A Personal Statement
by Caterina Giulianini
When I say I support an immediate ceasefire and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, by no means am I saying that we should abandon all support for Ukraine and let Russia run right over it. If this is the interpretation of my standpoint when I preach peace in Ukraine, then I could understand the occasional backlash I receive. But the last thing I would want is to leave Ukraine defenseless. My message is to save the people of Ukraine.
I understand the public sentiment that the U.S. should be supporting Ukraine, and I agree. But a constant flow of weapons and artillery will not realistically result in a military victory for Ukraine. Putin has shown no signs of defeat. It is clear that he will relentlessly continue his fight. The war is stalemated, so it is time to end it. Save anyone and everyone who has been living in fear, hunger, and grief for the past year and a half. This can only be done through serious negotiation with the support of other nations. Compromises will need to be made—compromises from the U.S., other members of NATO, Russia and Ukraine, and it won’t be easy. But aren’t long and difficult conversations still preferable to a long and difficult war? Maybe not to the politicians and diplomats tasked with these talks, but to the hundreds of thousands of civilians living in a war zone, yes. Those are the people we need to be considering and supporting.
Peace activists reject violence of any kind, and thus there is no question we find the invasion of Ukraine an abhorrent, illegal and devastating tragedy. Our hearts are with all the people caught in the horrors of the war, particularly the Ukrainian civilians losing their homes, their families and worst of all, their own lives. Our hearts are with the Russian civilians who do not condone the actions of their leader and who are trying to evade the draft. The suffering and destruction must end now, for already close to half a million casualties have accumulated in less than two years. That is an estimated 500,000 people severely injured or killed so far. While individual loss reports may be unreliable, no matter the exact number of casualties, there is no doubt that the figure is far too high. With every day that our government does not push Ukraine towards negotiation and peace talks, the number of deaths will continue to exponentially grow. And that is unacceptable. All human life is precious and valuable: the lives of soldiers, civilians, old and young. Human life should always be prioritized. When war is waged, governments betray their people, and human life no longer is prioritized at all. It is barely even considered. It is as though everyone suddenly changes their values. Winning, no matter the human cost, is the only objective in sight.
With world events taking place far removed from one’s personal bubble, it is easy to hear such statistics and not fully process their significance. To a certain degree, the world has become desensitized to the news of death in large numbers due to its horrible recurrence throughout history. Nowadays, with the effects of climate change we are experiencing more and more each year, the news of death from natural disasters has almost become normal to us. Just a few weeks ago we were hit with the headlines, “At least 2,900 people died from the earthquake in Morocco. Over 5,500 injured” and “Flood in Libya leaves 3,958 dead and 9,000 missing”.
It is not to say that we are not saddened by this news, but I think we often lose sight of exactly what it means. No one wants to accept the reality of the headlines; it is frightening and an awful psychological burden to carry. However, as uncomfortable as it is to face, these numbers represent individuals with emotions, with ambitions, and with families. Individuals, no longer living. The larger the numbers get, the harder they are to envision. I admit that I tend to dismiss such news with a short sympathetic comment, without fully processing the gravity of it, without mourning each person who has suffered and tragically lost their lives. When lives are lost due to climate disasters, we feel as though this was something natural and inevitable, outside any human control – even though technically human activity is the root of these tragedies, so we are in fact responsible. Somehow, I think people often view death due to war in a similar fashion, as ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’. The world has made us sometimes even convince ourselves that these casualties are necessary for the resolution of a conflict. War has been forever accepted as a normal reality. But death due to violence, should never be normalized. It should never be viewed as anything less than a horrible crime.
People distance themselves so much from the reality of war. Numbers and statistics cloud the personal gravity of a war’s existence. But any time we read news of war casualties, Russian or Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, we cannot dismiss these deaths as inevitable. We must view the fallen as victims of a crime, whether they were part of the military voluntarily, drafted or completely uninvolved in the war. As horrible as it is to say and to write out, these massive numbers represent people who are being relentlessly hurt and killed. Countless are dying, ceasing to exist in our world, no longer breathing, no longer seeing, no longer feeling.
War must always be examined thoroughly for exactly what it entails. We must always remember the ugly and horrifying reality hidden beneath the guise of a political conflict. For the people of Ukraine and for the people in Russia, the war must end now. More military might is not the way, so push the U.S., push Ukraine, push Russia to sit down and negotiate. Diplomacy, not war. Converse, don’t kill. Ceasefire now.
Caterina Giulianini, of Holliston, MA, earned a BA from Boston College in June 2023. She is a MAPA intern and a member of the MAPA’s Ukraine: A Time for Peace campaign committee.