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Week Two of the War in Ukraine: Armageddon-in-Making

Michael Rogatchi (C). Faces of the Shoah. Indian ink on cotton paper. 50 x 40 cm. 1992.
Michael Rogatchi (C). Faces of the Shoah. 1992.

Week II Summary: March 3 – March 9, 2022

Michael Rogatchi (C). Psalm 55. Indian ink on cotton paper. 40 x 50 cm. 1991.

During the second week of the war, we have seen real heroes and terrible tragedies. We all admired an 11-year old boy who travelled alone for more than 1000 km from his Zaporizzha city towards the Ukrainian-Slovakian border with a small plastic bag, passport and a telephone number of his relatives outside Ukraine written by his mom on the child’s left hand. I will remember the photo of that hand for a very long time. The boy’s mom was unable to be with him on the way because she is the only carer of her bed-ridden mother. I know several cases like that when people in the bombed Ukraine are not able to leave those who are depending on them. Our close friend is left behind in the commitment to care for her adult son with cerebral palsy who is in a special needs care house which now totally depends on the direct care of the families of their patients. Our other friends decided not to leave their elderly parents behind. They are staying being extremely busy with preparing the bomb shelter for days now. 

We saw an incredible heroism of the people in Ukraine who went against armored military vehicles with bare hands and pushed them away. Yes, they did. We saw several men in independent episodes who did lay down in front of the tank columns. And the columns did stop. We saw people with flags instead of guns in their hands who did make the gang of the aggressor’s soldiers, all with guns, to retreat. Yes, they did. 

We also learned about the entire family exterminated by the bombing of their home in Sumy: father, mother, grandmother, and three boys. Entire family. In one hit. Because of what, actually? 

As a summary of the second week of the war, comes the figure of 2,160,000 refugees from Ukraine in the crisis that the world did not experience since the end of the Second World War. The pictures of the human see, suffering, fleeing, attacked are amassing in a terrible pile of crime. So far, without punishment. As a matter of fact, Dostoevsky himself was not that sure in his own formula. He somehow knew that applied fairness is a wishful thinking, largely. In the place where he collected the material for his ultimately gloomy, disillusioned, desperate writings, for sure.

Day 8: March 3, 2022

ELDERLY ARRESTED

Arrest of 77-year old artist Mrs Elena Osipova in St Petersburg. Open Internet Library (C).

My black & white coverage is colored again. But it is in black & white indeed. 

This elderly woman arrested in St Petersburg yesterday night is Elena Osipova. She is a painter, 77 years old. 

Here is the video of Mrs. Osipova’s arrest. You do not need to know Russian to understand both the video and the posters this 77-year old woman has made herself.

Mrs. Osipova is well-known in St Petersburg. She carries on her single-person’ protests from 2002, every time drawing her own posters which are destroyed every time. She does it again. Non-stop. 

Her family lived in St Petersburg for generations. Her grandfather died during the Siege of Leningrad. Those people lived the sorrow of a war through. For twenty years, this woman protests, alone, without fear, on the streets of her native city, injustice, the various causes of war which is forbidden to be called its name. She was 57 when she started. Now, twenty years on, she protests a regime which is thriving in its inhumanity, and accelerates it on a daily basis. To the degree that after arresting children they continued with arresting a 77-year-old woman in a routine way of conduct. The state fights its own children and its own elderly with full-scale police actions. Unf****ing believable. But it’s true. The gloves are off now.

Day 9: March 4, 2022

COMMUNICATIONS

Inna Rogatchi (C). Mis-communication. 2021.

In no time, we have transferred from a morning and evening catching up with the news from the war in Europe to almost 24/7 mode of news gathering. From early morning to late evening, we are on the phones speaking, organizing, finding, checking, speaking, trying to help our friends in and from Ukraine, and those who need help urgently now. Trying not to cry while relating what we are hearing to each other. Just a small pause of a few seconds to hold the breath and to control tears. No, tears you cannot control, really. Sobs you can.

Days through, we are speaking with people and institutions in Ukraine, Finland, Italy, the Caribbean countries, Ireland, Germany, the UK, Latvia, Belgium, the USA, Estonia, Israel, Lithuania, and so on, back and forth, in rounds. The progress is slow, and there are so many new cracks of sorrow. Close friends had to divide their family in three in order to be able to move out of Ukraine, all three are in different directions. Additionally to the terrible fact of being forced to leave their homes, would they be ever able to see each other again? The mother of the family is stranded far away without any real hope to be able to return to her family any time soon. People frantically trying to get out of the war zone leaving behind everything.

