Last week, a reader sent me a note suggesting I should stick to (writing) features about sailmakers. “Foreign policy is not your schtick,” the reader said.
I could not agree more. I would love to tell you about sailmakers, the emergence of spring buds, how local businesses are looking forward to the tourist season, and how civic projects benefit us all.
Then, the other day, I drove through Wiscasset where banners bearing the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag fluttered from light posts as that community tried to show sympathy for that battered nation. When I got home, TV news featured 24-hour coverage of the pain, suffering, and destruction in Ukraine.
After talking to Paul Zalucky I wrote another column involving foreign policy.
You know Paul, a Southport resident, a CIA retiree whose parents fled Ukraine after surviving the Nazi terror and the Communist occupation.
“I am just glad my parents are dead. They believed humanity would never again have to suffer through the devastation they experienced during and after World War II. As a human being, you hate to see these things,” said Zalucky.
At the end of World War II, the world said never again. Well, it’s happening again.
Paul says he no longer watches TV news. “I see (images of) kids and (battered) buildings. I get emotional. As a human being, you moved by these things."
When the Russian army moved into his ancestral home, his life changed.
“I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I have had panic attacks.”
Paul grew up speaking Ukrainian at home and English while at school and in the Chicago neighborhood known as Little Ukraine. After retiring, he used his language skills and contacts to consult with businesses in Ukraine.
When the war began he got in touch with some Ukrainian cousins and other business associates. He was able to help his cousins escape into Poland. Then they traveled to Berlin, where they stayed with relatives.
"I have been to Kyiv. I have friends there. Some of them left, but one guy said he is staying in his apartment. My friend put it this way: Why should I go and live in a bomb shelter. He said the shelters are subways built deep in the ground by the Soviets. If they are attacked, they could collapse and he would likely die under the rubble. Instead, he preferred to stay in his comfortable apartment. If the building is bombed, so be it. So far, Kyiv still has electric power, but the food is running out. Those remaining are pulling together to share food and supplies. Others are gathering supplies to send to other besieged towns.”
Paul is heartened by the Ukrainian military’s success battling the Russian heavy armored vehicles and tanks by combining American and European anti-tank weapons with hit and run tactics. “Wait until spring when the leaves come out, allowing them to hide and get closer to the enemy. Then the Red Army will have hell to pay.”
Some of Paul's American friends have asked how they can help the Ukrainian people. There have been some reports of how people are collecting stuff to send overseas.
Paul suggests the best thing to do is arrange to send money to church agencies, NGOs, and other smaller targeted groups. He said the US-Ukrainian Business Council has a list of organizations on its website.
They will buy local supplies and food in Germany. There are several corridors they use to truck it into Ukraine.
Paul says the war has changed his life. The only thing I can do is try to help them, he said.
If there is a bright spot in all this destruction, Paul says it is how the world is joining together to condemn Russia and help refugees. He praised the efforts done by Poland and other neighbors who have harbored and helped refugees. He said he hoped it lasts. Me too.
“I hope the Russian people will do something to fire (Russian president Vladimir) Putin. President (Joe) Biden was right the other day when said Putin must go.
“I am sorry. I just get so emotional when I think about what is happening over there. I just pray it doesn’t go on too long,” he said.