Russia-Ukraine Conflict: A Podcast with Luba Kolomytseva, NR’s Art Director, Born in Kharkiv

A child looks out from an evacuation train from Kharkiv to Lviv at the central train station in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 4, 2022. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Luba Kolomytseva is the art director here at National Review. I met her on my first day at NR — in November 1998. We talked about Ukraine and Russia. And identity: Who’s a Russian? Who’s a Ukrainian? What’s a Soviet? And so on. We have talked about Ukraine and Russia, on and off, ever since. Today, we recorded a podcast: here.

Luba was born in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, the second-largest city in the country. It was a vibrant, diverse city, says Luba, filled with artists, scientists, and people from all walks of life. Today, it is a hellscape, bombed and brutalized by Vladimir Putin and his forces.

Kharkiv is almost entirely a Russian-speaking city. The Kremlin and its propagandists — many of them in the American media — long told us that people in the east of Ukraine wanted to be in Russia. Putin said he was invading Ukraine in order to protect Russian-speakers.

Lie upon lie upon lie. Putin and his men are murdering them, along with every other Ukrainian they can find.

Luba is eloquent on her fellow Russian-speakers in Ukraine. It’s not the language that matters, she says. It’s your sense of place. Your family. Your friends. Your connections. Right now, she says, everyone feels more Ukrainian than ever. People are disgusted at Russia, and some of them are embarrassed: embarrassed to share a language with the invaders and destroyers.

People in Russia, says Luba, are fed a steady diet of lies by their state media. “The level of lies is incomprehensible. You cannot even grasp that someone could lie like that.”

Luba has been glued to the news. “It has been torture,” she says. “Now I feel very much a Ukrainian. It’s like someone is torturing my relatives in front of my eyes and I can’t do anything about it. I can’t sleep. I’m reading, and I’m hoping every day that it’s going to end, and the next day other horrible things happen.”

She sees the faces from Kharkiv, in particular. She knows them. She does not know these people personally. Specifically. But she recognizes the faces — the looks of the people — from her growing up. With the whole scene, she is familiar. “I know them,” she says, “and I do love them, because there’s so much to love about all those people.”

Putin hates America, she says, and he hates the West. He regards himself as at war with the West, whether the West knows it or not. “He has nothing to lose,” says Luba, “and he has a criminal mind, and a sick mind. Lots of people are speculating that he’s literally psycho. He doesn’t strike me as psycho. He strikes me as an evil person, like in a James Bond movie.”

Luba asks, “What is the West waiting for?” She further says, “We have to stop this and realize that evil exists in the world and you can’t just be passive and look at it; you have to do something about it. We have to protect our world, and our way of living, and our ideals. It’s immoral for us not to do something about it.”

This is one woman’s opinion. You may well have a different one. But hers is an opinion I value, and Luba Kolomytseva is a very interesting person to know, and many will enjoy hearing her, in this exceptionally personal, and also informative, podcast: again, here.

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