by Lydia Waruszynski, M.Ed
There’s an old saying, “all’s fair in love and war”, and basically the meaning behind it is that in some type of situations, anything or everything can be justified whether you are going after the person you love, or waging war on your enemies; that, in both matters of combat and the heart, self-interest reigns and people rarely follow rules of fair play. In other words, in both love and war, any kind of behaviour is permissible in order to get what you want, any method of achieving your objective is justifiable. So what if someone else gets hurt?
Well, when it comes to war, Vladimir Putin has certainly proven that. Lying, cheating, bullying, bribing, manipulating facts, violating international law…all part of his cold and calculated ambition to get what he wants, to be seen as a famous historical figure and to “make Russia great again”; all ruthless stratagem consistent with his character and credo: everything it takes to win the war.
How quickly the unforgettable becomes the unimaginable
Millions of people have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion. Thousands have already died. Ever since Putin’s war broke out, I cannot help but think about how one person’s power and self-serving interest has recklessly destroyed countless innocent lives, breaking the hearts and homes of so many, while spawning the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen in decades. I cannot help but think about how the rest of the world could have listened a bit more closely and acted a lot more sooner. And, how we all now helplessly watch from a distance as the UN, G7, EU, and NATO continue to condemn Russian actions and support Ukrainian forces. Haven’t we learned anything from previous wars and crimes against humanity? Will ratcheting up sanctions really deter Putin from winning his war? This is, after all, a president who has maintained, time and again, that Ukraine is not a country and that its citizens are really Russians, or what he would like to believe, his “master race”. Decimating cities into forced displacements, shooting civilians, shelling children, sexual violence, mass graves…and like every man-made war from time immemorial, we somehow continue to witness the same barbaric, disturbing parallels. How horrifying and utterly sad. I ask myself: How can this even be happening? How can the world watch yet another despot, another genocide? Will we ever live in a world without war? How, as human beings, do we continue to confront the lessons of history, yet seem condemned to repeat them, again and again?
The trauma of injustice
It seems like forever ago since I watched a video of a Ukrainian man bidding his young daughter a tearful goodbye before he dutifully boarded a train to join the military fight, ready to defend freedom and his homeland, not knowing if or when he would return. Under martial law men are expected to fight and help out with the war effort. To watch this heart-wrenching bravado of “keep calm and carry on!” go to pieces as father and daughter succumb to their suffering and crumble into each other’s crying arms…well, I can’t even begin to imagine all the broken children who now find themselves desperately afraid and alone, having to learn to deal with the trauma of what happened to their parents, families, communities and homeland: nightmares, flashbacks, sleeplessness, terror, anger, anxiety, mistrust, fearfulness… lingering ravages of war, just to name a few. One can only imagine the brutal reality behind all the good people now forced to do bad things in the name of battle and survival. Oh my, how the war wounds run deep!
I cannot believe how quickly everything has changed for the people in Ukraine. Just think, only three months ago their lives were basically as everyday as yours or mine. It’s scary how suddenly life can be thrown into turmoil! While I work from the comfort of my home helping couples demystify love and war in their ordinary day-to-day intimate relationships, I cannot help but be reminded of all the difficult challenges and harsh circumstances Ukrainian couples routinely face, and how immensely shattered they must feel by this very cruel, selfish and senseless war. I can’t help but let my mind wander to those couples deeply in love and now forced apart, with still so much left to be said and lived, and time unjustly ticking away. And what of those couples whose last conversations were marked by conflict and regret, with no opportunity to rekindle or repair? Even if many do find a way back into each other’s arms, I picture how PTSD will clearly create problems with trust and communication, even go on to sabotage or destroy a great number of these relationships. I think about all these couples and what they are up against: the trauma of a prolonged war in addition to their own personal versions of battle and failed peace talks, not to mention sagging spirits, and a longing for a life that no longer exists or will never be the same.
Etched in my mind forever will be the women and children, the family pets and the elderly, fleeing for safety in what has become the largest exodus and forced migration in Europe, ever. Even more remarkable are the many acts of kindness from the people of Poland and other border crossings, including Canada’s proactive and warm response to helping refugees feel at home in their new country. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine that although a war is raging in Ukraine, not everyone has left and that some have decided to stay put, no matter what. I shudder at the thought of all the helpless people and animals who wanted to but had no choice or were unable to flee. I wonder who will take care of all the forgotten ones, already far too many who continue to find themselves very alone and bereft of support. And what about all the Russians, including soldiers, who have no sympathy for Putin and feel anxious and distressed and strongly oppose this war? What about the truth on the other side of the line? Patriotism often blinds people during insecure times. What’s truly unfortunate, however, is that amid the heartache and the bloodshed, exists the tragedy of two countries with many ties to family and history, and the sinister way they are now being torn apart. For many, this war will never be over, if only in the minds of those who suffered it.
All because of one man. And his ambition to own more lines on a map.
As Putin continues to throw Ukraine into chaos, I meditate on how everyone feels separated by war and united in fear, and how domination is the seed of so much suffering in the world. Even with his weapons of mass destruction, I wonder if Putin knows that, in the end, no one ever really wins a war.
Hi, I'm Lydia- a modern-day warrior of the heart with a mission to reconcile the mystery and mastery of Love.