Some months ago, a Ukrainian reader wrote me a fan mail about my novel, The Tsar's Dwarf that was translated into his language in 2017. Naturally, I loved the feedback and after a few mails back and forth, the Ukrainian told me that I wouldn't hear from him for a while because he had just joined the air force to fight the Russians.
I remember thinking, is that war from 2014 still on? And yes, unfortunately it is. Over 10,000 have died in Eastern Ukraine. The Western media just "forgot" about it until a few days ago when Russia attacked and seized three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea - the Ukrainian peninsula Russia annexed four years ago. The conflict could turn into a full-scale war that might affect us all.
So right now my thoughts and prayers go to my Ukrainian publisher-friends at Fabulabook in Kharkov which is close to the war zone in Eastern Ukraine - and to the many awesome readers and writers I met during my two memorable trips to Lviv.
But my thoughts also go to the millions of Russians who want peace with their neighbors. The extreme nationalism we see everywhere in the world is dangerous whether it's by the Black Sea, in small-town America or in Brasilia.
Extreme nationalism is always the work of the human ego and will only cause strife because politicians love to exploit the ego's need to feel superior to its neighbors! So if we don't understand why there are so many wars, we should just look at the place in ourselves where our Inner Bully wants to control others. All of us need to raise our consciousness to create a better world. Ranting at warmongers, manipulative politicians, and the press is a good way to let off steam but won't do the job. We need to see ourselves as co-creators on this planet instead of powerless zombies in a random and cruel universe.
Non-violent resistance, the arts, and international connections with people who broaden our horizons can help with that. So can small "insignificant" gestures like being nicer to everybody we meet, whether it's online or offline. A better world starts wherever we are right now, not tomorrow, and definitely not when our favorite party wins the election. The true revolution can only come from within. Revolutions aren't decided in voting booths or by wearing red baseball caps. Sure, our leaders are important but not half as important as we think, so perhaps they don't deserve as much love or scorn as we shower them with?
But for now let's pray that the Ukraine-Russia conflict doesn't become a new bloody chapter in the dysfunctional history of humankind. It might sound like a spiritual cliché, but if we don't see everybody as our sisters and brothers, this planet doesn't stand a chance. However, I do think that the collective nationalism will be gasping for air soon because globalization and major changes for the better are coming and we can't stop the spiritual awakening around us, even if we tried.
Unless, of course, there is somebody out there with a lock to the Internet and the human soul, which thank God there isn't.
(Photo: Peter from Denmark, Natasha from Ukraine, and Tatiana from Russia at the International Book Forum in Lviv, September 2017)