“Seems like Putin has gone for it.” The words appeared blurry on my screen—but rubbing my eyes and putting my glasses on didn’t make them less surreal. Thousands, if not millions, of people received similar messages before dawn on 24 February, 2022. “Goodmorning. War has started.” “I’m so sorry. How can I help.” “Can I bring the kids to your place?” “Listen carefully and pack a fucking suitcase.” “Shit, we had two explosions just now.” “Can’t talk anymore.” “Take Sveta and get the fuck out of here.” “We have enough supplies to survive for a week.” “Has he gone insane?”
“Can you come into the office as early as possible?” I quickly typed a text to our deputy editor, Juli, and went back to bed. An hour later, I erased the message. What would we even do, “as early as possible” at the office? The sudden realisation that war is being waged in Europe again was one none of us knew how to respond to. What could an atypical magazine like ours provide for people already overwhelmed with real-time videos on Telegram, live blogs on news apps and solidarity stickers on social media platforms?
For days, we debated the ethics of conflict reporting, the sensitivity it requires (and often lacks) and what we could add to the table. The war was everywhere, all the time. It would have been easy to get caught up in daily updates and the surrounding anxiety—to jump on the bandwagon and repeat the analysis, retweet shocking headlines and reshare our old stories. But we didn’t. Instead, we asked ourselves: Which stories aren’t dominating the news? How can you responsibly cover conflict? And with whom?
At Are We Europe, it’s our mission to bring new voices to the conversation. That doesn’t change in times like these. Our latest magazine brings you stories from Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. We don’t believe in parachuting a big name into the region with little knowledge of its history and identity, so we reached out to all our contacts on the ground.
Since Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, thousands of civilians have died. Millions have fled the country; others are internally displaced. People have gone through unimaginable pain and suffered monumental loss. We don’t want to shy away from that. But none of these facts and numbers help us to understand the lives behind this war better. So we dove into the undercurrent of identity, religion and culture. A few weeks later, we have a magazine that gives not one but many answers to the question: What lies beyond the headlines we’ve grown accustomed to?
– Anneleen Ophoff
and the Are We Europe team