This morning started like the past few have– I pour my tea and turn on the news to hear how things are going in Ukraine. For those who don’t know, my father and his family are Ukrainian, though my grandfather, Vincent Magnowski, came to the United States in 1949. When war riddled Europe, he fled from his village when opportunity struck. An employer of my grandfather’s, a seemingly kind and generous man, offered Vincent passage on train that could take him from Ukraine and then get him to Poland, where he could secure a journey to the United States, along with sponsorship for a job.
Vincent said, “yes,” leaving his family, his possessions, and everything he knew behind, praying for a better life in another place. He landed in New York City, and with the most affable, charismatic charm, he worked his way to owning apartment buildings in Queens, a shrewd fiscal plan that allowed him to escape the city and live a peaceful country life, much like the landscape he missed most from Ukraine.
Our family never knew Vincent’s parents. We barely knew his siblings. We hardly knew the hardship he endured so the rest of us would prosper.
This morning, I looked at my kids. They ate hot eggs, toast with jam, cereal and yummy yogurt for breakfast. They don’t walk to school. They sit in a warm car until a warm bus comes to pick them up at the end of our block. They have every single convenience I can imagine for them, and when I think about it, it’s really due to the courage, the downright gumption, of a Ukrainian man who dared to dream.
There are so many poor, suffering Ukrainians living through hell right now. Because the war from 60+ years ago has returned. While people are dying and being ripped apart, Americans are worried about gas and oil prices. It’s pretty pathetic, and pretty devastating.
While I don’t have family there anymore, I am thinking of the roots that formed the man who changed my life. I’m crying in our kitchen for the families that don’t share his bravery, who can’t afford to escape right now, who aren’t sure what the next few months or years will look like AT ALL.
All I can do is pray for peace. And share some perspective.
All I can do is pray that the same kind of courage carries through other men and women in the most difficult time of their lives. And I can tell Vincent’s story, my family’s story, in the hopes that inspiration persists and somehow teaches us to fight for the right things, in the right way. Everyone deserves peace and happiness, but it seems much harder to come by for some.
Today, I’ll pray and seek peace in the knowledge that there is bravery in my blood and in my bones. And I’ll pray on the gratitude I have that Vincent took a leap of faith to claim a better life that affected our entire lineage.
What brought you peace today? Share the peace.