A family lies dead in the street near a bridge that crosses the Irpin River in Ukraine near Kyiv.
A mother, and her eight-year-old daughter and teenage son, plus a family friend who was helping them to flee the chaos, lie on the ground dressed for travel, luggage strewn nearby along with an empty pet carrier. If not for the few signs of blood in the photo taken by Lynsey Addario for the New York Times in the aftermath of a mortar attack on civilians by the Russian military, it almost appears as if the family might regain their footing and continue running toward possible safety. The photo is heartbreaking, but just a moment in a miasma of misery for the Ukrainian people. (Click here to read the story, “Ukrainian Family’s Dash for Safety Ends in Death,” and view the photo; WARNING: this is a sad and disturbing photo/story)
A week ago, this family was enjoying a comfortable life in a modern European city before Vladimir Putin turned their lives and those of others in Ukraine into a living hell for no other reason than his own vanity, a distorted view of history, and his feelings of emasculation about himself and his country.
As I looked at this heartbreaking photo, I imagined my own family in this tragic situation. The bridge over the Irpin River in Ukraine could be one of many bridges over the Chicago River or the Mississippi, Missouri, Rio Grande, Ohio, Potomac, or other American rivers. The streets and buildings of many Ukrainian cities could be our streets and buildings. The family’s hopes and dreams were just like our own here in the United States, where we’ve all won the lottery by not being born into (or currently residing) in a country that is riven by war.
We’re so lucky to live in the United States (although we have our own problems…but that’s another story). Many Americans are closely following the terrible events in Ukraine. But others are too busy worrying about fighting mask mandates, believing nonsense regarding tracking devices in COVID vaccines, waiting for the next QAnon “message,” or falling for debunked theories about the 2020 presidential election or other garden variety conspiracy theories. These people would rather focus on this “tin-hat” silliness than taking the time to move beyond partisan TV headlines and diving deep into a thick book or signing up for a university class to learn what’s really going on in the world, taking action to support the rule of law in the United States, caring about protecting other democracies around the world that are under threat, and trying to help people in developing countries who live under authoritarian rule. Some of our elected leaders are actually rooting for Russia in this conflict. How disgusting and disturbing.
This Ukrainian family’s tragic story upset me, and it should upset you, too. If you’re not outraged by the suffering of others—regardless of their race, religion, social standing, or proximity to the United States—there is something wrong with you. If you’re comfortable in the United States, but not taking any time to care about the rest of the world (including conflicts in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Myanmar, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and countless countries and regions across the map), something has gone wrong in your moral universe. But that’s out of my control.
I’m heartened by the efforts of many Americans to educate themselves about the Ukraine-Russia conflict, as well as to donate money and supplies to the Ukrainian defense effort. Some Americans (including Ukrainian immigrants) are traveling to Ukraine to fight against the Russians. We all should do what we can.
Our small family contribution: All profits from books sold today from our companies College & Career Press and Nature in Chicagoland LLC will be donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. So, please buy a book or two to help the Ukrainians or donate to your own favorite charities. If you’re looking for some charities, I wrote an article that listed nine trusted organizations that are providing on-the-ground assistance to the people of Ukraine.
It’s easy to feel hopeless in an increasing authoritarian world, but everything you do—from learning about the issues and educating others, to donating money to nonprofit organizations that help refugees, provide reportage on injustice, etc.; to never voting for authoritarian political candidates—can make a small difference in changing the world. If enough people do these things, we have a fighting chance to make the world a just and peaceful place.
Postscript: The New York Times published a story about the family and the man who helped them on that fateful day. You can read it here.
copyright Andrew Morkes
ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.