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What Living Through History Looks Like

On February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, launched an invasion into Ukraine to stop them from attempting to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Nations in NATO are guaranteed freedom and security through political and military means. Through this act of aggression, Putin hopes to regain regional dominance and become an influence worldwide, especially when it involves the West (Europe and North America). As a potential member of NATO and of the European Union, Ukraine would have made this goal difficult, especially since they used to be part of Russia.

As students, we read about war in our history books, but we would never expect to see it unfold in front of our eyes. I think I can speak for many when I say that watching a dictator like Putin kill innocent people and demolish cities that were once peaceful on TV is extremely disturbing, to say the least. Personally, I’m not one to follow foreign politics, and I’m also not someone who regularly watches the news. However, I often think about the possible war. Is there going to be a World War III? What happens if the US becomes involved?

One thing about this war that makes it different from reading in textbooks is that we are witnessing it in real-time, even more so than those in past wars. Social media through platforms like TikTok brings us to the frontline, witnessing the lives of families change forever. In past wars, it would take days for the information to reach its destination, so the public wouldn’t be aware of what was happening. Sometimes, information would arrive by the time something had already ended. But through new technology and social media, people are able to see what Russia is truly doing to Ukraine through TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and many more popular media apps. If you asked me if I would have ever thought to live through a global pandemic and then possibly a World War III, back to back, I wouldn’t have even imagined that as a possibility. As a student who is learning about World War I and its effects, I would have never thought I would be watching a war’s events unfold through the media, to see the kids and teenagers who are living the reality of watching their country fall apart, having to flee and leaving their fathers and brothers behind to fight, unsure if they will see them again, and the parents who have to live in fear but not show it because they want to keep fear away from their children is heartbreaking. Witnessing a war unfold like this brings reality into your life in a way that reading about it cannot.

Seeing the Ukraine flag colors everywhere, many might feel helpless as they watch horrifying events day after day. In an effort to help, my school put out a box for “Donations to Ukraine.” It’s heartwarming to see that at such a time, communities and countries can come together to help Ukraine in any way possible. Although I read in history books about similar efforts during prior wars, seeing and living history makes the experience real and leaves you with strong emotions. I am hopeful that others feel the same way; the more people that are affected by living through history will hopefully make the world a better place for all.

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