This morning I woke up to watching live stream of hundreds of Auschwitz survivors celebrating the 70 year anniversary of the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Army.
I was raised in a country where bullet holes and mortar scars still mar the government buildings and apartment buildings. Where the Soviet constructed apartments in my neighborhood were built to provide an aerial view of the shape of the Hammer and Sickle. Where monuments marking mass graves of Jewish bodies stood not two miles from my home. Where during both World Wars, famine struck so harshly that even up until 2005, movies showing cannibalism were banned from theaters for fear of emotionally disturbing the older generation. Communism and Fascism have been ravaging the Ukrainian people since before most of us were ever born.
All we really so naive as to believe all that history is behind us when it is still so tangible? I have marched hand in hand with a Russian boy named Oleshka in Anti-Fascist protests in front of Ukraine’s Parliament building. A Russian boy who was fleeing conscription by the Russian army by sleeping in stairwells and on kitchen floors so they couldn’t track him. A Russian/Ukrainian boy who wore tight pants and rastafarian hats and loved all colors and nationalities with his whole heart. Who was beaten black and blue and called gayboy and niggerlover for simply walking down the street, on a weekly basis. The skinheads were making death threats to us daily. This boy was my brother and now I cannot find him.
The Fascists and Communists of our world are still very much alive and real. The Hitlers and Mussolinis and Stalins and Lenins may have been buried, but those men led armies of men who were brainwashed. Those men had sons who raised grandsons with the same hatred. The hatred and greed and disregard for human rights takes on new faces and names as time moves on. In our cozy modernly convenient bubble we have forgotten that there is a whole world out there of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters taking up arms to defend their rights. Russian boys are being sent home in unmarked boxes to their mothers with no explanation as to where they were or why. Russian Chechens are marching in the streets in SUPPORT of the terrorist hits in Paris, while in Paris women protest Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Terrorism isn’t restricted to places with sand or skyscrapers. Terrorism is described as “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Nowhere in that definition do I see “Exclusively sports turbans and full beards.”
This is not just a Ukrainian war. It will spread. All war does. Tyrants still exist.
Ukraine has been at war for over a year. The ethnic cleansing of the native Tatars in Crimea has already subtly begun and these families are fleeing by the thousands. Their men are joining the Ukrainian army to fight for their homes and businesses. History has begun to repeat itself. Open your eyes. Watch something besides the local news, read something besides the funny papers. Inconvenience yourself, I dare you.
Sarah Smith grew up in Ukraine where she moved with her parents who were serving as missionaries in 1992. She writes: “I was 4 and immediately immersed in the language and people. We moved back to the States when i was 18 and I have spent every day missing my Ukrainian home. I identify myself as American Ukrainian because that is where my heart will always call home. My happiest moments were spent on Khreschatyk and Maidan. The Ukrainian people are my people and always will be.”