Marta Dyczok is an Associate Professor at the Departments of History and Political Science, Western University, Canada. She was the host of the podcast Ukraine Calling. Andriy Kulykov is co-founder and Chairperson of Hromadske Radio.
I heard a verified story of a person who made his way with his family from an occupied town listening to our broadcast, because we were telling them where it was dangerous for them to go and where it was more or less safe to go. So, radio actually saves lives. I probably cannot save lives otherwise. But I can with the help of radio.
- A Short History of Hromadske Radio
- Do Journalists in Ukraine Consider Themselves Information Warriors
- The Importance of Media Literacy in a War
- How Radio Can Saved Lives in Ukraine
- Andriy’s Thoughts on Ukrainian Identity
Recorded on April 19th, 2022.
Thank you for listening to the Democracy Paradox: A podcast on democracy, democratization, and world affairs. Each week you’ll learn about big picture insights to better understand political issues and events. These are complex ideas that might be unfamiliar so, I’ve provided a complete transcript at democracyparadox.com.
You can also support the podcast at Patreon for as little as $5/month. Supporters have access to bonus material like this week’s conversation with Jenna Spinelli cohost of Democracy Works and founder of The Democracy Group network of podcasts. I reached out to Jenna shortly after I started Democracy Paradox. She’s always found the time to help podcasts like mine so I’m excited to share a brief conversation with her. Democracy Works features some incredible guests like Peter Pomerantsev and John Meacham. So, listen to Democracy Works and become a patron to listen to conversations with guests like Jenna Spinelli.
Today’s guests are Marta Dyczok and Andriy Kulykov. Marta is an Associate Professor at the Departments of History and Political Science, Western University, Canada. Andriy is the co-founder and Chairperson of Hromadske Radio. I reached out to Marta, because she wrote an article on the bravery and heroism of Ukrainian journalists during the ongoing Russian Invasion of Ukraine. A few years back she also hosted a podcast called Ukraine Calling. Last year she published the transcripts in a book called Ukraine Calling: A Kaleidoscope from Hromadske Radio 2016–2019.
Hromadske Radio is an independent radio station in Ukraine. Andriy will tell you more about its founding and purpose later on. But his experience makes this a different conversation. He was in Ukraine as we recorded so his perspective on events is different than most analysts and academics. We discuss topics like the role of the media, media literacy during a war, and Ukrainian identity. It’s a different conversation from past episodes but no less important. So, let me introduce you to Marta Dyczok and Andriy Kulykov…
Marta Dyczok and Andriy Kulykov, welcome to the Democracy Paradox.
Well, Marta, I am really impressed with the podcast that you had, Ukraine Calling. I was impressed with the book, with the transcripts, and I’m impressed with the podcast as well. Andriy, I am very impressed with the work that you’ve done at the radio station that aired the podcast that worked on this. But I want to start out a little bit more on a personal level just to begin. So, Andriy, I know that you are in Ukraine right now. I just want to ask how are you doing?
Well, when you have the audience to which you broadcast, when they give you feedback, and when you meet people who recognize you, not by your face, but by your voice, this means that we are doing pretty well.
That’s great to hear. Can you paint us just a small picture? What is it actually like in Ukraine right now? What is it like where you’re at?
Justin, Ukraine is a rather big country, at least in European measurements. Basically, the spirit of resilience and the spirit of fighting for independence spreads all over Ukraine even in the temporarily occupied areas. But the situation is different from town to town and from city to city. Until recently, many people in Ukraine thought that there are so-called safe havens for our IDPs and other people. The reason bombing of Lviv with five rockets almost simultaneously has proven again that there are no safe havens. I also have some friends in much smaller towns, like less than 100,000 residents, they have been targeted as well.
But, of course, it’s a different story if you live in Kyiv which is protected, I think, by one of the best air defense systems in Ukraine and probably even in Europe and the missiles are still hitting us and the bombs as well. But you have a pretty good chance that they will be shot or hit by the Ukrainian air defense. And then some smaller towns where you have virtually no protection unless the missile is intercepted on the way. And then the Russian occupiers come, occupants come, and then they subject people to terror. So, it’s different. As far as Kyiv is concerned, we have air strike alarms at least twice a day. It used to be much more frequent until the Russians withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv. But anyway, they are bombing and shelling hitting the city with their missiles.
