This is the only time in my life that I have ever said this: I am grateful that my grandparents are not here. Up until recently, I would have told you I would give my right arm or more to see my Papa again. But not today. I would give everything I have to not see his heart break as I know it would from seeing this senseless war in his parents’ homeland, Ukraine.
I would see the tears of a WWII soldier who fought for a world better than this. I would see the shaking heads of those who hoped for a better tomorrow.
My great-grandparents did give all my family a better tomorrow and themselves by coming here to the U.S. But it wasn’t exactly by choice.
If it wasn’t for quick thinking and luck, they would not have made it. I still have the images of my great-grandmother’s story told to me when I was a young girl burned in my brain—a child, about six or seven years old, was in her town center with her sister. And the Cossacks came in on horseback. They trampled people and killed them. My great-grandmother’s older sister pulled on her arm, and they ran. I distinctly hear the sound of my mother’s voice reading her story, saying “she pulled on my arm so hard, and we ran so fast, there were times that I thought I was flying.”
They ran to freedom, but it wasn’t easy. It was a hard-fought journey. My family hid in cupboards by brave souls who withstood Russian soldiers trying to sniff them out in their own home. Can you imagine? Hiding someone in your house, knowing that if they were found that they and you would likely be killed on the spot? Can you imagine keeping your cool to offer these soldiers vodka to get them drunk enough so that they would become too distracted to do their jobs? Well brave people I have never known did just that, and they saved my family.
My fingers are lightly typing these words on a keyboard because people were brave.
And today, there is fighting again in these same places. People are dying. People are scared. Children have been torn from their families. Children without families are even more displaced in a confusing world. Animals have traveled hard journeys or have been left behind. And adults are feeling like scared children and courageous rocks at the same time. I cannot imagine. But here it is.
And this is why I am grateful that I am lonely for the comforts of my beloved Papa and the great uncles who charmed my life with their music and their stories. Thank goodness they do not have to be here to hold my hand in hard times again. Because they deserve better, and so do the people of Ukraine and the entire world.