Myth 1. Everyone who left wants to return
"My daughter is sobbing because she wants to come back here". We are standing in line to the local bank branch, and I have heard many stories like this in two hours. For example, one daughter of a queueing woman left for russia, and the other, a fool, went to Ukraine. Now, she and her husband are hiding from mobilization in Ukraine. They would return at any moment, but the woman’s son-in-law doesn't want to go to war. He would be immediately conscripted as soon as he comes out of hiding... The listeners nod sympathetically. They agree. This is one of the local myths about Ukraine. Everyone who left Luhansk wants to return home, but they cannot do so because they will immediately be mobilized if they attempt to leave Ukraine. And after mobilization, their lifespan will not be more than four days because that's how long mobilized soldiers live against their will (and one of the myths is precisely that Ukraine mobilizes men only against their will). And that the Ukrainian soldiers are all untrained and only suitable for being cannon fodder.
Myth 2. Borders
"So I shouldn’t go to Milove?" My mom asks me this question regularly. She used to go there to get her Ukrainian pension for seven years. She understands everything, but from time to time she clarifies whether she needs to go there. The concept of borders is completely blurred for her. And questions like "So he won't be able to come?", or "You definitely can't get there?" leave me at a loss.
Borders and areas of military action are also myths. Hearing every day that the russian army is seizing Bakhmut, it is not entirely clear whether it has actually seized it or not...
And for the elderly the fact that now it is impossible to travel to Ukraine by the familiar way they used for nine years is something equally incomprehensible and seemingly unreal. Just like the fact that to get there, they will have to travel via four countries and pay 450 euros one way...
Myth 3. Atrocities of the Ukrainian army
One of the greatest fears here is the stupidity and brutality of Ukrainians. All of this is persistently shaped by the local and russian media. The only "reliable" source of information for lonely pensioners is television. And it creates an image of an enemy who’s even scarier than Lucifer. I regularly hear stories about severed genitals of prisoners of war and their subsequent suicides. And that the prisoners return here either crippled or emaciated from hunger. Not only closed-minded pensioners believe in this, but also internet users.
Myth 4. Nationalism
I don't know how, but this is what scares locals the most. Everyone "THERE" is a Nazi. And you don't need to add anything else. There are those who forgave Hitler's crimes and glorify Bandera. How is it possible to go there or to return to that country after that? The topic of Nazism and soldiers’ atrocities is terribly scary. It's just unbelievable. Those who have no personal connections with Ukraine believe in this and are afraid. Common sense doesn't help here. In schools, everything is only in Ukrainian. They persecute you for speaking russian. Having lived in Ukraine for some time, you undergo a radical transformation and become infected with Nazism, imposing the state language on russian-speaking people. There is, however, some inconsistency with the first myth about wanting to go home, but this does not prevent these myths from existing in a parallel reality.
Myth 5. Ukraine doesn't exist anymore
This includes the dismal state of Ukrainians, famine and the loss in the war. Most people are confident in the latter, while still fearing the return of "Nazis" to Luhansk. This also exists within the realm of parallel and contradictory myths. Sentences like "They won't surrender us like they withdrew from Kherson?" and "There's nothing left of Ukraine anymore" are heard in the same conversation.
And if all these myths are analyzed from a logical point of view, no one would see logic in them. But logic is scarce in the war and in everything that happens here in general. Therefore, no one seeks it. They simply live by adjusting their mind to what is easier to accept.
Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV