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KING: Veterans Who Have Borne the Battle Suffer the Peace in Isolation

For those who serve in the military, that is the ultimate bonding time: Camaraderie beyond imagining and sharing beyond compare. Laughing, fearing, hurting, hoping, and, sometimes, dying together. A time when the future is just a day ahead, a command away and if in combat, a time when death can arrive in an instant.

When men and women survive in the military, their greatest struggle lies ahead: Reentering civilian life.

Coming home, demobilized, set adrift in a sea of indifference, the veteran is separated from the ties that bind, in a world of alien values, mixed signals, and terrible, inescapable, nightmarish loneliness. This is compounded by the stresses of finding accommodation, work, and a purposeful life.

Our returning veterans are committing suicide at a greater rate than at any other time in our history. In recognition of Veterans Day, I talked with Frank Larkin, who works to connect Americans, especially those who have worn or are wearing the uniform, with veterans through a simple call and to help vets navigate their lives after service.

Larkin is a former Navy SEAL, a former U.S. Senate sergeant at arms, a former U.S. Secret Service agent, and he has worn the uniform of two police departments. But mostly, he is the grieving father of Ryan, a Navy SEAL who saw duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and who took his own life five years ago.

“I couldn’t save my own son,” he told me in an emotional moment during the interview I did with him on “White House Chronicle” on PBS.

Currently, Larkin is chief operating officer of the Troops First Foundation and chairman of the Warrior Call Initiative.

Larkin said “isolation” is the biggest pressure on former troops. They are cut off from the world they know – which he called “their tribe” — and plunged into one they don’t know, alone with their memories. These can amount to what Larkin calls “moral damage,” things that they have done and seen in the battle space which they can’t share with the civilian world. Things that have changed them.

Larkin said of his own son, “He came back changed. I could see it, but I couldn’t reach him, nor could my wife who is a medical professional.”

There are physical injuries as well. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the best known, but there are others. For example, Larkin said, today’s weaponry may be damaging troops, especially in training. Blast waves and repeated recoil shaking may be causing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which is different from the brain injury suffered by football players. With TBI, there are minute tears in the brain which can’t be detected with normal brain scans.

These blast or shock waves from high-velocity weapons are a constant in training. Larkin noted that when a soldier fires a Carl Gustav shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, “It’s like getting your head blown off.”

After World War II, there were ticker tape parades. Every warrior was a hero. Everyone had served or knew someone who had served. The war had been a common shared experience. Most men and a lot of women had “done their bit” in the parlance of the Greatest Generation.

That began to change with Korea, and especially with Vietnam; returning troops weren’t celebrated and those wars weren’t a matter of national pride.

Then the draft ended, Larkin reminded me, and going to war ceased to be a shared experience. It became a discrete occupation, although U.S. troops have been at war or in harm’s way for two decades now. But without the draft, it is out of mind, out of sight, out of caring. Many of us don’t know a single veteran in these days of the volunteer army. We respect them in absentia, sometimes just on Veterans Day.

If all isn’t well with mental health out there in the battle space of civilian life, it isn’t well inside the military either. Suicide among serving men and women, is at record highs too.

More veterans have died from suicide than died in Vietnam combat, Larkin said. His initiative, Warrior Call, advocates that a simple phone call can save a life. “‘How are you doing? I’m thinking about you, buddy,’ is all you have to do,” Larkin said.

Veterans Day has become about sales and discounts, less and less about those who have borne and battle and now must bear the aftermath, often in terrible isolation.

Former Ukrainian Prisoner Speaks in Montgomery County

Andriy Putilov is lucky to be alive.

Putilov, a Ukrainian politician, survived hardship and loss since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After enduring 70 days of torture and abuse as a Russian political prisoner, he brought his story to the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Jenkintown recently.

Speaking to an audience with many fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, the former governor and member of Ukraine’s parliament detailed his April 9 capture and detainment for 70 days in a small, earthen cell. He had successfully moved his family out of the violence that engulfed the Kherson province in Eastern Ukraine. Still, he was captured when he returned to the family home after days of hiding in various safe apartments.

“They beat us with sticks,” Putilov said of his captors through translator Nadia Gordynksy. “Those people who watched us, they were like very elaborate Gestapo forces.”

Putilov claimed the Russians view Ukrainians as “subhumans” and marveled at their cruelty. He also claimed the invaders attempted to create and use biological weapons against the Ukrainians. Reports from the invasion, now in its eighth month, have cataloged numerous war crimes and other despicable acts.

“They hate us on a molecular level,” Putilov said of the Russians.