We have a curfew. It lasts from 10 PM to 5 AM. It used to be from 8 PM to 7 AM, so we are sort of relieved. But we are very much troubled about the major Russian offensive that began yesterday in the east of the country. Not only because it poses this threat to the country, but because hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people are again being uprooted, again being killed. Most of us cannot but think about this as well, apart from our own safety. That’s life in Ukraine.
We call each other. We write emails to each other to get to know what is happening to our near and dear. The day before yesterday, or was it yesterday, that Lviv was hit, I called seven people who were dear to me in this city. Some of them are from Lviv, some of them are recently internally displaced people. And I got to know about how they are. So, this is life in Ukraine at the moment.
There was a guest on Ukraine Calling that was… I’m going to probably mispronounce the name, but it was Oleixi Haran.
Ooh, Oleixi Haran, Professor Haran
Yes, and on the show they said, “Life in Kyiv looks peaceful. Some people watch this happening in a very distant region.” And they were talking at the time when this was a conflict limited to the Donbas region. And listening to you talk, it makes me feel as those people in Kyiv did at that time. Because life is peaceful here for me where I live and I’m watching this in a distant region, but at the same time, I can’t stop having my heartstrings pulled by how horrific this sounds and how horrific it is when I read about it.
But at the same time, it’s hard to fathom what is actually happening, because it’s occurring so far away. Marta, I want to shift over and bring you into the conversation here. I know that you’re not in Ukraine yourself, but you’ve got tremendous experience working with people on the show, Ukraine Calling, and you have so many close personal ties to many in Ukraine. Can you talk a little bit about what initially drew you toward Ukraine and its people?
I’ve been traveling to Ukraine for 30 years. I conduct research there every summer. The last two summers, because of COVID I couldn’t go. But I first went when I was a PhD student at Oxford to collect data for my dissertation on Ukrainian World War II refugees. And I landed in Kyiv in spring of 1991. And, as you know, the Soviet Union was teetering at the time. And as that was happening, I thought, ‘I don’t want to sit in the archives. I want to see history happening.’ So, I contacted this British paper called The Guardian, said, ‘I’m in Ukraine. Do you need someone?’ And they didn’t have anybody. So, they said, ‘Well, we’ll try you.’ Because, of course, a PhD student is not a journalist, but they didn’t have anybody.
So, they hired me on a trial basis. And a really nice man called John Rettie initially co-wrote the articles with me. I would call into Moscow, tell them what was happening, and we would write it together. But eventually I just started writing my own pieces. And I was in Ukraine when the coup happened. It was actually in Pecherskyi at the time. I was in parliament when they declared independence in 91 and then things calmed down. I went and finished my dissertation at Oxford, had it published, and continued to do research and started being interested in writing about media developments in Ukraine. So, I met a lot of journalists back in 91 some of whom I’m still in contact with and have met many, many along the way.
And then in 2013, this group of journalists created this independent radio station called Hromadske Radio. And Andriy can tell you about how they created it, because he’s one of them. But then I got involved with them because Iryna Slavinska contacted me during the Revolution of Dignity and said, ‘How does it look from Canada?’ And that got me started working with them and then Andriy said, ‘Can you do this in English?’ And I started doing some English language podcasts and that eventually led to my own podcast, Ukraine calling, which I did for three whole years. But let me Andriy tell you about how they set up Hromadske Radio because it’s a great story.
So, basically, it was in the spring of 2013 when I was almost simultaneously contacted by three people who worked in media and who felt that they were not able any longer to work according to what their conscience told them. They were either silenced or made to publish something that did not match reality. And those people could not live basically. So, they asked me, ‘What shall we do?’ And out of sheer inspiration, I told them, ‘Let’s create radio which won’t take money from any of the tycoons, which won’t to take money from any of the political parties.’
And I chose radio for two reasons. First of all, I used to work for radio and knew how involving it would be and how rewarding it would be. Because on radio, you get much closer to the audience than on television, the net or even in newspapers. You can basically talk to them and they can talk back.
