As the Unimaginable Unfolded…

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On the morning of February 24th, 2022, I woke up early, before the alarm I had set for myself. With my eyes still closed, I lingered in bed, lazily waiting for the moment in which getting on my feet and going about my day would become inevitable. I was in Croatia visiting my family, and it was my mother’s voice that suddenly brought me to consciousness. “Putin invaded Ukraine,” she said. At once, I was lucid. I remember that my first thought, not too original but perhaps not entirely predictable either, was “he really did it. He really was not bluffing.”

I had been following news reports coming from the border between Russia and Ukraine for a few months by that point, and I knew that all the signals of an imminent invasion were there. I knew that hundreds of thousands of Russian troops had been deployed close to the border of Ukraine over the course of the previous months, as Tra i Leoni had also noted in the Monday Briefing edition of December 6th, 2021. I had delved into President Volodymyr Zelensky personal history in 2019, in the days that preceded the general election, and I had been impressed by how anti-Russian, anti-Putin he appeared compared to his predecessors. Moreover, I had seen Oliver Stone’s Putin Interviews, and I heard Vladimir Putin express his willingness to “take countermeasures” against NATO “if necessary,” and his repeated cynical, relentless, approach to international relations did seem compatible with an illegal invasion. Of course, there is a thick line between mere awareness of these facts and the acknowledgement that a new conflict has broken out, one that will not be easily solved and one that – due to its geographic location and to the involvement of a major power like Russia – will call for some kind of reaction from other global major powers.

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Navigating news reports – on that first day as well as in the following weeks – was confusing: all news outlets were coming out with often contradictory reports about what was exactly happening, and some went as far as providing diverse interpretations of long-term origins and consequences of a conflict that was seemingly still too embryonic to understand, assuming that any conflict can ever be fully understood. Three main observations struck me at different points during that day, as an active spectator. First, the immediate and complete condemnation of the invasion by all Western powers. Second, widespread fear in Europe, as if war was an extraneous concept, something that we know exists and sometimes happens but that we thought could never touch us, which is seemingly contradictory with the awareness that a war was being fought in the Balkans no more than 25 years ago. Third, and perhaps banal but nonetheless so viscerally true: for ordinary citizens – understandably unaccustomed to the routine of war – there is nothing as demeaning, cruel, and unjust as finding yourself fighting a war you did not choose to fight. I thought it that day, when the first pictures from Ukraine were released. I think it every time I run into reports coming out of Tigray, in Ethiopia, or of Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so many others. Nothing so cruel.

It has been exactly a year since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, and it is increasingly and dangerously becoming a conflict that both public opinion and the international community are getting used to. Avoiding war becoming a routine for too many people should always be our objective because it is usually the innocent that pay the highest price. In this case, the system failed to prevent this war, a conflict that by every geopolitical, legal, and historical standard, features a clear aggressor, and a clear victim. I sense that establishing a framework in which a critical analysis can be pervasive within our individual everyday routines begins with staying constantly, completely, and thoroughly informed. As students, it is our responsibility to be proactive and determined in that sense. As journalists, it is our responsibility to help our audience do that. At Tra i Leoni, that is what we will keep striving for. We will never presume to have all the answers, but that will never stop us from asking questions, and delving deep into issues.

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Author profile
Editorial Director

Raised in Rome by Bosnian parents, I try to use writing as a tool to decipher the world around me and all its complexities by taking different perspectives into consideration. In Bocconi, I am studying Politics and Policy Analysis

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