The boot is on the other foot…
The world has changed. I feel it in the earth. I feel it in the water. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, and none now live that remember it.Galadriel. The Lord of the Rings.
The world has changed for the fighters of Russia. None now live who remember when the armies of a megalomaniac named Adolf Hitler invaded the Russian homeland. The German military had plunged deep into the pre-Soviet territory of Russia. Old soldiers now in their 90s, teenagers in 1942, will remember the indignation, the incredulity, the outrage.
And they will remember ORDER #227.
I have been reading a book, a memoir of a woman who flew in the Russian air force in World War II. She told of the battle for the heart of Russia and of Order #227. Here is what she wrote:
… at last we found our headquarters. Here they read out ‘Order 227’, a stern order whose meaning boiled down to: “Not a step back!” As a rule, the order numbers were remembered only by staff officers. But even now this one, Order number 227, will be recalled by any war veteran if asked about it. It was said in this order that we had to defend every position, every single meter of our soil…Anna Timofeeva-Egorova; Over Fields of Fire: 1942-45.
These were Russians defending Russian soil against Adolf Hitler. They watched as their land and their people were overrun by the “Hitlerites.” Order 227 was intended to stop the advance of the enemy and threaten those who were unwilling to fight.
Today, the boot, as it were, is on the other foot and Ukraine is standing her ground—defending her ground—against Putin’s plans to reclaim the territory that was once the Soviet Union. Look at the map and it will be plain where this is going. Move clockwise from the Eastern coast of the Black Sea: Georgia, Crimea and now Ukraine. There seems little doubt that Belarus will likewise be food for Putin’s table. Indeed, the world may be poised to move backward.
It would appear the majority of Ukrainian people are not interested in going backward; yielding the freedoms they have enjoyed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties. I suspect, neither are the citizens of the other formerly Soviet republics of eastern Europe. Moreover, far more Eastern Europeans remember the years of the Soviet Union than Russians remember August 1942. It appears that the people of Ukraine intend to stand their ground, hurling Order #227 in Putin’s face.
Meanwhile, what are we, the Ekklesia, going to do? Our brother, Paul, the apostle, reminds us that our people in Ukraine are not strangers and foreigners, we are fellow citizens with the followers of Messiah, members of the household of God wherever it is found (Ephesians 2:19). We are a people without borders. Where some of us suffer, we all suffer.
So, what can we do?
We can seek out ways to help those who find themselves suddenly in harms way. I think of a song written by John McCutcheon:
They are caught in the crossfire,
lost in the fray.
The battle broke out
and they just got in the way.
The story is always the same in the end:
caught in the crossfire again…
Displaced and divided families, will need help and some of that can come from us. We can reach out to Ukrainian churches in our cities. There are aid organizations that are already moving to render assistance in whatever ways possible. As part of the Ekklesia we can make ourselves available, bearing the weapons of peace and tools of restoration: food, money, time, and most importantly, prayer.
We can pray. We can present ourselves before the throne of God and ask for wisdom on the part of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We can ask for mercy, plead for peace and for the advance of love. We can pray without ceasing, especially for those in the household of faith whether they are in Ukraine or Russia. Pray for the defeat of fear and and defense against bitterness and hatred.
All this, we can do while men, and more than a few women, fight in the spirit of Order #227.