One on One: Ukraine, Gaza and St Crispin’s Day

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Ukraine and Gaza are much different.

But they share some common challenges.

Both are being attacked by well-armed, powerful enemies who are determined to defeat them.

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Their attackers have ruthlessly engaged them, killing or wounding people and destroying houses, buildings, roads, bridges and other improved property, leaving much of their infrastructure as rubble.

Their people, including children, have been attacked, wounded and killed.

Both of the subjects of these attacks will harbor a hatred for the attackers, regardless of whether and when the conflicts end. And that hatred will last for generations or longer.

In the Ukraine the situation is especially bleak with Russians troops pouring across the Russian-Ukraine border, while Ukraine is prohibited by the U.S. from engaging them until they cross into Ukraine.

Even without the arms expected from the U.S. and European allies, even when they lack weapons to confront the Russian invaders and air attacks, the Ukrainians fight bravely on reminding some Americans of their study of Shakespeare’s play, “King Henry V,” when the king rallied his troops with a look into the future when the day of the coming battle, Crispin’s Day, would be remembered.

“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

“Nations are ultimately built on stories,” says Noah Harari, author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” “Each passing day adds more stories that Ukrainians will not only tell in the dark days ahead, but in the decades and generations to come … This is the stuff nations are built from. In the long run, these stories count for more than tanks.”

Today may be the darkest day so far in Russia’s war on Ukraine. And there may be even darker days to come.

But Ukraine and its people will be very hard for the Russians to conquer quickly or completely. And Ukraine’s bands of brothers and sisters can outlast the invaders, creating lasting bonds “built on stories” of the Russian horror show.

Whatever victories the Russians achieve in the coming months and years will be at risk of being overturned by Ukrainians who will remember for the longest time what Russia is doing now to Ukraine and its people.

Meanwhile, the armed forces of Israel in Gaza have followed the example of the Russians in Ukraine in their response to Hamas’s brutal attack and hostage taking on October 7 of last year. An appropriate and speedy response by Israel was necessary. But the ongoing attacks on Gaza and the resulting loss of life, starvation and overwhelming destruction of homes and infrastructure has resulted will be remembered for years by the people of Gaza and the Arab world.

A generation of American college students will remember their protests against Israel for its destruction of Gaza and its people.

The memories of the people of Ukraine and Gaza and the damage and loss of life that they are enduring will be like those of the English soldier of Henry V who remembers “From this day to the ending of the world.”

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.