(Here is something I wrote almost 9 years ago on May 9, 2005 concerning Victory Day celebrations in Gorlovka, Ukraine. It seems pertinent to me today as we are awaiting the "vote" in Crimea concerning succession from Ukraine and intergration into Russia. Please keep praying for Ukraine.)
Today is May 9, 2005 - the 60th Anniversary of VE Day. Sitting in Gorlovka,
Ukraine, today is the revered holiday "Victory Day." All day long I have been
watching the news and reading some email journals about the differing opinions
concerning Victory Day. The Baltic States do not count it as Victory Day because
years of Nazi oppression were replaced by decades of Soviet oppression. In
Ukraine there are mixed feelings - in the Russian leaning East (where I live)
the day is celebrated with gusto. In the nationalist West there is less gusto
because of perceived domination by the Soviet Union (some in the West welcomed
Hitler's troops as liberators from the Communists). The Baltic States are
demanding that Russia offers an apology for the nearly 50 years of communist
oppression - and with President Bush's visit to Latvia, the international press
is making a lot of their demands. Russian President Putin, however, is saying
that the USSR already apologized in 1989 and will not do so again. "Will we have
to do this every year? Every day?" And Putin refuses to grant an apology - even
putting the world on notice that a great debt is owed the Soviet Union for their
costly role in defeating Hitler. The Soviet Union lost nearly 25 million people
during the War.
In my city of Gorlovka there is a monument to the fallen
soldiers of the Great Patriotic War (what the Soviets call WWII). More than 10
years ago I saw some elderly women laying flowers at this monument in respect
for the dead (maybe their husbands, fathers or brothers). The kids loved to play
on this monument for it was built to create a hill and it was rather large (in
Soviet fashion). Seeing the elderly ladies fussing at the children for playing
on the monument I remember writing in my journal about the tension between a
"sacred memorial" and a "sacred playground." The past always creates the present
and new generations do not understand the past well. I wrote then that those who
died paid such a high price so that their children would be free to play in
parks like the one where this memorial was located. By playing on this monument,
these kids were unknowingly paying tribute to the sacrifices given for them.
When does the past give way to the future?
There is a lot of tension
right now about how exactly to talk about the past - particularly the events of
May 1945. It seems to me that everyone needs to ask for and/or offer
forgiveness. If we keep seeking to blame others and shame people we will never
move forward. The Germans offered the people of Ukraine an apology for the
events of those years and it was graciously accepted. Perhaps if more leaders
would humble themselves and reach out to those they have hurt the world could
move closer to healing.
Forgiveness is the answer. Repentance is the key.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
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