For some people, even this awful prospect is not realistic and they realize that they just had to be left behind. How on earth to get over all these daily episodes of loss? The episodes of essential importance which are amassing over you as that dark giant cloud? And those frantic communications which are a dimension all its own. Every time when somebody does not answer their phone, your anxiety is rising, however you try to control your emotions. These are the realities of the war, in its immediate manifestation, in its routine. Human suffering. A drop, a spring, a river, a sea, an ocean of human suffering which is pouring all over Europe, and reaching beyond it. The truth of the day.

Day 10: March 5, 2022

LOGISTICS OF THE WAR

 

People in Ukraine trying to evacuate. March 2022. Open Internet Library (C).

“Inna, you just cannot imagine what is going on here at the railway station,” our close friend, practically a family member, is saying to me in a tired voice from Ukraine. “Not just the railway station itself (which is rather big – IR) but the entire plaza in front of it (which is really huge), and every inch in a proximity to it is packed with people, people, people. It is really frightening,” our friend says. And he is not the one who is frightened easily. 

The wife of another close friend who was trying to evacuate with two children, one teenager and one three year old, had the tickets for one of the special trains evacuating people. She tried very hard, with two children and some minimal luggage to get into that train for two days straight. They could not reach the platform through the impenetrable wall of people. Those who can, are packed in the trains with 200, 300 and 400 people in the wagons which normally take 50 people. 

There are dramas, no, tragedies, over the places available on the buses ready to evacuate people. The mother of the family we have known for life is left behind because there are no places left in the bus in which the family of one of her sons is leaving. The family of her other son is moving away in a small convoy of private cars full of women and the only man, a three year old boy. There is no place for her in those cars either. She is 70 years old and quite ill, with an injured back and injured knees. I cannot stop thinking about her since the minute we have heard about this one human story. One of so many. And all these stories are piling up, and up. 

There is one more story which does not get out of our heads. In the beginning of the war, in a village near Kiev, a 14-year old boy was mortally wounded in the head by a shell fragment. His family was not able to take his body from the place where it had happened because of intense fire there. In a couple of days, his aunt, a female doctor from Kiev, got into her car and drove there, to take the body. She managed to do it, and was driving back home with the dead body of her 14-year old nephew and his parents. Her car was hit by fire, with the doctor killed immediately and the boy’s father seriously wounded. Somehow, the boy’s parents, carrying his body, managed to get out of the car. They moved to the closest village and buried him there. After which they tried to get back to the car to take the body of their sister-in-law from there. They were not allowed to do it by enemy fire. The latest I have checked on the situation, they were unable to do so for- a- week. It does tell you all about this ‘special operation’, does it not?

Day 11: March 6, 2022 

INVOLVEMENT

Inna Rogatchi (C). Entering. 2019.

I have about three and a half thousand contacts on Facebook alone. To my warm gratitude, there are very few of them who have ignored the tragedy of this war. So few that each of them has placed him- or herself into the limelight of ignoring. I honestly cannot understand what measure of humanity there is left in each of those individuals. Or was it ever present, really. To face such a tragedy and to be concentrated on one’s idiotic dinners, or travels, or keep to one’s usual routine is beyond humane, under the circumstances. Yes, not everyone should be involved. But any humane person should react to the screaming inhumanity and horror committed in the centre of Europe today, for the 11th day non-stop. It is such a cliche that people are tested by difficult times or situations. But there are cliches and cliches. There are cliches which indicate the essential truth without which those enthusiastic travelers would be seen as those who they really are: cold fearful egoists, unworthy ones, does not matter how they are regarded in their corresponding fields professionally. Pathetic, despicable schmucks of both sexes. They just need to know that there would be no one to help them in their daring moment. And that would be absolutely fair.  

Day 12: March 7, 2022

HUMAN SEA

Human sea at the Kharkiv railways station. March 7th, 2022. Open Internet Library (C).

I realize that this photo will be published world-wide. And it should. A similar picture was seen at the railway station in Kyiv. A similar picture was seen at the railway station in Dnipro. I am speaking only about the places which I saw and know personally. Kharkiv is predominantly Russian-speaking and the second-largest city in Ukraine. I wonder how many people in Russia have seen this one photo. I just wonder. There are 11 million people in Russia, conservatively, who have relatives in Ukraine. Plus friends, colleagues. It should be 20 million at least, probably, more. I do not know if I will ever be able to forget this very picture. Plus many many more which we are seeing daily, round o’clock. There is another picture which does not get out of my head since the moment I saw it, of small children, hundreds of them, sleeping on the floor in the shelter. So disciplined, so quiet, so well behaved.

