I woke up this morning to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. It’s the kind of news that inspires a lot of emotions: sadness and grief about the pointless bloodshed that will ensue; worry for my friends and students there; and anger at an act that, in the words of Heather Cox Richardson, “has brought into the open that authoritarians are indeed trying to destroy democracy.”
What does give me heart though is that the United States and countries around the world have condemned the attack. It’s our chance now to show what truly matters and to stand up for democracy through political action, and I hope that in the coming days we are able to do just that.
I visited Ukraine back in 2016 for almost three weeks. It was a trip motivated by an urge to discover my roots and find the village that my ancestors had left one hundred years earlier. But what I found there was so much more. As an outsider, it’s too easy to just rely on stereotypes to think about a place, and for Americans, Ukraine becomes lumped in with Russia and the Cold War. I experienced warm and generous people, beautiful countryside, delicious food, and a vibrant history and unique culture. Today, that’s where my heart and mind are.