‘It’s time for Ukrainians to speak.’: An Interview With Ukrainian Couple Fighting For Peace

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When the war in Ukraine started, why did you decide to focus your efforts on the media front? 

Orest: “When the war started, there was the initial shock, which lasted a couple of days, and everybody was busy with their survival needs and taking care of family and so on. But then, after a couple of days, you have to take some kind of position. What will be your contribution in the war? Everybody is super busy now; the speed of life increased at least 10 times. Where I am, there are different options. Yes, you can enroll in the army, you can volunteer, you can handle logistics, you can do the financial part, you can carry on with your business and other things… But I asked myself, in which field am I going to be the most effective? I realized the best way for me to participate will be to engage my global network of friends. (I managed to gain a lot of during the last 15 years traveling. So far, I have visited over 120 countries around the world.)

My digital agency had the set up for all the processes in terms of content production. So it was pretty easy to reorganize to this topic. Also, I’m fluent in English, which enabled me to broadcast to the global audience. That’s something I really want to do. This is the point where I see I can leverage and really make a bigger impact. So that’s why I decided to to work on this media front.”

Ukrainian man works from the bathroom to access wifi and avoid windows.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

Why do you think the media front is so important in the war effort?

Orest: “Something to keep in mind is that war in the 21st century, what we are experiencing now, is not only about bullets, fields, and tanks. It’s also the cyberspace and media that are parallel aspects of the conflict. And in general, if something is happening further from you, you don’t understand it properly, or at least you don’t have the same point of view on particular events or things. That’s why, the more transparent information there is online, the more people can understand. That’s why developed western societies have so many different news reports, because this is like a healthy ‘competition’ between different sources of information, where eventually the truth will reach its point. So that is my contribution, to reach this truth, as well as to educate the global society.”

You mentioned fighting on the cultural and creative industries front, in one of your posts. Why do you feel it is so important to fight for these things?

Orest: “I would invite my wife, Marta, to answer this question. She’s the head of the Association of Galleries of Ukraine, and she’s actively participating in this field.”

Marta: “So there is a term, cultural diplomacy, and it’s really important. If you look throughout history, culture is one of the main fields to share ideas. We see many institutions right now, they invite Russians and try to do this kind of dialogue between Russians and Ukrainians, like cultural dialogue. But it’s so ridiculous now. Because, you know, we see people are dying, and they’re expecting us to talk with them, or to do some art projects. It’s time for Ukrainians to speak.

Cultural propaganda is really sneaky. And we see it so often each day, in many initiatives in culture. So now we are fighting in the cultural field to tell our colleagues it’s important to give the voice to Ukrainian cultural representatives and to make sanctions against the Russians for now. When the war is finished, hopefully they will recognize Russia was the aggressor and they will make reparations for the damage they caused. Maybe after that, we will be able to speak, but not now. So that’s our main job, to do this cultural diplomacy, to talk with the western institutions and our colleagues to tell them about this sneaky cultural propaganda.

We have this petition and a copy of an official letter from our Minister of Cultural Affairs. We also have the letter we sent to different institutions, when we asked them to put cultural sanctions on all the Russians. We translated it into 22 languages, and maybe six or seven languages that we translated that letter into, we sent to institutions directly.

You can read the English version of their petition and add your signature here.”

Ukrainian husband and wife staying behind in Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

In another post, you mentioned coming to realize how important the media really is. What changes have brought you to this viewpoint? Why do you think it’s so important, not only in the context of what’s happening in Ukraine, but also in Russia?

Orest: “Yes, as I said, media is one of the fronts of the war. And media shapes people’s points of view. I’ve been working in online media for over 10 years, but I was always, trying to do my own stuff, like from the local perspective. So I never really read much news. I stopped watching it on TV when I was 16. I was always focused on my work and just selectively catching those topics that were of particular interest to me.

But until the war started, I must say I was always underestimating the media – the strength and the influence of media, how it affects people, their points of view, and eventually, their behavior. If somebody is telling you 400 times that black is white, people eventually start believing this. And that’s what is happening now, within the Russian society, even though there are different transnational families. I have family in Donbass, for example, with whom we lost contact with in 2014, when the invasion started there. If there is no alternative choice to look at, you don’t have anything to compare with. And you just start accepting this as reality.

