Ukraine, the Political and the Personal

A woman I’ve known quite well for years, who was born abroad, is half-Ukrainian and half-Russian. We have breakfast together often, almost every morning, and regularly talk over public affairs. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has us both deeply agitated, which is only to be expected – I suppose – since we’re married, and our children have both Ukrainian and Russian blood in their veins. This isn’t just a distant geopolitical crisis for us. It’s also a family matter.

There’s been a lot of analysis of the situation that explores the large historical factors that have led to the present moment. We’ll be bringing you some reports on them in coming days and weeks. But people often exaggerate these days large impersonal social factors, as if individuals hardly matter. Our family background has forced me to think again about more personal, more human elements that are much overlooked and yet are very much in play. Would any other Russian leader, to take the central case before us, have perpetrated this atrocity besides Vladimir Vladirimovich Putin?

Our family has long been very much alive to both historic realities and human factors often out of sight. Veronica was raised mostly Ukrainian but, as a professional iconographer, she has wide contacts among iconographers, theologians, and artists in many countries, including Russia. A prominent Russian iconographer has just sent out this statement signed by hundreds of cultural and political leaders in Russia (see the list at the end of this column):

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a SHAME.

      This is OUR shame, but unfortunately, our children, generations of very young and unborn Russians, will also have to bear the responsibility for it. We don’t want our children to live in an aggressor country to feel ashamed of their army attacking a neighboring independent state. We urge all citizens of Russia to say NO to this war.

      We do not believe that independent Ukraine is a threat to Russia or any other state. We do not believe in Vladimir Putin’s statements that the Ukrainian people are under the power of “Nazis” and need to be “liberated.” We demand this war to end!

It’s not mere wishful thinking to be heartened by such statements from Russians themselves. Our media have to report far more extensively on the relatively large anti-war demonstrations (given the risks) in Moscow and St. Petersburg – to say nothing of London, Berlin, Warsaw, etc. Reliable sources say that almost two-thirds of Russians believe it was wrong to invade Ukraine.

We must also take heart at the heroic resistance and unexpected success of the Ukrainian armed forces and civilian fighters – and the admirable grace under pressure and leadership (so obviously lacking amid Western leaders) of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. As often happens, evil men have underestimated the hidden virtues of people who are in the right, as the Ukrainians certainly are.

Taras Tymos, one of the deans and a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, has been posting video reports on the conflict. You can watch one of them by clicking here. (If you check “Read More” below the video it has information about sending financial support to a trustworthy Ukrainian relief organization.) He’s trying to provide daily updates with as careful and reliable information as he can find amidst the fog of war. If you care about what’s at stake in this conflict, you should follow him.


Professor Tymos has been reporting about Russian soldiers shocked that they’re not being received with open arms as liberators by the Ukrainian people. Putin’s propaganda led them to believe that would happen; some are giving up the fight, in effect surrendering, dismayed. That shock may help explain why there seem to have been so many Russian casualties and so little success in taking main population centers.

And all this brings into focus what is really going on. And what we ought to keep in mind as events continue to unroll. Our conflict is not with the Russian people. It’s very much about Vladimir Putin personally, and the gang of siloviki – former KGB officers like himself – who have failed to stand up to him when he chose to undertake this monstrous aggression.

The state-run Russian media, of course, push Putin’s line that he’s defending the Russian homeland from Ukrainian “aggression.” As we know only too well from observing Western media, massive repetition, even of obvious absurdities, begins to influence even skeptical people who are quite aware of their government’s lies.

Ukrainians are quite religious: Catholic in the West, and Orthodox in the East. There have often been tensions between the two churches, but they’re united now in resistance. Part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has become autocephalous since 2019 when the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople allowed it to become independent from the Moscow patriarchate – the latter, a collaborator with the Putin regime, as earlier with the Soviets.

Putin built the Main Cathedral for the Russian Military Forces, which opened just two years ago, and – politics notwithstanding – is one of the most stunning modern churches anywhere. It’s a monument to the massive sacrifices Russian forces made to defeat regimes like Hitler’s. But it’s unfortunately also now tainted by its association with a figure whom history will judge to be a war criminal.

