Beginning Over, 13. Past is Present.

There have been many images and news reports coming out of Ukraine about how Russian troops have massacred and tortured civilians. Mass graves have been found, and women have come forward claiming they had been raped, a few saying their own children had been forced to watch. These are details that make many think back to World War II. Stories have popped up of survivors of Babi Yar, and the horror they lived through. But, on European soil, there's been other massacres that people seem to have forgotten about.


In July, 1995, with Dutch troops from the U.N. looking on and doing nothing to stop it, about 8,000 Bosniak men were summarily executed by Serbian commandos. Of the roughly 14,000 Bosniak women and children rounded up and sent out to other towns, thousands were raped. Children were raped and some were killed, some of them snatched out of their mothers' arms when they wouldn't stop crying. A knife across the throat did the job. The commanders, Serbians, were tried at The Hague for crimes against humanity. 

But the Bosniaks were mostly Muslim, and Bosnia-Herzegovina was not a world-wide exporter of wheat and other products. The Serbs were small fry in Europe. The war in the Balkans was on the nightly news during the 1990's, but, though the horror of this massacre was mentioned, the attention of the general public wasn't really brought to it.


This was Russia. It invaded Chechnya twice, and the atrocities committed there cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chechens. Human Rights Watch classified the Russian agression as a crime against humanity. Again, people were executed without reason, mass graves filled, women raped, children killed, with dehumanizing speech coming from Putin, who described these people as "bugs" to be squashed. 


Not Europe, but participated in by Russia. In 2015, Russian bombers came to Bashar al-Assad's help, bombing civilians and rescue workers, and letting bombs drop on schools, hospitals, and private homes. Russian air strikes have killed almost twenty thousand people there. Again, the "white helmets" got recognition for helping out while facing danger, people tut-tutted about inhumanity, but when the refugees escaping the horrors started crossing the Aegean, looking for hope and help in Europe, suddenly we couldn't take them in nor help them. Because Europe was Christian, and these were Muslims, and they would upset the status quo.

But these other atrocities were not newsworthy because they happened mostly to Muslims, and in areas of the world few Europeans or Westerners bother to think about. (I shall keep quiet today about Yemen. Quite a few Westerners don't know or care about it.) During the wars of the Balkans and Chechnya, most eyes were on Iraq. That was key for most Western governments because of the oil produced there that the U.S. wound up controlling. The other conflicts were sad, but really didn't matter to most.

Most of these crimes were committed by Russia, but it has taken an attack on a key, Christian country in Europe for the West to wake up to the fact that this is what Russia has always done. For decades, the West has been grateful to Russia for setting aside its communist past, and embracing capitalism. Companies have made millions in the country, oblivious to the oligarchy it has become, with the rise of a man well-versed in the twisted ways of the old KGB. The first Chechen war in the 1990's was a warning sign everyone chose to ignore. The new Russia follows many of the ways of the old Soviet Union. Its army commits the same atrocities it has done since Stalin's time, or before. When Putin criticized "the excessive demonization of Stalin" by "Russia's enemies", we should have taken notice.

Now, we are watching again as a dictator has declared another ethnic cleansing. Will we stand up to him this time?

Life continues. But not for all.


  1. Hi, Maria. Don't know how to contact you any other way. Thought I had your email adress(from a comment) but can't find it.
    Wanted to ask you about my lemon tree . . .
    Since it's near death a couple of years ago from an aphid attack, it has flourished in terms of branches and eaves but only has 2 lemons this year.
    But every leaf except the newest is covered underneath with what looks like dead aphids. Should I be concerned with this and do something.
    Thank for advice, which you can post on my blog.
    Many thanks.


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