Ukraine brings back memories
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Russian War against the Ukraine brings back memories of World War II

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On February 24, 2022, Russia began an attempt to invade Ukraine. For the last 47 days that country has been subject to constant vicious bombardment. Whole cities have been put to ruin; millions of civilians have fled the country seeking asylum abroad. The bombing has not been concentrated on military installations. Hospitals, churches and civilian buildings were and still are targeted.

We have seen bodies of men, women and children lying on streets having been brutally shot without cause. Millions of refugees have fled the country with only whatever they could carry. Train stations are mobbed, but even they were not safe as bombs indiscriminately target civilians. There are also accounts of Russian soldiers’ widespread lootings and rapes.

All those images and reports bring back memories of my experiences in Poland during the last days of World War II and the chaos which ensued days after liberation. I was only four years old during the Polish revolt in the summer of 1944. However, I do remember lying under the bed with my mother as Russian bombs were decimating Warsaw and bullets were flying through the window. Later, as we were seeking shelter in the basement, I recall playing with a boy about my age. I can still clearly see those scenes in my mind.

In October, when the Uprising was crushed, German troopers went door to door to expel all inhabitants and then blew up the building. I can still see a soldier standing outside the open door of our house, a rifle in his hand, as we were leaving.

We are now inundated with scenes of mass graves being unveiled throughout Ukraine; crimes perpetrated during the invasion. However, 77 years after WWII, mass graves are still being discovered in Eastern Europe—mass graves of Soviet prisoners of war, resistant fighters and Jews.

After liberation in the spring of 1945, survivors who had been displaced were trying to get back home. It seemed like everyone needed to move somewhere.

So many scenes are revived in my mind as I watch the news on television. Mobs… shouts… locomotives whistling… steam engines hissing… people pushing, trying to get on the train… a woman standing near the train holding a child and begging “take my child, please take my child.” I also recall much later hearing stories of the lootings and rapes by liberating Russian troops.

But, there are immense differences between 1945 and 2022. Today, the Western World started acting at once. Many countries try to help by imposing sanctions on Russia and sending armed reinforcements to the Ukraine—so far, unfortunately, without success in ending the invasion. Those efforts though, are frustrating Russian intentions for a quick victory.

In addition, the internet allows the whole world to witness the actions of the invaders. Reporters on site reveal daily the atrocities committed. Some have been wounded and others paid the ultimate price.

Russian design for a fast invasion has been crushed.

The hope is that in the end, Ukraine will be able to remain independent. But will this lesson in world cooperation teach other countries that they cannot invade as they please without consequences? Only the result of this war and time will tell.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Felicia Graber.

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One Comment

  1. Felecia, this story is so powerful and timely. What’s the expression? The more things change, the more they stay the same?
    We never seem to learn.