There is good in the midst of evil

In 1945, we said: “Never Again.” But history keeps repeating itself.

On screens, we watch millions fleeing Ukraine. Last summer, the same screens showed the crowded Kabul airport. My mom, Dana Fast, remembers the crowds at the Warsaw train station, trying to board overcrowded trains leaving the country in 1939. She recalls the highway heading east out of the city, a swollen river of tired, thirsty, hungry people fleeing the Nazi terror while German bombers sprayed the road with bullets. There were no screens then. These images are etched forever in her memory.

In 1939, the M.S. St. Louis cruised across the Atlantic with 937 refugees. They were refused entry in the U.S., Canada and Cuba. The ship was escorted back to Germany by the U.S. Coast Guard. There, most of the passengers perished; the few who survived were interned in concentration camps.

In the 1970s, I recall images of boats packed with refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge. With little knowledge of sailing, boats sank. People died when they ran out of food and water. The 1980 Refugee Act allowed a few Vietnamese people who had families here to enter the U.S. — but what happened to the rest?

Things have changed. In the past weeks, many fleeing atrocities in Ukraine have found shelter and welcome in Poland. Maybe that’s because Poles remember 1939.

Many are helping. All my friends in Poland are housing Ukrainian refugees. Many North Country residents have relatives in Poland or Ukraine who are sheltering refugees in their homes or volunteering. Other area residents, like Jordanna Mallach and Anna Hoyt, have raised funds and are working to bring food and supplies to those fleeing the terror. “We’re just a group of people who happen to be soldiers trying to help,” Jordanna says in her Facebook posts.

Former resident of Jay and Long Lake Elliot Verner lives and teaches in Poland. His university students are all actively engaged in volunteering at Warsaw’s West station, where the trains come in. One student works full time all day, then puts in another eight hours each evening volunteering at a shelter. “All of this aid is coming from Polish citizens – not the government,” says Elliot.

Here in the U.S., we sit in our comfortable homes, watching the horror unfold on screens. We pray. We send money. We pay more for gas because of government sanctions imposed on Russia. Some make art with sunflowers and blue and yellow motifs. We hang Ukrainian flags. We march. We hold rallies like the recent one in Keene where more than a hundred people expressed support for Ukraine despite the frigid weather. We do all this in solidarity for those fleeing for their lives.

But despots and evil persist. More than 13,000 Russians who opposed the war have been detained, fined or jailed. News blackouts mean many are unaware there is a war. Others are attempting to flee the totalitarian regime. Sanctions hurt the poor — not the oligarchs in power. Our good deeds seem like a drop in the bucket.

Evil is rampant. But drops add up to make rivers. We can take heart, because there is good in the midst of evil.

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Yvona Fast is an author and Enterprise columnist. She lives in Lake Clear.


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