It was after the fall of the Soviet Union that I was born. The biting chill of the December air tinted my cheeks pink, as my mother brought me to our old apartment in Kiev, Ukraine. My family was never rich, but we managed to scrape up some money to provide me with all the comfort possible in that tough time. I didnít have the newest toys, and a yellow school bus never took me to my school. Instead, I took the public bus with people pushing you against the wall and sharp elbows digging into your side when you tried to leave that crammed space.
But it was during the nine years that I spent in Ukraine that I remembered my great-grandfather the most. He was a kind man, always helping someone out, and never seeming to tire from all the work he took upon himself. He pushes himself even now that he nears his nineties to do more, and more, and more, as if in some way his labor will fix something, both in himself and, perhaps, in the world around him.
My great-grandfather had fought in World War II. He was a simple soldier on the Russian side, but he bravely fought against the Germans for four years. One would expect me to know everything about the war, the holocaust, the horrors that came with the battlefield, but I do not. No, my great-grandfather never seemed to talk about those years that robbed him of so much health. He always shrugged off the topic when it was brought up. I asked him about it many times, and he kindly replied that such things arenít to be heard by a childís ears, and even now that I am sixteen, and visit him during my dull Louisiana summers, he refuses to talk much about that war. I understand though that it isnít about me. No, it is those memories that my great-grandfather tries to bury deep in his mind, perhaps to forget about all the horrors he saw and felt.
In Ukraine it seems that few people mention the holocaust. The teenagers wave off such conversations, and the teachers rarely find these events to be as important as demonstrated here, in my second home, in America. Perhaps they all try to forget it; perhaps they all try to pretend it never happened, that humanity could not commit such horrors. We did however. The human race is responsible for the holocaust crimes. The Nazis have murdered millions of innocent people, and not only Jews, but the Roma, or the gypsies of Europe. The acts are too horrible to describe. Multiple rapes, cruel experiments, horrid stenches of the bodies of neighbors, friends, and family being burned in the crematoria, the tales of the gas chambers, and the impossible conditions of those four years from 1941 to 1945 shall forever plague the memories of the survivors. Hitlerís unfinished, luckily not completely successful, genocide has left scars on the souls and on the bodies of those lucky enough to escape.
ďGenocide.Ē That term didnít exist until 1944, when Raphael Lemkin combined the Greek word for tribe with the Latin word for killing. But nowadays we seem to hear it often here in the United States. High school students read books such as Night and Fragments of Isabella in their English classes; the lucky survivors of the atrocities come to our schools to tell us of their stories, to remind us all to always remember. Forgetting is not our only problem however. It is passing on what we were taught not to forget to our future children, the next generation that is so important. Carved into our minds is the small reflection of the horror that the holocaust victims have suffered, but we are the last generation ever to hear these stories told in person. Thus we must, we simply must take all possible measures to educate our children, to teach our posterity that they should learn from humanity's previous mistakes.
Another problem we come to face is the ignorance of other nations. No, America is not perfect, not in the least. We have our prejudices, those that threaten to tear our country apart, but then again this essay is about something bigger, something that should truly be eradicated from humanity before we begin to address the smaller problems that impact far fewer people. This essay is to focus on the genocide that our world seems to reek of.
Since 1945 we have seen
genocide again. Though perhaps it was not on such a grand scale, but it
was there, starring at our supposedly peaceful lives with its cold
piercing eyes that scream of the pleas, the tortured cries, the silent
tears of thousands of people who have suffered under the hands of the
most extreme of cruelties of humanity. Take Darfur, for example. It
began in 2003 that the Sudanese have, by direct violence, disease and
starvation, already claimed as many as 400,000 lives of Darfur citizens.
The earth has around six billion people, six billion human lives that
could have stopped this even before it started, but have we? The answer
is plain and cold, two letters, one distinct sound: ďnoĒ.
There is perhaps nothing one single person can do to end this. We arenít super heroes that can save the world that easily, but we have power in numbers. It is the turning of the thousands, millions of human beings toward one cause that shall end it, and it all begins simply with a moment spared to listen to a story, a moment that can change someoneís life and lead him or her to change someone elseís as well. It is through talk that this goal can be accomplished. Beginning to educate children at an early age of these horrors and these wrongs, and telling them never harbor a hate for anyone is, perhaps, the best way. Children are impressionable creatures. They believe what they hear; they often keep those moral lessons that we teach them through their whole lives and pass them on to their children as well.
Hate is not inborn in anyone. No one comes to this world hating anyone else. It is something we learn from those around us. Hate is something a child learns when he sees his family killed, or when he sees a friend throw a rock at a harmless kitten. And it is this hate that we must begin to destroy, and what better way than through the youngest of us? It is best to prevent the next generation from making these mistakes we so often commit. We must spread the word over countries, over continents, until everyone realizes what is wrong.
The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by
the participants are not necessarily those of Holland & Knight LLP or the
Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.