The 24th of February 2022 is a date that will be engraved in our memories. For most, it was unthinkable that in the 21st century a sovereign country would face invasion by another one. And yet that is exactly what we have been seeing over the past month.
My generation has never experienced war. We have grown up in a society of prosperity, security, and peace for all guaranteed by various international organizations like the UN, NATO, and the EU. I believe that the scar caused by this war on my generation will be identical to the one our parents endured in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago.
Even before the invasion began, the military buildup that preceded it was the number one debate topic among teenagers, with some fearing a possible nuclear war that would eradicate us all. However, most teenagers still thought that there would be no war, despite the news of military gear amassing in a location for a possible attack.
So, when it became clear that we would be witness to the first major conflict of the 21st century in Europe, we all panicked. I have seen instances and I am guilty of reading the live CNN coverage in-between classes to be up to date on the situation, or just general thoughts of what the worst-case scenario could be. This in turn creates a breeding ground for disinformation, which we have been seeing a fair share of. I think youth is especially vulnerable to the danger of fake news, since we all know younger people tend to be more influenceable than grown-ups.
Nevertheless, today’s teenagers are at the origin of a strong wave of solidarity for the Ukrainian cause, despite the efforts of hoaxers. In my school for example, there has been a donation for Ukrainian refugees coming into Slovakia, and the overall sentiment is very pro-Ukrainian. I think that many young people (that have grown up in a western and peaceful environment) realized that this conflict could very easily impact them, and since they live in a country that borders Ukraine, it is natural that they came to Ukrainians’ aid at a time they need it most.
Nathan Noel Pukalovič, 13-year-old student interested in geopolitics and current affairs, École Française Internationale de Bratislava