Commentary: Regarding Ukraine

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Reprinted with permission from Minnesota Prairie Roots

I have always cared about what is happening beyond my home in Faribault. But I am really struggling with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the resulting death, destruction and humanitarian crisis.

Deaths of civilians — documented in a powerful image of a mother, her teenage son, her elementary-age daughter and a family friend killed by Russian mortar fire — lying dead in the street, luggage beside them, as they attempted to reach safety in Kyiv. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario witnessed the attack and photographed the scene for The New York Times on March 6. I could see and hear Addario’s pain, her grief. She struggled to photograph the scene, terming this killing of innocent civilians a “war crime” that the world needed to see.

I saw. I cried.

I have seen, too, media images of bombed homes and other buildings. Utter destruction. I continue to cry.

I cannot even count how many times I have cried over scenes of young mothers wheeling suitcases with young children clinging to their hands. I imagine my own daughter doing the same with my two grandchildren and the idea of that shakes me to the core. To see children clutching their stuffed lovies, or a mom spoon-feeding soup to her preschooler on the roadside, or a soldier cradling a baby — it is overwhelmingly sad.

I wonder why, this time, I have felt such angst, such concern, such grief. War has always wrought death, destruction, and exodus. But this seems different in sheer numbers of individuals and families fleeing. This seems different in the depth of evil behind what is unfolding. This seems different in the worldwide implications.

My husband’s connection to Ukraine, where his ancestors resettled from Germany to then Russia (current-day Ukraine), deepens my sorrow. His forefathers once farmed the land around Odessa before journeying to America in 1893 and a new life in North Dakota.

My feelings are mostly of concern, angst, helplessness. Yet, there are three actions I am taking.

Audrey purchased this vintage tray at an antique shop in Saint Charles many years ago. It is likely from the 60s or 70s. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

As a woman of faith, I pray for protection of the Ukrainian people, some by name (given to me by friends). I pray for their leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, and other world leaders. I pray for peace.

I am also supporting and encouraging friends who are worried about people in Ukraine.

Finally, I have pulled out my “peace” art as a visual reminder. Coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, at the time of the Vietnam War, the word “peace” played into my everyday vocabulary. The peace symbol was everywhere — on posters, jewelry, drawn in my spiral-bound notebooks.

Today, more than ever, I need visual cues that peace is possible. I need hope when I cry.