"I cannot compromise on that matter"

Interview with Ilja Owtscharenko, conscientious objector from Ukraine

The 36-year-old Ukrainian Ilja Owtscharenko keeps staying in Hungary at his workplace in order to not be recruited for the war. He has posted several videos to promote conscientious objection.

What came to your mind when you learned about the invasion?

I was at work in Hungary when I heard the news that the war had begun. I wondered whether I was guilty for not having done everything to prevent this war and not having got my nephews out of the war zone.

I could have been more active trying to spread the idea of nonviolence. I could have spoken out loud and made it very clear in social media and online video channels that patriotism is harmful  and dangerous. I should have spelled out that it is absurd to sacrifice so many people only to correct a line on a map.

You criticized the war on the internet platform Tik Tok. What was your main argument?

We must understand how dangerous war for the civilian population is, especially with regard to the nuclear power plants situated in the war zone. The government is determined to win back all Ukrainian territories, including Crimea. The question, then, is shouldn’t we simply give up Crimea and Donezk? In my view the answer is evident: people’s lives are more important than flags, no matter which flag has been raised in Crimea or Donezk.

What kind of responses did you get?

In the comments on my videos one reads for instance „There are people coming already after you“ or „Get out as long  as you can“. In spring the secret service visited even my mother and questioned her about me. She was very upset, called me and asked me to withdraw the video. Many people I know and even a relative of mine call my position cowardly or traitorous.  But I cannot compromise on that matter.

Have you been threatened with military conscription?

I was a about to be drafted during the battle in Donbass. At that time I managed to avoid conscription because I was not at home.  I had already called on people then to refuse military service. As a result, the secret service came to me and searched my apartment. But after that nothing else happened.

What should be done to stop the war?

In my video I had already called upon president Wolodymyr Selenskyj to negotiate with Russia and officially give up Ukrainian territory. I still adhere to this because human life is much more valuable. The most important fight against war consists in stressing the meaning of life and denouncing killing as illegitimate.

What should be done to help conscientious objectors?

Martial law prohibits men between eighteen and sixty to leave the Ukraine. This is appalling. Anyone not willing to fight should be given the chance to leave the country. Both pacifists and christians who abide to the rule “You must not kill” should be granted the right to act accordingly. The law must be repealed.

Interview with Ilja Ovtsharenko, September 5, 2022