My youngest son has a soft spot for flags at the moment. As we drive through town on our way to and from the crèche, he happily counts the “Ireland flags”.
We recently started counting the blue and yellow flags of Ukraine, which are now surpassing the Irish flags on our route. As a nation, there is no doubt about our compassion for the people of Ukraine.
It’s hard to deny that an element of that compassion comes along because they look like many of us. White middle-class people like us fleeing their homes and watching their villages and towns burn. They could be us, so we give them a warm welcome.
It’s a bit hard to bear that some of the refugees spend years in direct care, I’m sure. It’s sometimes a little hard for me to bear. Perhaps our compassion could extend its reach a little in the future.
I firmly believe in telling my children the truth, so I told my older son the basics of what is happening in Ukraine.
A big powerful country invaded a smaller country and tried to steal it, that’s the gist of what I was saying. Of course, there was no way I could tell him the whole truth about what is going on – the horror being inflicted on the people of Ukraine is almost too much for many adults, let alone a five-year-old.
When I was a little older than him, however, I became fixated on a different set of horrors. From the first moment I learned about the Holocaust, I wanted to know more. For years I’ve searched every book and film I could get my hands on, from age appropriate novels to less appropriate history books.
Looking back, I think it was because I couldn’t believe it had happened. I just couldn’t get the idea to hate someone because of something like religion or even race. I couldn’t believe people were capable of such organized hatred as concentration camps and cold blood murder on such a mass scale.
Of course, now that I’m an adult, I think about it a little differently, but I was reminded of those feelings when I saw the footage and photos from areas like Bucha and Irpin in Ukraine this week. mass graves. Execution-style shootouts. Rape. It’s familiar. It’s terrible. Once again I can’t stop thinking about it.
During my years of childhood research on the Holocaust, one message kept coming through: “Never again.”
It appears on Holocaust memorials around the world, and this sentiment was at the core of my teachers’ teaching of the subject at school.
We must learn from the atrocities of the past so they don’t repeat themselves. Of course they happened again. There have been repeated genocides – in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think remembering is not enough.
This week I couldn’t shake the feeling of responsibility for what is happening in Ukraine. Every revelation of a heartbreaking death has wracked me with guilt. It feels like we’re allowing it.
I know that as individuals we do our best. You don’t have to look far to read about record-breaking fundraisers, trucks full of supplies heading to Poland and people making room in their homes for arriving Ukrainians. It’s an outstanding achievement. Still, I feel like we should do more. I’m by no means an international relations expert, but as a human being I can’t help but wonder where the line is. How many war crimes are acceptable war crimes? How many mass graves is an acceptable number of mass graves?
I know there will be people rolling their eyes at this. My husband was just able to hide his eye roll when I asked him about it yesterday. What I want? third world war? Of course not. I understand the thinking that means these events are allowed to happen as they are. That doesn’t change the fact that they are allowed to play.
A selection has been made. People suffer and die from it. I think we have to live with that. I just find it hard to live in a world where things like this are allowed to happen. The seven year old in me just doesn’t get it.
I wonder how I’m going to explain all this to my kids when they’re older. I asked my parents about the events of the Rwandan genocide and they just didn’t understand the magnitude of what was going on at the time. We don’t have that excuse, with cameras everywhere and footage being broadcast around the world every minute of every day.
I know what’s happening, yet here I am, going to parties, taking my kids to the playground, and chatting about the latest celebrity drama. But I forgive myself. We have to split up as humans in order to move on.
We can’t help but get used to regular scenes of atrocities as they are beamed into our lives. However, I don’t want to part too much with the true terror and inhumanity of it all. I hope there is not a day that we are not disturbed by the type of images emerging from Bucha this week. It’s a horror and we should all be horrified.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/how-many-war-crimes-and-mass-graves-until-the-savagery-raining-on-ukraine-becomes-unacceptable-41535528.html How many war crimes and mass graves before the atrocities raining down on Ukraine become unacceptable?