The Infinite Game of Ukraine

“I was 16 when the war broke out” grandmom told me “That’s when the second world war had just begun and the Soviet Union attacked us”.

Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union in November of 1939 for the first time. It was called the Winter War. My grandmom enrolled as a volunteer to support the defending troops.

The memories of war and the generational traumas can sometimes still be felt in the finnish society over 80 years later. Lucky that the fourth and fifth generation finns mostly see the stories as legends of the olden times more than a painful reality of the past.

Ukraine crisis today, from where I see it, reminds me a lot about the stories grandmom told me when I was younger. I think I can even feel some of the pressure and pain Ukrainians must experience right now.

In childhood, my other grandmom only spoke Russian. Her parents had evacuated to Finland from western Russia right before the Winter War erupted. As Russians, they faced massive prejudice while trying to settle in Finland. It must have been unbearable at times.

Now, I can only imagine how worried and afraid some of the Russian soldiers must feel attacking their kin because of orders from above. And the shame and disappointment normal Russians around the world must feel for the decisions of their leaders.

There must be pain on both sides

Obviously the underdog gets most of my empathy in a situation like this.

Even though Russia seeks a fast resolution to their attack, to me it seems that the odds are not in their favor.

In the 1960’s in Vietnam, Americans won almost every battle. Yet, most would say they lost the war. In his book the Infinite Game, Simon Sinek raises a question that we don’t fully understand winning and losing, that there are other definitions of winning that exist.

Ukranians are essentially fighting for their freedom, independence, families, legacy and survival. Very meaningful things that have no real beginning or end. There is no winning or losing with motives like these. The whole point of the game is to keep the game going. And if you die, you die to give all important things a continuation. Hence, Ukrainians are playing an infinite game.

The attacker however has more mixed motives. For Russians, the fight is mostly about winning or losing battles, and eventually their campaign. In other words, as it seems to me, Russians are playing a finite game.

Both sides play a totally different game.

Those who play an infinite game are hard to beat. No matter how unlikely odds, they keep on going for reasons that are far beyond those who play with a finite mindset.

That is what my grandmom confirmed just as she‘s celebrating her 99th birthday.

She calls this phenomenon the “Spirit of Winter War”.

The times and minds of cold war should be far behind already. To me, most of humanity should already be playing an infinite game to make humanity better for each other and for the planet.

At this point I wish you dear Ukranians the most heroic Spirit of Winter War on your backs. You are not only defending your country but are the symbol of the infinite game.



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Antti Niittyviita

Today the world doesn’t need your fear or your worry. Now, more than ever, it needs the best version of you!