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Freedom flowers

Before I headed out this morning, I reminded myself to stop for gas. Rationing, CNN was warning, long lines at the pumps, rising prices.

This, after going to bed the night before, heartsick as Anderson Cooper reported the latest devastating news from Ukraine. Then waking up to even more, maps circling areas where civilians are under attack, humanitarian escape routes blocked, hundreds of thousands of innocent victims left behind. Almost Kafkaesque, I thought.

Beyond belief.

My husband and I had been to Franz Kafka’s house on a visit to Prague in the 1990s, in the shadow of the Czech Republic’s dark Communist past. And we’d been to what was then Kharkov,Ukraine, with the Jewish Federation, just as Ukraine had become a democratic state. We’d visited a family in their cramped apartment, chatted over hot tea and cookies. And we’d traveled through the Carpathian Mountains and spent time in Poland near the Ukraine border.

It made it harder to watch what was happening, having been there, though I can’t even begin to fathom what it is like for the courageous Ukrainian people now.

I turned on my car radio as I drove to Talmud class, the drone of the news cold comfort, but the immediacy of the worsening situation compelling me to listen anyway.

Gas, such a trivial concern, I thought, even as I glanced at my fuel gauge. Puh-leese.

And yet Putin’s delusions of recapturing the grandeur of Russia’s past and crazed territorial conquest has ramifications for us all. Well beyond gas, though the implications for our economy, including gasoline shortages and increasing costs, can’t be ignored. Everything has a price, even, or especially, doing what is right.

It’s further evidence of the import of this moment, pitting East against West, the values of a repressive, autocratic regime against free, liberal democratic ideals.

I still remember huddling under my school desk in the 1950s, the Cold War, a little girl, with little or no conception of what the screaming siren was warning us about, just that it was something scary.

Yet now, as Putin is relentlessly attacking who we are, what we represent, what we hold most dear, with his megalomaniacal grab for power and unconscionable disregard for the value of human life, I get it.

I watched with pride as our president addressed the entire US Congress, as he pledged to use every weapon in our diplomatic and economic arsenal to exert pressure on Russia to end the assault.

I watched as we asserted our role as a defender of freedom and our efforts to forge a collaborative response with our allies in the free world to put an end to Putin’s madness.

And I felt ever more fervently American.

And, so, I’m compelled to write a few words, my own paltry protest to Putin, to exercise those very rights we in the West hold most dear, the freedom of conscience and the freedom of expression.

And with my words, offer my hopes and prayers that freedom continues to flower in Ukraine.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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