Part 4 of 4. Part 3 appeared July 19.
Being the richest country Europe for minerals and valuable black soil, Ukraine had been invaded many times in past decades. In 879 Kiev was captured by the Varangians/Vikings. Then in 1240 the Mongolians conquered it. In the 14th century, Poland and Lithuanians took the western chunk of it; followed by the Russians who took the eastern part. In 1667 Poland and Russia split Ukraine among themselves. In 1676 the Turks from Crimea invaded, which was followed by multiple wars. In 1775 the last remaining Cossack stronghold was destroyed by the Russian army. In 1918-1919 Ukraine declared independence but the Poles and Russians invaded again, each taking their portion. In 1923, with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s help, Ukraine was given to the Soviets.
During Soviet occupation, Ukraine lost 10 million people through the Holodomor (genocide by forced starvation). During World War II Ukraine lost another 10 million people. If you pick up any World War II book, you won’t find Ukraine mentioned. All accolades go to the Russians. They claim the 20 million loss of Russian people, but most of the war was on Ukrainian land with both sides, Germany and Russia, having a “scorched earth policy” on Ukrainian soil.
The Ukrainian children are taught early to die for their country. In my grammar school primer there is a story that I remember well.
Ukrainian villages are constantly being invaded by Tartars. The villages were small, surrounded on all sides by forest. It would have been a good life if it wasn’t for the constant invasions by the Tartars: stealing, burning their huts, slaughtering their animals, kidnapping their children and selling them off.
One day Olecia and Maxim, children whose parents were killed by these invaders, encounter the Tartars in the forest. Olecia sent Maxim running home to warn the villagers. Olecia is then spotted by the Tartars, who demand she lead them to the village. She leads them in circles deeper and deeper into the forest to where the Big Mud is. In revenge, they stab her in the chest and she dies saying: “Whoever loves their dear country, should protect it.”
Later the villagers find Olecia’s body in the forest. They find the horses stuck in the mud but not the Tartars. When they dismounted, they must have been sucked up in the quicksand.
That is why the Ukrainians are fighting so hard against the Russians. They know under Russian occupation, they will die anyway. So they fight to the death protecting their country.