For Such a Time as This
I’ve skipped a week of Headspace as I was not in the headspace for writing.
I’ve been busy establishing and expanding the Ukraine Relief Network. Amazingly, within one week, we had aid flowing to refugees in Ukraine. The one positive in an otherwise surreal and sorrowful week. More about the network later. First a little background on how anyone connected to Russia and Ukraine is feeling right now.
My Russian grandmother Antonina Lavryentievna Levchenko was a war refugee. In 1941, the nazis were close, so she boarded the last evacuation train from a small town near Moscow. It was a flatbed train car, literally with no walls. Babushka Tonia, how we affectionally called her, had three daughters on her hands. The three sisters - Larisa ( my mom), Tamara and Lina were shaped by the war forever. By the Nazi planes bombing the train, by the long journey to Siberia, by years of hunger and cold. They would wait anxiously for the infrequent and precious letters from the front.
My Ukrainian grandfather Grigory Petrovich Levchenko had enlisted at the beginning of the war. As a captain of the artillery, he fought all the way to Berlin. His unit was part of the final assault. I can only imagine how it must have felt to walk the streets of Berlin, maybe even to see the bunker where Hitler hid in his final hours. The Soviets lost 20 million lives in that war, the highest death toll of all the allies. My grandfather was wounded multiple times but made it out alive. The deep sorrow from this national scar is still very much part of the cultural heritage. There is a saying, still frequently used as a response to a hardship - “Lish by ne bylo voiny” - roughly translated as “Anything as long as there is no war.”
Many years later, one of the three sisters, my mom, now a mother of two became a refugee again. This time with my sister and I in her arms, in hiding from the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile. My Chilean father spent time in a concentration camp, he survived. My first childhood memories are from a UN refugee camp in Santiago. That shaped us as well. The fear, the violence, abruptly leaving behind a whole life, not being able to return. Not being able to imagine a future. A national scar that still aches in the Chilean culture.
There is a famous expression in the Bible “for such a time as this”. It refers to a challenge given to the young Jewish queen Esther of Persia to use her position in court to save the Jews from grave danger. Esther takes the risk and stands up for her people. With the war in Ukraine, an existential threat for a nation and in some ways for the West, the same challenge seems to be presented to the free world.
What will we do with what we know? What will we do with what we have? For such a time as this countries, organizations, companies, and people have a chance to use all resources at our disposal to stop evil and save lives. The Ukraine Relief Network is an expression of “for such a time as this”, expanding weekly with new Angel Partners, organizations joining the network and on the ground in Ukraine in the midst of the chaos of war. For me personally, this also means, I cannot return to Russia as a law was passed that makes it a crime to speak against the war, punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
The word Voina in Russian and Viyny in Ukrainian sounds similar. This time, this dreaded word is not a word that describes a shared threat. This time it means aggression for one nation and invasion for the other. This wound will also take generations to heal.
Right now, cities are being leveled, civilians are being targeted. Right now Ukraine is fighting for its very existence and so much more. The towns and villages of Ukraine seem to have become the battleground where the future of the world is being shaped.
Because of all of this “For such a time as this” is a rallying cry for all of us.