“Few days ago, we also had day-to-day lives or jobs”. Victoria Amelina in conversation with Sofi Oksanen

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Amelina Victoria
Amelina Victoria
Ukrainian writer, author of novels and short stories
“Few days ago, we also had day-to-day lives or jobs”. Victoria Amelina in conversation with Sofi Oksanen

In order to comprehend the events of the last days, PEN Ukraine launched a series of conversations #DialoguesOnWar. On March 5, Ukrainian author Victoria Amelina conducted a conversation with Sofi Oksanen, a brilliant Finnish writer who greatly contributed to the Ukrainian image in the world with her novel ‘The Dog Park’ (published in Finnish in 2019). This is a spotlight on the key moments of that event. The recorded conversation you can check out here.

What can foreigners do for Ukraine now

S.O. I’m actually surprised, at how determined Finland has been [in helping Ukraine], – not only ordinary people but on the governmental level. Finland is known to be precautious when it comes to Russia. But now everybody wants to know: What is the best way to help Ukraine at the moment? Monetary aid for humanitarian organizations?

V.A. The best way to support Ukraine financially is by donating money to an official centralized channel/fund of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Humanitarian aid is important as well, especially medical supplies. We do also need ammunition – and it’s quite hard to get. Even in Poland we, Ukrainians, bought almost everything they had. So we keep searching further and further for what we need very much.

But I think the most important thing is still, for people in Finland and people across Europe, in Canada, United States: get to the streets and ask your governments to help us with our air defense. We do need a No-Fly-Zone over Ukraine. We do need you to interfere, because while we’re speaking, Russian forces are ruining Ukrainian cities, aiming their missiles at civilians, hospitals, schools, churches, and everything else. It’s so devastating. We will win anyway, but depending on whether NATO countries help us and close the sky, or not, we will have either thousands of people dead or millions. So it’s really up to your governments now. And if you can, take some time to get to the streets or squares demanding to help us, it would mean a lot to us. That would actually save our lives.

The spirit of the Ukrainian nation

S.O. Finland has a history with the Winter War, and that’s still a living memory and a part of our historical identity as well. Since I have been following the Ukrainian Defense, we can see the same. For those of you, who don’t know the history of Finland, the Finns have been defending our country against Russian aggression quite many times. And the Winter War appeared when nobody was expecting it. Nobody helped, we were on our own. It was a kind of miracle, but I’m not sure whether it was one. We were facing an attack from someone, who is bigger than us. Now we can see that you do have the same spirit in Ukraine as well. You are very well organized as a nation. Could you tell us about the spirit in general?

V.A. I wonder if you know (because you’re friends with Andrey Kurkov), in Ukraine there is a band called ‘Mannerheim line’ (Sofi agrees). And there is also a small town called New York, that was founded by a German colonist in eastern Ukraine in the 19th century, and it was located on the front line between Russian-controlled territory and free Ukrainian territory from 2014 to 2022. Last year I organized the very first festival on the frontline — New York Festival —, and I personally invited 'Mannerheim line' to play their "Mannerheim song’. Now, of course, this festival is not the only one located on the frontline, because the entire country is basically a war zone.

Actually, the spirit is so incredible. While I was driving from the warehouse with humanitarian aid home to speak to you, I was listening to the radio. Of course, nowadays our state radio is being broadcast at all radio stations. And I was listening to the news, about how people in the city of Kherson are protesting, despite the fact there were Russian troops there. The troops were shooting in the air, and people, although they didn't have any weapons, were holding Ukrainian flags. They wouldn’t leave the streets, and people just continued protesting and saying that Kherson is Ukraine. I was listening to it and crying, although it’s probably not a good idea to cry while you’re driving. Still, I did. And I have my sister in the city of Kherson. She is protesting too, she is very brave. She is just a woman, and she knows that Russian troops are in the city, but still continues protesting that her city is a Ukrainian city, and they won’t let Russians prevail. It’s happening all over Ukraine, people are really united. We’ve got this ‘перекличка’, (I don’t know how to say it in English). Some people write on Facebook something like ``Ukraine, how are you?", and others start responding to them ‘I’m in Kyiv. We hear shelling, but we’re fine’. ‘We’re in the town of New York in the Donetsk region, but we’re fine and we keep working’. So, we have this solidarity.

