Milk and Honey

It started the moment I saw the sign for Itasca State Park.  Memories came rushing back.  Sweet, happy memories of the time Dad and I pulled our little camper up to Itasca State Park for a week of fishing, playing on the beach, exploring the big forest, and tippy toeing across the trickling Headwaters of the great Mississippi River.  I was about 12 then.  Haircut from hell.  Long gangly legs.  Putting worms on hooks.  Picking gooseberries on the trails.  Swatting the bears away from camp with the broom.  Evolving into a hard core outdoorsperson at Dads side.   He would take me on our small Alumina Craft boat at night, Muskie fishing.  We would troll for Northern and Walleye during the day.  We would sit on the shore and cast for Sunfish.  Make pancakes on the Coleman Stove.  Oh, I was such a Daddy’s Girl.

Still am.  Always will be.

Dad was the kindest, most gentle, supportive, hardworking and funny man to ever live.  Everyone loved him.  His simple, calm, unassuming nature was infectious.   He was a man of integrity and honor.  He was a giving, caring, God fearing, blue collar, Union, working man who gave his all to provide for my mom and I.  He was my biggest role model.  Although he has been gone for 19 years, right now, I cannot stop thinking about my father.  It’s all fresh in my mind lately.  An awakening of melancholy emotions and thoughts.  I am consumed.

Dad, I miss you so much!

Dads parents

Dads parents

He never wanted to talk about his past, especially his time in the service.  He didn’t like to talk about the war.  But he did talk about his early days as a boy, in Ukraine, in “The Land of Milk and Honey”.  He had a dozen or so brothers and sisters.  His parents were farmers, and their family lived a simple, peasant farming life.  They worked hard in their fields.  But the soil was rich and they could grow almost anything!  Wheat, corn, potatoes, beets. There were cows, pigs and goats and it was a beautiful, lush countryside.

Dad and some of the family

Dad and some of the family

It was a peaceful, happy existence.  But then, in 1932 came the most volatile, terrible time for Ukrainians. They became controlled and murdered by the thousands, oppressed and starved by Soviet rule.  Many tried to flee the country.  While not many of his siblings were willing to leave, some were, including him.  Dad, with a heavy heart, escaped at age16 or so, and came to the United States,  enlisted, and fought in two wars.

He wouldn’t talk about those days, so I had to learn about it from others.  The most devastating piece of historical literature I’d ever been given as a young girl was a thin red paperback written in 1953, called The Golgotha of Ukraine.  The land rich with farming, “The Land of Milk and Honey”, became littered with malnourished bodies of Ukrainian peasants who were forced to turn over their crops to the “government”, eventually going hungry, starving, and dying of starvation.  Some of the people even became cannibalistic.  And the outcry during and after the horrific famine slaughter was; “why didn’t the USA step in and help?”

I pulled out my little red book today, and paged through the eyewitness accounts of Soviet reality, wondering how in the world it could have happened.

Excerpt from page 5:

“This was a time when Litvinov (1930’s Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs) succeeded in persuading our American government that it was possible to do business with Stalin.  Our press in those days one recalls, was full of glowing anticipations on how many billions of dollars of profits America could make in trading with Russia.  Naturally these anticipations were based on empty promises being made by the Soviets in order to gain American recognition of the Soviet Union.

This was the time too, when such a well-known  American newspaperman as Walter Duranty of the New York Times reported from Moscow, upon his return from a trip through famine-ravaged Ukraine, that he saw no cases of starvation in Ukraine, ‘only some cases of malnutrition’!

Page 45

Page 45

Excerpt from page 6:

“The fault for this deplorable situation lies squarely on the shoulders of those liberal “liberals” of those “experts” who then had considerable influence on public opinion concerning “Russia”. Even today, some of them still consider themselves as “experts” and do everything in their power to prevent the American people from knowing the truth about the Soviet Russian reality, about the traditional Russian Imperialism clad currently in Soviet garb.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

But that was all many, many years and generations ago.  Most people today probably don’t even recall anything about what happened overseas in the beautiful Land of Milk and Honey in the 30’s. At least we seem to have a much clearer picture of Russia’s “culture and capabilities” today.

Let’s hope.

Yet, now, here Ukraine is again, in another violent upheaval.  I wonder if Dad knows?  Does he hover over his nieces and nephews–my cousins—trying to protect them in spirit?

Suddenly, despite not having connections with my overseas family, I am scared.  Scared for them.   Wondering how this could be happening.   I am so sorry Dad, that more conflict and chaos has been dropped across the Land of Milk and Honey.  Thank God that you are not here to see it happening– the worry and concern would surely be the thing to take your life.  Thank God that you didn’t wake up one day when I was a kid and say to mom and me; “hey, I miss my family, let’s go live in Ukraine!”  Oh, thank God that didn’t ever happen!

If I stop and allow myself to think about it, lord my head spins, unable to rationalize any of the violence and separatism.  I won’t even begin to say I understand what is going on over there, or stand behind any of it, or wish to become a part of it, because I don’t.  But I do have to wonder if any of the people of Ukraine ever saw this little red book I’ve got in my hands.

Excerpt from page 7:

“Perhaps this brochure will be of aid to Americans of Ukrainian birth or descent in their endeavors to make their fellow Americans and the American Government itself truly realize the menace of Russian Imperialism, in whatever garb it may appear, not only to Ukraine and other Soviet Russian enslaved nations, but to the free world and America as well.”  Dr. Luke Myshuha.

Well, what about the people actually living in Ukraine?  Do any of them remember how things were back in the 30’s, under Soviet rule?  The shallow ditches and wooden carts, heaping full of bodies?  I am guessing not.  Otherwise, how could this dividing of an otherwise peaceful people even happen?  With the oppression, censorship and simple freedoms that whole part of the world has been deprived of so many years, their perspective must be skewed and far from accurate.  They learn a very different history than what we do in the United States.

Truthfully, it is also frightening to realize how far removed our own Countries’ thinking has strayed of late.  Perhaps we are not that far away from our own undoing.

I am so grateful for my dad, and the many brave men and women over the course of my life and even before, that

Dad in the United States Army.

Dad in the United States Army.

have stood and fought to protect our freedoms as Americans, as well as assisted in protecting and securing liberty for others.   Perhaps that experience is what shaped him into being the compassionate and caring father I cherished.

My heart breaks, knowing I could still have family in Ukraine.

My heart breaks, realizing I may no longer have family Ukraine.

My heart breaks, missing my dad.

Tomorrow would have been your birthday.  Happy 95th Birthday, Dad.  I know you are walking the fields of a far better Land of Milk and Honey.

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