Readers write: War in Ukraine

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I studied Russian in high school. I had intended to learn German, but my French teacher (a remarkable Armenian woman who spoke seven languages) persuaded me to take her Russian class instead. Once I mastered the unique alphabet, I realized that Russian is very phonetic and I really enjoyed learning the language and the culture.

My friend Julie and I were enchanted by a young Russian poet named Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who wrote elegant and haunting poems that appealed to our hearts and minds.

I have read his small volume several times and wondered about his poem titled “Babiy Yar”.

In the 1990s, my daughter and I taught English to a Ukrainian family who left after the Chernobyl accident. And now, in 2022, we learn about this country and its people every day as we watch Putin wage war against it.

Today I read a long article in the New Yorker by Masha Gessen in which she shares the amazing and shocking story of Babyn Yar (the Ukrainian name for a deep ravine in Kyiv). This was where the Germans dumped the bodies of the Jews after stripping them naked, stealing all their belongings and shooting them dead. They killed 33,771 Jews in 36 hours during World War II, one of the largest mass executions of the Holocaust.

For some reason the Soviet Union censored all Holocaust documentation for many years after the war, including attempts to commemorate Babyn Yar. Yevtushenko dared to write about a forbidden subject – so taboo that it took several decades before I learned the story behind his poem.

I have kept “Yevtushenko: Selected Poems” for all these years. Today I am re-reading “Babiy Yar” in the light of this new understanding.

“On Babiy Yar, there are no memorials,” he begins. “On Babiy Yar…all is a silent cry. Taking off my hat, I feel myself slowly turning gray. And I am a silent cry over the thousands of people buried; is every old man killed here, every child killed here. . No part of me can ever forget it… When the last anti-Semite on earth is buried forever, let the International ring out… No Jewish blood runs in my blood, but I am also bitter and hardly hated by all the anti-Semites as if I were a Jew.”

Killing like the Germans did at Babyn Yar requires the complete dehumanization of a group of people. Killing as we see some 80 years later in Ukraine requires similar dehumanization. Even if we don’t have Ukrainian blood, against such evil we should all be Ukrainians.

Kathy Hume Gray, Kellogg, Minn.

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The atrocities in Ukraine demand action, and the sanctions have clearly not been enough. However, military action could result in a Third World War against a nuclear power.

But not responding is telling all autocratic governments with nuclear weapons that they are free to invade any country as long as they threaten to use nuclear weapons. Is Taiwan next?

So do we let the horrors continue or do we risk an all-out war with Russia?

Answering this question will require minds far greater than mine.

Nic Baker, Roseville

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I love that most Americans see, read and discuss the atrocities inflicted on the Ukrainian people for over a month. The media continues to report and document the almost unimaginable horrific crimes committed by Russia, and yet we just watch and hope that diplomacy and sanctions will put an end to it. This is beyond stupidity and common sense. Putin only knows power and will only react to power. Enough is enough. My heart breaks every time I see something about Ukraine. We just watch human beings being slaughtered every minute and what do we do as a country? Virtually nothing other than sending just enough weapons to prolong the fighting. Why are we so afraid to send the planes, tanks and all the non-nuclear weapons we have? For the love of God, help Ukraine and its people.

I would like to be a proud American, but right now I am not.

Roger Lewis, Shakopee

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President Joe Biden’s permission to use more corn ethanol in gasoline this summer is an irresponsible policy move that could have deadly consequences (“Biden adds ethanol blending waiver to price fight gasoline”, April 13).

Food prices rise when farmers grow fuel instead of food. The world is facing a severe global hunger crisis exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine: 44 million people in 38 countries are close to starvation, according to the World Food Programme.

With billions of dollars needed for emergency food in these countries, even a small increase in already high food prices could mean the difference between hunger and death.

In part because Biden’s waiver only affects the summer, it’s unclear how much his decision will impact fuel or food costs. However, with millions of lives at stake, now is not the time to take such a risk.

Worried about fuel costs? Driving more conservatively and, yes, keeping those tires inflated will save you a lot more money through extra miles per gallon than extra corn ethanol—savings you could use for something like food.

Adam Olson, Minneapolis

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I agree, what is happening in Ukraine is terrible! And the American media is doing the right thing by reporting the pain and suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian people.

So why didn’t the American media also give equal coverage of the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people, caused by the American invasion of Iraq? This action claimed the lives of no less than half a million Iraqis according to some estimates.

Isn’t it the same thing?

This is just another example of the American media’s lack of objectivity in their reporting, which is the root cause of the sharp divisions that now exist among the American people.

Paul FerberEagan

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An April 12 letter regarding US involvement in Ukraine ends with: “America doesn’t need more self-righteous warmongering – it needs less. There are better ways to help.

It is not the American army that invades Ukraine, razes cities and assassinates thousands of civilians. If the writer knew of “better ways to help” stop this massacre, he should have spelled them out. President Biden must send the Ukrainians long-range weapons to prevent artillery and ships from bombing cities, medium-range anti-aircraft weapons to intercept Russian missiles, and ground support aircraft capable of destroying columns tanks, while Ukraine still has enough military personnel to use them.

The Everetts, Falcon Heights

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An April 12 writer hit the nail on the head when he said in his letter to the editor that “our foreign policy” was largely responsible for the deaths in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ukraine is a totally different situation.

Here we have a Russian tyrant trying to swallow up an entire democratic country. And NATO saw 140,000 Russian troops heading towards the Ukrainian border and did nothing. If we had had a strong president in the White House, we could have prevented this wanton destruction and loss of life. NATO should have stood firm against this dictator and called his bluff.

Stephen Vincent Elston, Golden Valley

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