Parents, teachers, youth and anti-war activists rallied outside U.N. headquarters in New York on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, in solidarity with children in the embattled Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The action was organized by the International Action Center.
For more than 2.5 years, the U.S.-backed regime in Ukraine has waged a brutal war against the civilian population of Donbass. People in Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence following the far-right government takeover in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, in February 2014.
According to a Dec. 8 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, nearly 10,000 people have been killed and more than 22,000 wounded in Ukraine’s war on Donbass.
Among the dead are at least 101 children. Hundreds more youths have been wounded, thousands orphaned and tens of thousands forced to flee as refugees.
Since June, the Komsomol (Communist Youth) of Lugansk has carried out a campaign called “Children of Donbass Write to the World,” gathering hundreds of letters from children and teens about living under conditions of war and blockade. The letters will be presented to U.N. representatives in Europe.
Rally participants in New York read excerpts from the youths’ letters, which were translated by student activist Anna Rebrii.
Greg Butterfield, an IAC organizer and parent, stated, “The February 2014 coup in Ukraine, which brought to power oligarchs, nationalist demagogues and outright neo-Nazis, received financing and bipartisan political support from Washington.
“On behalf of Wall Street and Big Oil, Washington is carrying out a war against children in Donbass and other regions and countries. This war is here at home too, through cutbacks, racist police brutality, Islamophobia and jailing of immigrants, including children, fleeing U.S. military and economic crimes in Central America.”
Butterfield noted that the IAC has no confidence in president-elect billionaire Donald Trump to change things for the better. “Trump has already declared open war on children and families in the U.S. In fact, Trump first became a celebrity by persecuting children: the Central Park 5, Black and Brown youths in New York who were framed by the police. Trump called for their execution, and even today, long after they have been exonerated, he refuses to acknowledge their innocence.”
‘Children of Donbass Write to the World’
Following are excerpts from some of the letters written by Donbass youth:
In May 2014, my sister and I, among many other children from … other cities, gripped with war, were taken to Crimea. There we met many other children who survived terrible bombardments. Their stories were eerie. Upon recalling them, many would begin crying and trembling.
We hope that war will no longer return to our cities, villages, towns. We would like to forget the word “war” forever. What has been happening here is now taking place in Syria. People are fleeing to Europe, as their houses are in ruins; there are no conditions for living whatsoever.
I am very sorry that the authorities of Ukraine have forgotten that there are peaceful people living in Donbass.
When shootings started here, my mother, sister and I left. But when we were crossing the border, we came under attack. We were led into a building, and then let out and told to run. We were running, and behind us the customs station was under fire. Then someone shouted at us to lie down; a woman covered me. It was very scary. A car drove up and my mother, sister and I, and some other girl, were put into the car and driven away. When we were in the car, the girl was crying a lot because her mother stayed behind.
It was called a “road of death” because cars that drove on it were constantly fired at by Ukrainian military. But in fact, it was the “road of life,” since peaceful residents tried to leave an unsafe region. But all could not leave! Afterwards we were affected by an economic blockade. But we survived.
Greetings, people of the whole world! An ordinary girl is writing to you, a second grade pupil. I have a request. Let’s take care of the world around us; let’s not contaminate the woods, seas, rivers. Let’s be friendly; let’s not fight or kill each other. We are children for peace in the whole world and for a happy life!
War is the hardest trial for an entire population. But the most defenseless and vulnerable in this time are children. We have seen the stern face of the war, its cold, pitiless eyes. Our childhood passes by irretrievably; it is replaced by pain, suffering, losses of relatives and close ones, privations. Children who lived through a war will never forget it.