Yurii Sheliazhenko (Pacifist Movement of Ukraine)

portrait of Yurii Sheliazhenko Kiev. A middle-aged chubby man with long hair and beard.

Yurii is executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement and a board member of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection. He obtained a Master of Mediation and Conflict Management degree in 2021 and a Master of Laws degree in 2016 at KROK University. In addition to his participation in the peace movement, he is a journalist, blogger, human rights defender, and legal scholar, an author of academic publications and a lecturer on legal theory and history.
He is board member of the international organization “World beyond War”. And he is member of the board of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors (EBCO).

Yurii Sheliazhenko’s speech at the event

Dear friends,

thank you for coming today and for caring about peace on Earth.

Sorry for being online, not in person, it is because our very, very, very democratic President Zelenskyy, apart of his repressions against the opposition, prohibits all males from leaving the country and turns young men into cannon fodder against their will, rejecting all popular petitions against this cruel policy.

Human right to conscientious objection to military service during military mobilization is not recognized contrary to international law, so people mostly are hiding from military recruiters and their hunting for conscripts.

I plan to talk in details about antiwar resistance in Ukraine during my workshop in Grote Zaal, I invite you to attend it. We must resist the system of war, which Russia, Belarus and Ukraine inherited from Soviet Union, the system in which people from childhood are prepared to become obedient soldiers and professional killers, not free, creative, peace-loving citizens. To illustrate this problem, I will play to you a video about militarization of children in Ukraine. (video: Militarization of Kids in Ukraine, https://youtu.be/7TC6cG0synI)

We hold this event under wonderful mottos: “future without war” and “not our war.”

All people in the world have great sages calling for peace. If only people listen!

A century ago War Resisters’ International was founded in The Netherlands, but several centuries earlier a wise son of this land, Erasmus of Rotterdam, said: “The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war”.

Belarussian writer, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich once very well noted that “any war is still a murder.”

Genius of Russian literature Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Instead of the national hatreds that are poisoned us under the guise of patriotism, we must teach children the horror and contempt of the military career, which serves to divide men.

And a poem of Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko says: “Azure sky is clean and nice, when bloody war inhuman ends in peace.”

I wrote a poem entitled “Ridiculous war” to explain why any war is incompatible with common sense and how much better could be a world without armies, borders, and wars. You can hear this poem in the this video.

Ridiculous War

A poem translated from Ukrainian

Too many fairy tales of war
For killers’ glory told.
This story of another sort:
How laughter made war stop.

Imagine life in times of dove
When peace in minds prevails.
United Earth embraced by love
And everyone are friends.

A couple of friends had wish insane
Divide and rule all lands.
So Anti put on East his name,
And Super got her West.

They signed peace treaty with a pledge
To leave alone each other
On Anti-people’s father-land
And Super-people’s land-mother.

Those Anti, Super – chosen dudes.
To them, obey and pay!
Ask humbly from your own tributes
Some means to live today.

They promise, promise you a lot
In words, fine coins, on paper.
You found that your soul is sold,
All souls are sold together.

Trust blindly, you belong to us.
If not, you enemy, weep!
The Super-people kick people’s asses
And Anti-people beat people.

Fellows tired of blood and gore
Instead of promised miracle.
They asked Anti what he’s for.
They said Super, she’s equal.

Facing good people, rulers went mad,
Called patriots be martyrs;
Super preemptively self-defended
From self-defense of Anti.

So Super-people and Anti-people
Turned armed and hating crowds:
Anti-heroes to kill and cripple,
Super-heroic liars.

Both armies marched to the war!
One soul on middle ground
Thought common sense need to return,
Set free enslaved crowds.

Both Super-crowd and Anti-crowd 
Told to shoot, not stare…
A good joke made them all to laugh:
“War – super-anti-fair!”
People’s laughter shaken sky and land.
Fake gods of war were gone.
All people on Earth were friends again
Enjoying peace at home.

Too many fairy tales of war
For killers’ glory told.
But this one only have a worth:
How laughter made war stop.

Propaganda of war is always absurd and ridiculous.

In Russia so-called special military operation is presented as revival of greatness. What kind of greatness could killers have?

In Ukraine the war against Russian invasion is advertised as foundation of national identity. If our sense of life is to kill the enemy, as militarists claim, than paradoxically life have no sense: if we are defeated, we can’t do that, and if we are victorious, we will eliminate our sense of life, unless we declare war to ourselves.

Both Russia and Ukraine claim fast and total victory on the battlefield is near, under this pretext peace talks are ruled out, in result the bloodshed is turning into endless war of attrition devastating economies of belligerents and whole the world economy. It is utter absurd.

Western media make people to take side of Ukraine, as they say, the side of victims against aggressor.

It is true that Putin’s Russia is aggressor state, but I urge you that Ukrainian militarized right-wing authoritarianism is too ugly and cruel to take its side. True victims of this war are not warmongering governments in Moscow and Kyiv, not their armies which commit war crimes with impunity on both sides of the frontline, true victims are innocent civilians on both sides thrown into meat grinder of war against their will. Civilians who want to remain civilians should deserve your support and solidarity, not the militarists and their organized killing.

We must resist the war system, not the demonized enemies. We need common-sensical peace journalism instead of propaganda of war and hatred to enemy. We need diplomacy instead of arms race. We need investments into social and environmental welfare, education and healthcare, to deal with hunger and climate change, instead of inflating NATO and nuclear stockpiles. European countries should grant asylum to conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

I believe that we live in the time when humankind have a great potential to abolish war and establish nonviolent society, but also there is a big danger of self-destruction in the competition of great powers of the East and West for global dominance. We must choose whether we abolish war or war will abolish us. It is a matter of simple rational choice. We must choose wisely.

War in Ukraine demonstrates how true was a declaration of war resisters adopted in Bilthoven in 1921: “War is a crime against humanity, therefore, I am determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war”.

Let’s uphold our right to refuse to kill, stop all wars in the world, and build peace together.



Recent Publications

Why Russian and Ukrainian Warmongers Portray Each Other as Nazis and Fascists (15.3.2022)

Speech at the World Conference against Nuclear and hydrological bombs in Hiroshima (4.8.2022)

Ridiculous War, a poem by Yurii Sheliazhenko (16.8.2022)

From Kyiv to Moscow. They do not resign themselves to war. Humanité, August 24, 2022 by Pierre Barbancey and Vadim Kamenka