There is another photo of the children who just arrived in Germany, straight from the bus, all under seven, bewildered, lonely, without parents, each of them holding a toy they were distributed by volunteers, clinging to those toys with their innermost, with their eyes in some other place, of all of them. The enemies of the large soulless state which never truly knew or really recognized the concept of the value of a human life, a single human life. Our close friends moving through Ukraine for more than three days by now in that all women small convoy, are telling us, tiredly, that several girls whom they are moving from the war zone, have been sleeping in a shelters on the way on the beds in groups of five or more, with all boys, including even small three-year old boy who is in their group, are sleeping on the floor, on very thin mattresses, or just some rugs which is placed on the floor.

Nobody complains though. I have not heard a single complaint from the escaping human sea during these twelve days. Only recommendations, like the one our other friend was given in that incredibly overloaded train in which she managed to get onto, on her third attempt: “You better not get off [the very small place of the wagon’s bench], as you won’t be able to get to your place back.” She texted that, “there is an enormous amount of  people in the wagon, tens, hundreds of them sitting, staying next to each other.” Nobody is complaining, just figuring out how not to get out of your seat even if it is absolutely needed during all the very long way, because you simply won’t be able to get to your tiny place, a part of a seat, back. 

Day 13: March 8, 2022

WOMEN’S DAY-2022

Michael Rogatchi (C). Faces of the Shoah. Indian ink on cotton paper. 50 x 40 cm. 1992.

Some strange people have sent to me today festive photos of flower bouquets, with a Women’s Day congratulations. Thank Heaven that there were really few of them. Only one of them was with an additional ‘Best Gift is Peace’ sticker. What on earth are these serene pictures at the time like this one? I completely agree with President Zelensky who said in his daily address from burnt and bombed Kyiv that he won’t congratulate women with a holiday today. Not the time for anything like that. Exactly. That’s why my picture for today, the 13th day of this devastating war, is the work of my husband depicting a woman in connection with the Holocaust. Created 30 years ago, this drawing exemplifies the sense of the Women’s Day-2022. It is sorrow, worries, anxiety, tears, reflections on everything lost and quite a bleak future. As my best friend who has spent all her life in Ukraine told me today: “Most of the time, I feel as if I’m under a bulldozer, almost literally so.” 

On this day which is still weirdly celebrated by some people who live on some other planet, I think about one girl. Her name was Tanya. She was eight years old. She died of dehydration in Mariupol, being alone under the rubbles after the bombing and after losing her mother who was killed in the raid. 

We do not know for how many days Tanya, an eight year old child, was fighting for life under the rubble. President Zelensky said this morning that after the end of the World Second War, no child in Europe died of such a horrific death. There is a photo of the dead girl, but it is too gruesome to publish. But there is a potential instance where that existing photo should be added to the other evidence. I do hope that humanoids responsible for this war and crimes against humanity will be taken to the front of the special Tribunal for War Crimes in Ukraine which has all objective reasons to be established. 

What flowers? What congratulations? What celebrations? Women’s Day-2022 is the Tanya from Mariupol day. 

Day 14: March 9, 2022

CHERNOBYL 2.0

Inna Rogatchi (C). Insomnia. 2018.

Not in my most horrific nightmare would I ever imagine that I would be in need to speak about the threat of Chernobyl again. The same as I just cannot watch the Chernobyl series. It gets too close to me. Our family suffered the most terrible, insuperable blow due to the Chernobyl catastrophe. We lost two dearest members of our immediate family because of that, of different generations. We lived that catastrophe through and what it inflicted, too. We still live it. We will always live with these unimaginable losses because of it. Some of our friends are still worried about us on that day of the Chernobyl catastrophe 36 years back, they are writing us warm messages and they call, telling us that they always think about us on that day.  In a self-preserved psychological mechanism, I tend to ignore the very date. What fixation on the date would add to what we went and going through every single day of our lives?

But now, in the context of the most idiotic and most gruesome war which I know about and which unfolds in front of us, I find it necessary to speak on Chernobyl 2.0 in the script which reaches far beyond any serial.