I’m going to interrupt here. Andriy is very modest. He worked for BBC. He was one of the first Ukrainians to be hired when BBC set up a Ukrainian service. So, that’s where he got his radio background. Sorry, Andriy.
Yeah, basically, I hadn’t worked for radio before the BBC. So, I was lucky in the sense that I almost immediately got the best or one of the best jobs in radio ever. On the other hand, I knew that radio was underestimated in Ukraine. Most of the money went to television and the internet. And because the rich and the powerful do not see themselves on radio, they think that they should not invest in it. Over the 30 years of independence, there were probably no more than four rather big investments in radio. So again, from my previous experience, I knew that when you are considered not influential and not very glamorous, you are sort of allowed to work freely and it depends on you as to how you use this opportunity.
So, this was my choice. Gradually we were joined by a couple of dozen people mostly from television. Then we started to make podcasts, because we had no money to buy a license or even to buy a license from the competition. And you could place the podcast on SoundCloud, which we did. And then the Revolution of Dignity started and we were immediately there. For a week or so we worked on SoundCloud. But then on the 1st of December when there was a huge demonstration, a huge rally in Kyiv, from half a million to a million people.
We were called by our colleagues from one of the music stations and they said, ‘Listen, we have a frequency. But we do not have the skills to report what is happening in the streets. You have the skills, but not a frequency. Let’s join our efforts.’ They risked a lot. They actually got two or three warnings from the National Council for Broadcasting which is responsible for the licenses and overseeing whether radio and television stations are fulfilling their licenses. But they’ve risked this and it’s called Europa Plus. It’s a purely entertainment music station. So, we worked together. We went to the Maidan. We reported from both sides of the events and we gradually grew an audience. And suddenly, I started to hear from people whom I had met 10 years ago, worked together and lost touch. And this is how we grew.
And then after the revolution was won, we were able to obtain a frequency. First temporarily, when we went to the State Broadcasting Company and said, ‘Listen, your behavior during the revolution was not exactly irreproachable and our presence on your frequency may be sort of a safeguard against some hotheads taking action against you.’ Then the Chief of Broadcasts thought for awhile and saw the benefit of this. So, we got it and our friends from the music station went back to the music business. And again, we were poor. We were poor, because we bought our first equipment from our own money. Something like 500 Hryvnia from every one of us. And this is really a small money even back in 2013.
So, we didn’t have enough money even to rent some premises. And then there was another media organization which came to our help. A television channel called Magnolia. They let us use their premises for a year without taking a Hryvnia from us and they even let us use their kitchen and some of the cookies that they put on the table every morning. And then when the war started and the war started back in 2014 with the Russian invasion – actually, the Russian annexation of Crimea and then the invasion in the Donbas. We decided that this is where we have to broadcast. And most of our transmitters were in the East of Ukraine.
We have now lost all but one out of nine. And probably we will soon lose another one, because even if the Russians don’t capture Kramatorsk, there’s still shelling and bombing and all this kind of stuff. So, we are now broadcasting in Kyiv. We are available on our website and in the last few months some Western Ukrainian stations started to rebroadcast us.
So, Andriy, Marta recently wrote a short piece for the Journal of Democracy where she wrote, “Information is at the center of any war.” And she went on to describe the journalists during conflicts like the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. She described the journalists as information warriors. Do you view yourself as an information warrior?
Yes, I think I do. But it’s not my choice or rather it is my choice in the circumstances that surround me. I have to be a warrior, because my country is under attack. And I think I know the value of timely and verified information.
And I know that some people survived in the occupation, because they got information from us. They didn’t have access to television. They didn’t have access to the internet. I know of a verified story that in a town occupied by the Russians, people found an old radio receiver in the loft. They got it repaired and they listened to radio including our broadcasts, basically hiding it from the Russians. I heard a verified story of a person who made his way with his family from an occupied town listening to our broadcast, because we were telling them where it was dangerous for them to go and where it was more or less safe to go. So, radio actually saves lives. I probably cannot save lives otherwise. But I can with the help of radio.