I think this spirit is really great. Honestly, we’re really angry these days. I’m so angry I cannot speak Russian, my first language, anymore. It started in 2014, but right now I think that Russia just broke all ties with Ukraine. They are bombing Russian-speaking cities right now. I think many people in Mariupol or Kharkiv wouldn’t believe that Russians could be so cruel to them. We can see that there’s nothing but hate from the Russian side.

The 'Language Question' in Ukraine

S.O. You actually answered the question I was going to ask – 'How is the Russian-speaking population reacting to the fact that Putin is actually killing them?’. Not a friendly way to protect Russian speakers. What does it mean, when you think about the future of the languages in Ukraine? Finland is actually a bilingual country, Swedish is also spoken there. We do know that Russian and Ukrainian languages are spoken in Ukraine. How does switching from one language to another affect your writing process?

V.A. As you know, Andrey Kurkov is writing in Russian, but we also have writers who used to write in Russian. These are writers from Donetsk. Nowadays they are not able (and they do not want) to write in Russian anymore. For example, a writer, who is now in Kyiv, Olena Stiazhkina. She had to flee Donetsk in 2014. She was a prominent author writing in the Russian language, and she even received some awards from Russia. But gradually she learned Ukrainian, and her last novel about the Russian-Ukrainian war and her native city of Donetsk, is bilingual. The book starts in Russian, but ends in Ukrainian. It reflects the change in minds and character of the main heroine, I would say. I think it reflects the situation. Volodymyr Rafeenko, another prominent author from occupied Donetsk, also wrote his first novel in Ukrainian.

Writers are trying to switch to Ukrainian, they do want to do that. I actually started writing in Russian as well, but since I live in Lviv, I am totally bilingual. So it wasn’t such a big deal for me that my novels are published in Ukrainian, although my first language was Russian too. I think the change is happening, and this full-scale invasion will speed it up. Of course, they made it worse for the Russian language in Ukraine, they did it with their own hands. We see right now a lot of videos of people fighting and protesting on the streets. And a lot of people fighting against the Russian invasion are saying that they are speaking Russian because this is their native language, and they are still fighting against the Kremlin and Putin and Russian occupation here. I don’t think the language issue is a big deal. I think it’s the Russian Federation, who have always tried to make it look like a big deal. In fact, it’s no problem. In Ukraine, we have a unique situation where a lot of people can just talk in two languages simultaneously — one person would speak Russian, and the other would answer in Ukrainian. And they don’t switch, they just talk like that in two languages, this is not an issue at all.

The tragic history of the Ukrainian language

S.O. Could you tell us something about the history of the Ukrainian language because Ukrainian has had a lot of difficulties over the centuries, it has been banned many times. And education in the Ukrainian language has been banned as well, and that’s probably one of the reasons why Gogol, for example, wrote in Russian. Those of you who might think that Gogol was a Russian author, he was actually born in Ukraine and spoke the Ukrainian language. But he wrote in Russian. Russians, of course, think that Gogol is a Russian author, but he was not. Could you give us a short introduction to Ukrainian language history?

V.A. It’s a huge topic, and I think everyone knows that Russia is trying to claim there’s no Ukrainian history. There was a Kyivan Rus’ with its center in Kyiv, and Slavic languages developed here. When I'm abroad, people often ask me whether Ukrainian and Russian are so different. Yes, they are quite different, and Russians do not understand Ukrainians when we speak our language. Yes, the Ukrainian language was banned; it was prohibited to print books in Ukrainian and teach Ukrainian in schools. Speaking Ukrainian was really dangerous. If you look at the 20th century, you’ll see that in order to survive or prosper, people had to switch to Russian.

