Did we learn from the lessons of the 20th century?

Khrystyna, Lviv region, 21.03.22

Did we learn from the lessons of the 20th century?


I am sending you my witness account.

How do you remember the beginning of the war? – I asked this question during oral history interviews with the witnesses of World War 2.

Topically, before the narrators would first describe their everyday life before the war – it was important to understand how it was BEFORE. What was normal and the people were not getting ready and did not think about the war. And then there was a turn. AFTER. The moment when they found out about the war and the moment when they personally met the war.


I taught for the students of the Ukrainian Catholic University, had many plans and ideas. I very well remember the 13rd of February as the last day of normal life.

On the 23rd of February, I planned to start a new job as of March 1st – it was supposed to be a bright page of my life; and on the 24th I was going to buy a gift for my godson.

“Wake up, the war has started”

Could I ever imagine that I would have to answer the question of “how do you remember the beginning of the war” …

Although, of course, we had already lived in the times of the war over the last 8 years, but I have to admit that most of us were just watching it, because it was far away. Now it is close. It is here.

The full-scale invasion of Russia in Ukraine is accompanied by unimaginable destruction, violence and pain.

I read a lot about the war, listened to the witness accounts, watched documentaries, and it is only now, when I am researching it, I understand what the war is. And it is only now that I understand the need for justice and court trials for the ones who are responsible for this. And that the dialogue and reconciliation will not be our focus for a long time. I hope you understand it too. Those who are just watching the war. For whom this war is far away.

For a long time I could write to my friends and acquaintances that I am in relative safety, because I am in [...]. But not now, because Russian missiles hit [...]. And the whole city could feel the pain.

Nevertheless, I still feel that I have privileges, as I am not writing these lines from a bomb shelter, instead I am writing form my workplace. Where I have my bookshelves – The Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald, They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Slavenka Drakulich…

Did we learn the lessons of the 20th century?

Ukrainian society, it appears, has learned then, because for the 30 year of our independence, 7 presidents have been in power. All of them are alive. We were not happy with all of them, this is why we rose up to the revolutions and went to the elections.

How many presidents did Belarusians and Russians elect over these 30 years?

We are not Russia, and not Belarus.

We fight against dictatorships.

My generation, which was born in the independent Ukraine, will preserve and carry on this independence. I cannot even think otherwise.