When will you go away, you traitor?

The Ukrainian city of Kherson was under occupation for more than eight months. Having occupied the city in spite of the powerful civic resistance, on March 1 the Russian army shot 17 territorial defense soldiers from tanks. The territorial defense was equipped only with machine guns. Some of them, ready to defend the city, were not servicemen and did not have any small arms. One can find a video on the Internet where local residents are walking along the Buzkovyi Park and showing the places where the Ukrainian defenders perished. That is Naftovykiv Street. It is March in that video, and a woman is commenting the terrible picture she sees around — dead bodies of men.

Russian invaders assured with their billboards that “Russia is here forever!”, while peaceful rallies near the regional administration gathered plenty of people who were chanting in the language not clear for the invader: “Kherson is Ukraine!”

Invaders were issuing Russian passports, tried to instantaneously include Kherson region to the Russian Federation through a pseudo-referendum and were legalizing occupation administration that mainly consisted of local residents. Those who had been working in Kherson all their lives long and for some reason sided with the enemy. I often asked myself the following question — who are all those people? That is the region where I grew up, but I somehow did not know the traitors. They were not known to me up to a certain point of time.

On June 14 Kherson State University was captured. In some news I heard that a lecturer known to me became its self-proclaimed rector. The former head teacher, and then — director of the academic lyceum. “O”, I thought, “some traitors have been brought.” My shock lasted exactly until the moment when I started getting comments and reactions from my classmates in the stories to the news shared by me.

They were all the same. Equally offensive.

What was memorable about that head teacher could be included to the worst experiences. She could insult not just some lyceum students, whole classes, but she could do this in public and with no serious reason for that. The teacher of law, who back in 2015 drew attention of journalists due to her separatist posts and who gave comments for Russian mass media where she said that “Americans have transformed the local sanitary station into a biolaboratory”. She ran for the post of the mayor of Kherson as the candidate not belonging to any party, and since that very year she was officially unemployed.

This was her rematch. The way of getting some status from the aggressor state while she failed with her career in the state with the passport of which she had been living all that time.

Traitors could be found in any historical time. The most illustrative, as for me, seems to be the story of Ephialtes who showed Persians the path which could be used to circumvent the Thermopylae passage to insidiously defeat Spartans. The price of hundreds of lives is paid as the result of the decision of those who are not afraid of betraying the closest people.

Any disloyalty in life is the moral crime, which is often condemned in words, hence — unpunished. When we speak about betraying a person — this case does not always reach court, but when this crime refers to treason, it is, luckily, regulated by law.

Human mind is prone to undergo different strange processes — self-suggestion, crowd effect, when the level of intelligence goes considerably down and when individual responsibility disappears. The demarcation line stands for the verification of the moral code within which we lived. It is not enshrined into the code, and, most probably, is a bit different for everyone. But! There is some limit beyond which it is absolutely the same:

When an army comes to the neighboring state to appropriate its territory, destroy infrastructure, steal works of art, and kill civilians — these crimes against humanity stop being on the verge of moral condemnation.

They require different measures.

Author: Svitlana Stretovych, Ukrainian essayist, program director of Litosvita

Translator: Halyna Pekhnyk

Illustrator: Victoria Boyko

Content Editor: Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors: Julia Ovcharenko and Demyan Om Dyakiv Slavitski