I can tell you about my family. My grandmothers and grandfathers were native Ukrainian speakers. But the country underwent a tragic genocide, Holodomor, in 1932-1933. This genocide was destroying people, who lived in villages and spoke Ukrainian. Millions of people died. So people got used to the idea that in order to survive you had to speak Russian. And people, who speak Ukrainian, either get killed in such genocide acts as Holodomor like in 1933, or they get killed during repressions, which mostly started in the 20th century. People were killed by the Stalin regime and they all were creating their art in Ukrainian. In order to survive, they had to become Russian speakers. They had to acquire this Russian-centric point of view.

We spent the last 30 years trying to break this spell and bring back our own identity, — in order to understand why suddenly Russian became my native language. And I understood those are the reasons my grandfather spoke Ukrainian, but my father used to speak Russian. We had to reclaim our language; we had to understand, it was violence that took away the Ukrainian language from us. This is why I made an effort and started to write in Ukrainian, not Russian. I understood that this is not fair that our language has been taken from us in such a cruel way.

S.O. Yes, and now I would like to recommend to those of you, who might not know enough about Holodomor, Anne Appleboum's excellent non-fiction book ‘Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine’. I think it is translated into many languages, and every single one of you can read it (available in Finnish as well). It’s a well-written book about how Holodomor was aimed to destroy Ukrainian culture and Ukrainians. Unfortunate long-term consequences are these politically motivated famines.

V.A. I would also recommend checking some articles on Executed Renaissance about how the Ukrainian cultural elite was executed. (This explains the origin of the term). They were killed in the 1930s and we had to spend so much time trying to find their books, read them again, and restore this bridge between times in Ukrainian culture. Unfortunately, some novels are lost forever.

Most of those tragic events happened in Kharkiv in the 1930s, that very city you hear about in the news. There's a danger of Ukrainian artists being on the frontline and getting killed again. It would be a tragedy to repeat history.

S.O. And I would also recommend the movie 'Mr. Jones’ (2019), directed by Agnieszka Holland. It’s a story about the Soviet Union trying to hide Holodomor killing millions of people and, unfortunately, Western countries not believing this journalist Jones, who witnessed the genocide himself. It's a very good movie, and unfortunately very timely because of this propaganda issue.

V.A. Sofi, since you mentioned history, do you think nowadays is different? Is Finland, and the Western world overall, doing as much as they can in today's war situation?

S.O. To be honest, I have been surprised there’s a silver lining in all of this – the unity of European countries. Even in those countries, where they have Putin sympathizers. For example, in France Marine Le Pen. I don't think her pictures with Putin are something she would want to share these days. And the very rapid shift the Germans have made. Germany has been very cautious, which is weird, as their historical obligation is actually to help Ukraine. But Germany has really changed. The North stream, which two months ago was considered an ‘economical project’, isn't an issue anymore. The aggression has united the European Union very fast, and I don’t think Russia was expecting that. Also, Sweden is sending weapons to Ukraine. Sweden is the nicest country in the world, so to speak, in the way they want to be nice to everybody, even to those countries you shouldn’t be nice to. They always try to be nice, and the last time they gave ammunition was when Finland was fighting in the war.

V.A. Russia hates Sweden so much. They hate all kinds of rumors of what’s happening in Sweden. Because the LGBTQ community is active there, and human rights are at a very good level in Scandinavian countries. Ordinary Russians and propaganda cannot stand it, they hate the freedom European nations have. If some Swedish are listening to us, know that.

S.O. What has also surprised me, there’s a lot of creative support. Finland is a country, where I wasn’t suspecting at all that Finns would support Ukraine. For example, there was an initiative when these dog owners from the recycling group on Facebook went to protest. They took their dogs’ poop and threw them in the courtyards of the Russian Embassy.

V.A. Do you think these initiatives could help to impose a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine?