Things are moving fast and as this is being written Sunday evening Putin has put his nuclear forces on a “special regime of combat duty.” The West and most of the rest of the world have imposed punishing economic sanctions on large sectors of the Russian economy, the EU has banned Russian planes from its skies, and Turkey has closed the Bosporus to its ships. At the same time, the Ukrainians and Russians have begun to meet near the border of Belarus. It’s difficult to know where things will stand when most of us wake up Monday morning.

But the Ukrainian theologian Taras Tymos at the Ukrainian Catholic University offers good guidance. He remarks that, while Ukrainians know what they need to do to defend their nation, as Christians they must also love their enemies. And the people are now praying the psalms, with a deepened sense of the meaning of those pleas to the Almighty for protection against unjust aggressors.

May those prayers bear fruit.


*Image: St. Josaphat (1580-1623), Patron of Ukraine by an unknown artist, 19th century [Zbarazh Castle, Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine]

The signatories:

Dmitry Bykov, writer
Dmitry Muratov, Nobel Prize Laureate
Andrei Volna is a doctor
Mikhail Zygar, writer
Evgeny Roizman is a politician
Leonid Parfenov, journalist
Boris Vishnevsky is a politician
Irina Prokhorova, publisher
Leo Schlosberg is a politician
Yuri Dud is a journalist
Alexander Gelman is a playwright
Liya Akhedzhakova – actress
Oleg Basilashvili is an actor
Maria Levina – a journalist
Oxymyron is the singer
Julia Aug – actress
Vladimir Sorokin, writer
Andrei Zubov is a historian
Maxim Galkin – artist
Olga Romanova is a human rights activist
Andrei Loshak is a journalist
Boris Akunin, writer
Tofik Shahverdiev – director
Oksana Mysina – actress
Valery Meladze is a singer
Konstantin von Eggert – journalist
Marina Litvinovich – politician
Ivan Vyrypaev, playwright
Nina Popova is an actress
Julia Galyamina – politician
Chulpan Khamatova, actress, People’s Artist of Russia
Igor Chernevich – actor
Vladimir Mirzoyev, director
Dmitry Glukhovsky, writer
Anton Dolin – Film Critic
Zoya Svetova is a human rights activist
Sergey Lazarev is a singer
Andrei Plakhov – film critic
Ilya Khrzhanovsky, director
Kirill Rogov – economist
Tikhon Dziadko is a journalist
Valeria Stenkina is an opera singer
Misha Nodelman – violinist
Ivan Dorn is the singer
Mikhail Trepashkin is a lawyer
Mikhail Biryukov is a lawyer
Andrei Khrzhanovsky, director, People’s Artist of Russia
Stanislav Kucher – a journalist
Maria Eismont – Attorney General
Ilya Yashin is a politician
Vitaly Mansky – director
Yuri Pivovarov is a historian, Academician of RAS
Oleg Lekmanov is a literary scientist
Boris Bim-Bad – pedagogue, Academician of RAO
Gennady Gudkov is a politician
Vladislav Inozemtsev is an economist
Andrei Smirnov – director
Mikhail Sokolov – journalist, historian
Morgenstern – the singer
German Galdetsky – human rights activist
Evgeny Chichvarkin is a businessman
Dmitry Gudkov is a politician
Sergey Guriev is an economist, chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Larry Grimm is a blogger
Andrei Illarionov – economist, advisor to Putin in the 2000s.
Zhanna Nemtsova – journalist
SUBSCRIBE, friends!
Marina Tarkhanova is a pensioner
Olga Osipova, retired teacher
Andrei Berch
Andrei Podderegin
Marina Lylova
Tanya Mongait – Tarkhanova
Tatyana Buryan is a pensioner
