How everyday Ukrainians, state officials, and politicians overcome fatigue, and endure the long, difficult months of military action

1 June, 07:12 PM
The war will drag on, and there will be not only victories - both the president and ordinary citizens must be ready for this (Photo:NV collage)

The war will drag on, and there will be not only victories - both the president and ordinary citizens must be ready for this (Photo:NV collage)

A first, sad anniversary is approaching - it will soon be 100 days since Russia started its full-scale war against Ukraine.

During that time, Ukrainian cities and villages suffered horrible destruction. Some places are occupied, and the truth about the inhumane atrocities that the Russians committed against the civilian population has become known to the world.

Trying to escape the shelling, millions of Ukrainians have gone abroad or moved to safer regions. Some people have even returned home by now.

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The West keeps passing new sanctions against the Russian Federation, and the U.S. made a historic decision by signing the Lend-Lease Act for Ukraine.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine stopped the enemy army from capturing the capital and kicked them out of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts, as well as pushed the Russians away from Kharkiv. But the difficult and bloody fight for Donbas is still ongoing.

After 82 days of defensive actions, the protectors of Mariupol were forced to surrender following command from their superiors and evacuated from their final “stronghold” - the Azovstal steelworks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal has laid out the consequences of Russian aggression: 35% of the Ukrainian economy isn’t working, the fall in GDP this year will be 30-50%, and the state budget has a shortfall of $5 billion every month.

The war continues.

“The quick victory everyone was hoping for in April is unfortunately impossible due to the fact that we are much inferior to Russia when it comes to resources,” said political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko.

In three months, society has been exhausted but also gained the understanding that military actions might continue for a long time, and that war can have different phases, not just victorious phases, but also ones that will be complicated both for the military and for civilians, experts say. Ukrainians need to be patient and mentally prepare for a long fight, as well as be ready for different scenarios.

The political step in that direction has already been made, explains Fesenko, as the Verkhovna Rada extended martial law for three months. That was a signal to society that the war might drag on, says the expert.

The military leadership has also started talking about a protracted war. Kirill Budanov, the head of The Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense, told online newspaper Pravda that the active phase of military actions might last until the end of the year.

The analysts are convinced that Ukraine needs the unity of both its front and its rear in order to withstand combat for these many months.

Money needs to work

“We should already be preparing for the autumn and a difficult winter to make sure the country doesn’t freeze,” said Davydyuk.

More and more, Ukrainian business will have to adapt to the war, adds Gleb Vyshpinskyy, executive director of the Center of Economic Strategy. According to him, domestic businesspeople face a variety of different situations: some had their production capacity destroyed, some lost it due to occupation.

There are also those whose demand has dropped to zero for an indefinite time, like representatives of the tourism industry. On the other hand, IT companies, real estate owners, and essential goods manufacturers basically haven’t been affected by the war.

There are also businesspeople who have lost a large share of demand or production capacity, but are trying to adapt - they have moved production to safer regions and are re-establishing exports.

Despite 2021 being a good year for the national economy, Ukrainian business doesn’t have a strong margin of safety, stated Vyshpinskyy, and we shouldn’t count on it in case of a protracted war scenario. According to the expert, in these conditions, the state should focus its efforts on restoring destroyed facilities and infrastructure in the liberated territories.

At times like these, the main task of the government and local authorities should be to organize a relatively normal life and economic recovery where possible. Fesenko cites the example of Kharkiv, which, despite the fact that it is still occasionally under fire, is trying to get back to work and restart the economy.

Unity required

All this looks like the beginning of a new pre-war political season. But now is definitely not the time, political scientist Davydyuk explains, as the internal divide will only play into the hands of the enemy.

“When the enemy comes, he will not give political ratings to anyone,” the political scientist warns.

“Everyone will be dragged to the basements, tortured and shot.”

As the active phase of the war is ongoing and Russia continues to do everything to destroy the Ukrainian state, both the authorities and the opposition should forget about political competition. Davydyuk emphasizes that Ukrainian soldiers don’t care about the name of the current speaker, prime minister or even the president — they are protecting the country and its right to exist.

“It’s not a great look when politicians are already starting to play some sort of games,”  added the expert.

Internal conflicts are also a signal of mental exhaustion from war that should be avoided, says Fesenko. He recommends the authorities have a meeting with the representatives of different political powers, similar to the one held in winter, and together demonstrate unity in the struggle against the aggressor.

Discontent has begun to manifest within society as well, says Oktysiuk. These include public disputes about who helps the front lines more, and why some are on the front lines, while others are in the rear, and how it happened that someone went abroad, while others stayed.

The experts advise Ukrainians to set aside mutual grievances and start working on restoring public understanding.

“If you aren’t a vatnik (a derogatory term for someone with pro-Russian leanings), you are going to work, you are helping the army, you launch a business or protect your kids from danger — all of this works in favor of the state, not the opposite,” Oktysyuk believes.

Lack of unity has manifested in the West as well, as it grows tired of the war in Ukraine, some of the experts believe. To maintain its focus and support for Ukraine, Kyiv should move away from emotional hype in its rhetoric with Western partners and start seeking a rational dialogue. The main goal right now is to achieve a supply of weapons and ammunition on a continuous and permanent basis.

“No need to be aggressive or cynical,” Davydyuk says.

 “But it’s better to state clearly when the weapons aren’t delivered.”

More truth

There is no universal solution to how to psychologically prepare yourself for a long-lasting battle. Everyone has their own solution, either as a person, a government department, or a company, says Agiya Zagrebelska, founder of the Antitrust League, an anti-corruption NGO.

The war is made of many battles, and some of them are lost: there will be plenty of situational defeats on the way to victory. We should accept that as the norm, she believes. To make it easier to accept this routine, Oktysyuk recommends moving away from the policy of centralized information in the form of jingoistic patriotism.

“If the situation is difficult, we must honestly talk about it and explain why it is difficult: not enough heavy weapons, no reserves,” says the political expert.

In his opinion, there is an understanding within society that the battle for Donbas is difficult, so there is no need to sugar-coat the reality. After all, people receive information not only from a single TV marathon, but also from the Internet.

The authorities aren't able to control the entire media space. Therefore, Oktysiuk believes, it is necessary that official information and comments be as close to reality as possible, even if it is not always pleasant.

Zagrebelska says that in order to mentally endure during this long fight against the enemy, these simple recommendations should be followed not just by the authorities, but also by every person: Set a daily schedule, control your personal finances, choose your information sources, follow safety rules and find your own place in this uneasy struggle.

Those who are not at the front lines, but with their families, should have conversations with their children. Don’t put off your life for later, but continue to enjoy it and smile without remorse.

 “After all, it is impossible to finish a marathon of saving the nation and raising future generations of Ukrainians by postponing life,” explains Zagrebelska.

And you also need to continue to believe that Ukraine will win.

“Without this belief, you have no chance at long distances,” the expert adds. “The belief gives you the strength to run a marathon.”

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