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Identity Crisis Ukraine

By Ruth Ann Angus
September 26, 2023

We all want to know who we are, where we came from. This is evident in all the interest in Ancestry.com and DNA tests. Even though we who were born in the United States can say we are Americans, our interest in our forebears is keen. When the war in Ukraine broke out, I saw the name of a city in the western section of that country that matched the name of the city in which my grandmother on my mother’s side was born. Lviv, only it was listed as Lvov on the paperwork we had from her emigration to the United States and that city was in Russia.

Listening to Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and Peace in Ukraine.org on a recent Zoom from The Beatitudes Center for the Nonviolent Jesus I learned about a lot of the suffering of the Ukrainian people in this unjust war with Russia. She told us of the recent effort of a diplomat from Turkeye (yes, it is spelled that way now) to affect a cease fire and how that effort almost came to fruition except that neither our President nor Congress supported it. Why is Congress not questioning the President as to his intent as he sends cluster bombs to Ukraine and stations more troops on the perimeter of the conflict, all ready to intervene? Democrats say the responsibility for the war is with the President and is not theirs. Some Republicans say they should fight it out to the end. Where does this leave the Ukrainians who have not only lost their freedom, but once again, lost their identity.

And it is identity loss that I think is the worse problem. Did my grandmother have a Ukrainian identity or was she Russian, or Austrian since at the time of her birth in 1882, the entire area was in the Austrian/Hungarian Empire? There was no Ukraine or Poland and not soon after her birth the town of Lvov was in Russian territory. Identity has always been an issue for the people of these lands.

It is a mystery that we in this country, still mostly free, have not been protesting this war. We seem to think that the war in Ukraine is “their” war, not ours and yet we are in this up to our eyeballs. Benjamin spoke about what she saw and experienced in her recent visit to that country, and we should take heed. “The war is at a stalemate,” she said, “there are war crimes on both sides. Let us agree that we need a way out.” Cluster bombs are not that way. Nuclear should not even be thought about but some on both sides are saying “Why not use mini-nuclear bombs to end this? They are saying they can control those, whatever that means. Are we in the United States going to remain silent as we advance closer and closer to a nuclear war?

Benjamin is asking us to join the Peace in Ukraine Coalition at www.peaceinukraine.org and sign up for what we can do to protest and get peace talks on the road. She says we need to write and call our congressional representatives and ask them why they are not doing anything to end this war. It’s costing us tax money and we should be outraged.

She also asks why the faith-based community has not joined in to appeal for the end to this war that is killing people every day. She wonders, as do I, where are the environmental leaders and why are they not on-board supporting letters to the President for peace talks? The habitat destruction you see every day on the nightly news is appalling. It will take hundreds of years for that environment to recover.

Benjamin spoke about a congressional Amendment to the Rules Committee that would ask for specific actions regarding the “Strategy for the United States Involvement in Ukraine” and said that this is likely to be developed into a House bill. One of the items in that amendment states that “a plan (be put in place) detailing a diplomatic pathway, including any personnel involved in diplomatic communications, by which the United States can facilitate a negotiated cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.” She recommends we support this bill with these requirements, so be prepared to contact your congressional representative.

Even though the Ukrainians’ loss of freedom is what is being challenged by this conflict, their loss of identity may be more crushing. Everyone wants to know who they are. Everyone wants to belong.

I can trace my lineage on my father’s side in Scotland back to the 14th century. I can say without hesitation that I am Scottish, even though I am clearly American. But my identity with my mother’s people remains unknown.

Over the years the peoples of much of Eastern Europe have suffered an identity crisis. Who are they? Will there be a Ukraine once this war is over? Will they ever be able to say with confidence, I am Ukrainian!

Please see www.codepink.org and www.peaceinukraine.org and www.worldbeyondwar.org/endingwar101 .

Ruth Ann Angus
Ruth Ann Angus is a 36-year resident of Morro Bay, California and is a writer/journalist and professional photographer who has published in local, regional, and national publications. She is Director of Yes We Can Peacebuilders, the nonviolence educational arm of People of Faith for Justice, and holds workshops, discussion groups, and special educational programs for adults and youth groups in San Luis Obispo County. Ruth Ann is a 17-year member of the Rotary Club of Morro Bay and a 27-year member of the Education and Outreach Committee of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.
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