March 11, 2022:
from Stephanie: I don’t think you are on facebook — I post way too much, I think, but there are a few posts I have made recently that I think might interest you. The first is from a friend who is a psychologist in Moscow. He had posted on facebook a petition signed by more than 100 Russians, listing their names and professions. It has since been taken down…I don’t know whether my friend took it down, or facebook, or if it is blocked by Russia. Here it is:
March 9, 2022:
from Howie: not about Ukraine, but could as well be. Here
March 8, 2022: from time to time I will continue making additions here, from other than major media sources. Here are a few from the last few days.
from Norm: from friend Barry Levy M.D., MPH:
I thought you would be interested in my letter to the editor of the New York Times about Ukraine last week [follows]:
The explosive weapons attacks that are killing and severely injuring Ukrainian civilians are attracting much media attention. Whenever explosive weapons are deployed in war, civilians are likely to be killed and severely injured, even when they are not targeted.
But most civilian deaths in war result indirectly from damage to civilian infrastructure, resulting in reduced access to food, safe water, medical care, electric power, communication and transportation. Civilians become ill and die from diseases, malnutrition, and maternal and neonatal disorders. At especially high risk are mothers and young children, people with disabilities and older people.
It is critically important that steps be taken now to protect civilians and critical elements of civilian infrastructure, and to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Barry S. Levy
The writer, a physician, is a past president of the American Public Health Association and an adjunct professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. He is author of the forthcoming book “From Horror to Hope,” about the health effects of war.
I’m also writing to let you know that I have authored a book, entitled From Horror to Hope: Recognizing and Preventing the Health Impacts of War, that will be published by Oxford University Press next month. More information is [here]..
from Remi, some of his ancestors from Ukraine, sends this sketch of some of his family links to Ukraine. This only one of many assorted links between what is now Germany and Ukraine: Three of my mother’s grandparents came from Landau Ukraine, Russia, now called Shyrokolanivka, about 55 miles northeast of Odessa.. Their ancestors came from Landau Alsace, now Germany, in 1809. The other grandparent (a grandmother) came from Krasna Ukraine Russia, now Krasne, about 70 miles southwest of Odessa. Her ancestors were Warsaw colonists. They left German states, mainly Saarland, between 1785 and 1795 to settle in Prussian Poland. In 1814-1815 they went to Krasna in Bessarabia that the Russians had just taken from the Ottomans. My mother’s father was born in Caramurat, a Tatar town in Romania, about 50 miles from Russia.I have enclosed a depiction of a funeral there at about the time of his birth. His father had come from Landau Russia and his mother from Krasna. His German patois had many French, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian,Yiddish, Tatar and Romani words embedded in a fossilized Saarland-Alsatian dialect. His ancestors dressed like Russians and had adopted many Russian traditions and folk remedies. I have attached a photo of one of his grandfathers in Romania wearing a Russian shapka (hat), third from left.. Also of his great grandparents in Russia with cross necklaces and prayer books. He came to Canada in 1907. My mother’s grandparents on her mother’s side came from Landau, Russia to Canada in 1901 through Ellis Island, New York.
Photos from the olden days in Ukraine:
from Annelee: Former President Donald Trump called Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine savvy, the work of a genius. Fox Commentator Tucker Carlson and several Conservative Republican Senators agreed with Tucker and said that it was the right of Putin to invade the peaceful, democratic Ukraine so Putin could restore Russia to it’s former greatness.
from Rich: Surgery and Covid ended my tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra’s Audience Services. Thus our paths have not crossed for several years as they did at the door to the concert hall.
March 6, 2022: Great friend Lydia sends a couple of personal recommendations for those who wish to be involved in Ukrainian humanitarian efforts:
PERSONAL UPDATE, March 4: Two weeks ago today I was in surgery for colon cancer at University of Minnesota. Nine days ago I came home. Healing is going well, but it is not the “piece of cake” one would like. Anyone who’s a veteran of major surgery can doubtless attest! I am active every day, but still require lots of rest. I try to follow recommendations, and I will take it easy. Thank you for your interest and support. Personally, it was good to be invited to and attend Ash Wednesday with daughters Lauri and Heather and Lauri’s family, and Cathy.
Thursday evening I listened to a phone message from my long-time friend, Jim, calling from his home on a beach in a deeply rural part of deeply rural Molokai, Hawaii. Jim has lived on the island for many years, and enjoys its isolation and deeply rural character.
