Sunday Morning ~ Praying for Peace
Ngwazi ikufa ndi mpeni umodzi. ~ Even a big warrior can die with one stabbing.
~ Chewa proverb
March 6, 2022
I was on a chairlift with my daughter when I said it out loud, “He invaded.” I’d seen the headline early that morning but quickly shut my phone off and pretended I hadn’t. “I know”, she said. We said nothing more about it, not wanting to ruin our ski trip by acknowledging the reality of the collective nightmare. We did not discuss our fears for the future. We said nothing about our concern for family living in Eastern Europe. Our worry about what this would mean for the lives of the two, innocent, sweet kids sitting between us went unexpressed. We focused only on keeping them firm in their seat, keeping their tips up as we debarked, moving out of the way for the skiers behind us. Instead we celebrated the kids’ progress in staying upright, keeping their knees bent, their noses unfrozen, their fingers warm, and spirits full. Participating in an expensive and elitist sport, I was well aware of my privilege that day, relishing my freedom and ability. What absolute luxury. I wanted my grandkids to love it as much as I did. So, I spent that final day of our ski trip in denial.
We’d driven there separately so at the end of that day we loaded our skis into separate cars and went our separate ways, tired, cold, and grateful. I settled into my warm seat and braced myself to face the news. It took an hour to get out of the mountains and get a radio signal. I listened grimly, heart sinking, anxiety rising, and prayed.
In grammar school, the first history book I read with interest was The Diary of Anne Frank. It was not a collection of dates and events but a story of a young girl I could relate to. I was riveted by her writing; I wanted to learn about what was happening to her. She was thirteen when she started writing; I was ten when reading it. My mother was a young nurse during the second world war, not serving in the military, but working near Boston. I remember asking her what it was like and if she were scared. There were never specifics revealed from her. “Oh, we had to grow our own food and couldn’t travel.” she’d say, as if it were a mild inconvenience. She never sat me down and said, “War is terrible. We all suffered; the people in Europe most of all; the Jews ultimately.” No one ever said that. It was like a Hollywood movie, the images I had, and we were victorious. Growing your own food? That sounded a perfect romantic life to me and good prevailed in the end. My father was on a Navy ship in the Pacific and, in addition to the photos of him posing with what looked like a canon, there were photos of men dressed up with mops as wigs crossing the equator. It looked like fun. There were sunny skies and men smiling for the camera. It was all heroic. He came back intact, at least physically, and war talk was of victory and strength. None of it fit with the story of the young girl locked in an attic.
When I saw the movie Sofie’s Choice I was a young woman with babies of my own. I left the movie theater barely able to walk. That was what it was like. Holy God. No. It must never happen again. And because I believed it must and would never happen again, I thought the rest of the world believed it too. Smart people who lived through this would never let it happen again. I had blind faith that we were all smarter now, the information more clear, citizens more worldly, more compassionate. It would never happen again. But what was I talking about? There are wars all over the place, but not wars we can relate to. Their cultures are too strange, their landscape too exotic, their depiction in our media too unreal. They aren’t us. Conflicts that escalate over time, have their roots in colonialism, and begin internally are so complex that we give up trying to understand them. But now a deranged bully, sick and powerful, has shown us what is possible and we can relate. I have no doubt at some point, he’ll fall, but am terrified of the cost. I am sick with worry and wonder what to do.
I have family in Poland, and though I don’t believe Putin will directly attack there, war does not stay contained. My experience with MSF taught me that refugees are welcomed for awhile during the crisis, but those displacements soon result in other conflicts. Resources eagerly shared at the onset become stressors when those resources become scarce and need to be distributed fairly. Those stressors then lead to internal conflicts and the pattern ripples.
I had been planning to go for a month this spring to visit Poland and Ukraine. A friend was teaching in Ukraine and I thought, why not see that country as well? But he was evacuated in January, the state department taking it’s own advice seriously, and is now staying in Budapest. My family remains in Warsaw. So I’m deciding what to do. I’m wondering if I could volunteer somehow with refugees. I’ve started looking into it and will decide this week.
I listen to the news constantly, getting updates of cities decimated, people fleeing, numbers killed. I sit with my book group and look around as we discuss furnace troubles and plumbing problems. We meet inside for the first time in a year, but all stay masked, because we are not risking any illness. And I think, what if we had ten minutes to flee? How much can you grab?What would I take if I had no idea if I were coming back? If my house would stand?
I do not understand warfare or what is to be gained by these atrocities. I’m relieved to see most of the world condemning this and the actions taken thus far. I constantly pray the heroism in Ukraine will prevail with as much support as possible. I will not complain about prices or inconveniences. It is so small compared to what others are facing. I do not take my liberties for granted.
Love to all,
“War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.”