During his capture, Putilov underwent some profound changes. Despite serving in the national parliament, he was used to speaking a blend of Russian and Ukrainian, more familiar to Eastern Ukraine, as he did during the speech Saturday. Since the invasion, he has made an effort to improve his fluency in Ukrainian.

He also had a spiritual awakening. Eastern Ukraine is more multi-faith and less religious than the country’s western region. Putilov said he prayed for the first time on his knees while imprisoned, praying as much as 10 times a day. He credits his “faith in God” for helping him get through his captivity.

The Russians offered Putilov a position in the occupying government, based on his experience in administration, using what he described as KGB tactics to persuade him. He refused, saying he would prefer to die than aid his captors. After what Putilov called a “show trial” for actions against occupied areas of Ukraine and terrorism charges, he was finally freed as part of a prisoner exchange.

After his release, Putilov traveled to the United States, where he has family, and asked the state government for assistance. He met with Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to discuss an “agreement of friendship” and creating a sister-state relationship with Kherson. As of March, Pennsylvania has 122,000 residents of Ukrainian descent, the second highest in the U.S.

Toward the end of the talk, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) stopped by. The Ukraine and Ukrainian American Caucus co-chair acknowledged that “war fatigue” has set in as the invasion has gone on. The ranking member of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that covers Europe admitted war fatigue is slowing further aid to the resistance.

“[The invasion] goes from the front page to the back page of the news,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s the problem. We’re trying to keep it front and center, also to educate my colleagues and the people of America why it is so important to support the people of Ukraine and protect freedom against dictatorship.”

Cultural Center president Eugene A. Luciw also discussed the importance of backing the Ukrainians. Before the invasion, the country enjoyed progress toward more technology. Many residents who left Ukraine to live in Europe are now moving back.

“[Putilov gave us] a revitalized view of our mission,” Luciw said afterward. “It is not only to sustain, which is extremely important, the approximately 12 to 13 million displaced Ukrainians in Europe and even here in the United States, but sustain them in a way that creates the steps that Ukraine will win the war and ultimately restore itself so the people have hope and prayer that they can return to their homes and live a very fruitful life.”

The Ukrainian Cultural Center has helped refugees coming to the area since the invasion started in February. Those services have been offered in addition to their regular actions in the community, from dinners to operating a credit union. Members have also sent clothing, medical items, and other supplies to embattled Ukraine.

POTAPOVA: Letter From Ukraine as War Continues

Dear Friends,

A lot has changed from the last time we talked. What putin* planned to accomplish in less than a week turned into four months of an atrocious war with almost 1 million Ukrainians losing their homes, over 7 million refugees fleeing the country, and almost 3,000 missile strikes on different regions of Ukraine—what russians claimed to be attacks on military facilities, now turned into the blunt and vicious bombings of civilians, with hundreds of innocent people burned and killed, 344 of those – children.

Four months and counting.

They don’t give up on the idea of capturing the south of Ukraine and controlling both Azov and the Black Sea, and if all goes well, they move further. Meaning they want to capture the whole of Ukraine. At the same time, they spread the Ukraine fatigue rhetoric in Europe, lie about attacking “only military objects,” threaten with global hunger, call foreign politicians names, and leave all their dead on the battlefield. When it seems like they’ve reached the bottom, we see them reaching and breaking new limits again and again.

You asked what actions the U.S. could take to help. I will name a few not only for America but for the whole world.

Number one – boycott. You mentioned russian vodka. Well, their vodka is the easiest product the world can boycott. Oil and gas, other commodities, food, cars, arts, and literature – I could continue the list, but I guess you’ve got the idea. Boycotting literally everything of russian origin speeds up their complete isolation and turns the aggressor into a pariah. Governments across the world should accelerate action to make large businesses leave russia and impose stricter trade limitations (if not bans).

By the way, Belarus joined the club long ago and deserves serious response and sanctions too.

Number two – #ArmUkraineNow. We deeply appreciate the collective response of the West to the russian aggression in Ukraine. What we need now is the West holding the line. Continue standing with Ukraine and helping us resist. Ukraine fatigue is a sinister media narrative, especially considering the russian threats to Poland and the Baltics, which could unleash World War III. Weapons and financial aid that Ukraine already received or expects to receive have been unprecedented. However, we continue losing thousands of our men and women every day while the decisions in the cabinets are being made. Whenever possible, faster decision-making should be considered – it literally saves lives.

Number three – help us punish the killers for the thousands of their war crimes. I mean the international levers of influence enabling Ukraine to claim and recover damages done to our infrastructure, housing stock, people, and cultural heritage. Recently, Canada has become the first country to adopt legislation that allows seizing Russian assets and transferring them to Ukraine. Large global economies should do the same. We know it can take decades to make russia liable for its crimes, just as it was with the fascists in the Nuremberg process or with the genocide architects in the former Yugoslavia. To elaborate the mechanism for the liability of russia, the world has to start now.

