Like most people, I am shocked and appalled by what is happening in Ukraine. I have donated to the DEC Ukraine appeal but felt that I needed to do more. I sat down at my computer to try and get my thoughts on what has happened, in writing. It turned into a letter which I addressed to Ambassador Kelin at the Russian Embassy. It didn’t take long to write. I realised how fluid my thoughts actually were and when it was done, I was angry not only about Ukraine, but about Britain and about the Russian People and how much we’ve been used and abused.
Yesterday, I decided to take my letter to the Russian Embassy in person, the Oxford Tube stopping practically on the doorstep but, after a conversation with two extremely helpful and courteous policemen and the Embassy Security Guard, I was thwarted. No hand delivered letters without an appointment, so I popped my letter in the post box across the road from the Embassy. I also looked at the posters, banners, and flowers across the road from the embassy. An outpouring of grief, anger and need for justice from Ukrainians, Brits and Russians.
I decided to walk the 15 mins or so to the Ukrainian Embassy in a quiet street in Holland Park. A marked difference from the Russian one. I passed a shrine to St Volodymyr (Ruler of Ukraine 980-1015) respectfully decked in yellow flowers and Ukrainian flags. As I approached the Embassy, I felt a surge of emotion as I saw the flowers pushed through the railings and a feeling of utter uselessness thousands of miles away in a UK barricaded against refugees.
As I stood pondering, the Ukrainian Ambassador, Vadym Prystaiko, pulled up in his car and walked into the Embassy. Someone, a quite naive someone perhaps, protested that 18-60 year old Ukrainian men should be allowed to choose whether they stay to fight rather than be compelled and not allowed to leave the country. Mr Prystaiko flashed angrily “what do you expect us to do? We are fighting for our families, our friends and our country. We have no choice.” I looked the Ambassador in the eye, and pledged my support to Ukraine and its people, if they are ever allowed to enter the UK. I will never forget the look on that man’s face. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for a fortnight. He looked grateful, sad, angry, broken, frustrated, yet determined. I wished him well and turned away to make my way home where I’m safe.
Below is my letter.
Kerry Ann Christelow, [name and address provided]
His Excellency Ambassador Kelin
5 Kensington Palace Gardens
Dear Ambassador Kelin
I am an ordinary citizen of the United Kingdom. I hope that this letter finds you well and that you will read it.
I have been blessed to have lived in peace for the duration of my 60 year lifetime thanks to the heroic efforts of my Grandfather in World War I, my Father in World War II and their comrades across the world. Both shied away from talking about the horrors of war but, one wisdom they both imparted, was that war solves nothing. It is a moment in time which causes untold suffering to thousands, even millions of people. If one ever analyses why wars start, they are usually caused by one person or a small group of people that isn’t even representative of the whole nation. There are often underlying issues between nations or even within nations but not one of them justifies war.
What war comes down to is greed for power and the selfishness of the few using every possible trick to lie and subvert truth. We saw it in Nazi German before WWII and promised never to repeat the same mistakes. President Putin has taken those mistakes as lessons and has embellished them causing disruption in democratic countries across the globe, including my own. He has now done the unthinkable and started a war in Europe based on lies. He is stopping his own people from hearing the truth so they live in an artificial world of distortion. The truth about President Putin lies in the death and destruction of Ukraine and all the countries where war rages with his support.
Russia has a long and proud history. It has also shed many tears. It may not be understood by other nations but Russia is our neighbour. The best relationships between neighbours are those where they talk and get to know each other, and those relationships often last a lifetime. I don’t speak from a place of piety. Britain’s history is dark at times too, though many Britons have yet to learn those lessons.
What is happening in Ukraine is senseless, unnecessary and barbaric. The truth of this cannot be hidden. It should not be happening in the 21st century. President Putin appointed you as Ambassador to the United Kingdom which means he must respect you. I am sure you are not a greedy man, or one who seeks power above the good of your nation. My letter to you is a humanitarian call to President Putin to pull back from this dreadful assault on another proud country, which has its own right to self-determination.
K A Christelow