Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Regarding Ukraine March 9, 2022

A peace dove themes this painting on burlap by Mexican artist Jose Maria de Servin. I purchased this at a recycled art sale in Faribault perhaps 10 years ago. It is among my most-treasured pieces of art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I’M STRUGGLING, really struggling, with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the resulting death, destruction and humanitarian crisis.

Deaths of civilians, documented in a powerful image of a mother, her teenage son, her elementary-age daughter and a family friend killed by Russian mortar fire. Lying dead in the street, luggage beside them, as they attempted to reach safety in Kyiv. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario witnessed the attack and photographed the scene for The New York Times. That published March 6 on the front page. In a television interview, I could see and hear Addario’s pain, her grief. She struggled to photograph the deadly scene, terming this killing of innocent civilians a “war crime,” which the world needed to see. I saw. I cried.

I’ve seen, too, media images of bombed homes and other buildings. Utter destruction. I cry.

And I cry, too, over the “humanitarian crisis,” the endless exit of refugees from this country under attack. I can’t even count how many times I’ve cried over scenes of young mothers wheeling suitcases with young children clinging to their hands. I imagine my own daughter doing the same with my two grandchildren and the idea of that shakes me to the core. To see children clutching their stuffed lovies or a mom spoon-feeding soup to her preschooler roadside or a soldier cradling a baby…it’s overwhelmingly sad.

I wonder why, this time, I’ve felt such angst, such concern, such grief. War has always wrought death, destruction and exodus. But this seems different in sheer numbers of individuals and families fleeing. This seems different in the depth of evil behind what is unfolding in Ukraine. This seems different in the worldwide implications. I write this in the context of my life-time.

I think, too, my husband’s connection to Ukraine, where his ancestors resettled from Germany to then Russia (current-day Ukraine), deepens my sorrow. His forefathers once farmed the land around Odessa before journeying to America and a new life in North Dakota.

In prayer…just as Mary is depicted praying in this statue at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church Grotto in Waterville, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2016)

My feelings now are mostly of concern, angst, helplessness. Yet, there are three actions I am taking. As a woman of faith, I pray. I pray for protection of the Ukrainian people, some by name (given to me by friends). I pray for their leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, and other world leaders. I pray for peace. And more.

I am also supporting and encouraging friends worried about people in Ukraine. Family of family. Friends.

I purchased this vintage tray at an antique shop in St. Charles many years ago. It’s likely from the 60s or 70s. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

And, finally, I’ve pulled out my “peace” art as a visual reminder. Coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, at the time of the Vietnam War, the word “peace” played into my everyday vocabulary. The peace symbol was everywhere. On posters, jewelry, drawn in my spiral-bound notebooks. Today, more than ever, I need visual cues that peace is possible. I need hope when I cry.

TELL ME: How are you reacting to the situation unfolding in Ukraine? If you have personal connections to Ukraine and feel comfortable sharing, please do.

ALSO, please take time to read my friend Paula’s post, “Spring in Europe.” You will be moved by the message from this US combat veteran and native Minnesotan living with her husband in the Netherlands.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Regarding Ukraine”

  1. beth Says:

    it is devastating on so many levels, thank you for sharing your peace

  2. We have a child who is very sensitive and emotional when it comes to news stories so we have been limiting the amount of time that we watch the news as a family. I’ve personally spent a lot of time in prayer because I feel helpless otherwise.

  3. Valerie Says:

    It’s so sad…
    I like your action ideas.

  4. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I am saddened too Audrey as I briefly watch the news every morning. I get the gist of it and then the TV goes off and I pray. That’s all we can do. I can hardly fathom the terror these people are going through, It’s too much, isnt it !

  5. Sandra Says:

    I wonder who is watching news, all I’ve chatted with, aren’t. You’ve found more personal releases, thank God for creative gifts. Dad’s family was in Poland, all emigrated west, not east. I started genealogy in ’91 and for someone who hated history in school, I was soon over the top in maps. Joined Pommern (by Baltic Sea, now Poland) Regional Group of MN, met and heard fascinating people stories. In ’24, Dad and his brother didn’t talk much about Germany. My godfather uncle finally wrote a book, thank God. Today I know where all 14 are buried, descendants living, have contact with a 30s cousin and family near Stuttgart (thank you, FB!), been to Germany twice and by the gift of the man he emigrated with, also settled at Trinity, descendants, stood in the church of my father’s baptism. World peace is finally a living goal of more than our melting pot. I’ve donated to Lutheran World Relief and I pray – often. We all need to stay sane for the immigrants pouring in here. And that we don’t get troops on the ground. Our southern border countries are still a mess. Ask my daughter living 45 mi. from that border. (loved your park tour!)

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