Watching Ukraine from Afar

A few years ago, I read a book about Gustav Klimt’s Jewish patrons and portrait subjects -many of whose families, unsurprisingly, perished in the Holocaust. I remember reading a quote in the book, from a person describing the Anschluss, saying that as she saw the tanks rolling in, she saw it, but she didn’t believe it.

I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot, because that’s how I feel sometimes when I’m seeing what’s happening to Ukraine from afar. But I know that to the people in Ukraine, the situation is all too real.

Reading about the Russian strike on the maternity hospital in Mariupol, I keep on imagining what I would have felt like if I went to the hospital, pregnant with my miracle baby after years of IVF and heart surgery, only to have it literally crumble down around me, running away and fearing for my life and that of the baby inside me.

Ukraine’s president Zelensky has been pleading with the world to establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine and to provide it with more anti-aircraft missiles, in order to stop Russia from bombing Ukraine -and increasingly, targeting civilians -from the sky. But so far the world has refused to establish a no-fly zone, on the grounds that it does not want to start a war with Russia. I understand being afraid. Putin is ruthless, and will use any means at his disposal to get his way. He has access to nuclear weapons, as well as cyber spyware and operatives trained in misinformation campaigns that can destabilize democracies.

But does anyone think Putin will stop with Ukraine?

By not establishing a no-fly zone now, aren’t we only delaying the inevitable -but in the meantime, thousands of people will die and over a million will be displaced from their homes?

I think everyone who has been following the news is awed by the bravery of the Ukrainian people. On the battlefront, they continue to hold their own, despite being outnumbered and outmatched. On the home front, we see people coming together and helping each other, providing shelter and supplies as both dwindle. 

The best way to honor that bravery is by helping them to win.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.
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