Number four – russians came to exterminate us, to break our backbone. Please help us make the russian state liable for the thousands of forcible deportations for the way they treat Ukrainian captives. What they do is deliberate extermination. All our people must be returned home. Take five minutes to read the interview with Yuliya Payevska; a Ukrainian paramedic recently saved from russian captivity. Isn’t that genocide?

They came to break the backbones not only of the Ukrainian people but even of our pets. Yesterday I read the news about a dog named Lys (Fox in English) found in Kyiv region in a trash pit. Although alive, he had a vertebrae fracture, russian soldiers also broke his feet and then mined him. What kind of a creature is capable of that hatred? Would you sit to negotiate peace and then shake hands over the agreement with barbarians?

And number five –donate. Did you hear about Ukrainians donating around $ 20 million to buy Bayraktars (unmanned aerial vehicles) in 3 days? Be like us, stand with us, and help us prevail.


*EDITOR’S NOTE: putin and russia are not capitalized to show her disdain for the aggressors.


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LOMBORG: How to Alleviate the Looming Global Hunger Crisis

global food crisis is looming, so policymakers everywhere need to think hard about how to make food cheaper and more plentiful. That requires making a commitment to producing more fertilizer and better seeds, maximizing the potential offered by genetic modification, and abandoning the rich world’s obsession with organics.

Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine is making less food available because the two nations have been responsible for more than a quarter of global wheat exports and big quantities of barley, corn and vegetable oil. On top of punishing climate policies and the world emerging from the pandemic, prices of fertilizer, energy and transport are soaring, and food prices have climbed 61 percent over the last two years.

The war has exposed some harsh truths. One is that Europe — which portrays itself as a green energy trailblazer — is highly reliant on Russian gas, especially when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. The war has reaffirmed the basic reality that fossil fuels remain crucial for the vast majority of global needs. And the emerging food crisis now reveals another harsh truth: organic farming cannot feed the world and could even worsen future crises.

Long simply a fashionable trend for the world’s 1 percent, environmentalists have increasingly peddled the beguiling idea that organic farming can solve hunger. The European Union is actively pushing for a tripling of organic farming on the continent by 2030, while a majority of Germans actually think organic farming can help feed the world.

However, research conclusively shows that organic farming produces much less food than conventional farming per acre. Moreover, organic farming requires farmers to rotate soil out of production for pasture, fallow or cover crops, reducing its effectiveness. In total, organic approaches produce between a quarter and half less food than conventional, scientific-driven agriculture.

This not only makes organic food more expensive, but it means that organic farmers would need much more land to feed the same number of people as today — possibly almost twice the area. Given that agriculture currently uses 40 percent of Earth’s ice-free land, switching to organics would mean destroying large swathes of nature for less effective production.

The catastrophe unfolding in Sri Lanka provides a sobering lesson. The government last year enforced a full transition to organic farming, appointing organics gurus as agricultural advisers, including some who claimed dubious links between agricultural chemicals and health problems. Despite extravagant claims that organic methods could produce comparable yields to conventional farming, within months the policy produced nothing but misery, with some food prices quintupling.

Sri Lanka had been self-sufficient in rice production for decades, but tragically has now been forced to import $450 million worth of rice. Tea, the nation’s primary export crop and source of foreign exchange, was devastated, with economic losses estimated at $425 million. Before the country spiraled downward toward brutal violence and political resignations, the government was forced to offer $200 million in compensation to farmers and come up with $149 million in subsidies.

Sri Lanka’s organic experiment failed fundamentally because of one simple fact: it does not have enough land to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with animal manure. To shift to organics and keep production, it would need five to seven times more manure than its total manure today.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, mostly made with natural gas, are a modern miracle, crucial for feeding the world. Largely thanks to this fertilizer, agricultural outputs were tripled in the last half-century, as the human population doubled. Artificial fertilizer and modern farming inputs are the reason the number of people working on farms has been slashed in every rich country, freeing people for other productive occupations.

In fact, one dirty secret of organic farming is that, in rich countries, the vast majority of existing organic crops depend on imported nitrogen laundered from animal manure, which ultimately comes from fossil fuel fertilizers used on conventional farms.

Without those inputs, if a country — or the world — were to go entirely organic, nitrogen scarcity quickly becomes disastrous, just like we saw in Sri Lanka. That is why research shows going organic globally can only feed about half the current world population. Organic farming will lead to more expensive, scarcer food for fewer people, while gobbling up more nature.

