And I wonder: how many women and children and young men and aging parents will face slaughter in their fight for freedom in Ukraine before even China says, “Enough already.”
My sleep, since the beginning of the Putin invasion of Ukraine, stays troubled and interrupted. Today, after awakening at 3 am, I finally gave up at 4:00. With the light from my phone, I wander into the dark kitchen and turn on the oven to 500 degrees in preparation for a morning bread bake. I then dress quickly, layering as much as possible.
It’s 25 degrees outside right now, cold for Texas. Heat is still turned down for the night. I’ll leave it off to permit my husband a few more hours of snuggled under-the-covers deep sleep.
As the cast iron pots heat in the oven, I take out the two sourdough boules which have been proving in the refrigerator overnight.
I have been baking sourdough now for about 15 months, after having discovered a flour (ancient grains, no herbicides, crazy expensive) I can safely eat. I grew the treasured and carefully tended starter myself, so it comes from the yeasts floating around this house, from me, from my husband, from the dog, from others who come and go.
It took six weeks before I produced a decent loaf. Now, with a vibrantly healthy starter and a routine but time-consuming technique, I can reliably turn out delicious results.
And as I do these things, along with the rest of the morning chores, emptying the dishwasher, boiling water for a pot of hot tea, checking out the overnight levain for my second try at a loaf of challah, I think about my counterpart in Ukraine.
Some older women whose normal mornings are likely something similar to mine. Quiet domesticity, thoughts of her spring garden dancing in her mind, perhaps savoring the delights of grown children, growing grandchildren, a settled and loving marriage.
And every bit of that ripped from her. Perhaps she is one of the frightened, cold, exhausted refugees, even now standing in line for days just trying to get out of Ukraine while helping with young grandchildren. I think about her and my touchy bladder and my lightheadedness without enough food and how easily I get cold and wonder how she can survive this.
But it is also as likely that she stayed behind. She spends her days making Molotov cocktails, scouring the neighborhood for food, trying to feed the men left behind who, while they may not be on the front lines, are doing all they can in the rear to prepare to defend . . . and to die.
Facing slaughter, they choose freedom.
I pour my second cup of tea, cherishing my cracked up, recognizing my brokenness and imperfections.
The odor of baking bread permeates the house. I’m chilled. It will be another hour before the heat kicks on. I wrap my legs in a coat that sits by the kitchen door, ready to don to take the dog out.
And I wonder: how many women and children and young men and aging parents will have to die in their fight for freedom before the rest of the world says, “Economic sanctions are no longer adequate here. We must enter this war and stop the slaughter.”
How many more before the giant nation of China, hardly a bastion of civil rights and humane treatment, finally utters the Chinese equivalence of, “Enough already. Putin, get the h*** out of Dodge?”
The Ukrainians vow not to surrender. They chose freedom over enslavement to Putin. Shades of Patrick Henry, “Give me freedom or give me death.”
Perhaps those in the colonies were braver then. Now, it is “Don’t make me take a Covid vaccine that will keep me alive, out of the hospital, and also protect my vulnerable loved ones or I will send death threats to you.” Sigh.
But Ukrainians are brave now. And if Putin does not back down, if his military does not rebel at being agents of such slaughter, then those conscripted into the military will have to murder every single man, woman, and child in Ukraine to achieve the megalomaniac ends of their dear leader.
40,000,000 people will have to die or be displaced.
When will the world truly understand, “If evil conquers one person and one nation, evil conquers us all.”
My mind returns to the Gospel: to know the freeing truth about the complete reconciliation between the holiness of God and the hopes of humanity. To break the bondage of evil that brings about the mistreatment of one another. To embrace that freedom to live and die wrapped in the love poured upon us by the Holy One so that we might be vessels to pass that love onto others.
The timer goes off. I open the oven and remove the lids from those heavy pots. The loaves have done their ever-magical “pop.” They have again undergone the miracle of turning from a soft mixture of water, flour, and salt into fully-risen sturdy loaves. They now bake for 20 more minutes at high heat to gain a glorious, rich, golden-brown crust.
My Ukrainian counterpart no longer has the luxury of celebrating the baking miracle: no time, no fuel, no flour, no heat. Just fear, desperation, and, perhaps still, the determination to fight evil and oppression, even at the cost of her life.
And again, I ask, “Is there not a time when we must step in and actively protect her, her children, and grandchildren? Or do we just let them go to slaughter as has happened to so many others throughout human history because one man, unchecked and unrestrained by even a semblance of morality, has too much power?”
Prompted by the timer, I take the now fully baked loaves out of the oven and put them on a rack to cool. I treat myself to the final piece of crust from last week’s bake for my breakfast, along with another cup of hot tea.
I sense the house slowly beginning to warm. The heat has kicked on.
And my counterpart wraps her coat more tightly around her and faces another day, another possible slaughter, another fight for freedom.
Photo Credits: © Christy Thomas, all rights reserved.