Do not neglect the luxury of freedom

In a rush because I’ve overslept for my Friday morning class, I skip my morning routine of breakfast and scrolling. During a typical chitchat break, I’m approached by a classmate asking me if I’ve seen the news yet. ‘The face of Russian opposition, Alexey Navalny, died in a Russian prison.’ 

It leaves me speechless, devastated, and in angst. Even though some could disagree with his opinions, in my eyes, he was a talented and fearless man who gave an example of strength, optimism, and hope for the future in this difficult time, especially to young people. The man who died for speaking his mind. His exhortation, in case he would be killed, was ‘Do not give up’.

My classmate and I stand in complete shock, surrounded by the cheerful chatter of others who don’t know, understand, or care. As the end of the break approaches, both of us wonder how we can go back and pretend that our – maybe naïve – hopes weren’t shattered. Once again. 

Hopes that the opposition would eventually win and stop the war, hopes that we both could go and see our families soon, and most importantly hopes that evil cannot win so dirty and so easily.

Navalny’s death reminded me once again why we should learn and care about politics even though it seems boring or unimportant

My country, Ukraine, has been at war for the past two years. Young and talented people keep dying on the battlefield that no one desires, friends from back home have to go to university under the sounds of sirens, and family members fear for their lives. But on the side of the world I am on currently, everything is the way it should be. Classmates stress about deadlines, friends worry about their love lives, and other fellow Groningers go on with their daily lives. 

And that is great, but…

A lot of people I spoke to here in Groningen do not know about the political situation they live in. Navalny’s death reminded me once again why exactly we should learn and care about politics even though it seems boring, complicated, or unimportant. People in Ukraine keep on hearing sirens and bombings, and people in Russia get arrested for laying memorial flowers to mourn Navalny. Overall political escalation across the globe leaves us no choice but to care about politics. 

As university students, scholars, or professors, I am convinced we should be aware of what is going on. We should have different opinions; we should have opposing views and, most importantly, we should have discussions about them. Especially within the university, which has the means to provide us with unbiased information and a safe space. 

This luxurious freedom can be taken away very sneakily and at any moment. And for that not to happen, we must appreciate it properly. Otherwise, all those young talented people that the university is nurturing might not have the minds to speak.

I believe we could all use Navalny’s exhortation. For those who are fighting for freedom, do not give up on fighting, but for those who already have it – do not give it up by neglecting it.

LIZA KOLOMIIETS

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