Common Causes

“I just don’t have enough positive emotions,” Anton wrote in a recent email.

A Ukrainian soldier, Anton was referring to finding the right books to read, to distract him. After two years of fighting Putin’s invasion, Anton’s tired. His fellow soldiers are tired. He often repeats, “we can’t do this without you.” Biden asked Congress for additional Ukraine aid in October. It finally passed this week. Six months later. How many Ukrainians died due to insufficient air defense during that time?

Sunflowers for Ukraine

In November 2022, I read a New York Times article featuring Ukrainian soldiers. Anton was one of them. He’s young enough to be my grandson, has a wife and child, was a film critic before the war. “A writer,” I concluded, looked him up, found the soldier interviews he’d posted. Trench warfare stories.

The robot translations were terrible. I’m a translator. I don’t know Ukrainian but knew I could do better. Plus, Anton knows a lot of English. We began working together when many Americans were flying Ukrainian colors, displaying sunflowers, when Ukrainians were defiant and we had their backs.

At first, they’d feared the much bigger Russian military would steamroll over them, leaving Putin hungry to keep rolling. Maybe Poland. (Wait: haven’t we been here before?) Steamrolling didn’t happen. Like any people defending their homeland, Ukrainians were motivated fighters. I hear Putin was livid.

But nor was there any victory decisive enough to end the war. Allies aid came too slowly, didn’t include the defenses needed. Despite Russia’s arms outnumbering Ukraine ten-to-one, Ukraine held on. So much loss of life, both sides. The war is said to be at a stalemate, with Russia perhaps gaining an edge.

The most recent of Anton’s interviews was about an operator whose drone was purchased for him by his wife and a group of friends. I fired off an email immediately: Do you have PayPal? A GoFundMe? I’d be happy to contribute to a drone fund and others would too. Anton replied:

“Thank you for offering to help financially. You already do a lot for Ukraine. With your articles. With your translations. I’m embarrassed to take money from you. We will handle fundraising for the drone ourselves. Yes, it will take several months. But I made it a rule to save 10% of my salary for army needs. This is a common thing for me.”

Ten percent. Anton tithes for the cause.

His English has improved significantly since we started corresponding. Still, nuances of meaning are difficult to master. When Anton says “common,” he means habitual, usual, a practice shared by many of his compatriots. Buying their own gear is what they do.

I could get people to raise a lousy $2,500 for a Mavic 3 Pro. I tried to persuade him, but he was adamant. “I respect your position,” I conceded. Anton replied:

“Thank you for understanding my refusal of money…I don’t want our war to take even more of your time… Our soldiers very often buy weapons, drones and other necessary things themselves. Now I’m saving money for another drone. Every few months I buy drones for frontline work. This has already become a common thing for my brothers in arms.”

I sent letters to my Congressional delegation, to the White House, about how these guys are having to buy their own drones and Gerry-rig explosives for them, because they don’t have those either and when are they going to pass that aid.

Anton thanked me for the letters. “I hope your words will encourage politicians to more actively defend democracy.”

Amen to wishing our politicians would more actively defend democracy.

Apparently, Mike Johnson had a come-to-Jesus moment that inspired him to risk losing his speakership. Less than two weeks after I sent those letters, the House passed the bill. Six months late. A Russian spring offensive ready to begin. My words had nothing to do with it. Every vote against Ukraine was cast by a Republican. My delegation are all Democrats.

Wars never do any good. Russia’s tried to eliminate Ukrainian identity for centuries. At huge costs to all. This attempt is failing again. The film critic is also alive and well. “What good films have you seen?” he asks. He recommends Saltburn. A bad guy in that film reminds him of Putin.

Slava Ukraine.

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6 Responses to Common Causes

  1. normando1 says:

    Oh, my God! If Americans don’t see this as not only sad, but infuriating, I don’t know what will. This shows the absolute will that prevails in Ukraine. I don’t understand why Republicans can’t see what’s going on. It’s really very simple, Putin’s Russia wants to crush Ukraine to expand its unreal concept of empire. Ukraine is the little guy, Russia is Goliath. Putin is not only a danger to Europe, he is a danger to the world. He is a danger to the USA and Republicans are dragging their feet to help Ukraine hold off superior forces. Republicans could have joined with Democrats to pass the aid to Ukraine six months ago and they let their own (prospective) authoritarian madman guide their choices. Disgusting!

  2. Deb says:

    Pat, you are my hero. Thanks for all the wonderful “little” things you do and notice in our world.

  3. Bob Jaeger says:

    Heartbreaking. At least our government has finally stepped up. Hope it’s not too late. If Anton changes his mind and decides to accept donations, let me know. I would be grateful to be able to contribute.

  4. Sand says:

    Likewise, if there’s a way to help financially let us know.
    I sub to a Ukrainian independent news group via Patreon

Comments are closed.