The Russia Ukraine Crisis

July 6, 2022

“I would want you to tell them… you’re lucky. You’re lucky that you live in a stable place,” said Ryan Robbie, a 16-year-old from Russia’s tiny neighbor Estonia. 

In recent history, we have seen that Generation Z (ages 9-24) has become increasingly more expressive about politics, racial issues and inclusivity. You stand up for what you believe is right and you aren’t afraid to speak up when injustices arise. But why is it that so many stay quiet on international issues like war? If your allies in Europe are experiencing oppression, shouldn’t you stand up for them too?

Think of it this way. Remember the video of George Floyd having his neck kneeled on so hard he couldn’t breathe and was killed in broad daylight? Absolutely terrible – you can all agree. The same thing is currently happening in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin currently has his knee down on the neck of Ukraine and wants to destroy them because he sees their way of life as a threat.

According to NPR news, in March 2022, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “902 civilians have been killed and another 1,459 have been wounded so far in the war in Ukraine. The office warned that the actual number is likely ‘considerably higher.’” The U.S. lost 2,996 civilians on the infamous 9/11. When comparing the populations of the U.S. and Ukraine, Ukraine has experienced an even greater loss of loved ones so far than the U.S did that September day. 

When George Floyd was killed, the majority of Gen Z took to the streets, protested with large crowds, made their voices heard on social media and led the way in demanding a change. But when the same injustices take place in another country, Gen Z doesn’t seem to be as concerned. Perhaps they are too comfortable in their own luxurious bubbles of freedom to simply care.

This isn’t their fault though. Gen Z has never had to fight for anything because they’ve always had freedom. They are allowed to follow their goals, passions and dreams at any time in their life. By being raised in America at this point in time, Gen Z inherited one of the most prosperous and advanced nations in history. In most places around the world, this is not the case. 

When asked about how he feels about the situation, Robbie said, “Ukraine’s independence is so recent. I can’t believe it’s happening again. Every 30 years or so, new power comes in and threatens our way of life. We just want to live. History is repeating itself again.”

Robbie mentioned that Russia, the former Soviet Union, and Germany have continually been impressing their will on European citizens for decades. “You have a stable government and country. A lot of these places are so unstable that they think dictators are good because they provide stability. Even if your government enacts a bad policy, it’s stable! It’s not the threat of collapse. You are a nuclear power and can defend yourselves. You can’t take for granted what you have in America. You are lucky.”

A Deep Look Within

When looking at the situation, it’s also important to observe the ways in which Americans grew up. For example, in America, most went to school spending most of their days without a care in the world. 

For Raili Robbie, Ryan’s mother, it was a much different story. “We lived under the threat of Russia my whole childhood,” she said. “At school, we had a class dedicated to learning how to protect ourselves, how to put on a gas mask and how to hide underneath our desks. Of course, when you’re only seven or eight years old that’s really scary.” Raili continued, “By the time I was 18, Estonia had just gained their independence. Not even a day later we saw Russian tanks come in to stop us from becoming independent.” 

That’s quite the contrast compared to American ‘problems’ in school. By no means is America perfect – she has her fair share of issues. It’s perfectly acceptable to analyze, critique and make better, as well as make it more opportunistic for all. Alongside critiquing, recognizing how well-off things are in America is important too. Critiquing can often lead to complaining, which can often lead to bitterness or resentment. Cherishing the blessings found in America can help Americans fight for those who have fallen to misfortune. 

When asked about what message she wants Americans to know, Raili said, “This is real and very serious. You need to appreciate the freedom you have in America and don’t take it for granted. In Ukraine, people have to leave their homes and lives and it’s very sad to see.”

A Ukrainian Perspective

How do Ukrainians feel about the crisis? According to Al Jazeera Media Network, since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, there is a painful history at the heart of bitter disputes between Russia and Ukraine. Obviously, no one would prefer to go to war. We have seen the devastation caused in certain parts of Ukraine. Families have been torn apart and loved ones lost along the way. Vera Edgeworth, a 38-year-old woman born and raised in Ukraine, who recently moved to America, says that her parents just barely made it out of the country about three weeks ago. 

“My parents got here safely two weeks ago. Luckily, the airstrikes towards their region were successfully shot down,” she said. “But, unfortunately, I have cousins that cannot leave the country because all males ages 18-60 cannot leave the country.” 

According to Edgeworth, her feelings of anger and frustration aren’t directed towards Russia, but Putin himself. 

“There’s so much propaganda in Russia, the general public there don’t even know this is a war going on. To Russians, the war is being portrayed as a ‘special operation’ and not an act of war. They believe that the Ukrainian people will greet them with flowers after they take out their ‘racist’ president and system. They have been brainwashed.”

While many may not be familiar with a war of this nature, most do understand the era of information wars that we live in each and every day. Organizations and news networks alike are fighting for your attention every day. Whoever controls the narrative can control the people. 

Edgeworth had this to say about the current narrative being pushed in Russia. “The Russian government controls the narrative and all aspects of media in Ukraine. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are banned and all reports of the ‘special operation’ are being falsified. They even make fake videos to show on TV.” 

Propaganda at its finest. How does one get away with tyranny and oppression? Controlling the narrative is how. 

The sad reality is that there’s not much a single person can actually do. How do you practically help someone on the other side of the world? Should America get involved in the crisis? America has a long history of defending freedom throughout the world. She has protected freedom, democracy and the right to choose your government time after time. Is this instance different? Have we fundamentally changed our approach to defending the oppressed? 

When asked whether America should step in, Edgeworth had this to say, “I understand why America hasn’t gotten involved. But we’re not asking for boots on the ground… I just wish America would help with equipment and supplies. You’ve given us food, which is great. But I would really appreciate it if America sent out more military equipment.” She added sarcastically saying, “Could you take Putin out for us?” 

It is curious to see how our nation has yet to take action. Is it wise for us to stay out and mind our business? Potentially. Is it commendable? Well, that’s for you to decide. After discussing with Edgeworth about how America can help, she suggested Gen Z could do the following. Here were some of her suggestions:

1. Please pray for us. Keep us in your hearts and plead to your God on our behalf. We really need provision and a miracle.

2. Support causes around you that help bring aid to Ukraine. I’m sure there are lots of fundraisers, charities and campaigns around you that you can be a part of. 

3. Once this settles, travel to Ukraine and see the communities and the people. You can help rebuild destroyed buildings or do a mission’s trip for a week. Get to know the culture of Ukraine and you’ll be able to connect more with what took place here.

Gen Z’s Response

If we claim to be a generation that stands for love and justice, let us take Edgeworth’s comments to heart. Let’s pray for them that God would comfort the grieving, free the oppressed and reinstate peace in the region. Let’s pray that they would be delivered from their trouble and released from the hand of their enemy. Let’s support local and global causes and donate to campaigns around us that will support and bring relief to your brain. Let’s travel there one day and see with our own eyes what took place in that region. Let’s help rebuild and restore what was destroyed. Let us take action on their behalf.

A generation of love cannot sit idle and watch our brothers and sisters around the world be oppressed. Let’s do what we can so that one day they might be free again, like us. 

How we got here, how it applies to you and more from NCU’s Writing for Media Class.