War in Ukraine: an imaginary truce

The Christmas truce in Ukraine? Vladimir Putin’s promise obviously did not change much in the harshness of the clashes, particularly in Kramatorsk (see box). In the minds of most Ukrainian civilians, the war never ended. ” Times are hard “confides Taras, a young man who works in logistics in Lviv. “There was something sad about this Christmas. It is, however, the time for family reunions par excellence. But war has come to our table. One could not help thinking of a relative or a friend present at the front; we thought of this or that soldier who died in combat. »

Strike for strike

The Christmas party was marked by the fear of reprisals from the Russians after the bombardment of Makïvka. On the night of December 31, the Ukrainians had killed 89 soldiers in an airstrike. It was finally on January 8 that a Ukrainian barracks was bombed in Kramatorsk. While Russia claimed to have killed 600 soldiers, Ukraine claimed to have suffered no losses.

Even far from the front line in the west of the country, residents continued to feel the daily effects of the war. In Lviv, the nerve center of Galicia, no one believed the declarations of the master of the Kremlin. The military operations of January 6 and 7 rather proved them right, each side accusing the other of having fired first.

The disturbing echo of arms certainly did not prevent the faithful from celebrating Christmas with fervor. On New Year’s Eve, many Ukrainians even dipped their small piece of bread in honey, a traditional practice that evokes the power of life at the time of the Nativity. The refugees accommodated by the Salesian religious of Lviv have not departed from custom. In particular Darina, with her five siblings, originally from Lugansk, a locality where fighting continued to rage. During the vigil, Darina, a young Orthodox faithful, prayed “with and as” Greek Catholics. A fighting ecumenism, so to speak. It is useless, however, to seek his opinion on the pseudo-military truce. What could this teenager have said for whom war is synonymous with uprooting?

Christmas or not, so power cuts continued in Lviv. Twice four hours each day. The generators did their job – as usual – to make up for the lack of energy as the first flows announced the end of the thaw. The siren, announcing possible Russian missiles, sounded, indifferent to the liturgical calendar. Truce or no truce, at the Lychakiv military cemetery, a new grave was added on January 6 to the hundreds of graves already present. The candles, in the cold night, continued to shine, illuminating the Ukrainian flags and the portrait of the young “heroes” who died on the battlefield.

“History goes backwards”

In the aftermath of this imaginary truce, do the Ukrainians still believe in peace? No doubt, but not just any. “We don’t believe in peace without victory”entrusts calmly to Christian Family Father Bogdan, rector of UCU, the Catholic University of Lviv. “In our eyeshe continues, peace presupposes that Russia’s crimes be judged by an international body. » We obviously expect a man of the Church to speak in favor of a cessation of hostilities. “I pray that God’s will be done. » He clarifies his thoughts: “The best thing seems to me to pray for our attackers to repent and realize their crimes. I hope that Russia will change its mentality and question the reasons that push it to attack us. » In the absence of a military truce at Christmas, what could tomorrow be the way out of this high-intensity conflict? “Peace supposes being able to really agree together on something”says Father Bogdan. “Signing a peace treaty is not yet peace… Sometimes it’s just a pause before the next attack. »

It is as if Christmas 2023, in Lviv, meant not only the incarnation of the Word but also the reincarnation of a painful history. An unfinished and bloody story, Father Bogdan insists: “When the Soviet Union disappeared, no one paid for all the crimes committed. In the countries occupied by the Communists, we did not want to recognize the responsibilities. We prioritized business over memory. But history, today, is going backwards. » To settle the accounts, the war is likely to be still long.

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War in Ukraine: an imaginary truce

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