I was talking to my Greek father about the war in Ukraine – and he reminded me of the final scene in the iconic 1968 film ‘Planet of the Apes’, when American astronaut George Taylor, played by Charleston Heston, lands on Earth in the year 3978. He gets on all fours, shocked, after seeing the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand. He proclaims horrified, “Oh MY GOD, I’m back. I’m at home. All the time. They finally really did. You MANIACS – you blew it. Oh, damn you! God damn you! You all go to hell!”
And now we humans are really about to blow up the earth. Someone has their finger on the button and not only kills and holds a country hostage, but threatens the very existence of the entire earth.
Growing up as a first-generation Ukrainian-Greek-American in suburban Detroit was ultra-sensory. All I crave these days are holiday dinners with my Ukrainian grandparents at their little house in Detroit. I can still see every color, smell every scent, touch every fabric, hear every sound, feel every emotion from my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s with my mother’s side of the family.
The dinner table was filled with my four beautiful aunts, my cousins, my extended family and my visitors. The little house always seemed big enough for anyone who visited. What I remember are the sometimes whiskey-filled and wildly patriotic Ukrainian anthems sung at the table, the Christmas and Easter blessings my grandfather said before we indulged in the bold-tasting holupchi (stuffed cabbage) , to pierogi filled with robust sauerkraut, to eating raw garlic for good luck – things ordinary American kids haven’t experienced.
The table accented by neon colored Easter eggs and richly braided breads. Knocked on the door by tipsy Ukrainian Christmas carolers looking for a good tip, and maybe a glass of brandy. Midnight Mystical Mass at St. John’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Detroit. Downtown Ukrainian festivals, with fantastic dancers doing moves that might not be possible.
I miss the loud and sometimes tumultuous conversations, the passionate banter with fiery anger. I can’t help but wonder now if it’s an inherent trait of Ukrainians to scream through their trauma, because trauma has been part of their experiential DNA for centuries.
After long sufferings under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, my grandparents Anna and Andy had to start over in America, with my mother, in 1949. Without a penny to begin with, they worked day and night. Overcoming alcoholism, working in factories by day and cleaning offices at night. Somehow finding the money to send some of their five daughters to Catholic and Ukrainian schools, take music lessons and raise them as best they know how.
And it was hard for them. Yet my grandmother still had her fingernails painted, her platinum blonde hair styled by the salon, and my grandfather was always tanned and wearing nice suits.
When I see the dispersed families on TV, getting on the trains, I see my family parting ways and me saying goodbye to them – maybe forever.
When I see 80 and 90 year old grandmothers, I see my Baba and how she would never let anyone touch her children or grandchildren. She would indeed be there, throwing her own body into the fire to protect us. When I see older men volunteering to train and fight, I think of my defiant and strong-willed grandfather Andy, who would easily punch an enemy in the mouth.
I see Ukraine as a country that is a model for seeking justice and order in a world that is in a chaotic state. One who seeks independence from tyranny. I saw an interview last night and a young woman said, “The Ukrainian government may not be perfect, but even if we make mistakes, let’s make ours.
She’s right. Russia has no right to invade and kill. If a real world war breaks out, Ukraine should not end up being a martyr. God forgives. It can, however, be the country that saves the world, as it shapes the collective consciousness to unite and fight global tyranny and evil.
We cannot let a despot or ruler have command and control over sovereign and free nations.
The massive outpouring of humanity seeking to end injustice on such a scale is something I have never seen in my life. At a time when everything is visible and above all transparent, we know that we must unite and stop atrocities around the world. And we can. My legacy is your legacy. My globe is your globe. And I swear to watch the world news and be aware of all the countries attacked, because there is no excuse now. We must commit to stopping the evil.
The good angels on this earth, and from above, must stop the madness. I think my grandparents still sing patriotic Ukrainian songs and will lend a hand, even from heaven.
Anne Marie Pacitto is a publicist, event producer and serves on the board of the Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance. She has lived in the Pikes Peak area for over 20 years.