Credit: Rick McKee, Counterpoint

Two weeks ago, the free world woke up to find that someone was fighting our battles for us. A country on the far-side of Europe, not officially a part of the EU, not officially a part of NATO, was fighting for its life against a tyrant intent on destroying it. And where were the rest of us? Wringing our hands over economic sanctions.

Ukraine is a country that emerged from the ashes of Nazism, the Holocaust, and Soviet occupation to choose democracy over totalitarianism. Ukraine is a country that, despite a history of vicious antisemitism and a present that still grapples with it, elected a Jewish man as president. That president is now in battle fatigues, fighting beside his people as Putin’s invading army wages a war of aggression.

Ukraine is fighting for the values that the rest of us swore to protect. In the aftermath of World War II, under the dark shadow of the Holocaust, the democratic world swore to stand united in the face of tyranny. We swore to fight beside one another when freedom was threatened, that an injury to one was an injury to all, that we would face our foes together. We don’t get to draw back on that now. We don’t get to waiver when tyranny takes one of our own. No one gets sacrificed.

I stand with Ukraine because I am a Jew of Ukrainian descent and I feel in my bones what it is to know that an army is coming to kill you. I stand with Ukraine because I recognize that there is a global war going on between totalitarianism and democracy, and I know which side of that line I fall. I stand with Ukraine because I know my history; I know what it meant when the world let Germany take Czechoslovakia, and I know what might have been prevented if the world had stood up to tyranny right then and there.

I stand with Ukraine because I believe in Europe, a collection of cooperating and coexisting sovereign states united in their effort to maintain cohesion, and the model that provides to the rest of the world. I stand with Ukraine because I know that the threat of tyrants knows no borders, that today it is Ukraine and tomorrow it will be another, and an attack on one is an attack on all. I stand with Ukraine because if there is one thing in this world I hate, it is a bully, and if there is a second thing I hate, it is the cowards who turn their backs and let the bully do his worst.

The democratic world must unite, stand up, and act. Ukraine is one of us. We must not turn our backs.

Joshua Daniel Hershfield is a Santa Barbara local. He holds a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies from Haifa University where he was an Azrieli Foundation Scholar.


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