War in Ukraine: a Question of Feelings?

By Hermione Laake

March 2022

Sometimes it takes just 24 little hours for something to change visibly on the surface, when underneath all manner of hell has been invisibly boiling. For now, as it was last year, we can continue to take photographs of peaceful and tranquil settings like this one, which I took last year. But shall we post them?

I woke up to hear the words on the radio, ‘I have failed to protect my lovely girls’ spoken by a Ukrainian woman. I woke up with the thought that I no longer wish to self promote, or to promote others on twitter, not when it seems as though people are being killed in front of my eyes, and all for the sake of history.

I then heard the news that a well known footballer has given up his twitter account to a doctor who is helping victims of the Ukraine because he has millions of followers, but I have to ask you what good will that do, because I cannot listen to this news anymore any of it? Can you? Do you feel duty bound to pay attention?

Tomorrow this will be yesterday’s news, but this war is still raging and I believe that until this war ends it is today’s news. Anyway, I am revising this short discussion and won’t post it for a few days. I sense that we feel powerless in the face of other people’s desire and responsible for behaviour which is beyond our control. Is this how it felt during WWII?

Can we allow ourselves to be bystanders? That is how this feels.

I ask you, as I have already asked you in my book, BERTHA’S JOURNAL: A PERFECT IMMELMAN (sic) N TURN, what is history?

Right now it seems as though a few buildings are more important than the lives of people. I tell you they are not if we have learned nothing from history. Why must we use history to separate ourselves? Why must we insist that we are different? Michael Jackson sang the lyrics to a song ‘Can you Feel It’ which sum up a feeling of oneness and togetherness that suggests something of the universal in us all. Sometimes there is more difference between an introvert and an extrovert than there is between someone from one country or another. It is a difference in perspective. Sometimes difference is nothing but a thought, which is why William Shakespeare penned that immortal line, ‘There is neither good nor bad, only thinking makes it so’, and that is the biggest irony. Wars seem to wrestle with ideas. The idea that one way is better than another. The idea of superiority.

How do I know that we are all the same underneath our petty quarrels about our history? I know this because my family are from so many different countries in the world that I have stopped keeping count. My brothers and sisters and half brothers and sisters and adoptive grandparents and I could go on. War is a futile thing. I can either force you to see my point of view, or I can let go and accept what is. My truth and your truth are two different things. I know why I do things and why I made choices in my life. I was faced with a set of circumstances and had to chose to go left or right. Always my choices were for the greater good. But this cannot be measured. In the end, our aim is to reduce suffering. But that aim turns out to be so difficult because it turns out that we all want different things. One person may find the freedom of driving miles every day to her place of work preferable to having no job at all. Another may find driving impossible, and may chose to work within a reasonable commute by train. You cannot know what someone prefers, needs or likes unless you ask them.

During WWII my orphaned father was adopted by a Russian who was living in England. I ask you, was my grandfather a Russian? How far back in history should we go in order to right wrongs?

Why, exactly, is it important that someone has access to a world heritage site? Is it because of money or prestige? Do we kill innocent children for that? I suppose that physical objects contain emotions. We become invested in the objects that were important to our ancestors.

I have to admit that I enjoy watching the TV documentary Who Do You Think You Are. I find I learn a lot of history from watching that programme, and there is the sense of the uncanny; for example, the day a researcher discovered two ancestors with exactly the same scar.

Members of my own family have a set of scars on their chins, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover another long lost family member with a similar scar. But people’s faces light up the most when they discover two things as they uncover the origins of their ancestors, a kindred spirit, for example, as Judy Dench who recently discovered a link to her own love of Shakespeare, and prestige; the idea that they are linked to royalty. Another observation I have made is that people who discover long lost ancestors are hurt and troubled when, after following a line of their family to an individual, they discover that he or she met an untimely end; that their lives were cut short by some personal tragedy or event in history which they were caught up in. But this is happening as we speak. People’s lives are being lost in Ukraine minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.


Published by hermionelaake - Awards-nominated writer and associate editor O:JA&L

Whilst working on long fiction, Laake/Wilds write short stories, poetry, essays and blogs weekly. Laake appeared on Blog Talk Radio in 2016 in an interview across continents with Susan Wingate. Laake is an awards nominee, Jointly-published and Indie writer. Nominated for the Avon and Authonomy First Lines prize, 2014 and the H. G. Wells Grand Prize for Fiction, 2013 for the original #MYFRIENDALIEN out on AMAZON BOOKS in 2022. Flash fiction is published with Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. Laake has an MA from KU with distinction and a BA in English Literature.

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