Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner March 24, 2022
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is what true leadership looks like.
I saw a short tweet summing up the feelings of Canadians these days. It read:
“My New Morning Routine: 1. Wake up. 2. Check on Zelenskyy. 3. Coffee.”
In the face of a massive, unprovoked attack by thousands of Russian troops ordered by dictator Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this lawyer-turned-comedian who once played a president on Ukrainian TV, and then won the real presidency of his country, has emerged as a brave patriot inspiring his country and impressing the world. He chooses to stay in the capital, Kyiv with his family, and give daily morale-boosting talks to Ukrainians. We see almost minute-by-minute the terrors of the conflict, such is the power of modern media.
This involves us, in unprecedented ways. We watch mortar attacks, even people dying, and refugees in flight, as Ukraine, with a population of 43 million, has lost almost 3 million people, mostly women and children, to nearby Poland and other European countries.
It is a daily scene of man’s inhumanity to man and simultaneously a scene of the best of human behaviour: hospital staff caring for babies, strollers left at the border by Polish women to help mothers arriving by foot, worldwide generosity, an unanimity among 30 NATO countries, the Swiss renouncing neutrality and the Germans re- arming.
I have close peace friends who lament this re-arming and these increased military budgets. But the alternative is unthinkable too: leave Ukraine unaided. Helen Keller once said unforgettably, “The world is full of suffering. It is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Canada has over a million people of Ukrainian descent, mostly in the west, where at the turn of the century their farming knowledge turned this area into a bread basket.
Russians rise up in resistance. Feminists march. Four thousand academics and scholars at Moscow State University issued a strong statement condemning the war. A woman whose name we should not forget, Marina Ovsyannikova, a TV producer with 2 children, stands behind a news announcer holding a sign reading “You are being lied to. Stop the war. Do not fall for propaganda.”
Earlier she had written, “I am trying to prevent the 'zombification' of Russia.”
And our own zombification? Putin defenders in the west shock us. Putin and the deluded Donald Trump have a long record of mutual admiration: two authoritarians. The dim-witted Fox News anchor, Tucker Carlson, is so pro-Russian, Kremlin anchors are being urged by the State to quote him. Nice.
I always try to keep track of the role of religious leaders in significant events. Putin poses as a devout Russian Orthodox believer. He has the endorsement of five out of six Orthodox priests. Patriarch Kirill is the most vocal in support. The lone dissenter is Rev. Iann Burdon, who has been arrested. Pope Francis of Rome had developed a cordial relationship with Kirill, and now pleads with him as a Christian leader not to use the discredited “just war” theory. Francis has offered to help mediate the conflict.
In the U.S., a coalition of Christian churches including Evangelicals, Episcopal leaders, Disciples of Christ representatives, and nuns representing their communities sign a letter saying, “There is no ethical, religious or theological justification for Russia’s invasion.”
Meanwhile in Peterborough, a man named Victor Waselenko organizes, along with four Shoppers Drug Mart stores, to have packages of first aid supplies, each worth $40, to be available for $10 and put in a bin marked ”Ukraine.” I saw a modestly-dressed woman buy 20 of these. Thirteen hundred kits were donated by Peterburians.
The Peterborough Singers, under Syd Birrell, learn the Ukrainian national anthem in one night. Canada commits to fast- tracking thousands of refugees. Sick Kids Hospital receives and treats children. This is how we witness to the suffering of others at a safe distance.
It is good. But what is most needed is a ceasefire, a withdrawal of Russian troops, and a pledge by NATO to not expand further eastwards. Let’s hope there are many women on these negotiating teams.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<