There are 365 days in one year. Those days could run so fast, depending on how busy you are. The hours and days also run so fast when there is so much fun. However, the clock ticks slowly when the economy gets rough and even slower at war times. The war in Ukraine is already one year. For most people in other countries, the first question that comes to mind is, ‘so soon?’
However, for the people of Ukraine, February 24 2022, to February 24 2023, has been the longest year in their history. Their lives have been slowed down and the situation could continue for another year and possibly a few years.
To mark the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, gathered at St Sophia’s Square in Kyiv. The short ceremony witnessed the bestowment of medals to soldiers that died during the war. The country’s charismatic leader managed to withhold tears as they sang the national anthem.
“We have been standing for exactly one year,” president Zelensky said on Friday. “February 24, 2022, was the longest day of our lives. The hardest day of our modern history. We woke up early and haven’t fallen asleep since.”
He said Ukrainians had withstood all “threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts and cold” within the past year.
“On February 24, millions of us made a choice. Not a white flag, but the blue and yellow one. Not fleeing, but facing. Resisting & fighting,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter. “It was a year of pain, sorrow, faith, and unity. And this year, we remained invincible. We know that 2023 will be the year of our victory.”
Like president Zelensky, most Ukrainians reflected on the last year, with many describing it as the worst in their lives.
Ukrainians can’t wait to get their lives back
As Ukrainians marked the first anniversary of the war, they could only ask for one thing. They want to return to the days before the war. February 24 2022, changed their lives and there is no hope in sight that the end of the war is here.
“For me, it’s a terrible pain and a day where I don’t want to go back in my thoughts, rewatch photos or videos. A very tough day,” 25-year-old Daria Horda, who has not seen her family since the invasion, told AP news.
Tetiana Klimkova, a resident of Kyiv, said: “This day has become a symbol for me that we have survived for a whole year and will continue to live.”
Ukrainian writer Viktoria Amelina said: “It’s hard not to imagine that from now on, we’re more than a year apart from our normal lives.”
“I can sum up the last year in three words: Fear, love, hope,” Oleksandr Hranyk, a resident of Kharkiv, told Aljazeera. “On this day, our children and grandchildren will remember how strong Ukrainians are mentally, physically, and spiritually.”Many Ukrainians, including children, were seen in the streets carrying the Blue and yellow flags of Ukraine as they marked the anniversary of a war they never wished for.
Western leaders are on the side of Ukraine
Although there is absolutely nothing to celebrate in a war, world leaders and allies of Ukraine have sent congratulatory messages to Ukraine after managing to hold after one year. For them, holding Russia to this point is worth celebrating. Hence they sent goodwill messages to the people.
“Today, a year after bombs began to fall, Ukraine is still independent and free,” Joe Biden wrote on social media. “From Kherson to Kharkiv – Ukrainian fighters have reclaimed their land. And in more than half of the territory Russia held last year, the Ukrainian flag proudly waves once more. The president, in a series of tweets, said the United States and its allies would not back down in providing the needed support for Ukraine until victory is achieved.
The Head of the Commonwealth and King of England, King Charles III, said the UK would continue to do “everything possible” to help Ukraine as the war continues.
“I can only hope the outpouring of solidarity from across the globe may bring not only practical aid but also strength from the knowledge that together we stand united,” a statement released by the Monarch on Friday reads.
Leaders of the G7 also a message of warning to President Putin of Russia, saying the war is an attack on the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The leaders described the nuclear threats by Russia as “unacceptable” and irresponsible, adding that they are united in providing support for Ukraine and would hold Putin accountable for his actions according to “international law.”
“People of Ukraine, France stands by your side,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. “To solidarity. To victory. To peace.”
As world leaders pledge solidarity with Ukraine, China has come up with a plan to end the brutal war in Ukraine.
China’s 12-point peace plan
At a point when the West is questioning China’s growing relationship with China, Beijing has come up with a plan that could end the war. The 12-point peace plan was released on Friday on the war’s first anniversary.
The first of the 12 points is the call for all countries to respect the principle of the sovereignty of every country. Whether big or small, weak or strong, rich or poor, the Chinese government said if every party involved in the war could follow these principles, it would be the first step to ending the unnecessary war.
Other points mentioned in the list of items were the abandonment of “the cold war mentality,” and the calls to stop the unnecessary expansion of military blocs. The statement also called on both sides to resolve the humanitarian crisis and protect civilians and prisoners of war.
China called on both sides to cease hostilities and resume peace talks as soon as possible.
“Conflict and war benefit no one,” the statement reads. “All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, to gradually de-escalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire.”
“Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis. All efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be encouraged and supported,” the statement continued. “China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.”
The Russian government and the government in Kyiv have reacted differently to China’s call but none has questioned its sincerity.
Ukraine and Russia react differently to China’s peace plan
Although China has been often criticised for being closer to Russia at a time like this, its recommendations can not be discarded as ending the war will be of mutual benefit to the warring nations.
During a press conference in Kyiv on Friday, Zelensky was asked about China’s proposal. He said he would love to meet President Xi to have a better discussion on the issue.
“As far as I know, China respects territorial integrity, historically, has respected it and therefore must do whatever they can for the Russian Federation to leave our territory because that would mean respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zelensky said.
However, most top officials of the Ukrainian government have refused to accept China’s proposal with open arms as Beijing’s stand on the war remains unclear.
However, Russia unlike Ukraine accepted China’s proposal with open arms and called on Ukraine to rejoin the negotiations despite pressures from the West not to do so.
“We share Beijing’s views,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The statement further commended China for coming out with a plan that could end the war.
How many more anniversaries?
On Friday, the war in Ukraine entered its second year. So far, both countries have withheld the actual number of casualties. The reason could be that the death toll on both sides is already scary.
“The propaganda and secrecy on both sides is pretty extensive,” Cynthia V. Hooper, an expert in Russian studies, told ABC News. “Each side wants to publicly minimize its losses and undermine its rival.”
The UK ministry of defence said at least 60,000 Russian soldiers have died since the war started, with at least 800 paying the ultimate price every day for their country. However, Russia says the figure is much lesser.
Russian Television said Russian soldiers have killed at least 157,000 Ukrainian troops, a figure the Ukrainian government said would be around 10,000 and 13,000.
President Zelenskyy said the war would come to an end this year. However, the duration of how long a war lasts depend on either a complete victory for one side or compromises by both sides. As both sides are unwilling to make sacrifices, the war could go on and on, and there could be more anniversaries.