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Children talking about Ukraine: Politics need to stop immediately

It’s very cute how they are confused about details and terminology, and how they mix up reasons and consequences, but sometimes they can formulate the most important points surprisingly well. They are from six to ten years old, but they understand so much. asked 20 children one question: “What exactly is happening in Ukraine?”

I happened to witness a simple conversation. Educators were deciding who to invite to the school for Victory Day. Veterans, even the youngest ones, are already almost 90… “Maybe invite some of the children of war?” suggested one teacher. Suddenly, I understood that familiar phrase in a new way. In a modern context.

Children 1

What if my own daughter gets the same status in 10-20 years? Here in Ukraine. Am I dramatizing? Probably, yes. Nevertheless, I started thinking. How do they see the situation? The children of today. It’s understandable that the youngest ones repeat what their parents say, but it’s not purely relaying someone else specific opionion—rather, it’s a compilation. Of everything. Parents’ arguments, scary stories told by older friends, teachers’ explanations, pictures on the evening news. All of it is superimposed on intuitive sense of justice broken down into the simple categories ‘good’ and ‘evil.’

I think, ladies and gentlemen, that we adults, regardless of geopolitical preferences, should listen to them carefully. Those whom we always drag under own flags. I mean this: “For the future of our children.”

Maidan. War. Politics.

Eastern Ukraine. Elementary school. Participants were selected by a single principle: “Guys, who wants to give an interview?” I started each conversation with a soft (gentle, even, so as not to escalate) question: “What’s happening in Ukraine right now that you think is important?” Afterwards, only some clarifications, like “Why?”, “Who is that?”, “Is that good or bad?”

Ivan, age 8

Ivan, age 8

“I think that for some reason people want to go to war. It’s some kind of a pile that has appeared in the country. A pile like a knot that nobody can untie. Everything is so confusing. It all started with Kyiv. Our president gave Crimea away to Russia. It’s bad because some of Ukraine’s income will go down. I’m not sure what it means but I don’t like it when people want to fight. Yes, I am a boy and I like to play war games but I don’t want a war for real.”

Sasha, age 7

Sasha, age 7

“Now that this regime has come to Ukraine, Russia wants to take some cities for itself. It’s because Russia is not friends with America because America is the richest country. So they compete whose country is going to be larger and take away parts from other countries. Also not so long ago there was a revolution. On Maidan. It’s a big city square. People come there to talk about what is happening in the country. One time there was a building burning and people went to Maidan to talk about it.”

Misha, age 6.5

Misha, age 6.5

“Politics is happening. People are fighting for ribbons. I think yesterday Kernes was bleeding. Someone shot him in his back. He was also fighting for ribbons. Also we are not going to Crimea before it’s freed again. I’m not sure from who. I want Ukraine to be superstrong and everyone to be supermen. We’re going to make robots. Personally, I’m going to make power shields.”

Arina, age 9

Arina, age 9

“It’s almost a war in Ukraine right now. People are even being killed. I don’t like it. Some people try to convince their friends that they would be better off in another country. But I don’t really understand it. I think if someone wants to live in another country they can move there. And not to shout loud stuff… It’s like standing in a buffet and shouting ‘I want a bun!’ but buns are only sold in the shop next door.”

Igor, age 7.5

“Something bad is happening now in Ukraine. It’s called… People took up guns to defend themselves from the ‘little green men.’ ‘Little green men’ are a special kind of titushki that took away Crimea. Crimea is my favorite city. Oh, I mean peninsula. I have been to Yalta and to this one… Anyways, I’ve been everywhere there but there are still some places I want to visit. I want to go there again. But going abroad is very expensive. It costs 40,000!”

Karina, age 8

“It’s a war. Russia attacked Ukrainians because Yanukovych betrayed them. He ran away. He ran away because he was afraid he would be killed. I don’t know by who. I watch the news but to me there’s nothing to like. People shout a lot there. I love to watch cartoons. And there was also Maidan. Maidan is a square. People would come there to cheer for Ukraine.”

Maksim, age 8

“Now people are fighting so that Ukraine will be a free country. Because everyone wants to take Ukraine. So that they have more resources. Oil, gas… They want to rule everyone. I don’t want to be in any other country because everything would be too weird. Strange, new. We would need to start all over again.”

