sep 2023

No news from the eastern front

A lightning visit to Kyiv

On Friday, September 15, 2023, I travelled by plane to Warsaw to participate in a safety training. Unexpectedly, the opportunity arose to visit my friend Igor in Kyiv/ Kiev afterwards. On Saturday evening I changed my travel plan, as I would like to see with my own eyes what is happening on the fringes of Europe.


A negative travel advice for the whole of Ukraine has been issued by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can indicate your date of arrival, departure and location online, although it is expressly stated that travelling to Ukraine is not recommended and is done entirely at your own risk. Consular assistance cannot be provided.


Since Ukrainian airspace is closed to all civil aviation and there are no international trains, I had to take the bus. On Sunday evening I arrived at the Dworzec Zachodni bus station in Warsaw, the bus to Kyiv left at 9:30 PM. Packed out. A journey of 850 km, crammed between coughing and impoverished Ukrainians. We reached the border crossing around midnight, the delay only lasted three hours. The journey took us through vast agricultural areas, past villages, through suburbs and towns such as Kovel and Sarny. The sun rose early. From the bus the view seems the same everywhere. Commuters waiting for their bus, many infrastructural construction projects, poor road surfaces interspersed with high-tech roads. It looks like there isn't a single speck of trouble in the air.

The war in Ukraine is currently concentrated in the front areas of Donetsk and Kharkiv.


At 12.30 I arrived at the Kyiv bus station, 32 S. Petliury str. It is busy, chaotic, there is waste everywhere. A warm welcome by my friend and colleague Igor. He was commander CIMIC in Kramatorsk, when I visited the front area between Kramatorsk and Mariupol, located on the Sea of Azov, in September 2019. He now works for an NGO that focuses on increasing Mine Awareness among children.


After a traditional lunch at a nearby Ukrainian eatery, we set off straight away. Early in March 2022, there was heavy fighting between advancing Russian and defending Ukrainian troops in and around Bucha and Borodyanka, located northwest of Kyiv. A month later the Russians were forced to withdraw. Leaving a trail of destruction behind.


War is about deception and propaganda. The truth does not exist, everything is framed, on all sides, nothing is what it seems.
Just figure that out!
The damage to buildings caused there by Russian bombs and missiles is real and at the same time it is cherished in the war propaganda as the ultimate proof of Russia’s criminal policy.
In carefully staged media moments, the destroyed residential flats in Borodyanką are shown over and over again before the international stage. In this way, the financing of the war can be placed at the top of the agenda again and again.


Who has an interest in this war? Ukraine is a huge country with fertile soil and full of raw materials, especially in the areas conquered and occupied by the Russians.
Ukraine is strategically important because it borders Russia and there are major geopolitical interests at stake.


There is a lot to be said about the war in Ukraine. It is clear that the Russian imperialists have traditionally asserted their power and influence.
The base of the Russian Empire is Kyiv Rus; Vikings who settled there centuries ago produced the first Tsars - although opinions differ on this, especially on the Russian side.
There are tribal differences and those differences always result in large-scale bloodshed.
That in itself is nothing new.
The trench warfare on the Western Front of 1914-1918 was nothing other than an insane fraternal struggle between ethnic Anglo-Saxon and Celtic:Germanic-Christian tribes ("Gott mit uns" or "For God, King and Country”). I see the same happen between Russia and Ukraine.

The fringes of Eastern Europe are soaked in blood. Centuries of oppression by the tsars, feudalism, then the Russian Revolution of 1917, the civil war until 1921, the industrial Five-Year Plans under Stalin , the forced agricultural collectivisations resulting in the Holodomor in Ukraine between 1930-1933, the gulags with Kolyma as the Russian equivalent of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Moscow trials in the 1930s, the Winter War in Finland in 1939, the Russian invasion and occupation of the Baltic countries and Poland in 1939, the murder of 20,000 Polish officers by the NKVD in Katyn in 1940, the Nazi Holocaust between 1939-1945, numerous deportations of peoples by the communists, the rape of more than 100,000 German women in Berlin by the Red Army in 1945 - it is a series of genocidal warfare, everything and everyone was exterminated. That bloodshed continues to this day.
That left deep wounds. Traumas live on. No processing has ever begun, if that is even possible.
Therefore, in my opinion, the current war is a continuation of WWII.