If you want to get away from it all, you go to a place like Molokai.
I talked in person with him this afternoon. It was a good conversation. Ukraine entered the conversation, but was not the main reason for the call. We’re just catching up.
That is how it is in today’s world. We are all connected, instantly, regardless of where we live. There is a blessing and a curse to all of this of course, and source of infinite threads of conversation. It was good to hear Jim’s voice, from Pukoo on the east side of Molokai.
from Carol, Mar 5: a Ukrainian rfugee
UKRAINE: I have struggled with how best to engage with and for the Ukrainian people, and yes, for the Russian people now under siege by their own dictator. I am still thinking about this.
Just now, I decided what better a tribute to Ukraine from me, than Minnesota musician Peter Ostroushko. There are many selections at YouTube. Here’s one of his best, from a 2004 performance of his 1995 composition Heart of the Heartland. Peter died Feb. 24, 2021. He lives on in his music. [Lydia sent an interesting MinnPost article about the Minneapolis Ukrainian community of which Peter was part.]
I am including with this post, just a few off the beaten path commentaries which have come from/about Ukraine. You know what you’ll know from the TV. These are items which may or may not catch the wave of news priorities. They are not prioritized here. I’ll expect to do a few more posts like this.
I agree with parts and disagree with others in these writings. That is very normal in debate in a civil society. We are a huge, complicated world, and our institutions reflect this. There is no magic pill to solve everything, or even most things, but when any individual, institution, country or coalition of countries deems itself above, or in domination of, common Law regulating a civil society, we are all in trouble.
We are not immune from criticism: In my Feb. 16 post, Preparedness, about war looming in Ukraine, I said this: “war or threat of war, or an enemy, is very helpful politically no matter the country or the system or the time in history. Chris Hedges War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002) always comes to mind at times like this. This came along about the time of our Iraq misadventure – a solution to 9-11-01. War is Good…not, but yes…it is useful to politicians currying favor with people like US.”
A most common institution for humans, by whatever name or whatever tradition, is marriage – where two people in some way or another pledge common cause. A long-time Catholic Priest friend and I were discussing this some days ago in a post hospital conversation. I said to Vince that a good share of his work as a pastor was probably dealing with marital conflict within his own flock. He laughed. If two of us have troubles between ourselves on occasion, how can we expect 194 countries and over 7 billion people to just get along? We are a work in progress, and we will always be so. The tribal alternative is one which cannot be accepted.
Have a good weekend.
received from Molly: “Stay Calm”, by Tom Nichols in the Atlantic: Tom Nichols, Stay Calm, The Atlantic
from Fred, March 6: Interesting details [here] about the Russian military and its organization.
from Carol, a letter from a young person in Kharkiv:
“I can’t sleep tonight. Not that I slept well for the last 6 nights but tonight is particularly heartbreaking. My home city is being destroyed by Putin. I am not going to put pictures of horror, it’s plenty of them on bbc. Instead I will tell the world about Kharkiv.So Kharkiv is educational and scientific centre, it has 59 (!) universities! 59! We call the city “students’ capital”. One of them is one of the oldest in Ukraine, been partly destroyed today by missile from Putin. Another – National Law Academy, my alma mater, is in Ukraine’s top law universities (I am being polite here, it’s number 1))) Commentaries to National laws made by academics of the Academy are being used in the courts, that’s how highly they are rated.Kharkiv is heavy and military industry centre, there are factories to build tractors, tanks, plane turbines etc. You can see why Putin is so desperate to occupy it.Kharkiv is arty and not only with clever and funny graffiti but with more than 20 (!) theatres including one philharmonic. I am glad my mum went to the philharmonic theatre just few days before the invasion. I have also personal dear memories and stories connected to it. At the high school I have been asked to do a journalistic project – to write about one of the heritage in danger sort of sights. I chose philharmonic theatre. At that time it was in a horrible state with leaking roof, needing immediate renovation as it’s hall was a copy of one of the halls in Tuileries Palace. Being roughly 15 years old I found the main conductor at the time (the head nowadays) and asked for a video interview. Being a very passionate about the theatre person he agreed. We made a lovely video showing how important it is to restore our city and national heritage. I don’t know how much of a difference it made but years later the philharmonic theatre with amazing architecture has been renovated. Guess what, you know already, don’t you? Yup, Putin dropped the bomb on it today.Kharkiv is also a centre for trade. We have Barabashovo market which I think is called the biggest in Eastern Europe! It is huge indeed.Recently Kharkiv also became an IT capital of Ukraine, having had a nickname of Ukrainian Silicon Valley.And last for this post but not the least my school of yoga – Ukrainian Federation of Yoga has started there. Our studio was located right next to the local government building, on the Freedom Square. No need to say what happened there today…But you know what? I AM OK. Seriously. I know that we will rebuild it and that Kharkiv is free = Ukrainian. Just wanted my English speaking friends to know more than “second biggest city”.”
