A Little Boy’s Hero

War is hell for children, especially when their fathers must leave to fight


Justice Politics

Roger Whittaker, the Kenyan-born British singer who died last year, was best known for his ballad “The Last Farewell.” But the words of another Whittaker song, “Durham Town,” came to my mind yesterday. “Durham Town” is about a boy growing up, becoming gradually detached from and eventually having to leave his happy boyhood home. There’s a line in the song that goes,

Back in 1944/I remember Daddy walking out the door/Mama told me he was going to war/He was leavin’/Leavin’, leavin’, leavin’ me.

Those words came back yesterday at a Capitol Hill exhibit of drawings and diaries by Ukrainian children. A description about a 12-year-old boy told how his father had left to go and fight the Russians for his country’s freedom. The boy drew a picture of his father, writing on his shirt: “Miй Tato … Гepoй” (My Daddy … Hero).

The exhibit was a collection of accounts by Ukrainian children now living under two years of Russian aggression. One child wrote he wanted to grow up and be a doctor because people are hurting and need help. Maybe, the child said, with a 3-D printer, he can help make prostheses for people who need them to walk.

The focus was on children caught in Vladimir Putin’s hell that is Ukraine. Besides the children living under Vlad’s daily dose of bombs, the exhibit also mentions the number of children the Russians have stolen, taken to Russia, ostensibly from “humanitarian” motives. (“Humanitarianism” would be to “evacuate” your soldiers, not Ukraine’s children). The theft of Ukrainian children to Russify them in the Kremlin’s Russkiy mir (“Russian World”) is the reason Putin and his henchwoman, Maria Lvova-Belova, are under international arrest warrants. Instead of overdosing on the Russian novelist Lermontov, they might talk to that little boy to learn about “A Hero of Our Times.”

Most children, at some time, imagine their father as a “geroi” (hero). The greater part is when they still think that — somewhere deep down — even after discovering some dads have clay feet. But a Ukrainian 12-year-old boy recognized the heroics in a Tato that walked out the door for his son’s future in that land. Please pray for the children of Ukraine.

(The exhibit was organized through the Ukrainian advocacy group Razom and the Weatherman Foundation. For those interested in humanitarian relief for Ukraine, the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia’s “Healing Wounds of the War in Ukraine Fund” provides charitable assistance, including to Ukrainian children. See here.)


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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