GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) – “Helplessness” and “shame for a few days.”
These were words that came to me this morning through a personal e-mail sent from around the world, from a man I know in Russia who watched his nation undesirably send troops and artillery across the Ukrainian border and attack a peaceful nation.
I corresponded with him in this regard, periodically asking how his Russian compatriots treated him when the armed forces seized the neighboring country simply because President Vladimir Putin wanted to seize power.
The man I know is a former journalist who has traveled a lot. I met him when he came to the US for an educational raid. He is 30, it seems, married. He is bright, speaks and writes firmly in English. He has a broad outlook. I don’t use his name because of his own personal security concerns. The freedom of speech we enjoy is not freedom of speech. Sometimes there are consequences.
About a week ago, when Putin’s intentions and the escalation of Russian troop movements became apparent, I asked him if he wanted to answer some questions about what Russians hear, think and feel about these events.
We’ve exchanged a few suggestions over the last few months, so he said he would consider my questions.
“Let’s try,” he wrote. “I’m not sure I can see the whole perspective, but it could be interesting.”
So, with some input from our staff, I compiled a few questions, basic inquiries about what information the Russians absorbed and how it could affect daily life and problems. I wanted to know how often he traveled to Ukraine – his hometown is about 10 hours by car from Kiev on Google search.
A natural question arises: are you friends with Ukrainians and fear for their safety?
A few days later he wrote in response that he thought a lot about the issues and “wrote a few options but decided to give up.
“There are fears in me and my wife [that] At the moment, I can’t deny it. “
That’s understandable, I told him. As I said in the address, I did not want to do anything to endanger him. I may have read too many novels or seen too many news articles about Russians who expressed – or even hinted at – views that contradicted the government and how harshly they were treated. I didn’t want that for my friend.
But he offered a little extra insight.
“When you try to express what you think in words, it seems harder than you thought before,” he wrote.
“The situation, on the one hand, is really terrible, but on the other hand, everything has been discussed so many times that there is nothing more to discuss. Everyone understands everything, but they have neither the time, nor the courage (choose your options), nor the desire to do anything. “
I basically didn’t edit his words, just cleaned up the spelling. His use of the word “options” was idiomatic. He really meant “choose the words,” but the meaning was clear: call it what you will, but it’s a difficult situation that everyone understands and can’t change.
“People, I must say, are quite depressed,” he wrote, “or maybe it’s just so-called helplessness.”
Helplessness now seems like a universal feeling. There is no way we can do anything significant to stop the onslaught of troops we see in news releases, and there is nothing we can do to stop the spiraling effects that will cover the entire globe and affect our daily lives.
My friend signed his message with an attempt at frivolity.
“Hello, Comrade Mayor, who is reading this dialogue as we sadly joke,” he wrote.
I took his attempt at humor, an appeal to the cliché of Russian life, in which we in the West so relentlessly believe.
But this morning there is nothing to joke about all over Ukraine. Bombs fell and people fled. Life turned upside down. We cannot imagine how this could end in any positive way. We just watch, wait and hope.
As a friend of mine said, for conscientious Russians it would mean “shame for a few days.”