Combat station-Ukrainian Studentship
The calendar is set to Monday 12 September 2022, right after I get up I open Instagram, today that means more than 8 years and 200 days Ukraine resists its aggressive neighbour. So I slowly open Instagram this morning, the feed takes a long time to load the content, almost seems like it's trying to hide from me all the new things I've missed lately.
Of course, what interests me most is the ongoing war, what victories and defeats the Ukrainian army has won or lost, as well as the situation at the front and how many innocent people have suffered again today. Instagram loads everything so slowly that I'm already starting to worry if my account has been deleted for hate speech (this has already happened to my friends), it's obvious that the algorithms don't like anti-Russian sentiment in society, that's not surprising.
Finally I see the posts, and as you may expect, there is a bit of everything, there is a collection for a car for the Ukrainian armed forces, there is also a collection for walkie-talkies and drones. The real news starts a little further down. One after the other makes you cry or laugh , you get upset and ask yourself the question: what does this mean for us?
And then rejoice and say "not for what, but for that." The philosophy is simple, everything is given to us in life for something, of course it is a bit strange to justify the incredible resistance of the Ukrainian soldiers in the Russian-Ukrainian war with this, but it seems that this is the essential and immortal thing that Ukrainians can oppose the Russians with, we know what we are fighting for in Kherson, in Luhansk and Donetsk, and the strength of the homeland on which the Ukrainian soldier stands will never compare with the strength of the territory of the occupier.
I start watching the stories, one by one they amaze me again. Small children and the elderly, the development of book publishing and Ukrainian cinema during the war, politics and economics, incredible videos recorded by Ukrainian soldiers from combat zones, and what impresses the most are the Ukrainian Students.
What makes me wake up every morning and believe in the wonderful future of Ukraine as a free and independent state is our Ukrainian student body! It is the secret force that is greatly underestimated in Europe but is listened to in Ukraine.
Ukrainian students are the driving force behind everything, they have always fought for freedom and independence, always wanted to live in a democracy and fought against corruption. They have united Ukrainian society more than once: the Granite Revolution, the Orange Revolution, the Revolution of Dignity and then the war. The war of 2014. It re-established and re-ordered Ukrainian society. Ukrainians began to be more open to each other.
We show how to unite for victory even now. The majority of those who follow my account on social media, especially on Instagram, and those I follow, are students. I watch how they manage to combine first love and first date with philosophy lectures, choose a bulletproof vest with a certain level of protection, run into a bomb shelter during an air raid, write term papers and serve in the army.
I scroll through the tape and see Ukrainian students going on a trip to the Carpathians, I scroll through the tape and see Ukrainian students saying goodbye to their friend, he was only 21, he died for the independence of the Ukrainian state, I scroll through the tape and see student artists from Kiev painting a picture for a charity auction to support Ukrainian children, I scroll through the tape and read the poems of my good friend from Lviv, he reported on the war in 2019, and in 2022 he went to fight, I scroll through the tape and see how a student on internship has already organised 80 collection drives for drones and pickups for the Ukrainian army, I scroll through the feed and see how my friend is setting up a psychological support site for students, and another is working at the humanitarian headquarters helping internally displaced people, I scroll through the feed and come across a photo of an acquaintance, also a Ukrainian student, although she lives in Germany and volunteers teaching German to Ukrainians.
I don't know where they get these superhuman powers, I don't know how they combine a seminar on geodesy in a university classroom with a trip to the front and bring the boys cigarettes and batteries. Every time I see Ukrainian students, I want to cry. I am so proud of them. I always try to support everyone with a compliment and write something good, for example: 'You are so cool! Thank you! It's amazing", and they replied: "You too, because you combine a university in Ukraine with a university in Germany and volunteering", and I replied: "What the hell, you are my heroes".
And secretly I still think that I am proud to be a part of the Ukrainian student body. I am proud to be among those who, despite everything, never sit back, fight despite everything, help the military and the civilian population despite everything. Because we are Ukrainians, united abroad and in Ukraine, and if one of us needs help, we will do everything, we will help everyone. I'm reading the news again,
some universities in western Ukraine have resumed their work. I follow these stories on Instagram, my fellow students are drinking beer, but they are already in Poland, they have come to visit their parents who left the Russian occupied Ukrainian territories for Poland. Some time passes and the feed updates to a story about a charity book auction, all the money is used for food parcels for the elderly, and later the feed changes again, I see students in Irpin and Bucha. In their spare time they help strangers clean up the area after the occupation. Fire pits are dismantled, rubbish is removed, new houses are built, burnt apple tree stumps are uprooted and young pear trees are planted. I imagine at this moment how these pears will taste in a few years.
Their taste will be sweet with a bitter note, it will be the taste of gratitude and the taste of victory.
As I scroll through the Instagram feed, I see again how a Ukrainian soldier is being mourned in one of the temples. Again, a student. 23 years old. I scroll down and there is my friend, a photographer, also a student, selling his work and raising money for the army. My Instagram journey continues, the feed is updated again, and I see my colleague, a journalist, we studied together at university, I see him writing about the war: "So was I born for war? Should I sleep in the ground and protect myself from flies, mosquitoes and other evil spirits? Shall I tune a machine gun to work instead of a guitar? SO. Obviously. Ukraine was born in WAR. And today thousands of such journalists, bakers, taxi drivers, scientists, traders, artists, sportsmen, MPs, lawyers, bloggers, bartenders and other representatives of non military professions raise them. I am sure that these people should now be resting somewhere in the Carpathians with their relatives, but instead they are rubbing sweat, dirt and blood from their civilian skin. Again tears come to my eyes, tears and pride. Alongside such stories and contributions, however, there are others.... A category of people who are far away from the war. European students, German students. Some of them spent the summer in Miami and of course share that on Instagram, others were finally at their favourite festival and made lots of music and delicious food, there are those who go on holiday to the islands and share photos with exotic fruits, and some write stories, for example: "I know there is war in Ukraine. But that's not why I stop living. That's why there won't be any news about the war on my account, plus there's a risk that your page will be blocked." Does that surprise me? Such behaviour? Such an escape from reality, probably not. But does it make me sad? Obviously, yes. The war in Europe is still foreign to a large part of Europeans. They do not consider Ukraine as a part of the common future European family. They still believe that Ukraine is somewhere far away, somewhere near Russia, and that Ukraine only brings problems. And the most
terrible thing about this situation for me is not the fact that students are having fun at festivals or drinking gin and tonic in discos, I don't condemn them for that. The most terrible thing for me is their lack of understanding of the ethical norms of operating social networks, the most terrible thing is their perception of the role of Ukraine in this war... If my page can be deleted for spreading the truth about the war and opposing Russian propaganda, why do I need this war, why should I put my life on hold? The Instagram feed is updated again, I see a photo of my friend in the mirror in the lift in one of the universities of Lviv, it is signed like this: "Thank you to the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the opportunity to attend a lecture at the university, thank you for the opportunity to think about civilian problems, thank you that I am still alive, thank you for everything." I look at the calendar and notice that autumn has already started, which means that Ukrainian students have resumed their studies. I imagine the conversations they have with each other during the breaks, what they talk about in the dining halls, what thoughts they return to the dormitories with. How do they find the strength to write academic papers, attend conferences, learn foreign languages, read books and combine all this with a dirty, brazen war. The Ukrainian army has a strong and reliable backing, backed by those who will never give up, who study, work, volunteer and live their "normal" lives. Those who have never been indifferent and will never be indifferent. Ukrainian students at the combat station.
By Bohdana Semeniuk