"The best people are dying on the front lines in Ukraine," my friend recently said as we discussed Ukraine. The obvious question arose: "Am I doing enough, even though I’m not on the front lines?’’
After all, writing articles hardly compares to being on the front lines. In theory, writers can be targeted by the Russian regime, but the risk is rather minimal. Still, it’s better than being a passive observer of the monumental events unfolding around me.
The war in Ukraine is deciding the world’s future. This is no hyperbole.
Everyone who fights on the front lines in defense of freedom, regardless of who they were before the war, is a hero.
I’m sure many fighters, in their inherent humility, don’t want to be called heroes but they are. I’m glad that Poland has decided to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
When I see the senseless destruction in Ukraine, I can’t help but remember Polish history. As a Pole, I was raised in the cult of heroic deaths and sacrifices for the motherland. The fact that President Zelensky visited the Eaglets Cemetery in Lviv is an important, symbolic, gesture for the Poles.
It just goes to show we live in extraordinary times.
Orlęta lwowskie have a special place in Polish history and the Polish psyche. They are a classic example of the Polish ethos of martyrdom. Every Pole remembers reading poems and novels at school, extolling the virtues of martyrs and heroes who sacrificed their lives to hold off Russian invaders.
There was even a period in our history when Russians had the chance to be seen as genuine liberators. I’m talking about the Warsaw Uprising against Nazi Germany. The Uprising began on Aug. 1, 1944, and lasted for 63 days. We call it the 63 days of glory.
The Polish elites, mostly young and smart people known as the Generation of Columbuses, battled the Nazis on the streets of Warsaw. As heroic as the Polish youngsters were, they stood no chance against the methodical Nazi-German war machine.
Kids, even Girl Scouts, were being mowed down in the Warsaw streets by genocidal maniacs who saw all Jews and the majority of Slavs as subhuman.
The Russians could have stopped the senseless slaughter but they didn’t. The Red Army waited on the right bank of the Vistula River and watched the Germans kill, or at best expel, the population of left-bank Warsaw. Some 200,000 civilians were brutally murdered.
The Russians were supposedly our allies. Yet another example of how much Russian promises are worth. Russians, being Russians, see nothing wrong with their actions. When the Soviets walked into Warsaw on Jan. 17, 1945, it was clear that the sovietization of Poland was unavoidable.
The elites who had died in the Warsaw Uprising would have made it much harder for the Soviets to enslave Poland. The Soviets brought their own communist ‘’elites’’ with them. The consequences of the Uprising are felt to this day in Poland. We still say the best and the brightest Poles died in the Warsaw Uprising.
The Uprising continues to be a contentious topic in Poland. An increasing number of Poles call the ones who gave the Uprising order "hopeless romantics" and "criminals".’ One feature of the Polish national character is unmistakable: Poles thrive in a crisis. It’s in our DNA.
Russians have a twisted version of the martyrology cult, too, which is why I know they aren’t kidding when they say, ‘’Why be afraid? Go to heaven.’’
Westerners are looking for ways to rationalize this mindset because it’s virtually impossible for them to grasp. But I truly think that Russians see themselves as martyrs on their way to heaven. The geopolitical implications of that are terrifying.
When I look at Warsaw in January 1945, I see Mariupol in 2023. We watch what’s happening in Ukraine and many of us are torn inside.
We want to be on the front lines, right now, helping to fight the encroaching evil. But most of us aren’t heroes. We’re scared to leave our comfortable lives behind and stare death in the face.
In our selfishness, we forget that Ukrainians had plans and dreams, too. And then, the war came.
What was important before Feb. 24, 2022, no longer matters.
Russia is going to keep escalating, keep enslaving, keep exterminating. Evacuation is always an option but, alas, Russia is a global threat capable of destroying humanity if Mad Vlad chooses to.
Just because you evacuate to North America doesn’t mean you’re safe. President Zelensky could have fled to the U.S., but he chose to stay and fight the invaders.
He said the words that will reverberate throughout history: ‘’I need ammunition, not a ride.’’ President Zelensky knows Russia must be stopped in Ukraine. If Ukraine falls, we’re all in danger.
And, the time may come when Russia crosses the point of no return. Writing articles won’t be enough then.
People like me, undeservedly called intellectuals by some, will need to join the fight on the front lines and become the newly-minted soldiers fighting alongside.
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Comments ( 1)
A thoughtful perspective with echoes from the past. The free world indeed needs to stay united to help Ukraine. The Ukrainians are now sacrificing their best and brightest to keep a contagion confined. The people of Poland know this all too well. I hope and trust that Poland will continue to set the standard for support and clarity of purpose. Thank you, Poland!