Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba gave a long interview recently and told about what the first days of the war were like for him. He was in the White House the day before the war. Suddenly, the door opened and Biden walked in with his cabinet. That’s when Kuleba knew that things were really bad. Presidents meet with presidents. They don’t make unexpected visits to Foreign Ministers.
Kuleba says everybody at the White House treated him like he had terminal cancer. Biden showed him a photo of his dead son and said, “You have to think about your children.” Nobody expected Ukraine to survive the first 72 hours. Look at the map of Eastern Europe, and you’ll understand why. Kuleba listened to the President of the United States say farewell to him, went home, and went to work.
That’s why it was such a big deal when Zelensky filmed himself and his cabinet in the streets of Kyiv in the first days of the war saying, “I’m here, we are all here, the party leader is here, the entire cabinet is here. We haven’t left, we are staying, and we will fight.” I never thought he would leave. Even at the lowest point of my esteem for Zelensky, I would have never suspected him of leaving. My fear was that he’d be captured and murdered in some horrible, humiliating way. Seeing him stand outside with his whole cabinet and reassure everybody meant everything. I have now watched that short video maybe a hundred times. I believe that the most important lesson in life is to be able to say, “I’m here and I’ll keep fighting.”
Arestovich also said he wasn’t expecting to survive the first two weeks of the war.
Think about this. He knew he would die but he went on YouTube every day to reassure millions of people and carry us through those terrible days with nothing but the force of his personality. This is enormously beyond any stoicism. You can decide not to whine and meet death with strength. But to carry millions of people out of despair and into a certainty of a win while you are preparing to be killed, you’ve got to have something inside yourself that makes it possible. Obviously, Arestovich is a deeply religious person but there are many religious people who couldn’t do this.
Here’s Kuleba’s interview with English subtitles. The translation is not great but still understandable:
And then I see people who think it’s OK to claim they are harmed by the presence of Ben Shapiro, and. . . Yeah. Don’t be like them. Be like Kuleba, is all I can say. The future belongs to the brave, not to pathetic little snowflakes who “feel unsafe.”
Look at Kuleba, too. He’s only 41. He has young children. This is not a ripped, muscular hero. Kuleba is nothing like, for example, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Zaluzhny who is huge and tough and looks like an armored vehicle. Kuleba is a nerdy, soft guy in eyeglasses. But his quiet, dignified bravery is stunning.
Think, also, about how it happened that the entire Ukrainian leadership consists of these young, extremely strong people who speak languages, have a vision, and have proven to be completely unbreakable. This is not an accident. There is an entire philosophy of life behind this phenomenon. The way they explain it is that they are what the West really is, not as a region but as a way of being in the world. And if what traditionally counts as the West has forgotten about it, we will keep it alive because we are here.
We are all here, we haven’t left, we are staying, and we will keep fighting.