From Jamie Peipon in L’viv: In the picture above, you can see some Russian equipment (a BUK-2, howitzer, etc.) that is on display in beautiful L’viv. Putting this on display in a city would normally seem like an odd choice. These are instruments of death, and judging by their condition, their crews were killed inside them… right there, inside those vehicles. And yet, kids are running around them, glad to see the work of their armed forces. It was good to be back in this beautiful city after three months of being back in the states. The mood has always been positive in L’viv, but it seems more confident and less cautious.
If anybody is looking to write a book filled with unbelievable and amazing stories, please come to Ukraine. All you’ve got to do is walk around a bit and try to talk with some people. There’s no embellishing and almost no creativity required… just writing down what people say will be shockingly compelling. Come and write down these stories of people who have seen an entire lifetime of unbelievable events crammed into the last six months. We met with a presbyterian pastor from Donetsk this morning. He talked about escaping from Donetsk with his wife and children when this war started eight years ago. He described the terrible things he had seen. He unintentionally was one of the first to arrive at a murder scene and saw the first Ukrainian that was officially reported killed by Russian instigators in Donetsk eight years ago. He was there when the war really began and said that he would spare us the details, but that he saw the aftermath of the work of the Ukrainian armed forces and, even at that early time, it was “impressive.” His 21-year-old son is now on the front lines participating in that impressive work.
In my experience, a strange thing often happens when someone tells a traumatic story. At some point, they keep talking but their eyes start looking through you instead of at you. This is often followed by this line: “I’ll spare you the details.” What the person is reliving in that moment is hard to understand, but it is clear that they can’t spare themselves the details and that sparing those anyone else the details is done as an act of love and care.
Tonight, Dasha and I talked with a waitress that moved to western Ukraine after the war started. It turns out that back in 2017, she had come to the United States through a program that brings students from eastern Europe to work in the US for a summer. Where was she? Ocean City, MD… which is about 30 minutes from where Dasha and I were living at the time. A few weeks ago, Dasha and I hosted a Ukrainian and his family at our home for lunch in Mississippi. They had come to the states at the start of the war. Tonight, we sat on the terrace of our hotel with his mom and heard her story. Just come to Ukraine and listen… or stay home. These stories are a lot closer to you than you think, wherever it is that you may be.
September 1st is a holiday in Ukraine: the Day of Knowledge. For most schools, it is the first day of class and is a great celebration. Little girls are often wearing huge bows in their hair, boys are in ties. They’re wearing their best. Many kids take bouquets of flowers to their teachers. Today, as we drove around Ukraine, kids all over were in their traditional embroidered shirts. Wearing one’s best is now basically synonymous with wearing this national art form. Happy Day of Knowledge to all!
In war news, things appear quiet in the West but Ukraine is applying a great deal of pressure along the entire front line in the east. Even if everything goes perfectly to plan with this counteroffensive, analysts believe that it will easily take weeks if not months to complete the job. They also believe that it could move much more quickly if Ukraine were given the weapons it needs (and is asking for) to do the job.
Back in Russia, cigarettes are continuing to kill. Ravil Maganov, one of the top managers in the Russian company “Lukoil,” is the latest victim. He had been outspoken about the war in Ukraine and today he “fell” out of a window while going out for a smoke. Coincidentally, many of Putin’s critics have died under suspicious circumstances over the past six months.
“Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.”