To Stay or to Leave

In the early days of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, I saw on CNN an interview with two older women in one of the towns being attacked. Both told the interviewer that they had no plans to evacuate, that they would stay where they were. Because they were standing in front of a large apartment complex, I assumed that was their home and that they were widows. They wore the familiar outfits of older Ukrainian women: long, peasant like dresses, sturdy shoes and babushkas on their heads. They looked like the archetypal grandmother: genial but no nonsense, with their feet solidly planted on their homeland.

I’ve read that Ukraine has one of the highest percentages of elderly in the world: In 2018, more than one-fifth of the country’s population were over the age of 60. That means many older Ukrainians are facing a horrible choice: Should they stay in their homes, which could be bombed or controlled by Russians, or should they flee the place they’ve lived most (or all) of their lives for the safety of another country?

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Stories of Resilience: Frank

A friend and I were touring a sculpture park when I first saw the elderly man walking slowly with a cane. As we approached, he made a joke about he’d let us pass him, because he probably couldn’t go as fast as we could.

I didn’t have time to get his name, so I’ll call him Frank, because that was my Czech grandfather’s name, and the man I met in the park told me, in the short conversation we had, that he was originally from Prague. He had the same twinkle in his eye as my grandfather, as if he wanted to share with everyone his happiness at being alive.

I’m guessing he was in his 90s, because he told us that he had grown up in a tumultuous time: war and invasions from neighboring countries (Germany and then Russia), and that he could hardly believe he was here, at his age, not just alive but out walking on this sunny winter day in Colorado.

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