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Ukrainian Peace Activist: My Country Has Become a Battlefield for Major Powers. End the War Now

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As officials in Moscow threaten to replace the democratically elected Ukrainian government and Russian forces appear set to overpower Ukrainian defenses, is this the end of an independent Ukraine? We speak with Ukrainian peace activist Nina Potarska, who fled the country after Russian troops entered Ukraine on Thursday, even as her 11-year-old daughter with COVID-19 had to stay behind. She is participating in CodePink’s international emergency online rally on Saturday to advocate against war and against NATO membership for Ukraine. “I feel that my country now is like a battlefield for all other countries’ ambition,” says Potarska. “We want to be in peace.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we continue to look at the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we’re also joined by a Ukrainian peace activist who just fled the country earlier this week. Nina Potarska is the coordinator for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Ukraine. She’s set to speak Saturday as part of an international emergency online rally calling for “No War in Ukraine, No to NATO,” organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CodePink and others. She is joining us from Egypt.

Nina Potarska, welcome to Democracy Now! Please explain your circumstances. So, you have left Ukraine now, and your child is still in Ukraine?

NINA POTARSKA: Yes. I was able to fly on the last charter planes to Egypt, because there was not any other options. And my daughter was ill with COVID, so it was not possible to take her with me.

AMY GOODMAN: Your daughter has COVID?

NINA POTARSKA: Yes, in the same time.

AMY GOODMAN: How old is she?

NINA POTARSKA: Because, you know — she’s 11. And now, yesterday they left Kyiv, together with her father, and they were on the road near 30 hours. And now they are together with her father walking to Poland border, maybe eight kilometers, because of a lot of cars. And they want to join another part of my family, mother and wife of my brother. So, and the men —

AMY GOODMAN: Between the ages of 18 and 60 can’t?

NINA POTARSKA: Yeah, yeah, men are not allowed to go out, and they are all under the military duty. So, now, immediately now, they try to pass the border. And they’re really nervous because if it’s possible to go by alone to here because she’s 11. And so, it’s a big drama for every family now, because some are trying to escape from Kyiv, because in Kyiv now it’s really hard. Somebody try to reach Poland and spending many hours to get close to the border. And I am really grateful for our Polish friends and colleagues who are helping us in close to the border and helping with the cars, with food, with everything we need. So —

AMY GOODMAN: Nina, I want to thank you for being with us, because I know this is an incredibly difficult time for you. You are both dealing with all of this personally, as well as doing your political work. You’re going to participate with a CodePink online rally tomorrow. And it’s a rally that says “no to war” and as well as “no to NATO.” And I’m wondering if you can talk about your response to the Russian invasion and what you think needs to happen now.

NINA POTARSKA: Yeah. You know, in this conflict, I don’t want to take any party, because it’s like — it’s unbelievable, like it’s a bad movie, because I’m with this conflict from the very beginning, from 2014. And I know how to be in the shelling, under the shelling, from one side and from another side. And, you know, the people — the fear is the same. And it does not mean that which bombs is better, NATO bombs or Russian bombs. And we know that NATO also doing a lot of very terrible things but in other — in different parts of this war. But this time it’s maybe Russia time.

And, of course, now I feel that we are, like, alone, faced with this threat, because, in the one hand, Russia attacked us, and, in the other hand, the Western partners — and you are also our Western partners — like, refuse to do anything. And today we received information that we are like — there are no agreements because of — about [inaudible] shutdown. So, it was like a joke, really. It’s just one that everybody can suggest us. I feel that my country now is like a battlefield for all countries’ ambition: NATO parts and Russia parts. And two imperialistic countries want to divide my country.

And I just want to stress one very simple idea, that this is not movie. We are real people, and we die like real people. And real children cry because of the explosions everywhere. It’s not matter in Ukraine or in Afghanistan or in Syria: We all alive people, and we want to be in peace. And I beg you, stay human and not close the borders, not close this help for civilian population. And third, stop this nightmare for all this war and start this — so, stop this threat each other, because — and cut the stakes, because it’s time to get back a little bit to diplomatic mechanism.

And I really excuse because I am so angry, maybe because I’m so far and I feel that I need just to coordinate and be together with the media, too, because all my colleagues now in stress and help other people just to survive. And all my colleagues have no opportunity to speak aloud. And if our leaders really try to be human, because it’s not time to be strong and not time to be masculine, it’s not time to be so patriarchal, because we are going to hell everywhere. And if it’s really difficult to stay in this human level, ask us to help you, because we can sit together with you and just hold your hand to remind that where is the humanity, because it’s terrible what is going on in this world. I am in touch with a lot of women from all over the world and with women who have suffered from conflict around all of this world. It’s terrible. And I believe two years ago that COVID turned our mind to new reality when we have to care about each other, when strong country need help weak countries. But, no, now it’s like a stupid drama. I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nina Potarska, I want to thank you for being with us. All the best to your daughter, 11 years old, on the border with Poland right now with her father. Men can’t leave Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has called on all men 18 to 60 to stay in the country. Nina Potarska is the coordinator for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Ukraine, set to speak Saturday as part of the international emergency online rally calling for “no war in Ukraine” and “no to NATO,” that is organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CodePink and others. She was speaking to us from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

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