“We are No Longer Afraid”

Cooper the Flash Dog Brings the Light as Kyiv Student Reflects on Ukrainians’ Ability to Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome One Year Into the War…

It’s not the best time for a lot of people. Many of us remember how different life was before 2022. How careless and exciting it was. It is the spring of 2023 now, and many people have gotten used to the conditions of our new reality. But what kind of spring is it here in 2023 for Ukrainians?

“Cooper” the Flash Dog Brings the Light to Photographer Vira Bogdanenko’s Apartment

One wonderful example of the myriad of creative ways we’ve coped with this brutal war and in particular Putin’s systematic destruction of our civilian electrical power infrastructure, is Cooper the Flash Dog, shown above. Cooper is my friend Vera Bogdanenko’s dog, and he brings his special kind of light and joy to Vera’s apartment as he goes about with his new flashlight strapped to his head.

We’ve all been living in a state of war for more than a year, and it seems, sadly, that the whole world no longer pays so much attention to our situation. Even we ourselves, already, have come to behave as if there was no peaceful life before: As if there had always been war. Every day we forget more and more what it is to live without shelling, without bad news, without curfews, without new challenges. But I know one thing for sure. Every Ukrainian will tell you that THIS spring is is somehow “easier” than the previous one. Why? Because we are no longer afraid.

Yes, of course, every day we are worried for ourselves, for our families, for the future of our country, for our freedom. But we are no longer afraid of them. “Them” is a country of distraught people who for some reason decided that they could simply destroy the lives of millions of people, just like that. Now we are not afraid, because we know what to expect from them, from what that sick and poisoned brain can come up with.

Adaptative Cooking in Kyiv: 2023 (photo by Vira Bogdanenko)

It is amazing how much we were able to adapt to all the circumstances and conditions that the war brought to us. We have learned how to use social networks in a new way, with incredible speed. To host fundraisers for equipment, humanitarian aid, drones, Bayraktars, cars, clothes for our soldiers and even satellite (internet). Many Ukrainians have a new morning ritual. Now, over a cup of coffee, you make a donation for the Armed Forces of Ukraine because you understand that in this way you make yourself closer to peace.

The Moon is the Only Light Source Over Kyiv (photo by Vira Bogdanenko)

Nowadays, we already react completely differently to air raids. This is now simply the factor that can spoil the plans for the day. We seem to no longer think about air raids as a potential threat to our lives – even as they obviously are. We are still afraid for our lives, yes, but we also understand that we cannot stop. We all have to work for a better future for our country. Each person plays a role in this war and absolutely everyone is important: Whether someone is fighting on the battlefield, or someone is going to work in an office or factory every day.

The Now-Creepy Guliver Mall Sans People and Electricity (photo by Vira Bogdanenko)

But we are no longer scared., as we were in the spring of 2022 when absolutely every Ukrainian lost ground and we lived in total ignorance. “Where will I be tomorrow? Will I be alive? “What should I do?” What will happen in a month? How should I continue to live? Where will my family and I live?” “When will this war end?” All these questions concern us now as well, but the emotions are completely different. We’ve been through so many things this year that we have learned how to switch off our feelings.

More of the Guliver Mall (photo by Vira Bogdanenko)

Systematic State Terrorism, Writ Large

They were trying to terrorize us with a nuclear winter, but we survived it. Yes, it was not easy, and I can say for sure that it was the most difficult winter of my life: Winter without basic things like electricity, water, heating, communications. I would never have a thought that I could live without all this, not just for a day or two, but several months.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked two of America’s greatest cities by turning civilian airliners into flying bombs. More than 3,000 American lives were lost. It was a heart-wrenching tragedy that changed the world and unleashed what would be a 20-year war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq war. Now imagine if EVERY major US city, and its entire electrical grid, its hospitals, its schools, its apartment buildings, were to be attacked with missiles, aircraft, and drones, and artillery, by one of America’s neighbors…let’s say, Canada. Imagine America’s suffering and loss. Imagine what the American and NATO response would be to such a attack. This is what we are suffering.

But we have learned to cope with these conditions. Initially, it was difficult. No one understood how to live and work in such conditions. Fortunately, we quickly adapted. Even the smallest store or cafe had a generator. Everyone knew their electricity outage schedule and lived according to this schedule. People were walking around a dark Kyiv with lanterns, gathering in one place where they could catch a connection to contact their families after another shelling, and asking if everything was fine. It wasn’t easy, but we dealt with it.

We may be sad. We may worry about ourselves, our friends, family. We often get hurt from the news. We often cry, but we will never be scared again, because light always conquers darkness.

No one knows when this war will end, and we definitely won’t be able to live the way we used to, but I believe in the best, I believe that one day everyone will return. All families will reunite again and Ukraine will sparkle with new colors of freedom.

Note: Agatha Krayster (a pseudonym) is a 21-year old Ukrainian college student who works for RussiLeaks as an in-country Russian/Ukrainian translator and investigative reporter.