As for Ukraine, I do not know what to say. On September 23, 2012 I visited Babi Yar outside of Kiev and now its memorial has been attacked. It is the first of the WW11 sites I have visited that has seen a follow up of this nature.
I am stunned that we have learned so little as a society This is a time when a joint lecture with Michael and Joseph would be so helpful to us all.
We shall stay in touch.
Here’s the current day’s map of the Ukraine situation, which accompanies the daily assessment published by UnderstandingWar.org. If you follow the narrative:
- the Russians have made quite limited progress in recent days,
- they’ve sent for reinforcements from the Eastern Military District (eastern Siberia), and
- the analysts can’t make sense of their strategy.
The map similarly conveys the general impression of an unconcentrated, unfocused, overambitious plan of attack that has stalled in the borderlands. Of course it’s still early days, and I don’t really have enough knowledge to generalize, but in 1939 the Germans were in the outskirts of Warsaw within a week, not hanging about the periphery of the country. As the map below shows, their attacks all promptly penetrated deep into central Poland and converged in the heart of the country, bypassing much of the Polish Army in the western bulge.Here is the March 8, 2022 map
The failure to make deep penetrations may have something to do with the reorganization of the Russian Army around Battalion Tactical Groups. Each of the various offensive thrusts itemized in the UnderstandingWar.org campaign narrative is being carried on by 12 to18 BTGs. These are relatively small (800-man) units consisting of a company of tanks, three companies of mechanized infantry, two or three artillery batteries (tube or rocket), plus antiair and antitank support. They have a lot of firepower for their size, and are manned mainly by professional soldiers. The BTG concept was evolved in the wake of the Chechen debacle, and was used effectively in the Donbas War to give the pro-Russian militiamen mobile support against the Ukrainians. The trouble with BTGs is that 1) they are small and can’t stand casualties, 2) they lack such supporting elements as medical and maintenance detachments, 3) they are relatively independent and don’t combine particularly well into larger units, and 4) they were designed to reinforce local militia and guerrillas, while depending on them for intelligence, reconnaissance and security. So they are perhaps less than ideal fighting formations for mass invasion of a hostile country. Here in PDF format is a US Army publication describing their strengths and weaknesses in considerable detail.This suggests that if the Ukrainian army still possesses something like a mobile masse de manœuvre, it might be able to strike a really telling blow against one of the Russian battle groups. The most obvious target is the group on the extreme Russian right, that detached comma-shaped blob north and west of Kiev. It consists of some 15-18 BTGs. It has been described in several accounts as confused, bogged down, and in the throes of reorganization. On the west side of the Dnieper, it is to some extent cut off from the rest of the Russian Army. It is operating on the Belarus border, where it is very likely deprived of the intelligence and security support that BTGs are supposed to get from locals. And perhaps most importantly — something I haven’t seen anyone mentioning so far — it is backed up against the great Pripet marshes, which extend along the Belarus-Ukraine border from the Bug to Kiev. The western end of the swampland is indicated on the German campaign map above. On Google Earth you can see it easily, extending from Brest-Litovsk to Kiev; and the worst and most roadless terrain lies directly in the rear of that right-flank Russian battle group northwest of Kiev.I don’t have any idea whether the Ukes have been able to assemble an army corps behind Kiev, or whether they’re in any condition to stage a real counteroffensive. But if they are, the destruction, against the Pripet marshes, of the disorganized Russian battle group sent to outflank the capital would be a worthwhile objective, and might even alter the course of events.If the world were properly organized, we’d be discussing this over drinks in front of a fireplace in the smoking room, with maps hung on the wall. What’s the fun of armchair generalship in the absence of armchairs?