Despite the images of destruction, ruin, and human tragedy, the world is seeing the violent birth pangs of a future great and modern nation, Ukraine. Confronted by a neighbor who seeks its annihilation and even the destruction of its existential existence, the people of Ukraine, its’ armed forces and volunteers, are forming a new and epic narrative that will lead to its eventual internal transformation, but also rekindle the passion of freedom’s flame of those who have slid into a miasma of moral relativism.
Ukraine is establishing a modern freedom narrative for the world. Ukraine’s modern story is of a quest for freedom. Not a quest that can, or should be defined in strict secular terms, but as a modern pilgrimage. At this moment, it is not fully reflective in the purest religious sense, but in a forcefully violent context. It is essentially a philosophical- spiritual odyssey to create their own definition and understanding of freedom, both as individuals and as a nation.
What the world is seeing, but more importantly what Ukrainians are proving to themselves, is the assertion of what are the fundamental values of their future. A fight for the dignity of human life, the pursuit of freedom, and the articulation of the human soul that rejects the oppression of a cynical and anti-life authoritarianism. It is being accomplished through the belief in the triumph of the human soul, whose expression paints a canvass that is fully cognizant of the fact that the sacrifice for human freedom, is a cost that unfortunately must be paid for by the loss of life.
For Ukraine, this pilgrimage for freedom is a process of a free people who have cast aside the mentality of serfs and have taken the responsibility to affirm for themselves what it means to be free. Ukraine’s story is one of transformational forces. Post-maidan efforts at reform, encouraged by the west, failed to comprehend that what Ukraine needed, and wanted, was to be transformed, to put aside the old, to destroy the thinking of its soviet legacy and practice, and to become new. That is to plant and nourish the seeds of democratic and fundamental human values that would transform Ukraine’s society.
Post-war Ukraine will have the opportunity to finally destroy the structures and mentality that has for so long oppressed the independent and creative spirit of its people, that despite much effort prior to the war, continued to be permeated and dominated by soviet and oligarchic thinking. The very values pursued by its enemy. After Ukraine triumphs militarily over Russia, it will have illustrated the most essential human lesson, that is that to experience true life in its very essence, it is necessary to sacrifice. It means to overcome fear, and as the great American theologian Paul Tillich phrased it, to embark on a journey informed by defining what is one’s “ultimate concern”, and then become dedicated to a plight for the “courage to be”.
What the war in Ukraine illustrates is that evil exists in the modern world. Evil kills and destroys. What the people of a fledgling democracy of Ukraine have shown, is that evil must be resisted. But more to the point, that evil must be confronted. More specifically, that evil must be stood up against. What Ukrainians have shown the world is that the actions of evildoers can no longer tolerated, compromised with or placated.
Ukraine’s people do not have the time to debate the meaning of evil, they are too busy resisting and fighting it. As the world sits in front of its screens watching the carnage of Russian forces killing innocents, destroying neighbourhoods, maternity hospitals, government institutions, schools, nurseries, churches and grain silos that feed millions, it is time for free peoples and their political representatives to transcend their moral relativism and their fear of evil and to act with courage and decisiveness before the Ukrainian people are subjected to chemical gas attacks and the further destruction of its cultural heritage.
The women, men and children of Ukraine are suffering. Ukraine is a nation of suffering. Its national history is defined by the oppression of empires, ideologies and other forms of modern oppression, be they cultural, linguistic and economic. However, Ukraine has proven that suffering people can become a country of resistance. Its resistance, energized by an innate spirit of rebellion has allowed it to prove itself not only as the protector of Europe’s eastern gate, but an example of the importance of confronting evil and its structures wherever they may be found.
Ukraine will go down in history as that fledgling democracy that stood up to one of the alleged most powerful armies in the world and resisted them. And in so doing, Ukrainians are saying to the world that suffering and oppression can, and will be overcome. In its essence, Ukraine is a peaceful country. It is a country that grows and nurtures. Its ‘chornozem’ able to feed hundreds of millions, and whose farmers, even in the time of war have taken to their fields to fulfill their responsibilities to feed.
Through its experience of oppression, Ukraine has created yet another generation of ‘creatives’. A generation that inspires with expressions of the human soul in song, in painting, in literature and even fashion. Ukrainians, are a nation of poets, of romantics, of athletes and actors, of singers and of chefs and entrepreneurs.
What the world sees now, is that Ukraine is a nation of warriors. Of those with a belief in the divine, and its agency in the life of a nation and its individuals. It is for the dignity of human life that Ukraine fights against Russia.