She is seventeen. Sharp and tenacious. Born, raised and educated in the in a free and independent Ukraine, she saw her life and the lives of her friends disintegrate as Russian nationalists stood toe-to-toe in her hometown, Ukrainian soil, each claiming the land as theirs.
“Our neighbors were Russians. I grew up with their children. They were and are my friends. I never believed that there would be bloodshed.”
There was. And still is.
As history so often shows and repeats, the on-going political debacle in the southeastern sector of the Ukraine ended in utter defeat for the unprepared Ukrainians as its arch-enemy, Russian and its pariah Russian President Putin occupied the Crimea. And without firing a single shot. Now Moscow is claiming to the rights to the Donetsk basin, the industrial hub of eastern Ukraine.
“My family is fortunate,” she said. “My grandmother lives in Kiev. We left our village after the rockets begin to fall. We moved in with her.”
Though it was almost a year ago that she had left her country, she has not forgotten the explosions and the fires that followed. She says she will never forget the madness she witnessed.
Safe now thanks to a U.S.-Ukrainian foreign student exchange program, she is attending classes in a nearby high school. Her host family thought it would do her some good “to talk to someone who knew her language and had spent time in Russia.”
My wife and I were pleased to have her as a guest at our home.
Her English, thank goodness, is far better than my Russian.
She told me she had heard so much about America and was eager to learn more. She believed that America was an extraordinary country filled with extraordinary talented people and was especially honored to be able to come here and attend school.
I told her that I had spent time in her country and played basketball the cities of Sverdlovsk and Dnepropetrovsk and Kiev. And I believe that her country and the Russian
people, like most Americans, are hard-working and peace-loving people.
“Then, why must we have wars. When will all this madness stop?”
Clearly, I couldn’t give her an answer.
I don’t think any human being could.
Tom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess. Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!