As I was reading I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb today, this quote got stuck in my head:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.The quote is attributed to Martin Niemöller and was targetted at the German intelligentsia who did not speak out against the Nazis as they were gaining power. Malala used this powerful quote to shed light on the situation in Pakistan from a few years back when the Taliban slowly and steadily gained momentum and everyone, or almost everyone, was afraid to speak out.
In my mind’s eye, I saw the protesters in Ukraine, fighting for their freedom on their own as the Western powers act cautiously so as not to anger Vladimir Putin. I thought of an extreme physical strain that they’re under (it’s way below freezing temperature in Ukraine now). I thought of their psychological wounds, since they’ve been standing at the Maidan Square and standing up for themselves and the future generations for over two months now. I thought of their aloneness on the world stage and how it seems similar to the aloneness of the Solidarity Movement in my native Poland in the 1980s– patted on the back but never physically backed by the Western powers.
Fighting alone for the national cause, as “history teaches. History teaches” is not an idea without merits. Poland’s history was derailed for almost fifty years because of the Russian “help.” It was initially meant to rid the country of the Nazis but then transmutated into a quasi occupation of Poland, sanctioned by the Ribentropp-Molotof Pact.
As Gertrude Stein’s refrain, “what history teaches. History teaches” echoes in the 21st century, we become the involuntary witnesses to the American help/intervention which is now tearing up Iraq into the state of ethnic violence.
So while the Ukrainian people are fighting for their own Freedom, all alone, they need all the support they can get from all over the world. Here is my version of Niemöller’s poem which, I hope, will count as one more voice in their support and struggle, and will speak for them, up and out:
First they came for the activists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not an activist.
Then they came for the wounded, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not wounded.
Then they came for the young boys and girls, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not one of them.
Then they came for any human who stood in their way–and there was the desert.
Ok, these last verses are just following the structure of the original poem and are doing the protesters no good. Here are the ones that set an optimistic tone, and future, for Ukraine:
Then they came for any human who stood in their way–and there was the world’s soothing cry for peace that disarmed them.
This I truly wish to any nation that has to struggle for its personal freedom.
Peace and Love!
Latest posts by Karo (see all)
- How Robert Graves & his muses pulled me through a crisis - July 1, 2014
- Why I finally stopped being stubborn & embraced the ebooks - March 1, 2014
- A love affair & fallout with culture: a lesson from my students - February 6, 2014