The editors of Persimmon Tree stand in awe of the courage and fortitude of the women, men, and children of Ukraine. We at Persimmon Tree all have stories that relate us to that beleaguered nation, as we are sure, you do as well. Here is one of them:
My grandfather was 16 years old in 1904 when he emigrated to America from Ukraine, escaping a pogrom and forced service in the Russian army – reasons that are probably very similar to what brought members of your family here as well. Our family myths (which may or may not have been entirely true) had it that, as soon as he could afford to, he started paying for his sisters and brothers to join him. The reality may have been that at least two sisters emigrated before he did and that at least a couple of his siblings stayed with their mother in their tiny Ukrainian farming village. In the 30s, my aunt Rose, a lifelong Communist, journeyed in the other direction, going to Ukraine to visit those aunts and uncles and cousins who’d stayed behind. At that time, it was, she remembered, a day’s journey from Kyiv, mostly by horse and cart. She did not mention the famine Stalin had caused, a vast hunger that killed thousands of Ukrainians. Not so many years after her visit, they were all exterminated by the Nazis, their bodies tossed in a common grave. Of course, had they lived, they probably would have died in Stalin’s purges in the 50s. Or, maybe there are still some living descendants in Ukraine, and maybe now, as I write, they are taking up arms to fight off the Russians yet again. I hope that, if you or I do still have family in Ukraine, they are either doing that or safely in Poland. The other possibilities are too, too sad to contemplate. – Jean Zorn, Publisher

7 Comments on “Ukraine

  1. Out Of My Mind
    My mind thinks
    Of David and Goliath
    Of pit bull and chihuahua
    Russia’s bear and Ukraine’s nightingale
    My mind THINKS
    Of how to get even
    Of strategies for revenge
    Of how to maker the invader pay
    My THINKing mind
    Judges who is right, who is wrong
    Cheers at the news of a counter-attack
    Tallies downed planes and dead bodies
    My HEART strains to FEEL
    to take in the terror of civilians
    leaving destroyed cities,
    leaving behind husbands and sons to fight
    photos, money, milk in the fridge.
    My heart yearns to sync its beat with
    the same unfathomable courage
    that the whole world is witnessing
    My HEART seeks to soften with stories
    Of scared young men on both sides
    Of tearful phone calls to mothers
    Of a woman offering tea to an enemy soldier
    I want to be cracked
    open to let light into my steel-helmet-of-a-mind
    But my mind over-rules my heart
    Do I need to be
    out of my mind
    to hope for peace?

  2. The Wrong Tree

    Look at us humans
    bones and blood and skin
    eating fruit from the wrong tree,
    sailing arks to banish the bad
    but we are fools and sink with the ship

    Prayers unheard clog the earth
    war after war and the world whirls on
    a murderer in every corner
    superheros vanished or banished,
    refugees like the rest of us

    Atlantis has disappeared
    saints burned at the stake
    Shangri La never was
    think Hiroshima, my love

    Mozart was recalled at thirty-five
    Moses forbidden the promised land
    slavery and plagues still alive
    and no one to raise us from the dead

    Look, Henny Penny
    the ruble is falling
    the wall is wailing
    the pipes are calling
    Danny, the boy, the soldier
    tells Mama he’s frightened –
    then the missile explodes

    The sun shines and regrets and retreats
    the crocodile cries and destroys
    this is not the planet of free choice

    News news everywhere
    on buildings, in bunkers,
    oh how the world has shrunk

    We are all golems
    slumped on the floor
    waiting for instructions…
    or our own destruction

    © 3.2022 Helen Bar-Lev

  3. I continue to be moved by these family stories from the past and by the heroism of the present. When COVID-19 hit, my grandson had been in the Peace Corps in Ukraine for six months. I urge readers to contribute to agencies offering humanitarian aid. Religious groups, in particular, are organized to pass on funds to on-site groups. I’ve been donating through the Presbyterian Disaster Relief:

  4. My Grandmother left Odessa in 1905 at age sixteen, stowed away on a freighter coming to America, escaping pogroms. My Grandfather left Kyiv in 1894 to escape the Russian army
    traveled on foot, always in danger, to get to Europe and then on to America. I don’t know if relatives were left there. They both came from large families and not everyone was able to escape. Of course during those times, the entire area was considered Russia.

  5. thank you, Jean and others for your comments – heartfelt, significant, as well as heartbreaking.
    We stand unified in our support for Ukraine and for our ancestors who lost their lives. For no reason. Will we ever learn?

  6. Around 1918-20 my father escaped a pogrom in his shtetl near Vitepsk, the town where Marc Chagall was born, which is in today ‘s Belarus. I feel related to every one of those brave Ukrainians facing down Putin’s savage invasion.

  7. Thank you so much for this introduction. My great-grandmother’s family fled a pogrom in what was Lvov at the time (now Lviv). She ended up growing up in Austria and immigrating to the U.S. at the turn of the century. Cousins pf the family originally from who remained in Austria were fortunate to get out immediately after Kristallnacht in Vienna-one of them spending time in Dachau first-and because my grandmother was able to get them affidavits in the brief window before the U.S. closed the door to those escaping the Nazis, all Austrian relatives who were originally from Lvov/Lviv made it safely to America. You are so right about similar experiences throughout time bringing families to America.

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