To sustainably feed the world and withstand future global shocks, we need to produce food better and cheaper. History shows that the best way to achieve that is by improving seeds, including by using genetic modification, along with expanding fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation. This will allow us to produce more food, curb prices, alleviate hunger and save nature.

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Putin Bans Brian Fitzpatrick From Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin is known to have a long list of enemies. So long, it reaches all the way to Bucks County, Pa.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) is on Putin’s list of people banished from Russia’s borders, along with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The list is both lengthy and impressive. It features people from many walks of life: Politicians, business executives — even acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman made the list of 963 people who are now banned from entering Russia.

Perhaps the most unexpected name is Fitzpatrick’s brother Mike. A former congressman himself, Mike passed away in 2020 after a battle with cancer. Both Brian Fitzpatrick and his brother were outspoken supporters of Ukraine.

“The current landscape in Russia is one that is ruled by a murderous war criminal who denies its citizens basic human and civil rights, imprisons peaceful protesters, and indoctrinates its citizens with state-controlled propaganda,” Fitzpatrick told the Delaware Valley Journal.

Despite massive sanctions from the U.S., the E.U., and the West, Putin has continued waging war against Ukraine, an assault that has now lasted more than 100 days. His army is facing accusations of war crimes in its attempts to secure some of Ukraine’s cities. Buildings have been bombed, entire towns have been leveled and promises of safe passage have been violated. Children and the elderly have been among the civilian casualties. Fitzpatrick has been supportive of the measures that Biden has taken so far in its attempts to cripple the Russian economy, but argues America should do more.

“As long as Vladimir Putin is leading Russia, the entire world should boycott them and not contribute a single dime to their economy,” said Fitzpatrick.

While Putin is not making many friends in the U.S., a study conducted by Statista last month found 80 percent approved of Putin’s leadership. However, many critics have suspicions as to how accurate polls taken inside a state such as Russia can be.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick continues his fight against Russia and its treatment of Ukraine.

“I encourage everyone on Putin’s ‘ban list’ to join me in visiting Ukraine to meet a real leader like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, someone who shares our values and defends freedom and democracy in Ukraine and across the globe,” said Fitzpatrick.


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BROOKE: Ukraine War, Day 100: The Unimpressive Performance of Russia’s Military Thus Far

February 24, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, is going down as a turning point in modern history.

As we hit the war’s 100-day mark on Friday, one of the most significant lessons is Russia’s much-feared “modernized” army, the largest in Europe, is, well, not so impressive.

On Feb. 25, many Western pundits predicted that the Russian army, the successor to the Soviet Union’s Big Red Machine, would roll into Kyiv in days. Putin thought the same. Many elite units he sent south to Kyiv carried dress uniforms in their backpacks. They were preparing for a victory parade down Kreshchatyk, the main avenue of Ukraine’s capital.

Instead, the world watched as Ukrainians rallied to stop the Russians dead in their tracks. Partisan units used drones to blow up tanks. U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles shot down so many helicopters and bombers that Russia never controlled the air. Diesel supplies ran out. Soldiers deserted their units.

Blocked in Kyiv’s suburbs, Russian soldiers descended into looting, drinking, raping and shooting civilians. Before retreating north to Belarus, Russian occupiers in Kyiv Region killed at least 1,500 civilians and destroyed 5,000 houses and 161 high-rise apartment buildings.

According to a daily tally maintained by Robert Homans, an American Ukraine expert in Washington, Russia lost 30,700 soldiers in the first three months of the war — more than double the 14,453 Soviet soldiers killed during the Soviet Union’s 10-year occupation of Afghanistan.

According to this tally, which draws on seven Ukrainian sources, Russia has lost: 208 fixed-wing aircraft in Ukraine, almost double the losses in Afghanistan; 866 artillery pieces, double the losses in Afghanistan; 3,343 armored personnel carriers, 2.5 times the losses in Afghanistan; and 1,361 tanks, nine times the losses in Afghanistan.

Going into the war, Westerners were guided by past gee-whiz articles, such as this April 2, 2014, piece in The New York Times: “In Crimea, Russia Showcases a Rebooted Army.” Written by two veteran reporters, the article came out two weeks after Russia’s virtually bloodless annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, on the Black Sea. That surprise operation blindsided Ukraine’s unprepared and demoralized military. In that overwhelmingly Russia-speaking area, 9,268 soldiers and sailors — half of Ukraine’s military — defected. Only two Ukrainian soldiers died defending Crimea.

Virtually untested in a police action, Russia’s army looked sharp.

“Their uniforms were crisp and neat, and their new helmets were bedecked with tinted safety goggles,” reported the Times. “They were sober.”

Aleksandr Golts, an independent military analyst in Moscow, praised Putin’s massive military spending in the early 2000s, saying: “As a result of these reforms, Russia now has absolute superiority over any country in the post-Soviet space.”