S.O. In democratic countries, the politicians need to listen to the voters. And that’s actually the only thing they are listening to. If the voters show what is morally correct, then everything simply helps. Not all people are demonstrators, but you can demonstrate also in a way that can be creative and get much more attention. Those little things also show the politicians what people think. At the moment, I cannot imagine that the Finnish politicians somehow, even being hesitant about how strongly Ukraine needs to be supported, and I’m not sure how popular they are. You can show your will in many ways. And the more it spreads, the more it is. You have really done an excellent job on social media. This is important because Russia has a huge propaganda machine, they gave a lot of money there, and they have been spinning the fake narration of state lies for a very long time. So you have already won a battle against Russia’s state lies, that’s definitely a big deal, and it does affect public opinion also in the Western countries.

When I think about how to spread the word, and how to impact the politicians, then all I think about is the visual material you captioned during demonstrations. They are powerful, but you can use them only once. It’s not like people’s eyes are opening again. If they see the same image, cause there’s a limited variety of images that you can get during demonstrations. Then it can become something that doesn’t wake you up every morning, even though you have demonstrated. You can get used to them. But with creativity, you can make people wake up again, day after day. I mean, this is a long battle, so in that way we also need all kinds of new ways to force politicians to think about this. It’s definitely important to have demonstrations, but what I’m saying – it’s not enough. But also, how to engage people who don’t go to demonstrations? We need them as well. We did have a very big demonstration, and we’re going to have more. Finland is not a demonstration country in the way that France is, we don’t have millions of people rallying. Finland is not that kind of country. In Ukraine, you’re definitely 24 hours engaged, but in other countries, people also have their jobs, life. In that way, we need to wake them up.

V.A. Nine days ago, we also had day-to-day lives or jobs, and I submitted a proposal for a new festival to get funding, some ordinary things. But right now we just have war. I’m sure, the Finnish people know now what Russia is capable of. We just protect freedom for Europe and the US as well. Please, help us. And Americans can just call congressmen, they have this tool. I don't know, maybe there are such tools in the European Union, and you can contact the people you voted for and ask them to help us.

Text by Romania Strots'kaimage

In order to comprehend the events of the last days, PEN Ukraine launched a series of conversations #DialoguesOnWar. On March 5, Ukrainian author Victoria Amelina conducted a conversation with Sofi Oksanen, a brilliant Finnish writer who greatly contributed to the Ukrainian image in the world with her novel ‘The Dog Park’ (published in Finnish in 2019). This is a spotlight on the key moments of that event. The recorded conversation you can check out here.

What can foreigners do for Ukraine now

S.O. I’m actually surprised, at how determined Finland has been [in helping Ukraine], – not only ordinary people but on the governmental level. Finland is known to be precautious when it comes to Russia. But now everybody wants to know: What is the best way to help Ukraine at the moment? Monetary aid for humanitarian organizations?

V.A. The best way to support Ukraine financially is by donating money to an official centralized channel/fund of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Humanitarian aid is important as well, especially medical supplies. We do also need ammunition – and it’s quite hard to get. Even in Poland we, Ukrainians, bought almost everything they had. So we keep searching further and further for what we need very much.

But I think the most important thing is still, for people in Finland and people across Europe, in Canada, United States: get to the streets and ask your governments to help us with our air defense. We do need a No-Fly-Zone over Ukraine. We do need you to interfere, because while we’re speaking, Russian forces are ruining Ukrainian cities, aiming their missiles at civilians, hospitals, schools, churches, and everything else. It’s so devastating. We will win anyway, but depending on whether NATO countries help us and close the sky, or not, we will have either thousands of people dead or millions. So it’s really up to your governments now. And if you can, take some time to get to the streets or squares demanding to help us, it would mean a lot to us. That would actually save our lives.

