I have a friend who is Ukrainian and Russian. We never talked politics. I have not heard from her since the war began. I write today with her in mind.

Never have I known so many good people with such opposing perspectives, as those on the war in Ukraine.  Unlike political leaders motivated by the desire to control territory and resources, the people I know are, like me, motivated by the desire for peace and justice.

A century and a decade ago the world burned up its youth in a global conflagration. My child, who had great-grandparents on opposite sides of World War I, is now graduating with a master’s in social work, studying the generational effects of trauma.

When I was in graduate school, I studied the transnational social movements that emerged after WWI. I was interested in those who rejected the insularity and hate associated with the 1920s: the Ku Klux Klan, rabid anti-immigrant sentiment, violent repression of labor unions, lynching, and a Prohibition that criminalized the poor.

One hundred years ago, many activists found their path to international solidarity through early 20th century identity politics as Pan Africanists, First Wave Feminists, Latin American Continentalists, and labor activists. They stopped wars for oil by linking arms across borders.

Wars for territory and resources have no place in the 21st century.  They are species-suicide. We must flatly reject the machismo of both sides and their global supporters. We need to focus our collective resources on redistributing wealth, greening our energy, mitigating climate change, and waging wars against global pandemics.

Wars demand that we take sides. I think we begin by rejecting that demand.  A transnational movement of Russians, Ukrainians, Russian-Ukrainians, and the rest of us, can lead us to peace. We need to listen to people like Nina Potarska, of Ukraine’s Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Russian peace activist Ilya Kustsev.

Today even more of us—like my Ukrainian-Russian friend—have identities that cross borders. We do not need to deny our DNA inheritance to build a transnational movement that learns from the heartache of our WWI era ancestors. Watch the remake of All Quiet on the Western Front, or this review. There are no good guys and no winners in nationalist wars.