I am writing this text for my friends, publishers, translators and readers in other countries. It’s hard for me to write, because it takes a clear head and calm, while my emotions flare up. It is even more difficult to understand what is happening in Russia and Ukraine. But silence is now intolerable. Therefore I will at least try to tell you something.
Fourteen years of my life – all my childhood and youth – took place in the Soviet Union. At that time, communist ideology breathed its last. As young Pioneers, we children believed in that ideology, half-heartedly and not seriously. But what we really believed in was peace. The propaganda machine launched at the beginning of the Soviet period worked conscientiously, although it produced more pacifist than communist rhetoric. ‘The USSR is a stronghold of peace’, ‘Peace to the world!’ Those slogans were written on the walls of every nursery and school. A lesson on peace was invariably one of the first lessons of every school year, for every class. Songs and poems about peace were part of the program of every Young Pioneer event (and there were quite a few). Pigeons decorated every classroom, every bulletin board and every notebook. We sincerely believed in those pigeons as only children can. Faith in peace was an inalienable part of Soviet childhood, that is, it was in the personality of each of us. This belief seemed unshakable and eternal.
The time has come for simple truths, for repeating them over and over:
‘No war.’ ‘Peace to the world”
I also understood that war is something so horrific that those who have experienced it are silent about it. My grandfather lived through the Second World War for four years, but did not say a word about the front: by being silent he protected his children and grandchildren.
Today, Russian tanks drive over other people’s land. I can hardly believe it. The domestic opposition is so fierce that I could cry. It’s hard to find words for it, nothing is powerful enough. Bitterness, anger, fear, powerlessness, to infinity.
The news of February 24, 2022 crushed me. My world was not turned upside down, but simply destroyed. I don’t understand why the “vaccination” with pacifism didn’t help.
I’m writing this in a personal capacity, but all my friends and acquaintances feel the same way. No one in my immediate and distant environment supports this war. Social media is filled with anger as well as requests, pleas and demands to stop these military operations.
The time has come for simple truths, for repeating them over and over. ‘No war.’ ‘Peace to the world’.’ ‘Human life is the highest good,’ We will repeat until this darkness is over. We will emphasize the banality of good so that later we will not encounter the banality of evil.
(translation Michel Krielaars)
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 11 March 2022
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of March 11, 2022