The last word went to Mikhail Khodaryonok, a reserve Russian army colonel who was then editor in chief of Moscow’s Military-Industrial Courier. He told the Times: “Everything is in order. There is no more such shame as broken tanks and A.P.C.’s on the road, and outdated weaponry. … The epoch of decay has been fully overcome, and the armed forces of the country are on the rise.”

Fast forward to two weeks ago.

The same Mikhail Khodaryonok shocked viewers of “60 Minutes,” the main talk show on Russia’s state-owned Rossiya 1 TV channel.

“The situation (for Russia) will clearly get worse,” he warned on May 16. Citing the massive Western aid in the pipeline for Ukraine this summer, he said: “The Ukrainian army can arm a million people.”

Referring to Ukrainian soldiers, he noted: “The desire to defend their motherland very much exists. Ultimate victory on the battlefield is determined by the high morale of troops who are spilling blood for the ideas they are ready to fight for.”

Beyond the battlefield, the veteran Russian analyst said: “The biggest problem with (Russia’s) military and political situation is that we are in total political isolation and the whole world is against us. … The situation cannot be considered normal when against us, there is a coalition of 42 countries and when our resources, military-political and military-technical, are limited.”

Two days later, Khodaryonok reappeared on the same show. He reassured viewers of state-controlled TV that the outlook for Russian soldiers in Ukraine this summer is not so bad.

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SADLER: Ukraine War, Day 100: Raising the Cost for Russia’s Naval Blockade Can Avert a Prolonged War

As the ground war in Ukraine’s Donbas region likely bogs down into a contest of prolonged attrition, access to the Black Sea will be key to which belligerent outlasts the other. Before the invasion, over 70 percent of Ukraine’s exports left via its ports. So eventually lifting Russia’s blockade will be critical to securing its economic future and sovereignty.

In recent days, Russia completed its conquest of Mariupol, sweeping clear Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov. That leaves Odessa as the last major Ukrainian port with access to the Black Sea, but its sea approaches are blocked by Russia’s navy. Since the invasion began, the city has been the target of sustained missile attacks, and while the threat of invasion is lesser now, it is not zero.

Meanwhile, an avoidable global food crisis has been brewing for months as critical exports of grains and fertilizers have been cut off. Together, Russia and Ukraine supply 30 percent of the world’s wheat, 60 percent of its sunflower oil, and 20 percent of its corn via the Black Sea. The potential for famine in poorer nations reliant on these exports is spurring new urgency to end the war.

While the potential for a food crisis was predictable and noted months before, it has only recently gained serious attention. In the past week, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pursued a deal to open grain shipments from the Black Sea. However, Russia has other options for getting its exports to market and has not been in any hurry to relent in its blockade—yet.

Barring some diplomatic agreement to allow shipping to resume from Odessa in order to end Russia’s naval blockade, the cost for Russia to sustain it must be raised. Already Ukraine’s navy has demonstrated its ability to sink Russian naval vessels, most notably with the use of Neptune land-based anti-ship cruise missiles to sink the Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea flagship. That success has led to calls for supplying Ukraine with similar modern Western weapons.

To that end, allies United Kingdom and Denmark have signaled they have or will deliver the Harpoon anti-ship missile to Ukraine. While such weapons help to raise the cost for Russia, they don’t remove the threat. Russian submarines are increasingly launching cruise missile attacks and can easily shift to attacking shipping in the Black Sea without being threatened by these missiles. Something else is needed for this sort of threat.

Should attacking Russia’s surface warships not raise the costs high enough, neutralizing its Black Sea submarines might be required. Given Russia’s primary control of the airspace and the fact that Ukraine does not have a capable anti-submarine force, this will be a tall order.

That said, the time may be right to dust off past recommendations to modify the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) for shore launch with extended ranges. The missile’s current range is too short making its utility in that role limited but familiar to numerous allied nations that operate them. Such an idea is not new; in a November 2020 article, the commandant of the Marine Corps argued for a similar capability in a war with China. For Ukraine it could be viable in the long term, assuming adequate targeting and weapon range.

While there is a valid sense of urgency in ending the war and averting a food crisis, it must not be done on Russia’s terms. But even if the war ended tomorrow, until sea mines are removed, shipping in the north Black Sea will not resume.

Here allies with minesweepers and access to the Black Sea—like Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and even Germany via the Danube River—can play an important role in supporting Ukraine. While hostilities are ongoing, having those countries engaged in minesweeping is high risk; more prudent is to provide such capabilities for Ukraine to use in its waters as Black Sea nations clear and patrol their own.

