Why people fighting for their lives would stop to save a statue

The lesson in memory America can learn from Ukraine

A statue in Odessa, Ukraine.
(Image credit: Illustrated | REUTERS, iStock)

Countless images coming out of Ukraine linger in my mind these days — fathers cradling their dead toddlers and pregnant women staring ashen-faced from stretchers and mothers filling sandbags together with their sons. These pictures are haunting and relentless, portraits of an embattled people fighting for their survival.

Rightly or wrongly, the cultural similarity between the U.S. and Ukraine has made this conflict feel more personal to me than those raging in Afghanistan or Myanmar. There's the McDonald's in the background of the bombed-out square. A robotic vacuum in the corner of one of the last photos a Kyiv man saw of his family still alive. My daughter's roller suitcase looks a lot like the one next to that crumpled body. My husband wears T-shirts like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Don't I have a jacket like the one that wailing mother is wearing? Don't I drive a car like that family has, the car with their handwritten placards, urgently announcing they're transporting children, plastered to the windows? I see the people huddled on mattresses in a subway station, underneath a sign announcing the music festival that was supposed to happen in Kyiv in late March — now a jarring reminder of life before. I wonder if any of them had planned to attend.

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Carrie McKean


Carrie McKean is a writer who lives in Midland, Texas with her husband and two daughters. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and Texas Monthly, among other local publications. You can find her on Twitter at @MckeanCarrie or at carriemckean.com.