Quote of the day 12th September 2023

“Every day I am confronted with the grim consequences of war. But it seems like our nation didn’t learn the right lesson from history,”

This is a quote from Konstantin Dobrovolski, a very brave Russian who has dedicated the last thirty-three years of his live to finding the missing bodies of Soviet soldiers killed during World War II, identifying them, and burying or reburying them with proper respect. In that time he has found and reburied the remains of 20,000 people. There is a very moving article about him in The Guardian which you can find and read by clicking on the following link:

My nation didn’t learn lesson of war, says Russian who finds bodies of Soviet soldiers | Russia | The Guardian

I refer to Konstantin Dobrovolski as very brave because he does not hesitate to speak his mind about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. and under Putin's draconian new laws against dissent anyone bold enough to condemn the so called "Special Military Operation" can be sent to prison for years.

Despite that risk, Dubrovolski is scathing about Putin's claim that those he has sent into Ukraine are  “fighting for the same thing as their fathers and grandfathers” and framing Ukraine as a successor to Nazi Germany.

“Absolute nonsense,” replied Dobrovolski when asked about the parallel between the two conflicts.

“These two wars are completely different. Our fathers and grandfathers were heroically defending our country, not invading another one.”

“Our borders were drawn in 1991. What the hell are we doing in Ukraine? It’s madness and it needs to stop.”

Soon after the invasion began last year, a hashtag slogan popped up on the streets of Moscow to boost support for the war in Ukraine: “We don’t leave ours behind.”

“I look around and see all these bodies and then see these pseudo-patriots screaming that no one is left behind. They should spend a day with me here in the field and look at these forgotten soldiers,” commented Dobrovolski in response to this slogan. 

“How can they talk about patriotism when we haven’t even buried our defenders properly?”

Dobrovolski added that he was shocked but not entirely surprised by the apparent support that the invasion had enjoyed among his countrymen. 

“We were being fed for a while that war and death is a noble, beautiful thing. There is a lot of hate in society,” he said.

The war in Ukraine has also meant a huger personal cost for him. He tried and failed to persuade his own son not to sign up with Wagner group to fight in Ukraine, and his son became one of the vast number of Russians killed in the invasion.

“I tried to do everything to stop him from going, I told him ‘what are you doing son, it’s a one-way ticket’. But I failed.”

“I don’t know if he killed Ukrainians or not. As a father, it was my duty to bury him, but I judge his decision,” he said, audibly emotional. “When the fighting is over, I will travel to Bakhmut myself, go on my knees and apologise to the Ukrainian people.”

In a country where even the slightest dissent is criminalised, Dobrovolski is a rare voice daring to speak up against the Putin state narrative tying the two wars together.

He is not shy of his views, having previously told his story in a haunting documentary produced by the Novaya Gazeta paper.

“I am not scared, no,” he said defiantly. “My conscience is clean and that is the most important thing to me.”


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