Wednesday, March 22, 2023 -
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A dreaded anniversary

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the war between Russia and Ukraine.
It feels like just yesterday when even here in America, where many were somewhat oblivious, many others were on pins and needles as Russian soldiers mobilized on the border of Ukraine, more by the day.

Will Putin really invade Ukraine, unprovoked? It was hard to believe in such brutality in our time, the transgression of another country’s borders would once again come to be. After all, it was a boundary that was held in consensus by all Western nations since WW II.

“It’s just Putin posturing,” went the conventional wisdom. “It’s all show to bolster Putin’s negotiating position.”

Because who could believe otherwise?

It was prevarication upon prevarication. Both on Putin’s end, and to some degree, on America’s, regarding sending armaments to Ukraine.

Then came the searing, the unforgettable, images. 
 The squished train platforms filled, skin to skin, with refugees, holding all their worldly possessions in one bag. If only you closed your eyes and envisioned those images in black and white, they might as well have been from the 1940s.

The tragic stories of Ukrainian civilians dying in their own streets.

The children. Oh, the children! In an effort to spare their lives from the perils of war, they were sent off to who knows where. Oh, those wrenching scenes of departure. Unbearable.

We were sure the war was going to last two weeks. That Russia’s military was going to bring Ukraine to its knees, its utter destruction.

The world prepared for the worst.

That’s when destiny surprised us all, as the Ukrainians fought back with a vengeance and held the line. The longer this conflict has dragged on, the mightier a military Ukraine has become.

Meanwhile, it’s been a year. The war is still on. No clear winner, no clear loser, hence no clear point of termination on the horizon. Which only means the continuing colossal cost of human lives, soaring death tolls on both sides. For those who do survive, they will return home broken.

In Putin’s mind, is he fighting a war of attrition? Does he figure the West will tire of the economic cost? Or that Russia will deplete Ukrainian resources and Ukrainian soldiers, winning by outlasting them, all the while depleting Russia’s own resources and the lives of its own men?

Clearly, the war has been a catastrophe for Russia. Yet, to Putin, it doesn’t seem to matter, neither ethically nor even rationally. Is Putin’s plan to stick it out for years as long as Russia (then the USSR) did in Afghanistan? As long as China and India keep buying oil from Russia? No one has a clue. Sadly, it seems it’s all about Putin winning rather than about Russia herself. It seems he is just fine nonchalantly sacrificing waves of human lives as if they were inanimate objects. The futures of generations of Russians have been destroyed.

It is far beyond my scope or skill to say what is right or wrong in arming Ukraine further. All decisions in this regard seem to be taken against the backdrop of preventing Putin from escalating the conflict into a nuclear one.

I certainly don’t have the answers. All I know is, one year later, precious human lives are being decimated.

My heart aches for Russian soldiers, too. Young men’s lives cut down simply because Putin decided to invade their neighboring country. To think a that WW I and WW II term like “cannon fodder” is back in circulation is just horrifying. Who and what are these Russians fighting for? To see them used as waves of human beings sent to their deaths is just heart wrenching.

Ukraine is blood-soaked with its own history of savage violence against Jews. Our history in Ukraine is merciless. Today’s generation of Ukrainians, while some might be descendants of the killers of Jews, many are not and for those who are, they are not their ancestors.

So I think of the Ukrainian and Russian mothers, wives and families and their pain, and it’s just so so sad.
Above all, it’s those Ukrainian children to whom my heart goes out. Where are they? There are rumors of child-trafficking into Russia. Could this really be? If so, how does our world stand by?

One year later since the start of this war, and the West must ask, have we done enough to protect the innocent children of Ukraine?

As this time of a dreaded anniversary, I can only hope that the turning point of this conflict arrives soon.

Even if a pivotal point in the war that will bring some cessation of hostilities is on the way — and let’s pray it is — spring’s melting snow and sunshine will shine the paths strewn with lost lives. The lilacs, peonies and sunflowers, will reveal so much grief, destruction and pain, side by side with the blooming azaleas and crocuses, pushing up past the blood drenched soil.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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