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Watching Ukraine with sorrow, fear and hope

A banner that reads "DER KRIEG SOLL VERFLUCHT SEIN Mutter Courage," which translates to "THE WAR SHALL BE DAMNED mother courage" hangs on a theater in Mainz, Germany. (Annalena Stache/YJI)

Ludwigshöhe, Rheinland-Pfalz, GERMANY – Following the news recently, I am overwhelmed with emotion. There is already so much going on in the world with the climate catastrophe and protests and politics, both in my home country Germany and internationally, but the invasion of Ukraine has added a new layer of sorrow, fear and hope.

My sorrow – for the people of Ukraine who are being hurt, killed, traumatized, faced with loss and destruction, and forced to flee their homes – meets my own fear, as well as my hope.

Fear because the war is already affecting the German population. It is on the news and on social media and it is on our minds. It is causing inflation, and I’m scared that it will do more than that.

I fear the war will take place in more than just one country and that I will have to experience the violence and danger that Ukraine is currently facing.

And hope, because I am grateful and glad to see so many countries showing support for Ukraine, lighting buildings with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, sending military support, taking in refugees.

The European Union really does appear as a union during this time, and I believe that allowing Ukraine to be a member would be beneficial and a good next step.

The way refugees are welcomed here makes me think that it should always be like that, that wealthy and safe countries should always help and let in those who had to leave their homes. But this is not the case. Reactions were vastly different when people fled from other countries, such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

It is shocking how different it is when the country that is at war is European and when the refugees are mostly white people.

Still, the current support is not perfect, and there is hatred towards Russian people living in Germany who have nothing to do with this war. German writers and politicians, like the minister of foreign affairs Annalena Baerbock, have spoken out about this issue and pointed out that this war is entirely because of Putin, not Russia as a country.

Social media is polarizing and that also saddens me.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his official Twitter photo.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, is idolized to the point where it is uncomfortable and inappropriate. Tweets are going viral saying that every woman must have a crush on him. While respect for the Ukrainian president is appropriate, these comments are not.

At the same time, there are tweets celebrating Russian casualties in this war, and people seem to forget or ignore that these are human lives, and that these people likely had no other choice than to join the military.

Large parts of the Russian population do not agree with Putin, so they cannot be blamed for this war. While I understand that the Ukrainian army wants to succeed, talking about death like this and publishing comments without reflection makes me uncomfortable.

Scrolling through social media at this time is overall a different experience than it was a few weeks ago. There are news articles and people who act normally and continue to upload their regular content, but there are also memes and jokes about the beginning of a third world war, which are scary.

We, as people who do not live in Russia or Ukraine and are not a direct part of this war, cannot truly understand what it feels like, and I do not think that it is right for us to joke about these shocking and devastating events.

Annalena Stache is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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