A Note on Ukraine

My great-great-grandfather left the Jewish ghetto outside of Kyiv and took his family to the U.S. in 1890. He was deeply involved in my grandfather’s childhood, and I have some stories of his love of learning and his gentleness that I cherish, but as far as I know his entire family also emigrated. I haven’t paid particular attention to the region’s history or culture in my life, and certainly never would have considered it an “ancestral homeland” the way I think about my Irish or even Swedish roots. And yet, I have felt personally affected by this past week’s events. Partly because of the shocking aggression, but also because our family story is that my great-great-grandfather decided to leave his community at 25 with his wife and three children following a particularly brutal series of pogroms initiated by Czarist Russian cossacks in 1889. The notion of Russian imperialist aggression terrorizing communities in the same part of the world 130+ years later is heartbreaking and angering for me.

I can understand feeling that it’s not the United States’ fight and not wanting to send American troops. Personally, I believe that it is every peace-loving country’s responsibility to oppose unprovoked aggression, but I can understand that position. I cannot understand how anyone who wants to live in a stable, peaceful world, can support Putin. Even if you agree with some of his government’s policies, initiating and escalating violence against another state has to be beyond the pale or we’re simply in a “might makes right” world and will all waste resources building up military capabilities that could be spent in productive capacities. And though I hope the world’s sanctions on Russia will prove effective, I fear that what Ukraine really needs is battlefield success and the armed forces that can deliver it.

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