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Holocaust Monuments

In a more perfectly ordered world, one of the Klitschko brothers would have ONE round with Putin in a mixed martial arts cage and . . . END OF INVASION!

Now comes the most gratuitous assault by Vladimir Putin on the memory of Holocaust and genocide victims. He attacked the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, killing five people, and destroying the office complex, though the monuments were spared. The site was recently discussed in this space, and memorialized by poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in an epic 1961 poem.

A memorial to the Soviet victims was established at Babi Yar by the USSR in 1976, and a formal the Holocaust Memorial Center was created in 2016. The site consists of eleven different monuments, which tribute the origin and ethnicities besides the 33,000 Jews killed there – various Eastern Orthodox sects, Roma Gypsies, Ukrainian Nationalists, Soviet citizens, among others. The destruction of historical sites evokes the madness of the recent destruction of sacred religious and archeological sites in Iraq and Southeast Asia.

The destruction of historical sites evokes the madness of the recent destruction of sacred religious and archeological sites in Iraq and Southeast Asia.

As with 911, the shock of the Soviet invasion (Let’s call it what it is, since this is Putin’s boldest strike at re-establishing the brand) didn’t give way to actual tears for a few days. Grief is deeply personal even when it involves a global dynamic. There is a lot to absorb and process before we sort out the emotions.

One thing that dramatizes the tragedy of war for me is seeing people clutching their dogs and cats in shelters or refugee lines, and teenage and pre-teen girls holding their stuffed animals as they trudge along a broken road to escape their broken homes. The tragedies and consequences of war are innumerable, and the human cost can’t be measured in dollar or rubles. I can’t stand to watch, but I have to know. That Ukraine is one of my family old countries elevates and personalizes this tragedy.

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Seeing a highly evolved and civilized country become a battleground and killing field is heartbreaking, and this invasion and resistance IS being televised. Men and women from all walks of life have become warriors and soldiers. This includes prominent citizens, most notably President Volodymyr Zelensky, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champ; and his brother Wladimir, also a former boxing champ. It includes current heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk, lightweight contender Vasyli Lomechenko, and Ukrainian National Ballet Principal, Oleksii Potiomki. Patrick Swayze proved that dancers can fight as well as fighters. Then there are thousands of bright, beautiful young Ukrainian woman pausing their education or professional careers to risk their lives.

Zelensky is an icon of bravery and patriotism, responding to President Joe Biden’s offer for protection and asylum saying, “I don’t need a ride, we need ammunition.” Imagine if Al Franken had not been railroaded out of office by the vainglorious ambition of Senator Kirsten Gillenbrand, was elevated to president, and took up arms if the US were invaded. That’s the context – Zelensky was a popular actor and comedian before running for office.

In a more perfectly ordered world, one of the Klitschko brothers would have ONE round with Putin in a mixed martial arts cage and . . . END OF INVASION! But alas, Putin is a coward who doesn’t play fair. He is a Napoleonic figure with delusions of grandeur of re-establishing the USSR, whom former Secretary of State Madeline Albright described as “reptilian” upon meeting him.

Putin’s madness is illustrated on many levels. How can bombing and killing civilians win hearts and minds? His natural calculation and training as a KGB agent has been eclipsed by a narcissistic sense of empowerment and delusions of grandeur, leading to fatal lapses in judgment. He is eliciting punishing economic sanctions against his own people, and self-imploding the Russian economy; but he doesn’t seem to care. The destruction of Kiev and other vital cities is beyond the scale of gratuitous destruction in Dresden by Allied bombers during WWII.

Maybe to Putin, it’s a calculated and accepted opportunity cost. We can’t know the thought process of a sociopathic dictator. Does he really expect to resurrect the USSR in short order, now that some of his military system is shown to be painted rust, and the support infrastructure a joke for the enemy? Is he too myopic to recognize the futility?

Ukrainian citizens are destroying their own bridges and infrastructure to stymie and confuse the Soviets. This is protection by subtraction – no positive math is involved. It illustrates the utter counter-productiveness of war, as there will be nothing left to claim without Herculaneum investments for rebuilding.

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What’s left to claim after you destroy the government and commercial infrastructure, lay waste to historic monuments, and make refugees out of young families and their animals? Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pointed out on Twitter that, “Nazis killed over 33 thousand Jews here; 80 years later, Russian Nazis strike the same land to exterminate Ukrainians. Evil and barbaric.”

H. Scott Prosterman