That’s just remarkable to hear. Marta, you wrote the piece that I just mentioned. And what I found remarkable about it is that we talk about the current era that we live in as an information age and we talk about the war that Russia has brought on Ukraine as a hybrid war, as a partly information war. What does it mean to engage in an information war?
Well, information warfare is as old as history. So, this is really nothing new. What is new is that we live in a modern telecommunications age where information travels the globe really quickly. So, the spreading of lies and disinformation has been going on since wars have existed, which is forever. But the speed with which that happens, that’s the difference. And also, the proliferation of media outlets and different types of media means that the disinformation can be magnified and distorted and it’s very difficult to challenge the disinformation that is being spread.
So, my favorite example is when Russia annexed Crimea, they put out this narrative that Crimea has always been Russian. Which is absolutely false, because Crimea became part of Russia as a result of imperial expansion. After they conquered Ukraine, then they conquered Crimea and the rest of the empire. And that didn’t happen until 1783. And before that Crimea was the homeland of the Crimean Tatars. It was the Crimean Khanate. So, after what they call the first occupation when many of them fled. It became part of the Russian Empire and then it was part of Ukraine for a long time. So, this narrative that it has always been Russian is false. But it took me a minute or more to explain the history.
So, there’s this famous phrase that a lie has circled the world while the truth is just putting on its boots. So, to get that lie out there is fast, but to correct it is slow. And we’ve seen that with this entire Russian disinformation campaign against Ukraine for eight years. Some people still call it a Ukraine crisis making it sound like Ukraine is causing a crisis when in fact, Russia has been attacking Ukraine and continues to escalate. So, that’s the difference. And I am in awe of journalists in Ukraine, one of whom is speaking with us, but many others who are really risking their lives to get information, to collect information and to disseminate it both inside their country and internationally.
Andriy, you mentioned a story about how people’s lives were saved, because they were able to access a radio to be able to get information. How hard is it for people in Ukraine right now to obtain information?
It’s rather difficult. You have to know to whom you listen to, whom you watch, what you read, and, of course, I think that there’s a choice of sources that you may rely upon. And, of course, you have to know the particular sort of speech that is being used by the military, by the officials. Because something that we may accept, or we may perceive as a very clear statement, may have different layers.
For instance, the military term, ‘Our forces took this or that village or this or that city under control.’ Back in 2014, this was a very unfamiliar term for many, many people in Ukraine. And in the initial stage, I thought that this meant that the Ukrainian forces are there. That the city is secured and all this kind of stuff. But then I started to notice some discrepancies in what was understood and what was really happening. So, I now know that a city or a village or a locality is under the control of these forces means that they can actually reach it with their artillery bombardment. And this does not mean that Ukrainians are there or Russians are there for that matter.
If we read about a furious battle, then there’s a sign of alarm in this. If we read about counter attacks, this does not mean that there is a counter offensive. So, apart from having reliable information, you have to know how to work with this information. You also have to take into account different ways of counting the losses for instance. Because every army that I know at least tends to count the losses of the enemy on report and their own losses on the verified report. And, of course, in many cases you cannot go and count the bodies or count the wounded. So, we have to understand all of this. However, I must say that in most cases, the Ukrainian official information can be relied upon.
Although when you look at some of the stuff that is there on Telegram Channels and other social media, even if this comes from a person who is closely connected or has an official position, this does not necessarily mean that you can completely rely on this person. I remember one story which happened I think in the second week of the full-scale invention when the Russians captured one of the cities in the south of Ukraine. And there was a story about the Ukrainians who captured the Russian Armored Personal Carrier and waved the Ukrainian flag and all this kind of stuff. And we were hasty. Of course, this was welcome news for us.
So, we published it on our own telecom channel. But later it appeared that the story was a story of bravery, but not the story of the capture of the enemy. There was just one guy who jumped on the APC and waved the Ukrainian flag. So, we had to correct this story on our telecom channel and on our site. How easy it is to get information depends not only on the availability of information, but also the media literacy and the level of your ability to work with media. Physically this is not very hard for most of Ukraine. But when it comes to making sense of what you’re being told, this is another question.