In the meantime, nations should look at ways to alleviate the loss of Ukrainian and Russian grains and fertilizer and pursue diplomatic solutions to allow Ukrainian shipping of food, while at the same time helping Ukraine raise the cost of Russia’s blockade.

As long as Russia can damage Ukraine’s economy by preventing its ability to export many of its agricultural products, Kyiv will face challenges. Raising the costs for Russia is one way to bring the blockade and the war to an earlier end.

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Despite War Worries, Hundreds Show Ukrainian Pride

Hundreds attended the two-day Easter bazaar at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center (UECC) in Abington last weekend.

And many came with heavy hearts and worries about the war in Ukraine.

Stories of horrors perpetrated by the Russian invaders dominate the news. For those with family members and friends still in Ukraine, the worry about their safety is nearly unbearable.

Andriy Kulynin stirring kulish or millet porridge.

“I’m from Ukraine, so for me, it’s a disaster,” said Nadya Shakirova of Montgomery Township, who was at the bazaar with her children. “It’s unbelievably sad. There are no words to describe how painful it is.”

She came from Lviv in western Ukraine in 1999 and still has cousins there.

Lauren Hulayew brought her 2-year-old daughter, Kira, who clutched a Ukrainian flag, to the bazaar on Saturday.

“We’re Ukrainian,” said Hulayew, a Huntingdon Valley resident. “I think it’s horrible. We’ve endured a lot. It’s so sad to see (what’s happening). I can’t even imagine.”

Vendors at the bazaar sold Ukrainian flags, T-shirts, and other clothing emblazed with Ukrainian mottos, like “Free Ukraine,” along with the traditional embroidered clothing Ukraine is known for. There was art, including the pysanky, decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs.

And Ukrainian delicacies were served including borscht, pierogis, kielbasa, and potato pancakes, along with tables full of desserts. Everywhere, one could hear conversations in Ukrainian.

Christine Shwed said the Ukrainian National Women’s League has raised nearly $1 million for medical equipment for Ukrainians. She was manning a booth to sell books of Ukrainian fairy tales for the cause.

“We had to do something,” she said. “We couldn’t just stand by.”

Vera Bej, the former principal at the Saturday school at the UECC, said, “Everybody is doing something.”

Bej, who came to the U.S. as a child, said she still remembers what it was like under communism and the Soviet Union.

“I watched the old Soviet Union crumble and fall,” said Bej, a Shippensburg resident. As for the Russian invasion, she said, “I am shocked and astounded.”

Many people have been dropping off donations at the UECC, helping to box items to send to Ukraine, and for the 4 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. “People who don’t have a drop of Ukrainian blood” are helping, said Bej.

Larisa Kril, of North Wales, came to the U.S. when she was 30. The war actually began in 2014, “when Russia came and occupied Crimea,” she said. But Russians have been killing Ukrainians for 300 years, she noted.

Her son, Christopher Kril, 27, was also at the bazaar.

Christopher Kril and Larisa Kril

Christopher, who lives in Philadelphia and works at a credit union, said he would go to Ukraine every summer to visit his late grandmother, who lived in a small town in the western part of the country.

“It’s unbelievable, devastating, inhumane,” he said. “To imagine the streets that I walked in being blown up, dead bodies. That’s just really hard to imagine. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back. So much beautiful architecture, so many years of history, lost. I hope the West and the U.S. help to rebuild Ukraine without Big Brother Russia.”

Bej said, “I feel guilty when I pray for my own family. I feel I shouldn’t ask for anything for them with what’s happening there.”

Thomas Stephanson, 16, of Swarthmore, spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal about Ukraine’s long history with neighboring Russia.

“It’s hard to tell Putin’s motives,” said the Strath Haven High School student. “It’s impossible to say what he will do with what’s happening now (with Ukrainian forces fighting and winning back some territory). It’s brutal.”


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POTAPOVA: A Letter From Ukraine

Dear Friend:

I’m sorry for the delay with the answer, just couldn’t collect myself and my thoughts after seeing the atrocious footage and death tolls from Bucha and other towns outside Kyiv that have been liberated by Ukrainian forces. The whole country is utterly shocked. We all are mourning the killed civilians up there and praying for the people in Mariupol and Donbas where they have heavy battles right now.

Despite the pain, I want to use every opportunity to talk to a foreign audience about the war crimes the russians (yes, that is correct, since the war started we here write the names of the aggressor country and its president in lowercase letters) commit on our land. I will try to share my thoughts on what it’s like to be in a country that is at war. For security reasons I don’t go into much detail when it comes to locations.

