“Queer New York stands with Ukraine” says the sign on Christopher Street Saturday.
“We are all Ukranians now,” another speaker.
My mind raced back to 1979 when a man said the same thing after the White Night Riots, during solidarity protests in Sheridan Square; we are all from San Francisco. Today, it seems we are all from Ukraine between East and West, as cold war moves to hot.
I can’t believe Putin actually did it, I thought all week long. I can’t believe he did it.
Ann Christine posted a link for an action.
“US LGBT and allies stand with Ukraine” at 53 Christopher Street…US LGBTQ+ and allies stand with Ukraine:
“Eight years ago, in 2014, Russia started a war against Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and part of the Lugansk and Donetsk region. That war cost the lives of many Ukrainians, and brought serious threat to LGBTQ and human rights. The LGBTQ community in that annexed region lost access to medical treatment; homosexuality was criminalized, many gay people were tortured or ended up in psychiatric clinics. Today Putin and Russia has decided to move ever forward to take over Ukraine. Thousands of our brothers and sisters are under attack; Ukraine, as the only democratic country in the region, is under threat. QUA - LGBTQ Ukrainians in America, together with friends and allies, invite YOU to a meeting to support Ukraine and Ukraine's LGBTQ community.
American human rights organizations and New York society are powerful communities, and we can show our STRONG support with Ukraine. We CAN encourage ACTION now and use our political tools to push Capital Hill to provide MORE support and protect Ukraine.
Nobody's free until everybody's free. And if we still believe in values and democracy, we MUST show our solidarity with Ukrainian society in this challenging and dark moment of Ukrainian history.
When: Saturday, February 26, at 2 pm
Where: Stonewall monument, 38-64 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014.”
He actually did it. Putin actually invaded Ukraine, an independent democracy that had left the USSR as soon as it could, some three decades prior.
I don't know what to do in these moments. So I try to show up and talk with others.
Like a lot of us, I find myself playing Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition, The Great Gate of Kiev,” a majestic 1874 piece of work I’ve always adored, about a friend, a love that was lost, the drama of it taking new dimensions.
Caroline and I watch Tartovsky's Mirror, a 1975 film about Russia, war, memory and personal history, dream sequences back and forth between a pre war period, world war, and the post war period. The war changed everything here, mass death and persistent wounds remaining.
Watching Anthony Bourdain's “No Reservations'' episode on Ukraine from a decade ago, I find myself thinking about Chernobyl 1986, then 1938 and 1979. Soon enough Russia has captured the ruin I read. What happens if it gets hit? Tony visits there, wandering through the wreckage. The aftershocks and radiation from that disaster never quite end. Few have the stomach for war. But the Ukranians are fighting back, calling for Guerilla resistance, ready to make life difficult for the Russian invaders. I remember the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, December 24th of 1979. They’d be there the better part of the next decade.
The analogy is worth considering.
With Paul McCartney waving a blue and yellow flag at his show, Saturday Night Live beginning with a Ukrainian Chorus performing “Prayer for Ukraine”, and mass protests in cities around the world, including Moscow, the world is solidly against Russia’s move. Hopefully the bands will be too.
“Stop Putin! Stop Russia!” people scream on Christopher Street Saturday.
Calls for Solidarity only spread all weekend long.
In between it, I find myself talking with friends at the Brooklyn Inn and Clockwork, Princeton and the East Village, up to Greenpoint, everyone is wondering what happened. We still go out, but you feel it, in the streets, cold war raging again. People wear blue and yellow on the Staten Island Ferry to celebrate with Nadette, lady liberty in the distance, the tides rolling to and from as we rode back.
Images of Ukranians resisting, fleeing, in the shelter in Kyiv’s subway station. Gene dropped a pic of a childhood cottage where his family used to vacation before he moved here. He would have been drafted into the Afghanistan conflict if his family had not fled.
Of course, Trump thinks it's wonderful.
And so does Fox news.
But this might be the end for Putin or Putinism, just as Afghanistan was the end for the USSR, at least I hope. There is only so much spinning one can do when the world attempts to freeze bank accounts and downgrades your currency.
Around New York, people express their solidarity, reminding us where they are from.
They fill our favorite restaurant, Veselka in the East Village
“The East Village has for decades been affectionately called Little Ukraine. And East 7th street, with the magnificent Saint George's church out front our doors, could be considered the heart of the Ukrainian community in NYC. In fact, our dear bartender 'Pepe' (real name Steven Zwaryczuk), with us for over 40 years, was born and raised in the building directly in front of McSorley's on 6th street after his parents arrived in America after WWII. With that said, we at McSorley's stand in complete solidarity with our beloved neighbors of the East Village and at Veselka and Baczynsky's and with every Ukrainian near, far and wide. God bless Ukraine.”
“As a child, I grew up with stories told by those who lived through World War 2,” said Cleve Jones in a post from Feb 20, referring to those by members of the armed services, refugees and survivors of Nazi death camps. “When i finally traveled to Europe in the early 1970s one could still easily discern which neighborhoods had been destroyed and, of course, Germany was still divided. The war and its aftermath defined an entire generation and helped shape the political psyche of the generation that followed. I spent many years traveling in Europe and lived for some time in Munich, which was carpet bombed by the Allies from April through July of 1944, close to the end of the war. 90% of the old city was damaged, over 81,000 homes were partially or completely destroyed and over 300,000 inhabitants left homeless. Over 6500 people were killed and over 15,000 wounded. Every day I spent in Germany I thought about the war because there were so many visual reminders, including shrapnel scars in the old building in which my friend Scott and I rented a room. Today we see Europe again on the brink of war. With every day that passes it seems more likely that once again terror will rain from the sky, thousands will die, hundreds of thousands will be displaced and a new wave of refugees will surge across the borders. If you believe in some Greater Power or God, then please pray for peace. Pray for the people of Ukraine, pray for the young soldiers - Ukrainian and Russian alike - pawns forced to fight each other by cynical leaders who will not share their wounds or lie with them in the blood soaked mud. Pray also for the people of Ukraine's neighbors: Poland, Slovakia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Wars, like wildfires, spread easily. These are dangerous times.”
“Its Spain against Franco for many Europeans,” says my friend Ann Christine d’Adesky. “Lets pray Ukraine holds the line and then the Russians gain the courage to overthrow Putin. The bulk of Russians want the same thing as Ukraine.
So do I.
If you ever wondered if Ukraine would fight for their freedom, or if they could hold off the Anne Christine suggests watching Winter on Fire, a 2015 documentary about the 2013 and ‘14 protests in Ukraine. Some 125 people were killed, thousands more injured, with dozens missing during the 93 days in Maidan. Freedom is precious to this generation.
All week, we talk about what we can do, what regular people can do, to get out, speak out, see the differences between today and 1938, support the resistance, be kind and show support.
It's up to all of us to stand with Ukraine.