Glory to Ukraine!

Did you watch President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the U.S. Congress the other day? He calls on us to do more! (disclaimer: be careful which version you watch; originally there is a graphic video in the end)

#StandWithUkraine #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

So I have been avoiding the elephant in the room: the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If you know me well and my blog, you know that I simply do not write about world events; it is not my forte. And as the years go on and my life gets fuller and my time gets even more precious, I leave current events to the experts. This was the bizarre beauty that the pandemic brought me: the ability to, as an INFJ-A, bi-polar, human being in recovery, who identifies as she/her, that very gift of time: I was furloughed for over a year and had time to read the news AND process it.

I was home and watched the Jan. 6 insurrection live last year.

In 2020, I was able to watch the George Floyd funeral live.

I read the entire ‘A’ section of my newspaper: the local, state, national and international news and was an informed citizen. But then about a year ago, I went back to work and my old, limited news reading returned: the struggle to read maybe a local and an international article, for instance.

And then, almost two years to the week that the COVID pandemic struck America, Russia did what we thought they would never do: invade Ukraine, led by neo-Hitler, President Vladimir Putin himself. And since February 24, he has laid the devastation of beautiful Ukraine to waste.

My husband told me at lunch that day when I happened to be home with one of my children, who had stayed homesick. This first weekend I was in shock. See, I taught World War II history for many years as a Language Arts teacher. We had this research project we did in 8th grade as part of our preparations to read a play about Anne Frank. Hundreds of students over the 8 years I taught that lesson would ask me, “Ms. Strasser, how could we let Hitler do this?” or they would reassure each other, “We would never let that happen today!”

Yet, here we are.

I believe it every time the news says that this invasion is the worst slaughter, devastation, that Europe has seen since World War II. Of course, it is. If you know World War II history, especially the theatre of war in Europe, and how Hitler swallowed up the European countries— well, almost all of them—

In Wednesday’s speech to our American Congress, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked us to imagine the bombing and deaths of Ukraine to a Pearl Harbor or 9-11 happening, daily. When I really reflect on that, it is mind-blowing. Despite the atrocities, I am so grateful that Ukraine has a strong leader such as Zelenskyy who expressed both his needs and gratitudes in this address.

I am half Ukrainian and am sure I have blood relations that have died, even though I have never spoken to them. Then there is my dear friend Melissa, who is of mostly Ukrainian heritage, who has relatives there that she and her family are in regular communication with, or were. I am not sure of their current status. Melissa was one of the last Peace Corps groups allowed into Ukraine around 2010, and served for several years, based out of Lutsk. My husband and I and her family made sure she had both a proper send-off and welcome home. Also, I recall that she was the first person I ever skyped with. So novel at that time!

Social media can be very useful but also upsetting of course— the images of the dying pregnant mother, bloodied elderly man, and smoking skyscrapers in ruin—damaging as those Russian bombs, but fortunately, I find it to be useful.

First and foremost, Facebook has been great for connecting me with Melissa and her varied posts and shares from groups such as her former colleagues in the Returned Former Peace Corps Volunteers Alliance. Clicking on other Ukranian news connected me with Razom for Ukraine and Welcome to Ukraine, which in addition to the Associated Press stories I read give me more than enough news about Ukraine from which to pick. Also, I went to a Ukraine vigil one weekend in which Melissa, her parents, and the Gettysburg, PA, community hosted which was extremely cathartic.

But more than anything, being the “super” sensitive person I am, I wanted to share ways with you that help me deal with this ongoing tragedy that may help you as well:

  1. I only read or watch about 5-15 minutes about Ukraine news daily. Most of it is so awful, I usually cry and need several minutes to myself before going about my day. The waste the Russians laid to Mariupol…
  2. I use social media for positive news, too, about Ukraine. It’s challenging to filter out, but Melissa tries to post little positive or even humorous bits about anything Ukrainain that might lift a reader’s spirits such as the Kyiv Grandma who took down a Russian army drone with a jar of pickles! (you know what’s funny? she told me she does it for her friends and family in Ukraine, but this American appreciates occasional light heartedness about this hideous topic, too!)
  3. Music. I don’t know exactly which genre that is or could be for you, but for whatever reason, I have found U2 to be a fantastic fit for me. I grew up listening to Bono and his passionate, political mindbent, and even though some of the old albums are just that…old… there’s something about it that’s therepeutic for me in processing the dark shadow of what is happening in Europe right now as I go about my daily life.

I have no idea why I live in a time where we’ve had both a global pandemic and now an atrocity of this magnitude, both within two years. My only guess is that such tragedies help foster compassion and kindness in all of us to help.

I do know that I will continue to not sit back and not do anything; I may not attend another vigil for Ukraine this weekend, but I sure as hell can sign a quick online petition to let Congress know that I want the relief and weapons to continue to flow to Ukraine.

Or, I can display Ukrainian colors.

And I can pray and meditate for a magnificent country that is being attacked and victimized for simply refusing to give in to a dictator’s commands.

I will keep an open mind and heart and continue to #StandWithUkraine.

May Peace Be With You.

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