The picture that I’m attaching to this email was made by my daughter three months before the war. That day we saw a theatre show, ate some street food, and enjoyed the sun in the center of Kyiv. That day Kyiv was a peaceful place, probably the best one on Earth, I love this city so much. And I believe peace will be restored to it soon.

So, let’s do it. Sorry if the text comes unstructured, it is more of a free writing thing.

My name is Tanya, I’m 38, happily married, mother of two. Currently, I’m the communications lead in one of the top law firms in Ukraine. I live in Kyiv but a few days after russia invaded we made a decision to flee to a safer region. It has remained relatively safe up until now and I hope it will stay safe.

On Feb. 24 we woke up from a phone call. It was 7 a.m. The babysitter of our younger son called to ask whether she should come that day. I said yes and she asked, “Are you sure? Have you heard the news?” I immediately went online and the first headline was saying: “putin started a war.” Of course, there was fear then. There is fear now but it goes with an overwhelming feeling of the people’s unity, rage, and determination.

We have air sirens every day and especially at night. That is why we spend the nights in a shelter. It seems we took other things for luxury before, our new luxury is to have food and water, electricity and internet, to take a shower, go for a walk, play with kids. At least it is a luxury for now because every new day might change everything.

I was lucky not to experience shelling, rocket attacks, not to lose loved ones, to remain alive. But I know people who lost their homes because of bombs, their loved ones died in the shelling or were shot during evacuation.

Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel, Borodyanka, Kharkiv, Sumy – it’s heartbreaking to think of people there. Handcuffed, tortured, raped, burnt, starved, strangled, humiliated, blocked, deprived of their homes, killed by the obedient herd to satisfy the monstrous reincarnation of Stalin and Hitler in one.

What the russian troops have been doing are war crimes. And war criminals who gave and executed orders, crafted and promoted the propagandistic agenda for decades, and then publicly denied the atrocities done by their army, should and will be punished. This is why Ukraine will fight no matter how much time and effort it takes.

You know, I think Ukraine reinvents itself right now. We literally see the country shaking off the rudiments of the Soviet past–pro-russian political parties and propagandistic media, the language issue (many people I know who spoke russian before the war started using Ukrainian in their everyday life). It’s great to see a dignified and resilient nation in the making. The nation that undoubtedly will prevail.

Every single person I know contributes to the victory by helping the army, refugees, neighbors, animals, anyone in trouble. I stayed in Ukraine and decided to spend as much time with my kids as I can. Having an incredibly supportive employer, I continue working remotely, and this was another commitment – to get myself together and continue doing my job because a stable economy helps Ukraine to get closer to victory. I use every chance to spread the truth about the war across the world. And I donate: to the Ukrainian armed forces, to the widows of the killed, to refugee centers, to free Ukrainian media.

Growing up, making friends, falling in love, giving birth to kids, living, working, and traveling in Ukraine was fantastic before the russians came to try and take it all away. Since 1991, our country has been paving its way to the EU and NATO. We struggled with reforms. We voted in democratic elections. We fought for the right to choose our own path. It’s not that we haven’t made mistakes. We did, but who doesn’t when trying to emerge out of a communist past as a democracy?

Obviously, Ukraine became a pain in the ass for russia – no dictatorship likes free-minded neighboring countries. We didn’t obey and give up as they planned. We fight for our freedom and shield the freedom of Europe. The cost is tremendously high though: devastated land in place of beautiful modern towns and cities, mass graves in the backyards of residential areas, kids becoming orphans, and infrastructure being destroyed. War crimes and genocide–this is what it is, and there can be no redemption.

When the war ends with our victory and russia gets stuck in the deadlock of the sanctions, military and economic losses, international isolation, and the eventual fall of putin and his regime, Ukraine will need financial, humanitarian, diplomatic help from the international community, just as it needs it now. Along with that, the world would need to deal with the aftermath of the war and do its homework. It should include efforts to redesign the international security framework and face the challenges of the global food crisis caused by the war. Basically, when the war ends helping Ukraine to come back to normal life will mean helping the world.

My Bosniak friend, Riada, a journalist who often writes about genocide in her country in the ‘90s, keeps supporting me during this time. The other day she sent me an open letter from a Sarajevo siege survivor to Ukrainians published on BBC. The letter was about the message on her 30-year-old teeshirt that sustained the woman during 1425 days of the siege. Modified for us, the message was “Ukraine will be, everything else will pass.” This is what we here think now.

Oh, and you asked whether I have pets. Well, our older daughter asked for a dog many times. My husband and I always thought two kids are enough to keep ourselves busy and our apartment a mess. Now we’ve had a deal that we would get a dog after the war is over – we want to see our apartment the happiest mess ever. Today it’s 40 days since we left it.

