The War in Ukraine Hits Home


    Poltava is a city of some 280,000 in Ukraine’s northeastern portion. At the time of this writing (February 27th, 11 AM Pacific Time), the city has yet to suffer a ground assault by Russian troops. Ukrainian sources have reported air strikes in the area.

    A few hours drive outside of Poltava lives a young woman named Oksana. She runs and teaches at a school in the city that teaches English. Oksana, at one time, lived in California. She used to babysit my daughter in everything but bloodline’s children.

    Some hours ago, Oksana posted the following on Facebook.

    TO ALL MY FOREIGN FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES: I’m as safe as possible in such a situation. Putin is a killer. Kindergartens, orphanages, civil homes… everything is bombed and shelled. He’s lying about attacking only military units. Our army puts its lives to defend. We are organizing help for the army. Mostly medical. And trying to help refugees. Russians are under propaganda influence. They think they are doing the right thing. They love wars and investing them from their taxes…ANYWAY, we need help. WHAT YOU CAN DO ? Apart from medical and financial help…Address your governments to close the sky so we will have to protect our country only on land. And we need SWIFT to be banned for invaders…And a lot of your prayers! It’s very hard and a lot of people are losing homes, lives, close people but nobody is giving up!

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    Her school is now serving as a collection point for medicinal and other supplies. That is, for as long as it remains standing.

    Here in the United States, war has almost always been a foreign entity, something for which we have traveled across an ocean. We don’t tuck our kids in at night, worrying about whether a missile or mortar shell will come crashing through the bedroom wall. We don’t think about whether that siren means an ambulance is heading to the scene of an accident or we need to take shelter from an incoming air raid. We don’t have to pay heed to such considerations. It’s more than likely we never will. It’s one of the rewards of living here.

    Other people don’t enjoy that luxury. We know these things happen. We’ve seen the pictures, be they from real life or ones made in a Hollywood basement. We’ve seen them so much, we’ve become inured and disconnected. Even the most disturbing visuals imaginable become optic room noise, something to politely set aside in favor of whatever is the Internet argument flavor of the week.

    This is not the case when it is a family member’s written word describing first-hand war’s brutal, omnipresent horror. This cuts deep because you have skin in the game. This is as far removed from Washington, D.C., walking pastry puffs bloviating about Who Is To Blame For All This (here’s a hint: the guy presently living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has far, far more to do with it than the addresses’ previous tenant) and Let’s Send Someone Else’s Kid To Fight This War.

    When I write here about sports, I’m fond of the grammatically poor yet still truthful truism “ball don’t care,” meaning athletic tools respond solely to how they are used, with no regard given to the user’s skin color. Here’s another truism: Bomb don’t care. Not if you’re the aggressor or the defender, not if you’re right or wrong, not about your race or religion or gender or any other identifying factor. Its sole objective is, should there be enough of you left to identify after it hits the target, making that job as difficult as possible.

    This is the war at home. It is comforting the woman I couldn’t love more as a daughter if she were my own, as she comforts her children. At their respective ages, these kids’ sole life concerns should be that first job, first date, first crush, and did they get their homework done in time to turn in tomorrow morning. Not wondering if the nice woman from next door who used to babysit them when mom was at work will be seeing another sunrise.

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