That’s why I decided to contribute, showing the local perspective of what is happening in Lviv. I’m not showing what people say, I am showing what I see. I believe if other people would do similar things – of course, it might be much harder if you’re under shelling all the time – this would create the entire picture, and would not only help others understand the events happening right now, but also serve as the archive for future generations who will want to dig back and understand the events better. Children will study this in the history books, so this information is very important.”

What are some of the best ways Americans, or westerners of other countries, can help support Ukraine in the war effort? What is it that Ukrainians need most right now?

Orest: “First of all, is the competition of economics. At the end of the day, the party who has better equipment and a better prepared, more organized army will win. Even though there are many different fronts on this war, still, the brutal power is essential. And this is the only language the aggressor understands at the moment. So number one is money and the equipment of our military forces. This is done on the global scale, and we have already received tremendous support from the west, but we need to continue that in order to win this war and to protect the entire civilized world.

You can donate directly to the Ukrainian army here.

Ukrainian family takes cover in basement of 200 year old building.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

When an event of such scale is happening, it’s just impossible to process everything. Yes, there are many different ways you can contribute and participate. So here are some other ways to help that anybody can choose, depending on what feels comfortable.

You can find a list of other ways to support Ukraine here.

Finally, I would invite you to follow my channels, where I’m daily updating information about things happening here from a local perspective. If it resonates with you, and you consider this valuable, you can support me and my team directly. My digital consulting and marketing business was stopped when the war started, and my entire team is now reorganized to produce these English language materials.

You can support Orest and his team here.”

What message would you give to Americans? What would you say to Russia?

Orest: “History has already shown many, many times that evil has a tendency to grow. And if we are able, it is in the best interest of everybody to cut it out as soon as possible. What we are facing now has already gone too far here. We are talking about millions of displaced people, tens of thousands of casualties. This is very, very bad. And it’s a tragic page in the history of humankind. We’re talking about the largest military conflict since World War II. And it’s still impossible to process that we are living in this reality at the moment.

It’s obvious for everyone now, that this is pure evil. It’s good that western societies started sanctioning the Russian government. It made it harder for them to accelerate. It’s good that you support us in different means. We have to continue doing that and take more definitive actions. The red line has been crossed already, many times, and this is in the interest of everybody to stop it as soon as possible. Otherwise, the evil will just continue growing. And because this is the nature of it, what we are facing now is the classic story of the underdog, David vs. Goliath. We all know, eventually this war will finish with the victory of the underdog. The problem is how much suffering and how many losses the underdog should take in order to win. The sooner we stop it, the sooner western societies interfere much more indirectly, and the less suffering will happen… because now, it’s really, really a lot.

My message to the Russian people… Probably many of you don’t want to believe what is already obvious to the entire world. And if you believe, but are wondering what you can do, I will tell you this. In 2004, a pro-Russian man was determined to be the president, and his team violated elections in Ukraine. Ukrainians took to the streets in protest and caused the Orange Revolution. And there were real elections, where the Democratic candidate won. In 2013, our president, who was Putin’s puppet, turned down the European Union Association Agreement two weeks before its initial signing date, after years of preparation. Ukrainians went to the street again. Your country occupied Crimea and started worrying Donbass. Now, 8 years later, we have a full scale war with terrible consequences and ruined cities. Nobody believed Ukraine could hold on for more than a week, however, we resisted and we continue fighting and pushing your armies back in many directions. So if Ukrainians can resist this evil, then you can resist it also. But you have to fight for your rights. And remember, freedom is not free.”

Ukrainian man takes picture in historic area of Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Orest and Marta Zub of Lviv, Ukraine. You can follow Orest’s journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more about the war in Ukraine here:

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‘I think about boys, now men, fighting in a war nobody wanted. Teens, just like mine, protecting their country with their lives.’: Mom shares ‘grief and gratitude’ having her son home safe

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