In March, Anton, a friend of mine, told me about his intention to travel to Kiev. We agreed to stay in touch, and before his departure came up with the idea of collecting his experiences, thoughts and encounters into a series of articles that we could use to keep anarchist and anti-authoritarian comrades updated on the situation of anarchists in Ukraine in the midst of conflict. We reasoned that it would be more practical to base the articles on interviews of Anton by me, to allow him to focus on his other activities there. The final text, the one you’re reading here, has been checked and approved by Anton. This is the first article of the series.
Submitted to Enough 14.
The idea behind these articles is to offer tools to analyze the war and its wider geopolitical context, but also to encourage and mobilize people to establish long-term solidarity with people in struggle, which we see as important for both right now and in the future. We both share the view that the war in Ukraine is not only a conflict between two nation-states, but also part of a series of wider and very problematic political developments, including the rise of the far-right and right-wing populist movements, industrial-volume propaganda activities designed to influence people’s opinions, the building up of fortress-like borders, restrictions on free movement, and so forth.
Anton, where are you?
I’m in Poland, let’s say close to the Ukrainian border. I don’t want to say exactly where, as our group here has decided not to advertise the precise location.
Who else is there?
The active groups here are Operation Solidarity, the No Border Team, Anarchist Black Cross Galicja, and Anarchist Black Cross Dresden. They are mainly organizing solidarity campaigns and managing the flow of donations and other forms of support from different parts of Europe to the Polish-Ukrainian border and onward into Ukraine – goods, money, and people. In the last few weeks, weâ€™ve learned what the specific needs of our comrades in Ukraine are, and weâ€™re trying to organize a system to fulfill those needs, put things together, and send them on.
Who are you supplying in Ukraine?
There is a local anarchist/anti-authoritarian defense unit in Kiev, and individual anarchists are fighting in the Ukrainian Army, or otherwise active in different parts of the country. Naturally, we are supporting these comrades. Besides this, we send medical supplies, medicine, diapers and other necessities to hospitals and other places in need.
What are the practical activities there that you’re involved in?
I organise goods that have come here for their onward transport. I’ve also been active in media work and have been trying to enhance communications between the different groups involved. I’ve collected texts and statements about these group’s activities, in order to progress the common organization and analysis of our activity. My goal is to establish a regularly updating communication structure that will produce information more efficiently, in order to help raise awareness and organize solidarity in other parts of Europe, but also to contribute to creating an analysis of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movements involvement in the war.
When the war started, the reaction, support and solidarity was significant in volume and speed, but now it seems that the supply has decreased and there is less interaction. This is one reason why there is a serious need to communicate our efforts, so we can have more groups involved and create a sustainable and permanent network of solidarity. What I’m trying to do is develop a system that ensures that this kind of communication will continue effectively by its own momentum, without the need for someone to work on it full-time.
Do you want to give your reasons for going there?
Yes, I’ve two main motivations about this. The first was when the Russian Army started to mobilize troops on the Ukrainian border and finally attacked the country. This was a clear sign that I had to put my other political commitments aside and prioritize this. Putin and the political forces that he supports in Europe are true threats to its people, and especially to anticipatory movements. Europe isn’t moving towards freedom anymore. For the last 20 years, the Russian state has been supporting far-right parties, groups, and politics, nationalism is gaining a foothold, and all of this is about to break the weak freedoms we have come to enjoy in Europe. The situation now in Ukraine is also possible in other parts of Europe. There are anarchists here who have been active in Belarus and Russia and have personally experienced what this repression means. Putin is the worst of all the options we have.
The other reason is related to this, and it is or actually, was the election in France, which was clearly a war election. France is a country with nuclear weapons and strategically is a very significant actor. If Le Pen had won the election, the situation with Putin, the war in Ukraine, and European conservative forces in general, would be very different. Well, Macron won, so we might have a couple of more years to prepare for the worst.
I hope I don’t need to clarify that I’m not a supporter of Macron, or euro-centrist in any way, I’m an anarchist. However, its clear that free movement and the dismantling of borders is a much better direction to go in than erecting walls and limiting movement. Its easy for me to share Bakunin’s notion that even bad democracy is far better than any dictatorship.
I could talk more about my motives for being here, but recently a couple of good short documentaries have been made by Alexis Daloumis. These deal with the motives of anarchists participating in the war in Ukraine and have plenty of well-argued positions. These films also answer quite well other common questions about anarchist positions in relation to the war. I strongly recommend them.
What else you have been doing there?
I’ve been learning to fix cars. I hardly changed a tire before coming here, but now a mechanic has been teaching me stuff. People are coming and going. I even quit smoking. I’ve been trying to go for a run, but the weather has been really bad for a while now. Once, though, we had a chance to play football together.