The spirit of the Ukrainian nation

S.O. Finland has a history with the Winter War, and that’s still a living memory and a part of our historical identity as well. Since I have been following the Ukrainian Defense, we can see the same. For those of you, who don’t know the history of Finland, the Finns have been defending our country against Russian aggression quite many times. And the Winter War appeared when nobody was expecting it. Nobody helped, we were on our own. It was a kind of miracle, but I’m not sure whether it was one. We were facing an attack from someone, who is bigger than us. Now we can see that you do have the same spirit in Ukraine as well. You are very well organized as a nation. Could you tell us about the spirit in general?

V.A. I wonder if you know (because you’re friends with Andrey Kurkov), in Ukraine there is a band called ‘Mannerheim line’ (Sofi agrees). And there is also a small town called New York, that was founded by a German colonist in eastern Ukraine in the 19th century, and it was located on the front line between Russian-controlled territory and free Ukrainian territory from 2014 to 2022. Last year I organized the very first festival on the frontline — New York Festival —, and I personally invited 'Mannerheim line' to play their "Mannerheim song’. Now, of course, this festival is not the only one located on the frontline, because the entire country is basically a war zone.

Actually, the spirit is so incredible. While I was driving from the warehouse with humanitarian aid home to speak to you, I was listening to the radio. Of course, nowadays our state radio is being broadcast at all radio stations. And I was listening to the news, about how people in the city of Kherson are protesting, despite the fact there were Russian troops there. The troops were shooting in the air, and people, although they didn't have any weapons, were holding Ukrainian flags. They wouldn’t leave the streets, and people just continued protesting and saying that Kherson is Ukraine. I was listening to it and crying, although it’s probably not a good idea to cry while you’re driving. Still, I did. And I have my sister in the city of Kherson. She is protesting too, she is very brave. She is just a woman, and she knows that Russian troops are in the city, but still continues protesting that her city is a Ukrainian city, and they won’t let Russians prevail. It’s happening all over Ukraine, people are really united. We’ve got this ‘перекличка’, (I don’t know how to say it in English). Some people write on Facebook something like ``Ukraine, how are you?", and others start responding to them ‘I’m in Kyiv. We hear shelling, but we’re fine’. ‘We’re in the town of New York in the Donetsk region, but we’re fine and we keep working’. So, we have this solidarity.

I think this spirit is really great. Honestly, we’re really angry these days. I’m so angry I cannot speak Russian, my first language, anymore. It started in 2014, but right now I think that Russia just broke all ties with Ukraine. They are bombing Russian-speaking cities right now. I think many people in Mariupol or Kharkiv wouldn’t believe that Russians could be so cruel to them. We can see that there’s nothing but hate from the Russian side.

The 'Language Question' in Ukraine

S.O. You actually answered the question I was going to ask – 'How is the Russian-speaking population reacting to the fact that Putin is actually killing them?’. Not a friendly way to protect Russian speakers. What does it mean, when you think about the future of the languages in Ukraine? Finland is actually a bilingual country, Swedish is also spoken there. We do know that Russian and Ukrainian languages are spoken in Ukraine. How does switching from one language to another affect your writing process?

V.A. As you know, Andrey Kurkov is writing in Russian, but we also have writers who used to write in Russian. These are writers from Donetsk. Nowadays they are not able (and they do not want) to write in Russian anymore. For example, a writer, who is now in Kyiv, Olena Stiazhkina. She had to flee Donetsk in 2014. She was a prominent author writing in the Russian language, and she even received some awards from Russia. But gradually she learned Ukrainian, and her last novel about the Russian-Ukrainian war and her native city of Donetsk, is bilingual. The book starts in Russian, but ends in Ukrainian. It reflects the change in minds and character of the main heroine, I would say. I think it reflects the situation. Volodymyr Rafeenko, another prominent author from occupied Donetsk, also wrote his first novel in Ukrainian.

