have no emotional ties (as may be, to our shame, the case with Chechnya and Syria). Many of us in the West are watching the shelling of cities we’ve visited and seeing people we know share videos and photos on our social media feeds of their homes and families under attack. Soon, I fear, we will start to hear reports of people we know being killed by Russian soldiers and bombs.
This is a European war. Putin failed to understand that Ukraine is already Europe. He is far too late to prevent that. The reaction has been fast. Everyone is siding with Ukraine. Everything Russian is being boycotted — the Russian economy is now toxic. Russia, as a brand, is now so poisonous that no business can afford any connection with it. Everything is being…