I was born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, and spent most of my adult life in Massachusetts, but I’ve always felt an affinity with Ukraine. My four grandparents were born there. They left as teenagers at the beginning of the 20th century, before the First World War and the Russian Revolution made a return to their homeland untenable.
I grew up attending a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Every week we prayed for a free Ukraine, independent of the Soviet Union. As a sarcastic, know-it-all teenager, I rolled my eyes, thinking the idea was nonsense.
My family celebrated Ukrainian Christmas on January 7 every year. We ate Ukrainian food. My parents sent me to Ukrainian school to learn the language (although the effort was unsuccessful, as I was never a good language student). At Easter, my family made Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Below is a photo of a bowl of these eggs which, to this day, sit in my home office.
I only visited Ukraine once, when my intermediate macroeconomics textbook was translated into Ukrainian and I was invited to give a series of lectures. I took my mother travelling. She was then in her sixties and was visiting her parents’ native country for the first and only time. We both spent about 10 days there, mainly in Kyiv.
As I watched recent events unfold, I can’t help but feel endless sadness. I’m sure I have distant relatives there. When I was a child, my grandmother corresponded with her family in Ukraine. This happened during the time of the Soviet Union and she sent them blankets and other basic supplies. Never any money, because she feared it would never pay off. After his death, this connection to our loved ones was lost to history.
I will not comment on the Biden administration’s response to this crisis. I have no foreign policy expertise and know that the trade-offs involved are too complex for me to fully understand. But I pray that our leaders have the courage and the wherewithal to do the right thing. For the long term. For Humanity.