Whether blitzing into enemy territory with tanks or taking over by insurrection, conquest is a messy business. Cities and homes are torn asunder. Utilities shut down. Fires rage out of control. Columns of advancing infantry slow behind columns of the frightened dispossessed, with families (like the one pictured here) forced to seek refuge anywhere but home.The United Nations has described such a terrible exodus underway in Ukraine.
Eastern towns such as Donetsk, Luhansk and neighbouring towns are the more affected regions in the country, with almost 94 per cent of civilians displaced. Local authorities reported that some 10,000 people left Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia and Berdiansk and other locations, after the military activities of the anti-Government forces in Novoazovsk. The ongoing shelling in the country has also caused lack of access to basic necessities, such as water and food. Those in Luhansk and other cities have, for instance, also been affected by electricity shortages and communication problems for a month. The UN refugee agency reports severe damage to main infrastructure, including buildings and roads. This has inevitably limited deliveries of humanitarian aid to those in need.
Waves of Ukrainians join a sea of Syrian and Iraqi refugees with the exact same predicament. In a description of his own people, Iraqi Catholic bishop Raphael Louis Sako says we have now witnessed “the migration of these families to the different parts of the world, thus dissolving the history, heritage, and identity of these people into void.”
The Russian leader is willing to ignore the suffering of millions to receive the spoils of war. This is an ancient concept. At Gaugamela, the army of Darius was easily lured by the wealth in Alexander’s baggage train. In Constantinople, the Turks looted everything that wasn’t bolted down. But a defeated army also yields the ground, their very country, underfoot. Can the spoils of war benefit a modern superpower? Historically, Russian offensives have done little to sustain their native population. If the military is successful, Putin will inherit factories and pipelines, railroads and airports, energy and money—to say nothing of an unusually warm industrial plot called Chernobyl. But a sizable chunk of the country will left in ruins, and more to the point, a bitter indigenous population will never forget what he started here.
Ukrainians need prayers tonight. They needed them yesterday. They will need them tomorrow. Somewhere in the near future, a superpower immersed in Cold War methodology will try to reap a harvest from their lands at irrevocable cost.