putin imitates Hitler, when he talks about ‘final solution of Ukrainian question’ – Zabuzhko

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Dear President, dear Members, dear friends, I cannot be more appreciative for this invitation and for this unique opportunity to speak here on Women’s Rights Day at probably the darkest hour in Europe since 1939, Ukraine’s contemporary writer and philosopher Oksana Zabuzhko said in Strasbourg 8 March 2022.

For most of my literary career, I’ve been speaking for women and in the name of women. In my writings I have aimed to give voice to the experiences of women subjected to violence, to those living and dead whose feelings, ideas or accomplishments were ignored, devalued or simply forgotten. I’ve spoken for women’s rights to be free from discrimination and gender inequality, for their right to live in accordance with their own wishes and preferences. This, however, is the first time that I have to stand up for a woman’s right to life itself.

Ukrainians are a strong nation. This appears to have surprised many in the West. Yet it wasn’t so, we would not have survived Stalin’s genocide, the horrific man-made famine of 1933, notably still unrecognized by most of the countries represented here.

And we are a nation of strong women too. Along with the rest of the world, I cannot but admire, with tears in my eyes, my fellow countrywomen now fighting right alongside our men. They have joined the army and the civil territorial defense forces. They manage the distribution of supplies across our besieged cities, some of which, like Mariupol, stand on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe now.

They give birth in bomb shelters supported and supervised by doctors online. Ukrainian doctors meanwhile have created Facebook pages offering instructions on how women over 37 weeks pregnant might safely deliver children in bomb shelters. An image that strikes me as almost biblical, as thousands of Marys hide with their newborns, evading Kind Herod in basements, subway stations and other stables.

Yes, we are strong and grateful for your support and your admiration. The problem is that putin’s bombs will not be stopped by the strength of our spirit. And babies born in bomb shelters die of sepsis caused by the dust raining down on them during attacks, Mary’s stable was much more hygienic.

Since 24 February, when russia launched its invasion, conceived as a blitzkrieg, only to be foiled by the ferocious determination of our military and mobilized civilians, one of history’s unshakable rules has been reconfirmed: in any ‘hot’ war women make the most vulnerable targets, if only because it’s women who remain to take care of those in need, of children and the elderly.

And it is precisely this living shield which vladimir putin now uses to break Ukraine’s heroic resistance. Having failed to take Kyiv, putin began shelling residential areas, including elementary schools, nurseries and hospitals.

Let me take the liberty of stressing this: every moment of hesitation on the side of western policymakers and the NATO decision-makers about whether to provide Ukraine with anti-aircraft weapons, not to speak of the no-fly zone, every coffee break you are taking during your discussions about how to interfere without provoking putin to go further, costs someone’s life. Most likely a civilian’s – a woman’s or a child’s.

After all, putin said it quite openly back on 17 April 2014, in the first act of the current tragedy, which he called special military operation ‘russian Spring’, and which then resulted in the annexation of Crimea and in creating two russian-controlled military zones in Donbas, but was initially meant to accomplish much more.

That day eight years ago he openly announced that russian troops in Donbas would be standing against the Ukrainian army, behind Ukrainian women and children. I quote literally, not in front of them, but behind, daring the Ukrainian army to shoot a living shield. A typical terrorist tactic. He was then so confident of his superiority, so sure that no one would dare stop him, that he did not even bother to lie out of contempt for his audience. Isn’t it amazing, ladies and gentlemen, that no one, outside of Ukraine, took then his words seriously.

In May 2014, after russian soldiers in Donbas had already begun slicing open people’s bellies and shooting at teenagers for carrying yellow and blue flags, I was speaking in Berlin at the European Writers Forum. And when in my speech I compared putin to Hitler and Stalin, the moderator was so shocked that my microphone was turned off, and in the publication the comparison was censored.

Eight years passed. So many human lives could have been saved if only the EU and the US would have woken up eight years ago to the fact that they knew Hitler was ready to pick up where the previous one had left off. If the current package of sanctions had been applied to russia back then, right after the annexation of Crimea, and evil called by its proper name and resisted, instead of being ignored and appeased, we would not be where we are now.

I know my ‘ifs’ sound similar to the litanies that writers and intellectuals who survived World War Two were proposing after the war ended. Yet for me, it is also a sign that we – and by ‘we’ I mean all Western civilization, to which Ukraine, with its millennium-long history, also belongs – that we have not learned too much from history.

putin deliberately imitates Hitler. He even uses Hitler’s very language, referring to the ‘final solution of the Ukrainian question’ and barely disguising quotations from Hitler’s speech at the Reichstag on 1 September 1939: ‘I will not war against women and children. I have ordered my Air Force to restrict itself to attacks on military objectives.’ That’s from 1939, not from 2022.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the announcement of war. vladimir putin has done it in his tricky, perverted KGB language. But I am here to tell you, as a writer who does know something about language and how easily its power can be misused, that it is already a world war, not a ‘conflict in Ukraine’ as it is still described in many Western media. And that you better trust Mr putin when he pronounces his ambitions.

He has already claimed back the former Soviet bloc, which is what he really means by demanding that NATO pull back from eastern Europe, and he won’t stop unless he is stopped by an international front of all those nations which still believe that freedom and human solidarity are worth more than gas and oil.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have all seen videos of how Ukrainian civilians, men and women, stop russian tanks with bare hands and loud curses. Here lies the secret of our heroism. We are not afraid of russia. Of all the nations in Europe, we know that what putin has for decades been selling to the West as the true story, his nuclear blackmailing included, is nothing but a pack of lies, illusion and bluff.

We know this because we do have our share in the past three hundred years of russian imperial greatness and by no means a minor one. That is why of all the nations, it is Ukraine that has found herself at the forefront of this war. Without us, there can be no russian empire, no evil empire, ladies and gentlemen – that used to be a good term, after all.

First, there was Austria, then Czechoslovakia, then Poland, then Europe. First, it was Georgia, then Belarus, then Ukraine, afterwards Europe.

While I was writing this, my niece and her two children, one eight years old, the other eight months old, were driving from Kyiv to western Ukraine at a speed of 200 kilometers in 10 hours. The women of Ukraine are fleeing en masse from the russian bombs threatening their homes, while Ukrainian men stay to fight as long as it’s needed, to free Europe from the specter of the new totalitarianism.

They all know their job, both men and women. Please, don’t be afraid to protect the sky above them.

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