Adam Michnik: The war in Ukraine is not a war between the Russian people and the Ukrainian people

The war in Ukraine poses a new challenge to all of us who want to live in a democratic world.

This war, the anniversary of which we are commemorating, is undoubtedly the most important war of our time, because it is a war in which the imperial-chauvinist-totalitarian project struggles on the one hand against the democratic, European, pluralist project.

This is not a war between the Russian people and the Ukrainian people. This is a war between Putin’s imperial, murderous, criminal autocracy and Ukrainian democracy, whose primary goal is to join the democratic structures of the European Union, and in this sense it is a war between our world and a world hostile to us.

But it should be remembered that Putin and little Putins, such lilliputians, are in all countries and to some extent in all social groups. We see something similar everywhere where the essential picture of this war is questioned. Its essential meaning.

We Poles are well acquainted with these tricks of Greater Russian imperialism, Soviet imperialism and Putin’s hypocritical imperialism in relation to the Baltic countries, to Poland, to the Czech Republic, to Slovakia, to Hungary.The fact is that this war poses a new challenge to all of us who want to live in a democratic world.

We remember all those imperial assaults, which always consisted first of all of the big lie that this is not an aggressive assault, but that this is an intervention to defend social, national, human rights, whether it was in Poland in 1939, as the Nazi army entered, what was called the defense of the rights of the German minority. As the Stalinist army entered, it was called defense of the Belarusian or Ukrainian population.

This is an either-or challenge, here there is no more room for neutrality. There is no room for symmetry, and of course there is no way to downplay this. This is a challenge on the scale of World War II, and in this challenge I am happy that Poland is on the right side, on the side of Ukraine, which is defending its identity.

Polish-Ukrainian relations in history have turned out differently, often badly, and often tragically, and it is a great success of victory over the dark sides of Polish history that today Poland, regardless of political orientation, extends a fraternal hand to Ukraine, and I would like it to remain so.

This is not brotherhood against another nation. This is fraternity against dictatorship, totalitarianism, lies, cruelty and crimes, crimes of genocide, crimes of murdering the Ukrainian people.

All those murdered deserve words of admiration, gratitude from the Poles, there in Ukraine the fate of Polish freedom is being decided. The war of the Ukrainians for their freedom is also a war for our freedom.

The piece was published in Polish by Gazeta Wyborcza

Adam Michnik is the founder and editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza

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