March 7, 2022
By Arthur H. Gunther III
The Ukrainians of my small village in New York shed tears in 1941 when the Nazis occupied their native land during their death march to the Soviet Union. That was yet another horrible chapter in the long history of independence-proud people, attacked and occupied so often over centuries for economic, power-grab and prejudicial reasons. Now, 81 years after World War II, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is intent on eliminating Ukraine.
The Spring Valley of my youth, my father’s time, too, included a wonderful section of Ukrainians, Germans, Polish, Irish and others. If you could open the windows and amplify the voices inside homes on West Street, Church, Cole, Decatur, Herrick, you would hear a league of nations in a symphony of dialect.
My recollection is that all got along, in the multi-national neighborhood, in the Spring Valley schools. When war came to Europe and then the world in 1939-’45, all Valley families saw sons off, fathers and mothers worked in defense and other industry, volunteers served at home in paper and scrap metal drives. And all joined in shedding tears and exclaiming at horror as the newspapers and radio reported on the Nazi occupation of Ukraine and other nations, on the Pacific destruction too.
When World War II ended, the West Street neighborhood increased in size with families leaving destroyed Europe. Again, as I recall, there was harmony even among people whose ancestors might have fought one another.
Now, in the present invasion of Ukraine by the Russian leader – not the Russian people – there are more tears on West Street, Church, Cole, Decatur, Herrick. Yet the strength that came in shared humanity during the long-ago Second World War surely is re-affirmed. We are all Ukraine, in Spring Valley, in the world.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.