Ukraine Visitors

March 13 2023

Added September 5, 2023: from Minneapolis Sunday Tribune September 3, 2023: Ukraine kids 2023 STrib 9 3 23

Added August 31, 2023: A few of us who visited with the Ukraine students added comments after the gathering.  Mine is the last one of this group.

from Martha: The Hopkins t-shirt [ln one of the visitors?] was an opener for me.  Several young people came from the town of Boryspil which is a Sister City of Hopkins, MN.  My connection with Hopkins was as an Elementary Counselor for the last 17 years of my career…What these Ukranian young people know and think about is far beyond what I thought about at their age.  Their experience and understanding of serving and being a part of community action was so thoughtful and impressive.

from Terry: When we asked about the Holodomor, they all nodded and said that, yes, their grandparents had told them about that terrible time.

from Dennis: It was a great experience interacting with these wonderful students… The student who handled all the public translations was remarkably mature and competent and she doubtless has a great future ahead for herself!!

from Maureen: I am glad that things worked out for us with First Unitarian Church so we could stay out of that horrible heat and humidity!

The small group I was in apparently bonded quickly as they did not want to move on when it came time to change groups.  MAP members began by explaining their beginning in activism. I had a copy of a photo of the “Napalm Girl” and Father Bury had a photo of him chained to the Embassy Gate in Saigon that was on the front cover of his bio book, Maverick Priest – both reactions to the Vietnam War. 

One of the questions a Ukrainian youth had (might have been one of the two the Afghani youth in our group) was “How do we stop war?” Another Ukrainian student asked “what to do with all the former military if the military were done away with? Another youth said if he were not here with the leadership group, he would be helping to make the equivalent of molotov cocktails (He was either 17 or 19 years old).  It was once again a very valuable experience being able to participate in these discussions with the Ukrainian youth!

from Stephen: Yes, the teens were smart, creative, attentive, hopeful, with some sadness.  As the years go by, I pray that hope and stamina wins out.  I concur with the comments made here.  The ongoing landmines, and aftermath of them ;they are very well aware of esp in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.  I believe these students will have a multiplier effect upon returning.  I am sure that I will remember the faces of the ones I spoke to and heard from.  The absolute insistence upon Russia leaving is all the more necessary on our part. Thanks to all who made this happen.

from Virgil: I visited with a young man, who is struggling to decide what to do after he completes high school in a year. If he stays, he will be drafted into the military. If he leaves he could avoid the war and potential injury or death. Leaving would give him the opportunity to pursue his dreams.

I was in a group with several young women from Karkiv. I was surprised to hear there are a number of areas in Karkiv that have not been damaged! All the news pictures I’ve seen show severe destruction. One of the women’s home was damaged but not destroyed. Their schooling is almost totally online, partially because their schools and universities have been badly damaged. In addition, it’s too dangerous to have many students in one area. They are so close to the Russian border that it’s very difficult for the missile defense systems to shoot down in-coming rockets (in contrast with Kiev). They were much less hopeful that the war will end soon, in contrast to last year’s students.

from Dick Bernard: Personally, I didn’t specifically connect with any group.  I did go by each group and there was plenty of attentiveness among the participants.  There seemed an excellent dialogue at each breakout.

I was also at the event last year.  The war was definitely going on then, but probably not yet taken quite as seriously as it is now.

I think a lot about our own United States World War II experience where, initially after Pearl Harbor, there was a burst of patriotism and the usual optimism that “we’ll kick a*s”, and come home victorious.  War often is accompanied by such bravado at the beginning, then reality sets in.

A year later, the end of 1942, then two years later, then almost three years later, the summer of 1945, and everyone realistically wondered, would the war ever end?

I think similarly about 9-11-01 and the U.S. Iraq/Afghanistan misadventure which became a many years long quagmire.  I said to a colleague that I see a direct analogy between what we did re Iraq and Afghanistan to be like what Russia has tried to do to Ukraine.

And in a sense, at this moment, for four years we’ve had our own internal civil war in the U.S., not only the election business, but the schism within the peace movement itself about how to approach the Ukraine and Syria issues.  We have our own issues to deal with.  But August 22 was a very good and very positive contribution.  Thanks to all.

from Jim N to Global Solutions MN Board.  Jim was at the Aug 22 meeting:

  Russian invasion and Occupation of Ukraine (18 months ago)

CGS Minnesota has general statement of support for Ukraine on its website. Our statement is general response to situation as it was unfolding. It makes no references to the policies of the US government to this serious global challenge. Our statement was a response to the Ukrainian program and speaker that we sponsored on this topic.

My thoughts:

  1. One Russian justification that NATO was expanding eastward seems without merit. NATO is primarily a defensive alliance and Ukraine has never been a member. Russia has historically attempted to dominate East European countries. The 1930’s “Holodomor” was a historic attempt by Russia to violently subject Ukraine.

3.  In March of 2022, shortly after the beginning of the invasion the International Court of Justice ruled “Russia should immediately suspend military operation in Ukraine” the military operation is in defiance of the international law.