Writers are trying to switch to Ukrainian, they do want to do that. I actually started writing in Russian as well, but since I live in Lviv, I am totally bilingual. So it wasn’t such a big deal for me that my novels are published in Ukrainian, although my first language was Russian too. I think the change is happening, and this full-scale invasion will speed it up. Of course, they made it worse for the Russian language in Ukraine, they did it with their own hands. We see right now a lot of videos of people fighting and protesting on the streets. And a lot of people fighting against the Russian invasion are saying that they are speaking Russian because this is their native language, and they are still fighting against the Kremlin and Putin and Russian occupation here. I don’t think the language issue is a big deal. I think it’s the Russian Federation, who have always tried to make it look like a big deal. In fact, it’s no problem. In Ukraine, we have a unique situation where a lot of people can just talk in two languages simultaneously — one person would speak Russian, and the other would answer in Ukrainian. And they don’t switch, they just talk like that in two languages, this is not an issue at all.

The tragic history of the Ukrainian language

S.O. Could you tell us something about the history of the Ukrainian language because Ukrainian has had a lot of difficulties over the centuries, it has been banned many times. And education in the Ukrainian language has been banned as well, and that’s probably one of the reasons why Gogol, for example, wrote in Russian. Those of you who might think that Gogol was a Russian author, he was actually born in Ukraine and spoke the Ukrainian language. But he wrote in Russian. Russians, of course, think that Gogol is a Russian author, but he was not. Could you give us a short introduction to Ukrainian language history?

V.A. It’s a huge topic, and I think everyone knows that Russia is trying to claim there’s no Ukrainian history. There was a Kyivan Rus’ with its center in Kyiv, and Slavic languages developed here. When I'm abroad, people often ask me whether Ukrainian and Russian are so different. Yes, they are quite different, and Russians do not understand Ukrainians when we speak our language. Yes, the Ukrainian language was banned; it was prohibited to print books in Ukrainian and teach Ukrainian in schools. Speaking Ukrainian was really dangerous. If you look at the 20th century, you’ll see that in order to survive or prosper, people had to switch to Russian.

I can tell you about my family. My grandmothers and grandfathers were native Ukrainian speakers. But the country underwent a tragic genocide, Holodomor, in 1932-1933. This genocide was destroying people, who lived in villages and spoke Ukrainian. Millions of people died. So people got used to the idea that in order to survive you had to speak Russian. And people, who speak Ukrainian, either get killed in such genocide acts as Holodomor like in 1933, or they get killed during repressions, which mostly started in the 20th century. People were killed by the Stalin regime and they all were creating their art in Ukrainian. In order to survive, they had to become Russian speakers. They had to acquire this Russian-centric point of view.

We spent the last 30 years trying to break this spell and bring back our own identity, — in order to understand why suddenly Russian became my native language. And I understood those are the reasons my grandfather spoke Ukrainian, but my father used to speak Russian. We had to reclaim our language; we had to understand, it was violence that took away the Ukrainian language from us. This is why I made an effort and started to write in Ukrainian, not Russian. I understood that this is not fair that our language has been taken from us in such a cruel way.

S.O. Yes, and now I would like to recommend to those of you, who might not know enough about Holodomor, Anne Appleboum's excellent non-fiction book ‘Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine’. I think it is translated into many languages, and every single one of you can read it (available in Finnish as well). It’s a well-written book about how Holodomor was aimed to destroy Ukrainian culture and Ukrainians. Unfortunate long-term consequences are these politically motivated famines.

V.A. I would also recommend checking some articles on Executed Renaissance about how the Ukrainian cultural elite was executed. (This explains the origin of the term). They were killed in the 1930s and we had to spend so much time trying to find their books, read them again, and restore this bridge between times in Ukrainian culture. Unfortunately, some novels are lost forever.

Most of those tragic events happened in Kharkiv in the 1930s, that very city you hear about in the news. There's a danger of Ukrainian artists being on the frontline and getting killed again. It would be a tragedy to repeat history.

