Uncommon Ground


Today’s war will force higher fuel prices, higher fertilizer and food prices, and add years more problems to a struggling supply chain

By Mike Jopek

Ukki put on a white uniform over his winter gear and headed into the snow country to defend his homeland. The Russian tanks were invading and war planes dropped “Molotov bread baskets,” wantonly killing civilians while strongmen told the world they were feeding starving, war-torn people. 

The “bread baskets” were nicknamed for the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, a name ukki’s daughter quickly recalls from a lifetime prior. The “bread baskets” combined a large high-explosive charge with a cluster of incendiary bombs that Russia dropped onto cities.

War taught ukki how to drink as a young man, demons he fought for years to follow. The young soldiers decided that if the Russians were going to drop “bread baskets” onto their home country, the invaders needed some drink to go along with those “food parcels.” “Molotov cocktail” was their solutions as it lit up the invading tanks.

Ukki’s kids, and children throughout the land, spent the war years seeking refuge in bomb shelters and small rural cabins. The young watched as dads headed to war and bombers flew the sky, much like the pictures coming back from Ukraine these dark days.

The bomb shelters were always prepared with round rye bread and water. City dwellers never knew when the bombs might fall so shelter was dispersed. The concrete underground of large playgrounds made space for shelters. They still exist today, in the old neighborhoods around towns and in concrete apartment complexes.

I look at today’s news photos of war as men and women defend their country from invaders and can only imagine the terror it causes families and kids. Most of us Americans have no idea what it’s like to live in a shelter during years of war and falling bombs. Today’s armchair politics even has some right-wing blowhards cheering. It’s terrible.

After years of war, ukki and his fellow soldiers “won.” They ceded land, money, and conceded lies. A lot of people died. It was horrible. But ukki and his fellow young countrymen kept their homeland independent.

Hundreds of thousands of people died, lost their land, or suffered for decades to follow. Kids were orphaned and women widowed. The victory bore grave consequences and misunderstandings about alliances for decades to follow.

Later in life, ukki promised his teenage daughter that he would drink no more. The war was over years prior but still raging within. It haunted him. He switched to sugar cubes and strong coffee. It’s easy to visualize him, sitting quietly at mummu’s table, putting a sugar cube in his cheek and sipping strong coffee from a dainty cup.

Ukki and his fellow patriots forced a million invading Russian soldiers to withdraw. It amazed the world. A small Nordic country maintained independence from a massive invasion.

Ukki became an artisan butcher after the war and lived a modest life. He bought land on a lake and boat to fish for family and friends. He went to sauna. He raised his children to be free.

Today’s invasion in Ukraine destabilizes the world. We’ve seen it before. Far too often. It’s not pretty. The cost immense and unforgiving.

The strongmen of the world despise democracy and spread lies, fear, and hate. This war may be a half a planet away but for many Americans it flashes memories. Many of the Greatest Generation is still alive and we can thank each and every one of the heroes for their selfless sacrifices to preserve democracy for all children. 

Today’s war will force higher fuel prices, higher fertilizer and food prices, and add years more problems to a struggling supply chain. We’ll all pay to satisfy a strongman’s aggression while our fellow humans, a world away and on the front lines, are sacrificing everything to live free.

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