In his opinion piece in The Concord Bridge of April 7, Robert Meltzer argues that Ukrainian fascists slaughtered Jews in Galicia at the end of WWI and for the next century committed atrocities against many ethnic groups. Because of these actions, Mr. Meltzer believes the people of Concord should not support today’s Ukrainians in their war against Russia.
There is a disconnect in Mr. Meltzer’s view of the past century. The Bolsheviks emerged as victors during the Russian Revolution and subjugated Ukraine under Communist rule. This rule was brutal. In Ukraine alone several million Ukrainians, including Jews, died in the protracted famines of the 1930s as result of Stalin’s agrarian policies. In addition, countless Ukrainians were tortured, shot, or died of starvation in gulags under Stalin. The memorial at Babyn Yar in the outskirts of Kyiv is a poignant reminder of Russian and German atrocities against Ukrainians, including Jews and other ethnic groups.
Today the Ukrainian people are led by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a Jew, in a war launched in February 2022 by Vladimir Putin. The besieged Ukrainians, based upon their personal experience with decades of Soviet rule, are certain that Putin intends to exterminate them. The inhuman war crimes committed by Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians during the invasion validate the point. Ukrainian friends, with direct experience of the Soviet era, regard the Ukrainian flag as a symbol of a nation fighting for survival against a Russian oppressor seeking to annihilate it. They draw the connection between the struggle that began almost 250 years ago on April 19 in Concord with their current struggle for life and liberty. Some of us in Concord believe the Ukrainian cause is just. We hope for their ultimate victory.
Thomas M. Claflin