So, you told a story earlier where the ability to not just obtain a radio, but to recognize that your source of information was reliable actually made the difference in whether or not they could survive or whether or not they wouldn’t survive. I imagine that media literacy during this period is incredibly important and that many listeners, many just regular citizens, are having to really increase their abilities during this period. How effective are your listeners? How effective are regular Ukrainian citizens at being able to identify that the information that they’re receiving, the radio broadcast that they’re listening to, is one that’s high quality that will provide them information that will help them determine what town to go to next or whether or not to evacuate or whatever it is that they might need to know? How effective are they at discerning different sources of information?
Regrettably, everyday teaches them. At the price of their own life or health they get to know what they can believe, whom they can trust. And of course, if unwillingly, we lead some people into deception, then we are part of a tragedy. So, we have to be very, very cautious and, of course, every story which I quoted, and I have more such stories, people spread this news. They tell each other that, ‘Listen, this radio station told us so and so or this website publishes useful information.’ We should not underestimate the power of the word of mouth, especially now when people value each other’s lives. They value the integrity of the country. They value our collective resistance and collective resilience.
So, they do inform each other about trusted sources of information and again, about those who you cannot trust. Unfortunately, there are some sources and some speakers who create an impression that they are very reliable. I know some people who I know quite well and they have developed a habit to watch some people on YouTube or Instagram who are just soothing them, calming them down. And this is a very human feature. You want to retain your calm. You want to have something that distracts you from the horrors. So, they listen to those people who told us immediately in 2014, there were people who said the Russian attack against Ukraine is the start of the inevitable quick end of the Russian Empire. People tend to believe this. People want to believe this.
So, basically, every truthful report that we produce, every warning that we broadcast about danger, and every schedule of evacuation trains or so-called green corridors or the instruction of how to behave in case the chemicals are poor and from a damaged plant teaches people, including us, to be media literate. Every mistake does not only endanger their lives, but is also detrimental to our work.
Marta, on Ukraine Calling, many of the guests described a warlike atmosphere between Ukraine and Russia and this was long before the recent escalation, long before the recent invasion into other parts of Ukraine. Because there was a war going on in the Donbas region and you’ve mentioned that already. That the war did not begin this past year. It began all the way back in 2014. Have Ukrainians felt that they were at war with Russia before this past year?
Well, now that’s an excellent question. Because as you’ve said, I mean, this didn’t start in February. This started in February of 2014 when first Crimea got annexed and then the supposed Novorossiya Project started which was Russia’s attempt to gain control over parts of Ukraine to destabilize it. They succeeded only in capturing parts of the Donbas. Although there were attempts in various other areas like Odessa, Kharkiv and Kherson. So, the attack was coming. The Ukrainians managed to stem it at the time. When I started the podcast Ukraine Calling, one of the first episodes was with professor Oleixi Haran and Brian Whitmore who is a US based Russia expert. And it was summer of 2016 and they both said that war is the new normal in Ukraine.
And what that meant was that there were areas of intense fighting in the Donbas and there were other parts of the country where you didn’t actually feel the war, but it affected the entire country, because people from Crimea and from the war zones became internally displaced. So, they were appearing in other parts of Ukraine and Ukrainian men and women were being conscripted to go fight in the war zone. The difference now is that it’s a massive assault against the whole country. But what Ukraine as a whole is experiencing, the Donbas has been experiencing for eight years now.
So, Andriy, as I read about what’s happening in Ukraine, one of the themes that I come across is this sense of renewed Ukrainian identity or the sense of – I don’t want to say renewed – but just a heightened level of sense of identity of Ukrainians as to who they are as a people, a closer connection to their country. But that’s what I’m reading from a distance. And I’d like to hear your view, from somebody who’s very much experiencing this firsthand. Has Ukrainian identity changed during this period?
Yes, we are hearing a lot about how the Ukrainian identity has grown. It has intensified and people have become more united and more aware of their common destiny. This is only because this is seen in a clear way against the background of what is happening. There’s also a saying that the Ukrainian political nation has formed after or as a result of the Revolution of Dignity. I say no. The Revolution of Dignity was possible, because the Ukrainian political nation was there. The Orange Revolution was possible because the Ukrainian political nation was there back in 2005. And the Ukrainian independence was possible because the Ukrainian political nation in a nascent form was there as well. So, what I am saying is that the circumstances and the outright aggression has made this easier to see.