Areas that are now Ukrainian were previously Polish, German, Austro- Hungarian and Russian. The city of Lviv, also called Lwow and Lemberg, is located on Ukrainian territory, but its possession is covertly and openly contested by certain Polish factions.
Genocidal war crimes were committed against Poles and Jews in Galicia during WWII by supporters of the Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera. Countless people fought on the German side. This has not been forgotten in Poland.
Nearly two million Ukrainians refugees have been taken in by Poland and their expiration date is slowly approaching, many Poles are fed up. Ukrainians come to sponge off, is the general opinion. Old grievances come to the surface.
It goes without saying that the Russian propaganda apparatus eagerly responds to this. After all, the Russians are masters of deception warfare.

Netherlands - Ukraine

The more than 129,000 Ukrainians who are currently being pampered in the Netherlands at the expense of the Dutch taxpayer, are not expected to return. They are the tip of the iceberg of the continuous mass immigration into the Netherlands that has been taking place for more than 60 years now. This means a huge increase in tax burdens, further degradation of public services and an explosive shortage of affordable housing for native Dutch people. Moreover, the continued import of masses of people with different cultural and ethnic origins will create inter-ethnic and tribal tensions. In the event of a general economic recession, this could lead to large-scale disruption of public order and even lead to genocidal warfare on European soil. For that, we only have to look at the history of the Balkans, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa.


It is estimated that more than ten million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Russian invasion - a huge socio-economic and demographic loss for this country that is on the brink of collapse. Kyiv breathes poverty and decay. Half of the city's population has left, roughly three million of the six million inhabitants. The streets are dirty and maintenance is urgently needed. There are no tourists.
What do people live on? How do they still earn their living?
At the bus station drunks are wandering around, digging in trash cans. A group of soldiers stand together, they look exhausted and scarred.
Military personnel dominate the streets everywhere, steel Panzer barriers and armed checkpoints have been set up along the arterial roads. Propaganda posters and enlistment billboards are everywhere. Men between 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine without permission. A constant supply of new blood is needed.


My friend Igor and his wife focus on teaching children to recognise mine danger, among others with the help of a landmine board game he developed, where you have to travel through a terrain littered with mines. A practical initiative that greatly appeals to me and increases the self-sustainability of children.
The Russians have hidden mines everywhere in the front area.
In every possible way mines are used as booby traps, hidden in toys, under abandoned utensils, in buildings, on the street, in the grass.
Anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices cause death or horrific injuries and a lengthy recovery process, which puts an enormous emotional, physical and financial burden on the victims.
Even after the war has ended one day, the mines will continue to cause suffering for decades to come.


Initially I planned to travel by train to Lut and then to southwest Poland and Germany. Unfortunately, that turned out to be impossible, so I was forced to take the bus back to Warsaw. I left at 3 p.m. after I had said a heartfelt farewell to Igor and his family.

Initially the journey went well, at 1am we approached the Ukrainian-Polish border. We had to get out and show up at a counter, the Ukrainian border guards then checked and stamped the passports. A little further on at the Polish border we came to a stop around 2am, which lasted until 11am the next morning. Only then were we allowed through.
Meanwhile, a long line of buses had formed. There was a lot of shouting at the Ukrainians, it was absolutely unheard of. We were loaded and unloaded like cattle and all suitcases had to be opened and everything was checked. Not just with us, but with everyone waiting. A man from Bangladesh, who was standing at the back of the queue with his bus, desperately asked if I could help him, because he had a plane to catch, and so did a businessman from Ethiopia. Unfortunately I couldn't help them.

Once past the border crossing, I saw a line of trucks, many kilometers long, waiting on the shoulder of the access road on the opposite side.
I was back in Warsaw around 2 pm and in time for my flight to Amsterdam.
Once I took off I felt relieved.
It was a trip that I will remember for a long time.

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