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Column: What does peace mean to a citizen of Ukraine?

Ukrainian citizen Alina Baranyk shares her thoughts on what peace means to her, as she lives through the effects of the Russian war on Ukraine.
<a href="" target="_self">The Holos Project </a>

The Holos Project

September 8, 2023
Editor’s note:

This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, the Los Angeles Times High Scohol Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Alina Baranyk from Ukraine with the mentorship of Eleanor Tjoa from the United States. “Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice.” 

What is peace, and why should we value it? Why is this a relevant question today? Why don’t some people even think about it? So many questions, but why are there so few answers? Unfortunately, our world today is full of indifference. I don’t want to generalize, but I can’t describe it in any other way. Looking at what is happening for more than a year now in my home country of Ukraine, I can confidently share, tell, and answer the above questions. 

Why am I doing this? People simply need to understand that, as it were, it didn’t sound banal. Happiness is in simple things, in little things! So, what I want to start with is probably the most important question.

Peace, what is it? Yes, many people talk about it, there are so many theories, but still from many, you can hear that they are not happy. Pain, tears and despair are all things that my country feels. This is what every inhabitant of my country feels. This is what real misery is: waiting and hoping without hope. It is consistently watching the news with tears in your eyes.

It is when you see “was last online 3 months ago” on your friends’ profiles. It is when you tremble with fear when you hear ominous air raid sirens that echo throughout the city. It is when you see another hero return but not to his home. It is when these endless tears are heard. It is when you witness the explosions…when you sit in the bunker until the alarm is over…when you are held captive and your loved ones can’t do anything… or when you are held and will not let go by those whom I cannot even call human.

These are the little parts that I can tell. It is all misery; it is all grief! To be honest, I didn’t appreciate all these little things until my nightmares became realities. If only I had been told in advance that such things would happen I would ask out of fear, “What is the name of this horror movie?” It is hard to believe that the same terrible things are all happening in the 21st century. While many live a stable and accustomed life, others struggle for their life.

I don’t wish anyone to experience all these things themselves. We ought to understand that when all your loved ones are around you, it’s all happiness. Peace is when you feel safe and free in your native country, your Motherland. Peace comes when you live in harmony with your loved ones or just yourself, and on your territory —where you were born — where no one will climb and try forcefully take a piece of you. You don’t like the truth? We did not like it either, and we will never like it. This is why we didn’t give up and did not lower our chins. This is the reason why we hold on and will keep holding on.

What do I mean by this? If you can live in your own country without fear, if you are sure of tomorrow, if you can hear the voice of your relatives at the drop of a hat, then you live in peace and happiness. You need to appreciate everything with your heart and soul. It is necessary to remember that many do not even have this opportunity!

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