S.O. And I would also recommend the movie 'Mr. Jones’ (2019), directed by Agnieszka Holland. It’s a story about the Soviet Union trying to hide Holodomor killing millions of people and, unfortunately, Western countries not believing this journalist Jones, who witnessed the genocide himself. It's a very good movie, and unfortunately very timely because of this propaganda issue.

V.A. Sofi, since you mentioned history, do you think nowadays is different? Is Finland, and the Western world overall, doing as much as they can in today's war situation?

S.O. To be honest, I have been surprised there’s a silver lining in all of this – the unity of European countries. Even in those countries, where they have Putin sympathizers. For example, in France Marine Le Pen. I don't think her pictures with Putin are something she would want to share these days. And the very rapid shift the Germans have made. Germany has been very cautious, which is weird, as their historical obligation is actually to help Ukraine. But Germany has really changed. The North stream, which two months ago was considered an ‘economical project’, isn't an issue anymore. The aggression has united the European Union very fast, and I don’t think Russia was expecting that. Also, Sweden is sending weapons to Ukraine. Sweden is the nicest country in the world, so to speak, in the way they want to be nice to everybody, even to those countries you shouldn’t be nice to. They always try to be nice, and the last time they gave ammunition was when Finland was fighting in the war.

V.A. Russia hates Sweden so much. They hate all kinds of rumors of what’s happening in Sweden. Because the LGBTQ community is active there, and human rights are at a very good level in Scandinavian countries. Ordinary Russians and propaganda cannot stand it, they hate the freedom European nations have. If some Swedish are listening to us, know that.

S.O. What has also surprised me, there’s a lot of creative support. Finland is a country, where I wasn’t suspecting at all that Finns would support Ukraine. For example, there was an initiative when these dog owners from the recycling group on Facebook went to protest. They took their dogs’ poop and threw them in the courtyards of the Russian Embassy.

V.A. Do you think these initiatives could help to impose a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine?

S.O. In democratic countries, the politicians need to listen to the voters. And that’s actually the only thing they are listening to. If the voters show what is morally correct, then everything simply helps. Not all people are demonstrators, but you can demonstrate also in a way that can be creative and get much more attention. Those little things also show the politicians what people think. At the moment, I cannot imagine that the Finnish politicians somehow, even being hesitant about how strongly Ukraine needs to be supported, and I’m not sure how popular they are. You can show your will in many ways. And the more it spreads, the more it is. You have really done an excellent job on social media. This is important because Russia has a huge propaganda machine, they gave a lot of money there, and they have been spinning the fake narration of state lies for a very long time. So you have already won a battle against Russia’s state lies, that’s definitely a big deal, and it does affect public opinion also in the Western countries.

When I think about how to spread the word, and how to impact the politicians, then all I think about is the visual material you captioned during demonstrations. They are powerful, but you can use them only once. It’s not like people’s eyes are opening again. If they see the same image, cause there’s a limited variety of images that you can get during demonstrations. Then it can become something that doesn’t wake you up every morning, even though you have demonstrated. You can get used to them. But with creativity, you can make people wake up again, day after day. I mean, this is a long battle, so in that way we also need all kinds of new ways to force politicians to think about this. It’s definitely important to have demonstrations, but what I’m saying – it’s not enough. But also, how to engage people who don’t go to demonstrations? We need them as well. We did have a very big demonstration, and we’re going to have more. Finland is not a demonstration country in the way that France is, we don’t have millions of people rallying. Finland is not that kind of country. In Ukraine, you’re definitely 24 hours engaged, but in other countries, people also have their jobs, life. In that way, we need to wake them up.

V.A. Nine days ago, we also had day-to-day lives or jobs, and I submitted a proposal for a new festival to get funding, some ordinary things. But right now we just have war. I’m sure, the Finnish people know now what Russia is capable of. We just protect freedom for Europe and the US as well. Please, help us. And Americans can just call congressmen, they have this tool. I don't know, maybe there are such tools in the European Union, and you can contact the people you voted for and ask them to help us.

Amelina Victoria
Text by Romania Strots'ka
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