Mindful Living: The Ukrainian Conflict

Image via Higher Self Yoga

My thoughts are a muddled mess right now. However, I want to write this post so I can let people know what I feel and am thinking about right now concerning the Ukrainian conflict.

War affects everyone differently. For me, I’ve become more and more withdrawn trying to deal with a plethora of emotions, fears, and grim thoughts. Hopefully, I can look back on this post in the future and be comforted.

From 2014 to 2017 I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the South Western part of Russia. This is a precious part of my life on which I reflect often because of the people I know and love there. I lived in Rostov, Krasnodar, Astrakhan, and traveled along the coast and even near the border of Ukraine.

So many people have asked me how I am handling the Ukrainian/Russian conflict. The short answer is. . . it’s a grief I never really thought I would have to face.

War is different when those you know and love are involved. I know many Ukrainians and Russians who live in the areas affected by this war and it’s heartbreaking to see Russia hated because of its leaders.

Gratefully, many Ukrainians don’t hate Russians for the hateful acts of their leaders.

I’ve been impressed by how Ukrainian President Zelensky has reacted and handled this war. His speech to the Russian people especially moved me a few weeks ago. It reminded me of two verses of scripture in the Book of Mormon.

46 And they were doing that which they felt was the aduty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: bInasmuch as ye are not guilty of the cfirst offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.

47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall adefend your families even unto bbloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.

Almas 43:46-47

When he talked to the Russian people directly he didn’t attack them or Putin. He simply laid out the facts and made it clear Ukrainians wouldn’t cave to Putin and his demands. It was a powerful example to me of what it means to fight for a good cause.

This is his speech to the Russian people

I hope his message, along with many others reaches the Russian people.

My heart is breaking, watching the Russian and Ukrainian people suffering so. Like I said before, war affects one differently if it involves people and places they love. And I know what I feel pales in comparison to the sorrow and despair of those living there right now.

I think I understand better the song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserable. In the beginning line, it states, “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on, empty chairs at empty tables. All my friends are dead and gone.”

I wonder if this is how my grandfather felt, fighting in a war against Germany. His father and mother migrated from Prussia right before World War II, leaving behind what would become part of Germany.

I wonder if he ever felt heartbroken at the thought of facing against and killing possible relatives. I wonder if his sorrow in losing so many of his friends felt more bitter because of his connection to Germany.

The people who suffer the most in war are the innocent, everyday men, women, and children forced to endure the tyranny of evil people.

I love Russia, but not for its government. Russians have suffered under bad leadership since their country’s inception. History books record Russia’s leaders, their beliefs, and goals but never its people; the heart and soul of the country itself. They are steadfast, resilient, kind, and generous. The people do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the country they live in.

It’s like Louis L’Amour once said in his novel Last of the Breed.

If our people and your people could sit down together and talk about our families, their farms, and their jobs, I think there would be no trouble. 

‘It is our governments that are continually fencing for position, each trying to gain some advantage.

Russia does not trust its own people. They have built a wall to keep them in …’”.

-Louis L’Amour

What I’m trying to say is I know Vladamir Putin is doing horrendous things under false pretenses. But there are really good people in Russia, many of whom are being arrested for publicly supporting Ukraine and protesting the war.

Perhaps I’ll post about this subject again, to release further feelings and reflect on what I’ve learned. For now, I pray in full sincerity for the people involved in this war. My heart is with them.

I don’t want to let despair rule my life, no matter how much grief I’m carrying. If this isn’t a test of courage and faith, I don’t know what is. Above anything, I want to say I endured this hard time in my life while focused on Christ, God, and their promises of peace and understanding in the future.

Thank you for reading.