On the 14th day of the war, the IAEA announced that they have lost communications with the Chernobyl nuclear station and cannot monitor the situation there. In a couple of hours after that supremely alarming statement, the official information from the Ukrenergo stated that due to the military actions at the seized station, Chernobyl is completely de-energized. It means that the massive system which provides cooling of the reactor does not function. Which means that the prospect of the leak of radiation is real. It also means that depending on the time of de-energized status of the station, that nuclear explosion is also possible.

The station is occupied and controlled at the moment by the Chechen battalion of Rosgvardia, all famous nuclear physicists, Einsteins-en-masse. Under their control, 210 people who were working at the station at the day of the seizure, which was the second day of the way, are not allowed to be rotated all this time. Two hundred and ten people had started their shift a day before the station was seized. Almost two weeks by now. They are working under the guns round o’clock. They are not allowed to rest. They are sleeping something like two hours daily sitting at their desks at random moments. They are allowed one meal a day all this time. If they are lucky, they can get a bit of extra bread. They have a serious shortage of water. People were reduced to the necessity of breaking-in their colleagues’ personal lockers in order to steal from there whatever they would find, water, food, hygiene items. What does it remind us of, one wonders?

Is it all for real? How on earth do the world powers allow this to happen? This is a capitulation of the worst sort. Of the worst.

Additionally, according to the IAEA, the nuclear facility in Kharkiv was damaged by the Russian missile. This facility is new and scientific. It has a subcritical mass of plutonium which means that the consequences of this damaged nuclear reactor are of a different category than now very possible Chernobyl 2.0 Armageddon-in-Making. But there ARE consequences, inevitably. Any slightly educated person realizes that a nuclear reactor damaged by a direct missile hit is leaking. Period.

Who on earth gives such orders? Who attacks nuclear reactors situated in a large Russian-speaking city full of civilians? We know the answer. And we will remember it.

Additionally, the situation at the largest in Europe Zaporizzha nuclear plant in Energodar is also quite alarming. The station has been seized by the aggressor forces completely last night, the 14th day of the war. According to the IAEA, it is controlled by Rosgvardia forces. In fact, the Chechen battalion of the Einsteins-with gun-machines is an official part of Rosgvardia. It has been reported that a couple of days ago, they killed several people at the station in a demonstrative spree-killing, in front of everybody else on the shift. They killed namely those specialists who were responsible for nuclear safety at the station.

I wonder: who on earth can put in one’s place under one’s skull an idea to order the Chechen battalion to specifically target and seize nuclear installations? What does it tell the world? Can the world read the message and make it’s adequate conclusions?

Ukraine has four large nuclear stations on its territory, with 15 large nuclear installations among them. Ukraine’s nuclear plants’ capacity is the fifth largest in Europe and is the tenth in the world. IAEA seems to be extremely worried and similarly helpless at the moment. I have just one question on this 14th day of the bloody war: what are the world’s leaders waiting for? Is it not clear enough already?

About the Author
Inna Rogatchi is internationally acclaimed writer, scholar, artist, art curator and film-maker, the author of widely prized film on Simon Wiesenthal The Lessons of Survival. She is also an expert on public diplomacy and was a long-term international affairs adviser for the Members of the European Parliament. She lectures on the topics of international politics and public diplomacy widely. Her professional trade-mark is inter-weave of history, arts, culture and mentality. She is the author of the concept of the Outreach to Humanity cultural and educational projects conducted internationally by The Rogatchi Foundation of which Inna is the co-founder and President. She is also the author of Culture for Humanity concept of The Rogatchi Foundation global initiative that aims to provide psychological comfort to wide audiences by the means of high-class arts and culture in challenging times. Inna is the wife of the world renowned artist Michael Rogatchi. Her family is related to the famous Rose-Mahler musical dynasty. Together with her husband, Inna is a founding member of Leonardo Knowledge Network, a special cultural body of leading European scientists and artists. Her professional interests are focused on Jewish heritage, arts and culture, history, Holocaust and post-Holocaust. She is running several projects on artistic and intellectual studies on various aspect of the Torah and Jewish spirituality. She is twice laureate of the Italian Il Volo di Pegaso Italian National Art, Literature and Music Award, the Patmos Solidarity Award, and the New York Jewish Children's Museum Award for Outstanding Contribution into the Arts and Culture (together with her husband). Inna Rogatchi was the member of the Board of the Finnish National Holocaust Remembrance Association and is member of the International Advisory Board of The Rumbula Memorial Project ( USA). Her art can be seen at Silver Strings: Inna Rogatchi Art site - www.innarogatchiart.com
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