I do not think that the essence of our identity has changed. The form, yes, but then we need this form in order to successfully fight the aggression best. Of course, many more of us became more outspoken because the times require this. You can no longer be an unseen Ukrainian. You have to be a manifest Ukrainian. And this does not, by the way, require speaking Ukrainian. Although I prefer the people around me are speak Ukrainian and read Ukrainian, all this kind of stuff. But the reality is that millions over my compatriots prefer Russian or some other language. Yes. Some of them have changed even now. I know people who switched to Ukrainian in 2014. I know people who have switched to Ukrainian 55 or so days ago. And I welcome this, but then it is not a very easy process.
And I have several Jewish friends in Ukraine. Politically they are Ukrainians. And by the way, some of them have been speaking Ukrainian for several years now, even before the Russian aggression, even before 2014. But some of them just didn’t feel that speaking Ukrainian makes them more Ukrainian than is required. So, I say the essence of our identity has not changed, but we have to show the world that Ukrainians are different. That Ukrainians have something that distinguishes them from Russians, because this is one of the messages of Russian propaganda. There is no such nation as Ukraine neither ethnically nor politically or in any other dimension.
Listen, when they say that we are part of the quote unquote Great Russian nation, this means that every Ukrainian is endangered because every one of us is a living proof that you Ukraine and Ukrainians exist. That’s why they tend to kill us so easily, because they need our deaths to prove their point. If there are no living Ukrainians then of course the Ukrainian nation does not exist. That’s what they were doing back in the 1930s when they tried to kill the Ukrainian nation by hunger. That’s what they did to the Crimean Tatars when they took the entire population. The entire Crimean Tatar population was taken to Asia. And that’s what they are trying to do now by different means.
So, identity… Who am I? I was born of Russian parents in Ukraine. My mother spoke beautiful Ukrainian, but she very rarely used it, because my father did not speak Ukrainian. He understood Ukrainian, but he never made an attempt to actually speak it. He voted for independence. He voted for independence, because he knew this people as a people and he knew that Ukraine and Ukrainians exist. My brother who is only a year and a half younger than me. He speaks Russian. Ninety percent of his communications is Russian, whereas 90% of my communication is Ukrainian by choice. I still speak Russian to my brother. Who are we? I am Ukrainian and he’s Ukrainian too, although he speaks a different language.
It’s very, very complicated and in many aspects, I do not agree with those who say that the Ukrainian nation especially the Ukrainian political nation is a recent phenomenon. It is a very experienced and a very hardened phenomenon, because we always had to prove that Ukraine is there and Ukrainians are there.
So, daily there is a lot of reporting on Ukraine in the American press, but it’s reporting for an American audience. What does the American press or the overseas press overlook in their reporting about Ukraine?
I read the headlines of The New York Times and The Washington Post and I scan others as I have time. I would say that the reporting on Ukraine has improved tremendously in the last 55 days or so and I think that’s in large part because there are now reporters on the ground. The reporting about Ukraine previously was from people who were sitting either in Washington or possibly as far as London. But very few Ukrainian voices and Ukrainian commentators were part of the story. So, that has changed tremendously.
What I still find difficult is that there’s a focus on emotion. ‘How do you feel about what’s happening?’ As opposed to, ‘What is happening?’ and ‘What are the implications of what will happen next?’ So, the sort of emotional tone in a lot of political reporting, I find that annoying, because I don’t see that there’s much use to it, unless you’re doing a human-interest story. Ukrainian media professionals have worked very hard to try to get their message out, to use the correct terminology. And we still hear this coming from Presidents Zelensky’s evening addresses, ‘That this is not a Ukraine crisis. This is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.’ We still hear the terminology not always quite right. So, that’s where I think I would like to see improvement.