  1. Ukraine became independent in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1994 by agreement Ukraine gave up their huge stock of nuclear weapons in return for an agreement (Budapest Memorandum) with the US, Great Britain, and Russia etc. that would assureUkrainian borders and territory.
  2. A United Nations General Assembly non-binding resolution condemns the Russian invasion by a vote of 141 to 7 with numerous abstentions. Many countries that are not direct neighbors have aided Ukraine both military and humanitarian: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Ireland, Israel Sweden etc. The conflict is a global and precedent setting.
  3. Russia’s violent invasion without prior mediation or attempted negotiation is a tragic mistake that overshadows any grievances that they may have with Ukraine.
  4. The Nelson family supports Ukrainian independence with financial support of the Minnesota Ukraine Center, Alight and the International Institute in addition to our letters to elected officials.
  5. The Russian invasion has displaced millions of people and tragically disrupted food supplies affecting people many counties. I therefore believe that the Russian invasion should continue to be one of the top priorities of our organization.

from Larry, reference Jim’s: This is very good.  The only thing I have to add relates to my interest in Intl Criminal Court.  I think it is a problem for the U.S. to take a strong stance on the violation of intenrnational law by Putin, with no recognition of our similar violation, e.g. with the way we invaded Iraq.  I think our statement on Ukraine should include some push for the U.S. to sign on to the ICC and to encourage all others to do the same. I have frequently said, “When kids get into a fight on the playground, we don’t give them guns and tell them to work it out”.  I’ll say now that they also don’t get to say, “I never signed on to that rule about not fighting on the playground, so I don’t have to do what you say”.

from Dick: Jim, I think your statement was very well done.

I think Putin miscalculated in his dream of restoring the past glory of the Soviet Union.  Much of this goes back to 1991 when the USSR collapsed.  Many of us can remember Gorbachev’s visit to Minnesota in June of 1990.  I followed Mikhail and Raise Gorbachev’s travels much of the day, including when their plane took off in the evening.  It was an important time in history, and Minnesota was part of it.


POSTNOTE 8:30 p.m. August 22: This afternoons gathering of over 30 young people from Ukraine with representatives of Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) was enriching.  The visitors from Ukraine ranged from age 14-17.  For the moment I’ll let one photo represent the approximately 50 of us who were in attendance.  (Holding court is Jim Nelson.  Jim was one of those at the first meeting of the group which became MAP in January, 1995.)

Aug. 22, 2023. Jim Nelson, Minneapolis, converses with some of the Ukrainian student visitors. The meeting was held at the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis.


9:20 a.m. August 22: Today I will meet about 20 young people from Ukraine, visiting here – a respite from the war.  I don’t know any of these students, but I expect they are not picked at random.  In various ways they have exhibited positive leadership at home, standing out among 40,000,000 or so of their colleague citizens.  (Ukraine is about the same size as Texas, and more populous.  It is a large country.)

I will be among a group of twin cities peace and justice  advocates meeting with the group, today.  I was part of a similar gathering last year.  It was a great event.  Last year, and this, are difficult times in Ukraine…and in a different way in the U.S. as well.

I’ve been asked to give what is likely about a 5-minute talk about a Twin cities organization of which I was President 2005-07.  Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers.  I suspect all of the students speak some English, but what I say will be conveyed to them in their native language by a translator.  This will be a new experience for me.

Since I have very little ‘live’ time, I’ve decided to file, here, some items relating to MAPs history, as I have come to know it, albeit largely in the rear view mirror.  The items are in pdf packets which you can peruse if/as you wish.  I also expect to add a postnote after I return home from the event this afternoon.

May 1, 2006, Dick Bernard holding banner at right. Standing next to Dick is Louise Pardee, who died very recently; behind Dick is Dr. Joe Schwartzberg, longtime peace and justice activist.

Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) has a longer history that perhaps even its current members know.  It’s roots demonstrably go back to the 1940s, and it consistently has advocated for a greater sense of global peace and justice.

I got involved in MAP in the wake of 9-11-01; was President of the group from 2005-07, and from 2008 to the present, I have been a member through my website AMillionCopies Initiative.  I did a quick rough draft of American History, and asked some friends for comments.  The three pages are worth your time, and your own thought.  How would you define our history? MAP and U.S. History.  I invite special note to the first three paragraphs on page three.

MAP is, in reality a continuation of two local organizations founded at the time of the end of WWII and the United Nations Charter.  The summary information is here: MAP History and related groups.  MAP came into existence in the 50th anniversary year of the United Nations founding.

Here is the first MAP statement of values, from September, 1995: MAP 1995 contract with the world.  The current mission and values at the MAP website have changed over time, of course, but seem congruent with the original themes from 28 years ago.  Of particular interest to me is page one of 1995 contract, and the six bases used for establishing MAPs Contract with the World.

Finally, 9-11-01 is the event which motivated me to get more involved in Peace and Justice activities, including MAP.  Among other activities, I wrote often about aspects of 9-11-01 and its impact on our society.  Here are a couple of examples: MAP Dick B Personal Reflections after 9 11 01

Students arrive Aug 9, 2023.  I will add a postdate to this post on return from the gathering this afternoon.

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