The second interview takes place with Natalia. She is originally from the city of Luhansk, in the region Luhansk. She was relocated to the West of Ukraine in 2014, due to the war. Originally Natalia is a history teacher, but she changed her profession to running a beauty salon. Since her relocation, she became a Peace Engineer. She visits other, newly arrived IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons), who are for the majority mothers with children.
Interview Natalia – I don’t see a solution for this war
How are you?
In my mind only bad words come up. How could I be in these circumstances, with this war destroying everything around me. Every morning I wake up and I see my child alive. This is the only thing that makes me happy.
How has the war affected your life?
For me there are two wars: I faced war in 2014 and in 2022. I have a feeling that this war is never ending. Therefore, my life has been divided in two parts: one until 2014 and one after 2014. These are two very different lives. In 2010 my son was born and I had a good balance between family and business. I dedicated myself to my child. I had free time, I planned my day around my son, walking in the parc. Now my life has completely changed. I moved away from my hometown, living as an IDP.
Does your family still live in Luhansk?
I don’t have any relatives, and my husband and I divorced before the war. [Natalia explains that her father had an awful asthma. He stayed in Luhansk. Her mother followed her to the west of the country. He was very nervous, and he was all the time worried about his daughter. She was his only child. He died in 2017.]
I feel very sorry that I couldn’t be there in the last phase of his life, not even during the funeral ceremony that took place in Luhansk. I think that if we wouldn’t have had a war, he would still be alive. I see that the war has affected the health of old people in general. The elder people living in Luhansk whom I know have all died. Due to hostilities, because of the war, I came to the conclusion that it has affected their general health and mental condition. They passed through this immense psychological stress. They couldn’t accept the reality.
What do you expect to happen?
I really want to believe that this situation will finish soon, with acceptable conditions for Ukraine. A life without danger, living with a peaceful state of mind. On the contrary, I don’t have a long term planning. My plans are starting in the morning, waking up, thinking how I can stay alive until the end of the day. And at night I hope I will wake up alive again in the morning. There are constant uncertainties in life. I cannot plan ahead more than one or two days.
My memories of 2014 come back. At that time we thought that he [Putin] had imperialist dreams with our country, creating a greater Russia. This very moment, we see that he [Putin] is a psychopath. He is mentally sick because a normal, healthy person cannot kill innocent people.
What in your eyes is a solution to this war?
From one point of view the solution is very simple. Russia invaded Ukraine under the pretext that he wants to save Ukraine from Ukrainian people. This sounds ridiculous, it’s nonsense. The solution is simple: he needs to leave us alone, put down his weapons. He wants us to leave our country. He has already occupied Chernobyl and other important strategic locations. On top of that, he has nuclear weapons and due to his psychopath mind you cannot calculate with him. I don’t see a solution for this war.
You are also a Peace Engineer, in this field how can you contribute to the solution of conflicts?
The tensions are extreme the past week. Most of IDP’s are from the East of Ukraine. These are mainly women with children. They are under a lot of pression, because their husbands went to war. I work on the stabilization of the psychological state of mind of the person. I use different tools of communication. I first talk to them, stabilize their condition. Listen to their stories.
You are actually working as a psychologist, it seems to me?
Yes, partly you are right. When I meet IDP’s these days, especially the new waves of people, I am trying to talk to them and to understand them, in order for them to accept me. This phase of the war gives huge tensions in the lives of people. In order to get out of this mental phase, I give crisis assistance, with tools I have learned during my training as a Peace Engineer. I speak with them on a human level, as an active listener, so they can speak out their souls.
What should help for Ukraine from outside consist of?
All these sanctions, honestly, had to be taken eight years before. Europe took only half steps in 2014. Putin is not afraid of these half measure sanctions. If these sanctions were taken at that time, in 2014, we wouldn’t have had this war. Of course the USA are giving us money and support, but in my eyes, it’s a way to pay off their conscience. This way they don’t have to attack Russia themselves. They are afraid that this conflict moves further towards Europe. In history we have had this experience already during the second World War, with Hitler. He also kept on going, no one interfered.
In my opinion, the international society should be faster in decision making and more brave in taking measures to stop Russia.
I embrace the military assistance coming from Europe. Because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to fight this war ourselves. We lack military equipment: helmets, body armors, body equipment. Yesterday a mayor of one of the cities in an eastern region asked for Turkish drones. He can use these drones, against Russian transports that are moving inside of Ukraine. They need to be stopped. Remember the horses fighting with tanks in the second World War, it was an unequal fight.
I want to underline that the weapons we use are defensive forces. I hate any kind of weapon, but I clearly see that in this situation there is no solution other than taking up the arms. I am against war, but now there is no any other way to solve this problem. I am for a peaceful solution, but to get there we need to be able to defend ourselves.
What should we still know about the situation in Ukraine from your point of view?
People should know how scary it is to live and not know if you will wake up again, not know if your children are still alive the next day. It is obvious that this is genocide towards the Ukrainian people. He [Putin] is torturing us, on our own land. I want to cry and scream to the world: stop him! Is there anyone that could stop him? When he destroys human lives now, it’s unacceptable. Before, in 2014, he ruined our traditions, displacing people, but now he is killing people. Europe has this power to stop him, if they can act together, united. I understand that this is politics. If not, there are surely other players in geopolitics that are able to stop him. Once again I ask you to stop him.
[An hour after the interview I received a message from Natalia in which she added that she wanted to add the following:]
“If I don’t survive this awful war, my testimony in this interview will remain forever. I hope that people will experience the value life has and cherish it.”