Putin? Put-him-in Jail.


Lourdes Bullo, Features Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

POV of a Russian-Ukrainian Teen on the Discord in Ukraine

Russian planes fly over Ukraine, dropping boxes containing toys and phones, luring children near. But unbeknownst to them, small explosives have been put inside, fully capable of blowing little hands clean off of their tiny bodies. Parents warn them, begging them not to be fooled, and pray they listen.

Here is just one of the many horror stories told to me by my relatives living on the site of an active battleground.

To me, this image is beyond war. This is strategic murder of innocent peoples promulgated by the beliefs of a man with a napoleon complex. The U.S.S.R. is a thing of the past, but Putin is hellbent on dominating Ukraine in an effort to mimic what dictators in the past have dreamed (and some succeeded) to accomplish.

As a Russian-Ukrainian who has lived her whole life in America, with most of my family residing in Ukraine, the news of a war was not new to me. The background noise of my television has always been a combination of American, Russian, and Ukrainian media and news networks. With the added result of things told to me by my family in Ukraine, I’ve grown up with the best, most informed perspective: the honest and objective outsider perspective, with the level of comprehension that is only attained within the culture itself when these types of situations arise.

Allow me to summarize the conflict leading up to the war. The initial tension between Russia and Ukraine has been apparent ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990’s. Combined with the fact that Russia and the West have a bit of a rivalry within Eastern Europe, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea (trying to steer Ukraine away from Western institutions, especially NATO), it’s clear Russia has been flirting with the idea of war for some time.

All things considered, the fact that the war is full throttle is not surprising in the slightest, but still, the effects are devastating to see everywhere, all the time.

Horrifying imagery floods America’s news networks, while all of Russia’s population is blasted with propaganda keeping the masses completely in the dark. Essentially, nobody there is able to comprise an informed opinion because of constant misinformation. The civilians are not at fault for the Kremlin’s decisions, and that’s something I really want others to understand with this conflict.

There is no true freedom in Russia, despite what many Russians and Russian diplomats try to say. Every single thing is monitored by the government, and my parents (who were some of the first in my family to emigrate here) tell me every day to thank my lucky stars we have our Bill of Rights. Freedom here in the West is seen as a right, when to most other nations it’s a privilege. And many Americans fail to see why.

To put this all into perspective, let me share an example of what happens if you go against Putin in Russia under the current law.

President Putin is running Russia to believe that there is absolutely no war. If a Russian journalist were to post to Twitter to even slightly disagree with the Russian narrative or validate the war in any way, even something like “How Russia is liberating Ukraine is awful. #nowar #FreeUkraine,” that could constitute 15 years in prison.

Imagine being ripped from your home and family by big scary government officials to be thrown in prison for 15 or more years just because of a Tweet. 

And we think cancel culture is bad? My grandmother on my father’s side has been a journalist in Odessa, Ukraine for over 40 years. The spirit of truth and justice bleeds from the tip of her pen. Notoriously anti-Communist, she’s been very vocal about her nation’s struggle, publicly sharing her views and the truth, with the government constantly breathing down her neck all the while. 

She’s told our family here that Ukraine is not giving up, and they haven’t fought this long or this hard for their independence to be taken away because Russian authority feels “challenged.” 

So as the days go by, I watch my father pacing around our living room racked with worry for his mother as 24/7 coverage of his hometown’s current state plays in the background of our living room.

“I can’t even watch the Russian network,” he says. “They’re killing my people, my relatives, my city. I feel guilty to even be Russian at this point.”

And I agree with him. But we must remind ourselves that this is not the doing of a nation, but a small man seeking to conquer another nation—a proud, brave, loving, and resilient nation at that.

I am proud to be a journalist in the United States, and I’m very aware of the extent of our privilege as Americans. My pride extends to my Russian-Ukrainian heritage, greatly shaping my perspective of the world and my ability to leave a lasting impact. The will I possess is strong, and the nations I call my own are stronger.