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US, PA Energy Producers Cheer Biden LNG Shipments to Europe

As Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, the U.S. and its European allies made a deal to protect the EU’s energy sector from Russian aggression, President Joe Biden announced a plan to bring massive amounts of liquified natural gas (LNG) to EU nations.

That means more demand for the natural gas produced here in Pennslyvania.

“Europeans have depended on Russian natural gas for far too long, threatening energy security and environmental progress,” the Marcellus Shale Coalition said after the deal was announced. “American natural gas is the cleanest on the planet, with a 65 percent lower methane intensity rate than Russia’s.”

Biden made the announcement during a joint appearance with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels.

“The United States, together with our international partners, they’re going to — we’re going to work to ensure an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquified natural gas — LNG — for Europe this year,” Biden said. “And as the EU works to discontinue buying Russian gas well before 2030, it will also work to ensure additional EU market demand for 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from the United States annually by 2030.”

According to industry estimates, one billion cubic feet of LNG is enough fuel to heat about five million U.S. homes for a day.

“It’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing,”

The announcement was praised by energy producers in the U.S.

“We welcome the president’s focus on expanding U.S. LNG exports to our European allies during this crisis, and we applaud the administration’s continued leadership in ensuring a unified international response to maximize pressure on Russia through additional sanctions,” said American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Mike Sommers.

Nearly 40 percent of the national gas needed to generate power and heat Europe’s homes comes from Russia. Europe has been the top destination for U.S. LNG in recent months. In February, Reuters reported at least half of U.S. LNG shipments went to Europe.

According to Rystad Energy’s vice president Sindre Knutsson, the agreement marks “a u-turn from previous EU purchasing decisions as many buyers had stopped negotiating with U.S. developers for LNG due to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) concerns. Now, however, it appears that energy security has trumped ESG concerns — at least temporarily.”

That is not what environmental groups like the Sierra Club want to hear.

“Allowing for the expansion of new and expanded gas export facilities would lock in decades of reliance on risky, volatile fossil fuels and spell disaster for our climate and already overburdened Gulf Coast communities,” says Kelly Sheehan, senior director for energy campaigns at Sierra Club.

Sheehan would rather see the U.S. rapidly transitioning to wind and solar, not doubling down on fossil fuels.

“It’s encouraging to see this announcement’s emphasis on clean energy and energy efficiency, and we hope to see more detail soon about plans to reduce demand and make necessary investments in more efficient technologies,” says Sheehan. “Reducing reliance on fossil fuels is the only way to stop being vulnerable to the whims of greedy industries and geopolitics.”

But it was Europe’s decision to take extreme action on energy policy in pursuit of ESG goals that pushed it into a corner Putin has been able to exploit, some analysts say.

“This is a welcome announcement and a strong partnership that should help wean Europeans’ dependence on Russian natural gas by providing more energy choices,” said Nick Loris, vice president for public policy at the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions (C3 Solutions). “Hopefully the Biden administration and EU take the necessary steps to streamline the infrastructure buildout necessary to end Russia’s control over European gas markets.”

And that buildout is an area of concern as the U.S. LNG export system is operating close to capacity. Beth Sewell with Quantum Gas & Power told Marketplace Friday she does not believe American producers can do much in the short term to meet European energy needs.

“LNG terminals require long-term contracts to support their financing and the LNG is sold under long-term contracts,” she explained. “This means that most of the LNG for export is already contracted for a long time to come, so shippers would face massive breach of contract litigation.”

During a press call on Friday, a senior Biden administration official said the U.S. has already doubled LNG exports to Europe over the past three to four months.

“But we also arranged, over the course of the winter months, a number of swaps from our partners all over the world, particularly in Asia, to supply more LNG to Europe during its winter. And so we’re going to continue those efforts throughout 2022 — that’s what we’re committing to do — to hit the 15 bcm target.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission will work with EU member states toward the goal of ensuring, until at least 2030, demand for approximately 50 bcm/year of additional U.S. LNG. That is equal to about a third of what they get from Russia today.

At API, Sommers says it stands ready to work with the administration to follow the announcement with meaningful policy actions to support global energy security.

“That includes further addressing the backlog of LNG permits, reforming the permitting process, and advancing more natural gas pipeline infrastructure.”

Sen. Pat Toomey  (R-Pa.) says the plan isn’t aggressive enough.

“The joint task force’s timeline for reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy is too long to cripple Putin’s war machine in Ukraine,” he said via Twitter. “In order to effectively sever his revenue stream, we must cut off Putin’s oil and gas sales globally by imposing secondary sanctions on the entirety of Russia’s financial sector.

“The time to take action is now—while the demand for gas has lessened and American companies and others can help replace supplies ahead of next winter,” Toomey said.

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