Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
25 June 2024

Campus
& Culture

‘I have lost some friends in this war’

Ukrainian student Lev Medin was obsessed with the war in his home country last year, but he has learned to focus on other things now too. “I have learned to control it.”

As a Christian Orthodox, Ukrainian student Communication Sciences Lev Medin celebrates Christmas in January. He enjoyed the holiday in December, nonetheless, hanging out with friends. He had planned to meet somewhere with his Ukrainian friends that live all over Europe, but that didn’t work out. He is going to Panama this weekend, where his father lives. “I did meet my mother last summer in Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian border. It was a sort of vacation, which was very nice”, he says.

It is now almost a year ago that Russia invaded his home country. Medin was already studying at VU Amsterdam. His father had left the country just before the war started. Both are stuck in their host countries now. They could return to Ukraine, but because all Ukrainian men are legally forbidden to leave Ukraine, they would have to stay there. Medin has a brother living in Ukraine, who has not been drafted to fight against the Russians yet. “And I’m very glad he hasn’t”, Medin says. “I lost some friends in this war and that is terrible.”

Last February Medin was, understandably, obsessed with the war. He followed the news day and night and was involved in all kinds of efforts to support the Ukrainian people. At VU Amsterdam he, together with other students and researchers and with the help of the university, collected goods, food and money to send to Ukraine. He was present at every meeting about Ukraine, agitated and irritated when speakers were too lenient towards the Russians to his taste. Medin didn’t seem to sleep very much. He ate, drank and breathed the war in Ukraine.

Thankful

“I am focusing on other things now”, he says. “I do follow the developments on some news groups on Telegram, but I learned to control it. I am not so emotionally involved anymore.” Other people involved in the relief actions quit earlier to focus on their daily activities, their work and study. “There were only three Ukrainians involved, for the others the war was something far from their own world”, Medin says. “But I am not judging anyone, because it was the same for me with the wars in Syria and Afghanistan. And I’m thankful for what VU Amsterdam has done, and thankful to Holland for all the support and the weapons.

He has always been optimistic about the outcome of this war, and he still is. “The Russians didn’t get to control a whole lot of territory, no important cities except for Kherson and that we took back last November.” He cites Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, assassinated in 1996, who predicted a war between Ukraine and Russia and said that “Russia will disappear when the Ukrainian sun rises”. It’s a popular quote in news groups where people are rooting for Ukraine. Medin also quotes Soviet general Alexander Lebed, who died in an accident in 2002, and who said that the best soldiers are those who have nothing to lose.  

Nuclear weapons

“We are winning”, he says. “Unless Putin will nuke us. Some people say Ukraine will have taken the whole of Crimea, which has been in Russian hands since 2014, but that will be hard. However, Putin made a big mistake. Quite a few Ukrainians were pro-Russian before the war. But what do you think happens when you see your family, friends, neighbors killed by Russian bombs?”

Does he really think Russia might use nuclear weapons against Ukraine? “Anything might happen”, he answers. “We didn’t believe Russia would be stupid enough to really invade our country, and see where we are now.”

He does not see how his country will ever have normal relations again with Russia after the Russian defeat. “The Ukrainians will never forgive Russia. I just can’t see that happen. Of course there are many Russians who are against the war, but most Russians support it.” Medin had a discussion with two Russian friends a while ago, he says. “One of them spoke in support of Ukraine, the other called him a traitor. It shocked me, I can’t understand people think like that.”

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