Sidorenko Maria, pensioner
Curly Svetlana, nurse
Miriam Fine, retired woman
Olga Maksakova, doctor
Alla Frolova, human rights activist
Elena Lukyanova, lawyer
Sergey Timofeev, journalist
Vyacheslav Shmyrov, filmmaker, producer
Svetlana Bakhmina, lawyer
Vladimir Kornienko is just a good man
Elena Zagrevskaya TV producer
Marianna Rychkova is a pensioner
Olga Zherdeva, housewife
Ruslan Loshakov, philosopher
Irina Zhovtun, pensioner
Alla Sheinina is a teacher
Anna Lubochnova, economist
Tatyana Rudina, actress
Boris Golant, entrepreneur
Olga Zaslavskaya, teacher
Inna Grossman – Physician
Ivan Stremsky, teacher
Alexandra Korobeynikova, a researcher, now a retired person
Tengiz Grigolia, retired military
Lyubov Vladimirova, a financier.
Irina Khmelevskaya, Scientific Associate
Marina Gorcheva, pensioner
Tamara Leontyeva is a pensioner
Galina Kuklinova, mother, grandmother, wife
Tatyana Gorina, doctor
Natalia Olenina, pensioner
Hava Khazbieva, documentary director
Nelya Presnova, teacher
Emilia Holstein, economist, teacher
Mikhailova Svetlana.
Elena Mettus, educator.
Galina Melnikova, a pensioner
Gennady Tsypin, musician.
Anna Shirokova, a lawyer
Alekseeva Lyubov, entrepreneur
Elena Potapova, makeshift
Emilia Petanova, teacher
Natalia Butomo, the manager
Maxim Chernavin, a lawyer.
Sergey Boyarkin, entrepreneur
Maria Korovina, the chemist
Petr Sapozhnikov, journalist
Ivan Ovincev, – doctor
Natalia Bubnova, leading researcher
Maria and Mikhail Fedotov
Strong Sergey Anatolyevich, lawyer, Belgorod.
Natalia Yakovleva
Yuri Nikitin, entrepreneur
Yulia Maslennikova, doctor
Love Karakoz, the librarian
Igor Semennikov, retired
Natalya Maslova, high-profile scientist
Lyubov Borusyak, sociologist
Olga Krokinskaya, sociologist
Andrey Nechayev, economist
Regina Davydova, pensioner
Igor Kuznik
Loginova Nadezhda is a pensioner
Elena Istomina, artist
Anatoly Istomin, artist
Tatyana Kichigina, lawyer
Alexander Gurechich, pensioner
Vera Goncharova, lawyer
Yulia Linchevskaya, lawyer
Alexey Sedykh, entrepreneur
Nelya Presnova, teacher
Eugene the pea. Lawyer.
Ilya Farber
Vasily Zonov, the electrician
Anna Dvinskaya, the producer
Lena Nemirovskaya, educator
Leo Lerman electrical engineer
Larisa Dmitrieva, actress
Yuri Senokosov, the educator
Pavel Yarkov, retired
Elena Elagina. Lawyer.
Natalya, the teacher
Elizabeth Poghosyan, the lawyer
Alexander Mikoyan, retired
Sergei Likhvatskyh, photographer
Ksenia Guskova, teacher
Vera Vasilyeva, a lawyer
Michael Lynn, Architect
Ksenia Fedotova, lawyer
Anastasia Yalanskaya, journalist
Yulia Andreychik, doctor
Nikolai Sutarmin is an artist
Elena Osina – IP
Alexey Bogoslovsky, teacher
Faith of Prokoskina
Alexander Kabatsky, entrepreneur
Grigory Yanovsky, IT specialist
Elena Baikina, teacher
Tatyana Adamovich, retired woman
Boris Kogan, retired man
Pavel Bazanov, doctor
Anna Lovkina, lawyer
Maria Moiseeva, lawyer
Ibrahim Moghushkov, the Builder
Olga Kogan, the teacher
Tatyana Ryzhkova, a worker
Elena Ushakova, pensioner
Elena Sunyukova, librarian
Yuri Nesterenko, programmer
Alexander Agu, retired
Vera Prokoshkin
Natalia Samsonova, philologist
Ekaterina Nemtseva
Monica Spivak, literary historian
Tatyana Kotyuzhanskaya, economist, Astrakhan
Anna Vaneeva, the human being
Andrei Cherepanov, economist, historian
Dmitry Avramenko, builder, poet
Lyudmila Gubkina, temporarily unemployed
Vasiliev Igor, retired
Elena Kondratova retired
