I’ll begin this post with an admission: until a couple of weeks ago, I was only dimly aware of the country of Ukraine. I knew it existed, knew that it had once been part of the USSR, and at the time it occurred, I read a couple of stories about its 2014 “revolution,” the brief media reports that a popular uprising had forced out Ukraine’s Russian-puppet President, but that was about the extent of it.
Now, with the rest of the world, I’m watching in real time as Ukrainians provide a lesson to the rest of us in courage and insistence on their nation’s right to self-determination.It turns out that this isn’t the first time Ukraine citizens have modeled that lesson, although it is the first time most Americans–including yours truly– have been paying attention.
Our daughter alerted us to the existence of a documentary about that prior lesson .It is currently streaming on Netflix–titled Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. We watched it, and It was revelatory. I urge everyone with Netflix (which may be pretty much everyone, given its ubiquity) to watch it. The documentary chronicled the 2014 uprising, the deeply humane and genuinely patriotic motives that impelled it, and the brutal efforts to suppress it.
The young people who triggered that uprising made their motives clear: they wanted Ukraine to be part of Europe–not part of Russia or Russia’s sphere of influence. They wanted their children to grow up in a democratic society tied to the West, and when the puppet President refused to sign an agreement that had been negotiated tying Ukraine to the EU, they responded by demonstrating in huge numbers.
The demonstrations were peaceful; the response was brutal.
Ultimately, the Ukrainian citizens prevailed. But what was amazing to me, and what the documentary so vividly displayed, was the Immense size of the Ukrainian protests, the enormous numbers of ordinary citizens–teenagers and grandparents, labor and management, men and women– who joined in the demand for change, took to the streets, and actively participated in the ensuing deadly combat with government forces.
The defiance we are seeing now was undoubtedly strengthened by the success of that 2014 uprising, costly as it proved to be in death and destruction.
It is utterly wrenching to watch Putin’s unprovoked war on these gutsy people, to see in real time how Russian assaults are not just destroying iconic buildings, but killing and wounding civilians who offered no threat to Russia–citizens who only wanted their country to remain independent of Russian domination.
After watching the documentary, it was hard to sleep.
It was also impossible not to wonder: how many of the spoiled-brat Americans who equate wearing a face mask with tyranny would emulate the brave Ukrainians if we were invaded by a stronger neighbor? How many of those same spoiled brats–the ones who drive their expensive gas-guzzling SUVs to the outer suburbs, where they moved to escape “those people”–will carp about higher gas prices while Russia’s outlawed cluster bombs fall on Ukrainian cities.
Watch the documentary. Again, it’s on Netflix: Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. It’s eye-opening.