20 Days in Mariupol

   Feb 23, 2024     2 min read

We often close off from big and intense emotions. We try to forget them even though it’s often impossible. We cannot avoid confronting hatred, sorrow, love, longing, joy, disappointment, and anger. If we don’t face our inner challenges, they just ferment and intensify in one way or another.

Last week, I went to the documentary ‘20 Days in Mariupol’. There, I experienced feelings of hatred, anger, sorrow, joy, and last but not least, courage. The film shows the beginning of the war in Ukraine, when the Russians invaded Mariupol, from the perspective of journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka. The closeness of the camera to the horrors caused by this foolish attack places one in the vortex of events that no one should have to experience.

Our distance as Icelanders from the war is a certain protection from the horrors that the film allows us to approach. I cannot imagine how harrowing it is to be in the shoes of the people who are portrayed in the film. We, sitting in a safe cinema in Iceland surrounded by fellow audience members, were all deeply affected and the film touched us to the core.

The emotions I listed are not exhaustive, and I cannot claim these feelings as my own. Though I experienced courage, it was not my own courage but the courage of those who stood up and condemned Putin’s attacks while bombs rained down on them. The courage needed for firefighting, law enforcement, nursing, and journalism in these conditions is something that only adversity brings out in people.

One sentence from the film particularly stuck with me. War and suffering make good people better and bad people worse. This sentence says so much, not just about the war in Ukraine or the attack on Mariupol, but also about how we react to situations that threaten us. Desperate people try to save themselves and their loved ones as best they can and lash out if they feel they need to. Even towards the wrong entities.

In this case, the aggressor is very clear. Putin bears responsibility for every single death in Ukraine. Seeing just a few of those in the film about the attack on Mariupol was distressing and inevitably leads one to think about what drives people to create such horrors. What lies people put forward to justify such brutality. The problem is that similar lies are found everywhere. I see them nearly every day in my work. The same deceptions are used in both small and large matters.

The war against lies is everywhere, and although their consequences are seldom war itself, we still need to understand that the aim of the lies is the same. Power.