Dasha, age 9

“Different parliament members put armies against each other and capture people. People go to Maidan to stand up for their point of view. Some people there are good and some are bad. The bad ones are the ones who have masks and guns. They’re hiding so that nobody will recognize them. When I went with my mom to the Landau Centre there were some men in masks with guns. I was afraid because I only saw that before in movies.”

Artem, age 8

“Crimea didn’t want to be with Ukraine, it wanted to be with Russia. And people who wanted to be with Russia feel good now. But I haven’t been to Crimea. I’ve been to Egypt. Maidan is a country. No, not a country—a city. It’s a city in Europe. There’s street fighting there. Who’s fighting who, I don’t know. But I think some people want the president and some people don’t want him. I don’t like—I don’t like when people are shooting.”

Sofia, age 7.5

“It’s a war between Ukraine and Russia. Russia thinks that our country is better than theirs. And they also want to live here. There’s no difference between Russians and Ukrainians. They have the same eyes. And clothes. And hair. Maidaners protect Ukraine. Those are people who work at Maidan.”

Dima, age 7

“Russia attacked Ukraine. They want something. I don’t know what.  It’s bad because it’s not nice to attack. If one boy attacked another boy… No, well, if that boy was bullying him, then it’s okay. But if he was just standing there and not picking on him, then that’s wrong. But it’s bad to fight. I won’t go into the army. You have to kill people in the army, and I don’t want to kill anyone.”

Anisia, age 9

“When I went to a hospital with my mom, there were wounded people there. There was a man, someone beat him because he was on the subway. Some guys in masks beat him. Because they wanted to prove that they were the bosses there. They had masks like bandits who rob banks. Also once when we were walking by the train station my friend’s dad called her and said, ‘Run home immediately.’ There were some people coming with iron pipes. They wanted to beat someone. My teacher says that it’s better to sort things out with words and not with fighting.”

Igor, age 8

“I think Putin wants his country to be even bigger. But we must defend ourselves and fight against the tanks. Because they might defeat us and capture us. We are not going to live in Russia, we would be slaves. Everyone is bad when it’s a war because a war is bad. Defending is good. But you should defend not in a way that leaves a lot of dead bodies but just so that the enemy goes away from our territory.”

Masha, age 8

“There was a war and Russia took away Crimea. I don’t know why but it’s bad because Kennedy was killed in Kharkiv. [Probably referring to Kernes being shot—Ed.] Well, they didn’t kill him, but they tried to. I like watching about animals on TV. I don’t like watching about war. Because people kill each other.”

Maksim, age 8

“Russia wants to take over Ukraine. Putin wants his country to be the biggest. It’s bad because I’m Ukrainian. Ukrainians are people who are born in Ukraine. My father was born in Russia but he’s lived in Ukraine for many years. I think he’s Ukrainian too.”

Sasha, age 10

“Our president ran away. He was afraid that people would judge him because he could not explain why he didn’t sign a contract with Europe. Maidan was against it. People wear ribbons there. Ukrainians wear yellow and blue ribbons. And the ones who wear ribbons with stripes, they’re also Ukrainians but they want to be with Russia. That’s why there’s a conflict.”

Nikita, age 8

“There’s a war beginning. Ukraine is trying to make it so that there is no war. Because their brothers, sisters, and friends live in Ukraine. Some people want Ukraine to be Russia and some people don’t want it. That’s why people are fighting at Maidan. Maidan is a city. People get killed there and houses are set on fire. Sometimes Russians do it but they disguise themselves as Ukrainians.”

Sonia, age 7.5

“Well, all kinds of titushki are taking over the courts. And other people don’t like it. They are called ‘Heavenly Berkut.’ They want Ukraine to be Europe. So that you can freely go wherever you want. For example, you can’t go to Crimea anymore because you have to pay for a passport. That’s what they say in the news. But I don’t like to watch the news because there’s always either a car crash or someone is killed.”

Maksim, age 7

“Politics. Putin said that Ukraine owes money for gas and Putin wants his money back. He also wants to create some park in Crimea. I don’t remember what it’s called. Also they switched off water there and now they will start making drinking water from sea water. But the biggest danger will be on the 9th of May. Many people will come and start shooting. I think that politics must end immediately. Then there will be peace”.


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