Adam Borowski

Survivor’s guilt, heroism and propaganda

Survivor’s guilt. The feeling of guilt when someone dies and you’re still alive. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. I read about Ukrainian writers who died in Russian strikes. I read about Israelis who were senselssly slaughtered by Hamas. I think of so many foreign volunteers around the world killed by deranged despots.

And I can’t just stand by and watch the madness unfold. I’m no soldier, so I do what I can to join the fight now raging across the world. I write articles for a top Ukrainian newspaper now reaching every corner of the globe. I share my ideas with the world. Maybe someone out there needs it. I don’t do it to virtue signal. I do it to have a clear conscience. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my personal choice in the matter. There will always be naysayers.

I’d like to salute everyone who is now a volunteer, in whatever capacity, in a dangerous part of the world. Several people told me how their so-called family and friends reacted when they expressed their willingness to go and help in the Middle East, Ukraine and so on.

Upon hearing the news, the families of my interlocutors rushed to stop these unfortunate souls, even resorting to threats such as disowning them or locking them up in mental institutions. Guilt-tripping and gaslighting began. ”You’re selfish, you only think about yourself,” or ”Stop trying to be a hero!” and so on. Now, who’s the selfish and manipulative one here?

The person who wants to help – whatever his or her motives – or the ones using cheap mind games to prevent that person from helping? There could be envy involved, too. People who see others around them step out of their comfort zone to do something daring, something challenging, something to help others, are sometimes furious about it because, deep down, they know they are intellectually inept cowards. The courage and focus of others rocks their little world. Envy, that green-eyed-monster, creeps into their minds. I find it particularly disappointing when those who are supposed to root for you are the ones who want to drag you down.

There are many front lines in life. Not always literal ones. Sometimes, dealing with people around you can be likened to a war. Sometimes, it’s best not to talk about your plans, unless you know someone’s on the same wavelength as you and can keep a secret.

The other extreme is forcing someone to go and help. That, too, deserves condemnation.

If you’re cogent and have your affairs in order, you can decide on the course of action your life’s going to take. Anyone who tries to stop you by trying to manipulate you is the small-minded and selfish one. Doesn’t matter if it’s a friend or a family member.

Again, there are exceptions. If your family or friends suspect you’re being brainwashed by a suicide bomber cult, they ought to intervene by asking a deprogrammer or a psychiatrist for help. But that’s a different story.

We’re in an era of dramatic decisions and – as long as it aligns with your conscience and you feel like it’s the right thing to do – I say: go for it. I also look in the mirror when I say it.

Vladlen Tatarsky, a Russian criminal-turned-propagandist who thought he’s really smart and smug, died in a St. Petersburg cafe a year or so ago. He’d been handed a statuette with a bomb inside. How poetic. At one point of his ”blogging career,” Tatarsky said:

“We will win over everyone, we will kill everyone, we will rob everyone who needs to be robbed. Everything will be as we like it. God be with us.”


He said it in the Kremlin, no less. Just like smug-faced Dugina and some other ”journalists” serving various regimes, he found out the hard way that there are those who are more ruthless and smarter – and willing to teach greedy genocidal maniacs the final lesson.

I can already hear the wailing of all sorts of peacemakers and diplomats. That everyone can change, everyone deserves a chance. Well, let’s leave it to God, shall we? In my opinion, such vile individuals don’t even deserve their own grave.

Here’s why naively hoping everyone can change for the better just doesn’t work. Picture a psychotherapist and a psychopath. The psychopath goes to therapy and – one day – he or she seems better. The therapist is overjoyed. His or her patient has made so much progress and can truly appreciate the joys of having a conscience!

Except, psychopaths don’t get better because they don’t see anything wrong with themselves. To psychopaths, guilt and conscience are for suckers, the ”less-evolved.” So why would the psychopath take part in therapy? To learn more about the mind, of course. On how to manipulate, gaslight and brainwash better. Starting with fooling the therapist and then society at large. Psychopaths are beyond redemption. Some people are beyond redemption. Only God can change them if the Lord so wishes.

Now, why are propagandists so dangerous and why are they legitimate military targets if – oftentimes – they never fire a shot at anyone? Here’s why.

Picture a young Hamas fighter having doubts about the killing of Israelis. And then, he remembers something his favorite religious scholar has said. The fighter no longer has doubts. He’s ready to kill, rape and maim while the scholar has never pulled the trigger in his life and doesn’t even know about the young fighter’s existence.

Picture a Russian soldier in Bucha, near Kyiv, at the beginning of the Russian invasion. The soldier is aiming his gun at a defenseless child. The soldier doesn’t want to kill the Ukrainian child but then remembers Dugin’s words to ”kill, kill, kill” Ukrainians, that Ukrainians are, ”The race of degenerates, that crept up from a sewage, the race deserving of genocide.”

In a fit of anger, feeling like he’s doing his duty, the soldier shoots the child in the head. Maybe some of you think Bucha isn’t real. There again, you’ve been brainwashed. What, I’m the one brainwashed for believing that Bucha and other Russian atrocities actually took place? See how absurd it gets? The mental merry-go-round is exactly what propagandists want. There’s no truth, just the ever-changing alternate realities to suit the regime.

And when someone judges you harshly, it’s only fair to judge them back, not turn the other cheek. I know Israelis, in general, understand this and I admire you for it.

ISIS fighters are afraid to be killed by women because they are going to hell then. Well, it would be even better if they were forced to reincarnate as women – US cheerleaders, for example – with the memories of glorious ”martyr days” intact. Now, that would be hell for them, wouldn’t it?

About the Author
Adam Borowski is a technical Polish-English translator with a background in international relations and a keen interest in understanding how regime propaganda brainwashes people so effectively. He's working on a novel the plot of which is set across multiple realities. In the novel, he explores the themes of God, identity, regimes, parallel universes, genocide and brainwashing. His Kyiv Post articles covering a wide range of issues can be found at
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