© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Opinion: The light of Hanukkah shines in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Carolyn Kaster
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Many have compared President Zelenskyy's address to a joint session of Congress to the appearance Winston Churchill made 81 years ago.

But I was reminded of when Churchill addressed the Canadian House of Commons a few days later. He said French generals who urged surrender to Germany had told their government, "'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.'"

"Some chicken," Winston Churchill told Canada's parliament. "Some neck."

When Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24th, many experts and analysts, including generals, told many news and talk shows that Russian air power and tanks would quickly overwhelm Ukraine.

Retired US Army General Barry McCaffrey, among many respected authorities, told MSNBC, "Putin is likely to achieve his military objectives, perhaps in under 90 days..."

It has now been 303 days. There was a Churchillian echo when President Zelenskyy told this week's joint session of Congress, "Ukraine is alive and kicking."

Of course, many of Ukraine's towns and villages have been shattered and burned. Many war crimes have been committed. The Ukrainian government says 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died, and possibly more than 100,000 Russian soldiers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says almost 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have died: men, women, and children who were simply going about their lives 10 months ago, working, posing no threat to Russia. Then Russian forces invaded.

Millions of refugees have had to flee Ukraine, with just the clothes they wore to walk out of their own country. Much of Ukraine now lives between bombings and blackouts, hunger and cold.

But, against so many predictions, Ukraine survives.

The United States has given at least $50 billion dollars in aid, and just authorized more. There are those on both the left and right who worry that US military aid could lead to US military involvement.

"Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us," President Zelenskyy reminded the US congress. "Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy..."

President Zelenskyy didn't mention that he spoke on the fourth night of Hanukkah. But the world saw a political leader who happens to be Jewish, just back from the frontline in an olive, drab sweatshirt, speaking for his country during a holiday that commemorates those from centuries ago who kept temple lights burning through darkness and despair, night after night after night.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.