Nadezhda Tereshchenko, Russian
Pavel Aleshin, poet, artist
Andrei Klimov, mathematician programmer
Mikhail Ignatiev. Citizen.
Andrei Rushailo-Arno, photographer
Irina Harutyunova-Kirsh, teacher
Nina Perezlegina, publisher
Nadezhda Radchenko, pensioner
Shapoval Inna the lawyer
Arman Galoyan, lawyer, artist
Andrei Polyakov, retired
Olga Chapaeva cashier
Olga Nazina, retired woman
Ekaterina Shelest, Bioinformatics
Mikhail Roschin. Pensioner
Rita Spivak, philologist
Stanislav Ivashkovsky, professor at the University
Victor Drozdov, lawyer
Tamara Yurishcheva is a teacher
Kalmakova Marina. A pensioner
Alexander Pochukaev is an actor
Irina Dmitrieva
Sergey Medvedev, activist
Ekaterina Kurbangaleeva, political scientist
Olga Bychkova, a pensioner
Julia Laskovets, lawyer
Victor Karmatsky. Musician
Sergey Gornov, retired
Alexandra Kokoreva, teacher
Elena Lipzer, the lawyer
Alexey Sedykh, entrepreneur
Marina Killian, journalist
Olga Kravtsova, psychologist
Anna Lubochnova, economist
Lyubov Kravtsov, retired
Natalya, the teacher
Vasily Weisenberg, expert of “The Voice”
Alexey Gridnev, a free man
Ekaterina Kasyanova, QA Engineer
Marina Lange, Attorney General
Eugene Homberg
Catherine Margolis, artist
Marina Konnova
Tatyana Dogileva, People’s Artist of Russia
Irina Tsvei, journalist
Anna Stavitskaya, lawyer
Larisa Pavlova, OT specialist
Olga Sinelnikova, forensic expert
Tatyana Vyatkina, pensioner
Olga Warshaver, the translator
Anastasia Nemolyaeva-Actress
Natalia Kostolomova is a pensioner
Half-year-old Roman is retired
Irina Ilyicheva, editor
Natalia Troyantseva, poet, essayist
Tatyana Di Joya, teacher.
Elvira Hasanova
Ruslan Dzhukurov
Olga Kryazhkova, a lawyer.
Valery Zavorotny, writer
Elizabeth Saponchik, Scientist
Irina Alebastrova, lawyer
Svetlana Sorokina, journalist, teacher
Marat Gelman, gallery artist, foreign agent
Elena Myasnikova, philologist, journalist
Elena Koreneva, actress
Irina Kumanina, lawyer
Yulia Maslennikova, doctor
Maria Orlova, journalist
Sergey Zair-Bek, teacher, expert
Sergey Teryokhin is a public figure.
Olga Zimenkova, lawyer
Mikhail Kondakov, lawyer
Lena Ostrakhovich, unemployed
Nadezhda Ermolaeva, lawyer
Yulia Linchevskaya, lawyer
Yulia Naumenko, teacher
Nadezhda Ermolaeva, lawyer
Elena Barikhnovskaya, lawyer
Natalia Karich
Elena Potapova
Michael Lynn, Architect
Ksenia Guskova, teacher
Irina Chopin
Leonid Moises, the religious scholar.
Alexey Boev, journalist
Valeria Zvereva, geologist
Daria Tsivina, journalist
Elena Barikhnovskaya, lawyer
Natalia Nusinova, filmmaker
Ekaterina Ustinova, entrepreneur
Maria Voskobitova, lawyer
Irina Vechtomova, manager
Galina Filchenko
Half-year-old Roman is retired
Anna Kravtsova, a lawyer.
Alexander Kynev, political scientist
Irina Yeronova, designer, Ufa city
Alexander Strygin
Lyudmila Kabanova, mother and grandmother
Tatyana Anikina, journalist
Yuri Fedorov, journalist
Constantine Rivkin, lawyer
Sergey Kupreychenko, lawyer
Elena Verzhbitskaya
Anna Klimenko
Lana Svetena
Tatyana Savitskaya, pensioner
Olga Sokolovskaya, translator
Elena Anosova, entrepreneur
Alexander Sorin, photographer, curator
Maria Sorina, artist
Dina Goder, theater and animation critic
Marina Kornakova, theater researcher, director of the theater festival for children “Harlekin”
Daria Yudina, employee of the charitable foundation
Olga Shalamova, icon painter
Philip Davydov, icon painter


Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.