Ukraine now has hundreds of thousands of new war veterans, as many as 350,000. They will all have thoughts and reactions to these current developments (disengagement of forces in Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote-4, Petrivske).
As might be expected, they share a need to be heard, something that has been the common longing of soldiers in past wars. In her book, Invisible Scars. Mental Trauma and the Korean War, on “how the treatment of psychologically traumatized soldiers evolved during the first half of the twentieth century”, Canadian Meghan Fitzpatrick writes about the effect of politics on battle, including a line applicable to Ukrainian soldiers today:
“Political necessity dictates the direction of events on the ground, and destroying the enemy is not necessarily the end goal.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick is interested in the soldier and the veteran and concludes that “the establishment of long-term care and support systems is as important as the development of forward and front-line psychiatric treatment.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick quotes a Canadian Medical Officer about Korean era policy, namely that “people get squirrelly in war. There is nothing the matter with the guy who draws ducks on the wall. However, when he starts to feed them, you have trouble.”
Ukrainian veterans feel a profound loss of control over their war effort because of current “political necessity”. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should be alarmed that his country’s veterans are not only drawing ducks but are starting to feed them.
Valeriy Puzik’s writing introduces a factor into the Ukrainian version of politics dictating the war, and President Zelenskyy’s “capitulation,” as it has been called, namely the effect on Ukraine’s many veterans.
“I need to say that I feel more anger and hatred than ever before.
Now more than ever. All I want to do is run off far away into the middle of some field and shout at the top of my lungs.”
Thoughts (by Valeriy Puzik)
I’m obsessed with an urge to wash away all the filth being dumped on me from all sides.
Dear Lord, how could this land simply be surrendered after all the years of digging trenches in its defense.
We’re expected to construct a new bridge only to have foreign flags unfurled above it.
As a poet, I was looking for some poetry in all this, but there is none. Nothing. Only anger and hatred.
It seems my heart has become untruthful, vested now in thick layers of armour.
The circulation of my blood has become compromised; I’ve stopped trusting, and I’ve closed myself off.
My heart can handle no talk of defeat in this war. My heart says: “No!”- And I no longer dream when I sleep.
What is there now? The wind is back to howling through a ragged blue and yellow cloth?
What do I now dream? An abandoned field, snow, winter…
Dear God, grant me strength to survive this horror and fear!
In my mind’s eye are vivid images of the dead. They will be part of this land forever.
One is 25, another is an old man. This one has no legs.
Someone’s hand has been torn away. Another was a sniper’s fatal target.
Here’s one blown up by a landmine; there’s someone headless-
Temporarily unaccounted for, disappeared without a trace.
Meanwhile, there are two children waiting at home, a wife, a dog. Not one word by text message. No phone call.
Just a sound in the wind:
How are things with you out there?
Where are you?
The heart marks the seconds. The heart during the “ceasefire.” The heart blocks everything out.
The heart says: “No!”
“Not one word about defeat in this war.”
Not a word.
A silent scream,
Clothed in heavy armour.