And one last thing is very often Western journalists do not credit their Ukrainian colleagues. Somebody who lands in Ukraine, doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the logistics, they hire Ukrainians to help them. And those Ukrainians very often don’t get credited. And there is an example from very early on in the war that an American journalist was killed and his fixer, his Ukrainian colleague, was killed. But it was only the American death that was reported. And Andriy, I don’t know if you remember this case. I can’t remember which media outlet it was. But there was a huge uproar within Ukraine’s media circles that the American death was reported. The Ukrainian death was not. So, I think there’s been an improvement in that, but again, Ukrainians are not treated as equals in every sense that they should be. That would be my commentary.
I tend to agree with Marta but I don’t read as much American press as she does. But I get constant calls from Canada, the USA, and the UK. I actually think that most journalists and radio presenters who I talk to are very professional in asking the questions. And make a comparison of what is life in Ukraine like and what I personally experience. Because most of the first questions that I get from the BBC or NPR or CBC or its affiliates is basically, ‘What do you see out of your window?’ And this is the stuff that should be asked of me as a common person. Not, ‘How do you assess the strategic situation and all this?’ So, I think that foreign colleagues are on the right track mostly.
However, sometimes I feel that they read and watch too much of the Russian media or propaganda. On the first day of the full-scale invasion, when we were made to go to the bomb shelter, there was a call from a television station in one big Asian country. I don’t know how they managed to get through, because this was the only call that I was able to accept. But the first question was, ‘What am I going to do now when Kyiv is overrun by the enemy.’ On the first day, I had to explain to them that this was probably not going to be the situation. But from my talk with them, it was clear that they relied basically, primarily, or at that time even exclusively on Russian sources. That’s why the question was like this.
But when I, for instance, got a call from one African country, the guy who spoke to me from there was a newspaper reporter. It was seven or eight days into the invasion and he was already much more well-informed. And from our talk, I got the impression that he got his information either from both sides or mostly from Ukrainian sources and some Western reporting and that was totally different conversation.
So final question for you. In years from now when future generations of Ukrainians who did not experience the Russian aggression against Ukraine look back on this time period, when they learn about this time period, how are they going to remember this era?
I think this is the first time that we’re living through a war in real time and everything is being documented to the point that I don’t know how anyone’s going to be able to go through all the data. You know, as a historian, I’m always looking to see what sources we work with and I’m busy collecting my own sources, but there’s so much. Both visual and audio. So, I think the question will be what filters people will be using. Because you can’t possibly go through all the material. So, it will be what questions people will be asking and what they’ll choose to look at. And that will be very interesting to see what people choose to watch. And that obviously will shape the way they remember things.
Because I’m right now cataloging the speeches of President Zelensky and analyzing them. But, of course, there’s also the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister and all these other people who are making statements. There are tons of media reports. There are tons of Twitter feeds. There’s just so much information. The impression that I’m getting as I’m living through it and watching it is the valor of the men and women at the front is truly amazing. Whether it’s in the areas around Kyiv or…
Mariupol is what’s fascinating me right now. Everybody keeps thinking, ‘Oh my God, they’re not going to hold out.’ And they keep being told to surrender and they’re like, ‘No,’ and they’re holding out. And that is quite phenomenal. So, that’s, going to be, you know, a battle that will be studied forever and still hope that they will somehow be able to make it.
Yeah, Justin, I would very much like your prediction or your suggestion to come true. That we will have to explain or leave a message for future generations about what we experienced in this time of an outright Russian aggression. Knowing the history of relations between Russia and Ukraine and the history of relations of Russia with her neighbors, I have huge doubts that we will have much to explain. I would love for our kids, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren to seek explanations from our time, to come to us to get this experience. In this respect. I think I’m a realist. This is not the last attempt of Russia to crush Ukraine.
This is not the last attempt of Russia to restore its imperial magnitude and we need to have all the support that we need. You know, many people have said this before, but I will repeat this. When we say that we need the sky over Ukraine closed, this is because at the moment we’re closing the sky or protecting the sky over the entire democratic world.
Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Marta, I’m very impressed with the work that you’ve done. I loved reading through the transcripts. I love the podcast Ukraine Calling. Andriy, thank you so much for the work that you continue to do. And thank you so much for your thoughts and like everyone, we offer you prayers and, hopefully, we can find ways to help you even more. Thank you so much.