A Difference A Year Makes: My Visit To Kiev, Ukraine

I’ve got plenty more to share from the Asian portion of my trip, but this seemed appropriate given today’s events.

Here’s a picture of Independence Square, as it looked a year ago, and as it looked during the recent revolution.

Last year about this time–well before the Ukrainian people rose up to defend their rights and the Russians decided to invade–I had the distinct honor and pleasure of traveling to the cradle of Slavic civilization, Kiev.

Independence Square

Independence Square

I had been to Moscow before, and I found it to be the most unfriendly city I had ever had the displeasure to experience. I chalked it up to the scars of Communism, relics of the distrust and misanthropy engendered by that evil ideology. I expected the same from Ukraine. I was wrong. Instead, I found a wonderful people, eager to help a stranger, even willing to acknowledge my meager Russian when English failed us, despite the fact it is the language of their oppressor.

A monument to the victims of the Holodomor, the enforced starvation of  7.5 million Ukrainians by the Soviets.

A monument to the victims of the Holodomor, the enforced starvation of 7.5 million Ukrainians by the Soviets.

Today, the Ukrainian people are under attack. They face a hostile army, intent on re-establishing its old empire. The name has changed, but the enemy remains the same. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

The Motherland Monument celebrating victory in WWII

The Motherland Monument celebrating victory in WWII

I was inspired.

I was inspired.

Why should this matter to us? Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe we should look inward to our own problems and ignore the cries of oppressed peoples around the world. But that has never been our way. We have always borne the burden of being the world’s great defender of liberty. We have paid in blood and treasure so that others could be free. And all we have ever asked, as Colin Powell once said, is for enough land to bury our dead.

I’m not saying we should fight a war against the Russians.  But neither should we abandon a nation, in a critical part of the world, that wants to turn West. A nation where one girl told me, beaming, about how excited she was that Kiev was about to open its first KFC.

The Russian beast is preparing to devour Ukraine. It cannot stand against that kind of enemy alone. I hope that it will not have to.

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