May Day

On Saturday, Lee and I took the kids to a 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Nazi Invasion of the Soviet Union.

Try saying that five times fast.

For an hour and a half, we heard stories from local veterans about their experiences during World War II.  Most of them were Jewish and experienced the effects of the Nazi hatred as well as the Soviet hatred.  It was emotional and poignant and beautiful and sad.

The kids didn’t appreciate it at all.

“When can we go,” they whined over and over.  And like any good Mom, I shushed them and shot them daggar eyes, melting them from the inside out.

At then end of each testimony, each speaker (most of whose stories were read by younger family members while they stood up front), made very similar statements.  They lauded freedom.  Freedom to practice religion, freedom from oppression, freedom to survive, freedom to love.  Those men and women are deeply loyal to the lands of their birth.  But they are also deeply loyal to their adopted land.

Attending this ceremony cemented my desire to bring the history of the former Soviet Union alive.  It reignited my passion for the people of Ukraine, in particular, as several of the speakers were from Ukraine, from towns and cities I have visited.

We Americans have no idea the depth of suffering other parts of the world have experienced.  That’s not to say we can’t sympathize, of course.  I feel deep pain for the suffering around the world.  But I don’t truly understand it because I haven’t lived it.  My pain at the suffering we endured on 9/11 is even different from my fellow countrymen who were directly affected by the loss of loved ones.  But think of this perspective:

It’s estimated that Ukraine lost up to 10 million people during World War II.  That’s half of the population of the entire Soviet Union and twenty percent of the entire world’s death total.

I know my children are young and I don’t expect them to appreciate or even understand why I continue to expose them and push them toward the language and history of that part of the world, but I hope to the depth of my soul that someday, as they grow in maturity and understanding, they will develop not only a love for Ukraine and the russian language, but also for all the different cultures of this world.

I also hope that they will grow with the understanding that they have been privileged to be born in the most amazing country in the world.  It is a flawed nation, to be sure.  But America is a land to be loved, a loved to be applauded and a land that deserves our deepest appreciation.

That’s the lesson I’m hoping to teach my children as they grow.  One of them, anyway.


  1. Can I just say that I’m a wee bit jealous of your Russian passion? Really, I am. I wish God would give me a heart for something so specific.

    (For the record, my kids would totally be doing the same thing. LOL!)

  2. Rebecca Elam says

    That’s beautiful Kelli! You and Lee are great parents and have great kids. It may take them until they’re married themselves to really appreciate the Ukraine culture but you’ve certainly given them good guidance! My kids wouldn’t have appreciated it either. =)

  3. Ha! Yeah, I didn’t expect them to hug me and thank me profusely for exposing them to such culture and giving them a leg up in life. I did kind of hope they would enjoy the stories, but, unfortunately, the way they were being read made them a little less than thrilling to a 7,5 and 3 year old. Ah well… I tried, right?


  4. I’m so glad your kids are learning the Russian language. It’s my favourite language. I write and think in it, but speak Ukrainian at home. The Ukrainian language is far more difficult to learn that Russian because of special sounds. Ulyana speaks Ukrainian but I read a lot of Russian and English books to her – I want her to know these three languages. And I want her to know the American traditions and customs. Hope we will be able to visit America some day and I hope you’ll be able to come to Ukraine. Someday we’ll definitely meet.