UN protest: ‘Stop war on children from Lugansk to New York’

Special to Workers World
New York

Parents, teachers, youth and anti-war activists rallied outside United Nations headquarters in New York on December 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.

People chanted, “Stop the war on children from Lugansk to New York” and “U.S.-NATO out of Ukraine!”

UN officials were invited, but chose not to attend.

Photos: Greg Butterfield
For more than two-and-a-half years, the U.S.-backed regime in Ukraine has waged a brutal war against the civilian population of Donbass. People in Donetsk and Lugansk rose up and declared independence following the far-right takeover of the government in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, in February 2014.

According to a December 8 report by the UN 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 their homes as refugees. 

Since June, the Komsomol (Communist Youth) of Lugansk have carried out a campaign called “Children of Donbass Write to the World,” gathering hundreds of letters from children and teens about their experiences living under war and blockade. The letters will be presented to representatives of the United Nations in Europe.

Rally participants in New York read excerpts from the young people’s letters, translated by student activist Anna Rebrii. They made connections with the struggles faced by young people in the U.S. against police brutality, deportations, Islamophobia and cutbacks in education and vital services.

Greg Butterfield, an International Action Center organizer and parent, explained, “As opponents of war in the United States, we have a special responsibility to speak out. 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 on children all over the world — in Donbass, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan. And not only in other countries, but here at home, through cutbacks to crumbling schools and housing, racist police brutality, Islamophobia, the jailing of immigrants and refugee children fleeing U.S. military and economic crimes in Central America.

“We have no confidence in president-elect and oligarch Donald Trump to change things for the better. Trump and his supporters have already declared open war on children and families here in the U.S. In fact, Trump first became a celebrity by persecuting children – the Central Park 5, Black and Brown youths here in New York who were framed by the police. Trump called for their executions, and even today, long after they have been exonerated, refuses to acknowledge their innocence. 

“We do not believe Trump has any intention of ending the war on children in Donbass, or Syria, or anywhere else,” said Butterfield. “On the contrary, we must step up the struggle against war, racism and repression in anticipation of new imperialist wars.”

He urged people to join the mass protests against Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2017.

Following are excerpts from letters collected by “Children of Donbass Write to the World”:

In May 2014, my sister and I, among many other children from Krasnodon, Molodogvardeysk, Lisichansk, Kramatorsk, Schastie and other cities, gripped with war, were taken to Crimea. We were leaving without our parents, as other children did, who were over 6 years old. In Crimea we met many other children who survived terrible bombardments. Their stories were eerie. Simply upon recalling them, many would begin crying and trembling. But the most terrifying were stories of children from those towns where punishers came after the battles.

Aleksey, 17 years old, Molodogvardeysk

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, now is taking place in Syria. People are fleeing to Europe, as their houses are in ruins, there are no conditions for living whatsoever.

People! Stop wars! Peaceful population is dying while the authorities are deciding people’s lives. Please, listen to ordinary people! Look what is happening in the world! It is necessary to stop all wars, since it leads to the death of civilization. Let’s live in peace and harmony!

Vlada, 13 years old

I am very sorry that the authorities of Ukraine have forgotten that there are peaceful people living in Donbass.

Inna, 2nd grade, Krasnodon

Hello from Krasnodon. I am in the 3rd grade of the school #8. When shootings started here, we, 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 lay down, a woman covered me. And then it was very scary. A car drove up and mother, sister and I, as well as some other girl, were put into the car and drove away from the customs station. These were simple taxi drivers. When we were in the car, the girl was crying a lot and telling us that her mother stayed behind.

Anonymous student, Krasnodon

There was a “road of death.” It was called that 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 a no-longer safe region. But all could not leave!

Afterwards we were affected by economic blockade. Banks, ATMs did not work, it was empty in stores, there was no delivery of goods. But we survived.

Andrey, 6th grade, Molodogvardeysk

Greetings, people of the whole world! An ordinary girl is writing to you, a pupil of the second grade. I want to address you with a request. Let’s take care of the world around us, let’s not contaminate woods, seas, rivers. Let’s be friendly, let’s not fight, kill each other. We are children for peace in the whole world and for a happy life!

Polina, 2nd grade

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.

Anastasia, 9th grade

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