The Signpost

Eyewitness Wikimedian, Western Ukraine

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By Ата

I am lucky to live in the west of Ukraine, where there is little actual damage. We're having air alerts several times a day, and I'm really hoping that our air defense forces continue to protect Ukraine no less than they are doing now. My extended family is scattered in the villages across the country and everyone is currently fine. News from the front lines is painful to watch.

When the wide invasion began many people volunteered to sew blankets and pillows, cook for the territorial defense people, weave camouflage nets, manage logistics. I found out that I am not able to actively volunteer for the defense sector, so I resorted to editing Wikipedia: the thing I know, the thing I'm comfortable doing.

Wikipedia remains, you know, a place for people to learn things. At the beginning of February I was interested in creating a list of sandwiches and Majblomma and was hoping that these pages will have other interested readers, too. In March I had to create articles on the FAB-500 bomb and survivors guilt because I know: these are among our interests now.

At a first glance, Ukrainian Wikipedia lives its usual life. There are new articles being created on species of Lepidoptera, vandalism being reverted in articles about singers, thematic week collaborations being organised – just with fewer overall contributors than usual and substantial number of edits made in articles about the Russian invasion. There are editors who curate lists of fallen soldiers and articles about battles as they unfold. I leave it to them.

To me personally Wikipedia is a safe haven. Familiarity means stability. I am adding categories to uncategorised templates. Yes, this is one of the most boring manual exercises I can think of. But it is safe in this corner of the internet. No edit conflicts, no rush, no horrors; hundred after hundred templates just go through my hands and become a tiny bit better.

I am also very fond of translating important pages on Meta-wiki into Ukrainian, so that the community has more chances to learn about what's coming: from the Tech News to the UCoC news, there are always many things happening in the movement, all the time. Translating meta pages drains me dry, and the backlog is always there, but when I see the UCoC Enforcement guidelines at 100% translatedness, the joy is very real. Ukwiki will not shine in this vote on guidelines for a reason, but I've always been proud of our reputation as an active voting community and we'll be back as such.

My friend and I spoke recently about the world's perception of Ukraine's history and she said that this is the time for Ukrainians to say: "Remember you were hesitating about the severity of Soviet repressions? About the reliability of our sources on Holodomor? About the Russia's policies towards Ukraine through history? Remember what we told you; it was all true. Ukraine is fighting hard because it is what we've done for hundreds of years: we fight Russia." Ukraine is a sovereign state and has every right to remain this way and to nurture its own culture within its own borders. This is why I was so glad to see users taking part in Ukraine's Cultural Diplomacy Month, and then also wikis holding their own article-writing collaborations about Ukraine. It is much appreciated. I wouldn't want the world to get to know my country for the reason of being shelled, and I do know that dozens of countries and hundreds of cultures remain underrepresented in information space. It shouldn't take a disaster for free knowledge to spread; Wikimedians, of all people, know that well.

Wikimedia is the turtle that the elephants of my personal mental state stand on; it is probably true for some other editors as well. I talk to other Wikipedians online when they show up: some people fled Kharkiv and Kyiv for Khmelnytskyi or Ternopil, some people stayed. There are Wikipedia editors who defend Ukraine with arms, and there are those who left the country to protect their children. I am grateful to dozens of Wikimedians who wrote me personally to show their support. I am lucky to be safe and to have time and resources to just edit. The truth and the light will win.

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