Unraveling Historical Conflict: A Personal Journey Of Discovery Of Ukraine

Unraveling Historical Conflict: A Personal Journey Of Discovery Of Ukraine by @SRobbinsAuthor #ukraine #personal #life

As I have watched the situation in Ukraine since February 2022, I’ve thought about my personal connection to the country and the irony of the country’s current situation.

My Personal Ukraine Connection – Teteiv

My great-grandparents came from a city in Ukraine called Teteiv. Ukraine in the late 1800s had a nasty history of pogroms, riots that occurred throughout the country where crowds rose up and murdered hundreds of Jews without fear of recrimination by the authorities.

In researching the background for The Healer’s Miraculous Discovery, I learned that in 1920, not long after my ancestors left Teteiv, there was a massacre of more than 4,000 of their neighbors in that small town near Kyiv. I also found that in the early twentieth century, there were so many former “Teteiv-ers” (as I remember my grandfather calling them) that they formed their own temples in the Cleveland area.

The United States Is A Country Of Immigrants

Our country is known as a country of immigrants. All of us can trace our roots to somewhere else. Some of our ancestors came with the dream of a better life. Some to get rich. But in my case, I found that my ancestors were just coming to find a place where they could live, to escape the threat of persecution and murder.

My grandfather told me the story of how he came to the United States in the late 1890s as a three-year-old. At the time, the United States had quotas to limit the number of Jewish refugees who were fleeing Eastern Europe. To “beat the system,” his father (my great-grandfather) moved the family to England, got British citizenship, and was able to immigrate to the U.S. as a Brit.

Because of all the uncertainty surrounding the move, my grandfather had to stay with his older sister in England until his parents were settled in Cleveland and could send for them! Imagine what it would have been like for a teenage girl and her baby brother to cross the Atlantic alone.

As it turned out, my great-grandfather got out of Ukraine just in time. In the early part of the twentieth century, chaos reigned in the region. The collapse of the Russian Empire pitted several groups fighting for control, the Ukrainian People’s Army, the White Army, and the Red Army. By 1918, amidst the civil war, the warring parties each used the large Jewish population in Ukraine as a scapegoat to motivate their troops, much as the Nazis would do a few decades later.

During a three-year period between 1918 and 1921, more than 100,000 Jews were killed.

This year, in September, we mark eighty-two years since one of the largest single mass executions carried out by the Nazis, the infamous Babi Yar. On September 29th and 30th of 1941, the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators rounded up over 33,700 people into a ravine outside Kiev, told them to take off their clothing, and killed them.

It was actually the second mass murder of Jewish Ukrainians, as they had killed 7,000 Jewish residents of Kiev just two months earlier that July.

As I researched this horrible history for my novel, I knew I could never do it justice, but for anyone who has read The Healer, I do hope it made you think. Think about how these things can happen in a world that we would like to think has become civilized.

Unraveling Historical Conflict: A Personal Journey Of Discovery Of Ukraine by @SRobbinsAuthor #ukraine #personal #life

Musings On Ukraine Today

In my own Cleveland community, there were many people who had similar stories to my own family’s. Many survivors of the concentration camps. I admit I naively thought that all that ended with the collapse of the Third Reich. But the last several years have shown that we “enlightened Americans” are no safer from violence motivated by racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice.

Today, Ukraine is led by a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose own family suffered losses in the Holocaust. No one knows what the outcome of the war will be, but the irony of this Jewish former TV star rising to the status of a national hero in a country that has been so cruel to his people and his own family shows that we never know where our future will take us.

One last thought: Zelensky’s TV series is available on Netflix: Servant of the People, The Uncanny Prescience of ‘Servant of the People’ – The Atlantic). It’s a bit like The Healer’s Miraculous Discovery, although fictional, mirrors its creator’s reality. It’s great for binge-watchers like me!

Would love your thoughts.


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The Healer’s Miraculous Discovery is highly recommended for libraries looking for crossovers between sci-fi and fictional representations of personal and social change. Its plausible possibilities create many insights and reflections that readers won’t see coming.”

~ Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review 

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