Romania has an ambivalent attitude towards Ukraine. However, the population and politicians are united in their defence against Russia. A conversation with political scientist Alina Mungiu-Pippidi
“There was rapid mobilisation and activism by Romania at the EU and NATO level to help Ukraine. Romania has a general as a prime minister and many media outlets are de facto sponsored by the secret service or the army. These days we mostly see war propaganda: everything US does is good, Germany is the big appeaser of Putin. All TV talk shows are full of generals who comment on war as if it’s a soccer game. It seems we are winning - they are all so upbeat and any reservations towards the war are dismissed as Russian propaganda. In general, the population seems more scared of the war than the government.”
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi is Professor of Democracy Studies at the Hertie School in Berlin.
Ukrainian activist Diana Berg was expelled from Donezk in 2014. Ever since she had been living in Mariupol, and had build the art platform Tyu - until she lost her home for the second time in March. By Diana Berg
“During war, all your plans crash. I am working with my team to set up several emergency responses. It is not paid work or a project you do. We are in this mode of urgency and mobilization.
Of course, after this stage ends, we will have to think about how to make some art archive of Mariupol. The city has long been the symbol of Ukrainian resistance. In 2014 and 2015, it was occupied briefly and later liberated. Now we see that Russia is out on revenge. They want to exterminate the city. After all this chaos is over, we will need to think forward about how we will build a memorial, because this was a total destruction.
But right now, planning for the future is very difficult. We will have to process all of this pain first. We do not have the city anymore, and we do not have anything of what was in the city. I have lost my home for the second time now, and it is much more painful now than the first time around. Everything we did over the last years, everything we created, the whole city, the sea, everything around is completely black. I still find myself thinking: Maybe I will come back! But I know it is not possible.”
Activist Diana Berg used to live in Mariupol, where she had built the art platform Tyu. Since March, she has been coordinating emergency response programs with her team.
Refugee flows and concerns about a flare-up in Transnistria: With the war raging in Ukraine, Moldova faces major challenges. By Natalia Sergheev
The war in Ukraine has upended life in Moldova. One of the poorest countries in Europe, we are hosting the largest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita. At least 362,000 refugees from Ukraine have sought safety here. Most are transiting, seeking asylum in EU countries. But some are staying, looking for odd jobs, a new home, and schools for their children. To help them rebuild their lives and to show support, Moldovans are organising fundraisers, concerts, and protests. The traditional feminist march on the International Women’s Day was dedicated to peace and solidarity with Ukraine. However, the ever-increasing wave of refugees from Ukraine is raising concerns that the volunteers might not be able to sustain the same level of involvement in the long run.
Natalia Sergheev is a multimedia journalist based in Chișinău, Moldova. She works with Radio Free Europe, among others. Her focus is on human rights issues across Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian activist Anna Gvozdiar describes how the Russian intentions had long been apparent in Ukraine
Ms. Gvozdiar, a month ago the war started. How has your life changed since then?
I left my apartment in Kyiv and stay with my parents in a small town near Vinnytsia (about 300 km southwest of Kyiv) but I go to Kyiv very regularly to help the army. For me, there has been war for eight years. Since Crimea was annexed and Donbass was occupied, I no longer feel secure. In 2014, I went to the eastern territories and worked for a while as an advisor to the governor in Luhansk. At that time, I started supporting the Ukrainian army as a volunteer in addition to my job. I understood that with this enemy we have to expect everything, even chemical or even nuclear weapons. That is why the beginning of the invasion was not a surprise for me at all.
Anna Gvozdiar, 31 years old, is a communications expert. Born in the Vinnytsia region, she has supported the Maidan movement as well as the Ukrainian military as a volunteer since 2014. She currently commutes between Kyiv and the Vinnytsia region.
Ukrainian historian Sofia Dyak on European support
Lviv, Ukraine, 3 March 2022
Ms Dyak, you are in Lviv in western Ukraine, what is the atmosphere like in the city?
So far we haven't had any air raids. But we have air raid alerts every day, which of course scares people, even though there is no sign of panic in the city. A lot of refugees arrive every day. Schools, galleries and sports halls are being used as shelters. I just had two friends from Kiev here and now three adults with a child and a dog are staying in my husband's artist's studio. Everyone is taking in refugees, some people are even sleeping in their cars (next to the border). I don't know how the situation will develop, but I will stay here. I have no children and my old parents live here too. Since both of them are sick and it would be a nightmare to flee with them now. I am also responsible for the team at the Centre for Urban History, which I run.
The Russian attack is often compared to the German invasion during the Second World War. What do you think of that?
Of course, these are two different events. But referring to the past helps us understand the current situation. Some 80 years ago, Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv, which is being bombed massively right now, were also destroyed. However, if you think of Lviv, the comparison with the First World War is more relevant. Lviv, which in the past belonged to Poland and later to the Habsburg monarchy, was conquered by Russian troops in 1914 and had very many refugees. The current situation, like that of the past, involves an imperial vision and a radical ideology. The question is how do we regain peace? Human rights are the price we pay.
Dr. Sofia Dyak is a historian and sociologist. She is director of the Centre for Urban History in Lviv, an independent research institution dealing with urban history research, digital humanities and archiving, as well as public history.
Sociologist Mischa Gabowitsch on the dynamics of radicalisation within the Putin government
Mr. Gabowitsch, what is Vladimir Putin trying to achieve by attacking Ukraine? Can this step be explained at all in geopolitical terms or only through a historical-ideological lens?
We should abandon the idea that there is a rational calculation behind every step Putin takes. He certainly feels spurred on by his military successes in Georgia, Syria, Crimea and south-eastern Ukraine. Moreover, there is a dynamic of radicalisation in foreign and, above all, domestic politics: in order to preserve his system, he has to become increasingly aggressive. But no less important, in my view, is that he is surrounded by frightened yes-men and obviously no longer has any sense of the potential consequences. And he is clearly acting out of resentment.
Mischa Gabowitsch, born in Moscow in 1977, is a sociologist and contemporary historian. He received his PhD from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris and taught at Princeton University. He is currently a research associate at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.