My wife had asked me to look at a video she had shared with the admonition that I needed to watch it until the end so that I would learn something. What I learned instead was that it was to my mind a piece of Russian “propaganda” as we used to call it. Now it goes under the labels “disinformation” or “misinformation” which are somehow less aggressive or blatant. The situation itself is incredibly sad to me. What sort of mentality in this day and age thinks that the way to solve a perceived problem is to start killing people with guns and bombs and all sorts of other ingenious methods of achieving the same result, dead people. Innocent people and even more innocent animals. It is heartbreaking in itself but what really hit home for me is when I started thinking what Ukraine meant to me. Yes it is another of those European countries that always seem to be pawns in various tribal conflicts but it suddenly became more personal. It brought to the surface a memory that I hadn’t considered or inspected for many years. One that to this day brings a sense of shame to me, embarrassment even.
When I was about eight I had a friend about the same age called Michael Wasylyck who you might guess from the name was a refugee from Ukraine. He and his family had sought refuge in Australia after the second world war. He was the only connection I ever consciously had with Ukraine and I always thought of him when ever Ukraine was mentioned. And always with a touch of sadness and of guilt.
The family were an oddity in our little Victorian country town. We were mostly descendants of Irish and British immigrants brought to this place chasing gold. I think there might have been an Italian or Greek family that ran the local fish and chip shop and we were just starting to accept them. Michael’s family I recall were welcomed but considered very different. I am not sure how well they spoke English for instance. I presume Michael did or I would have remembered that.
What I do remember though vividly is my Grandma getting angry with me when she caught me fighting with Michael. I had him pinned to the ground on our front lawn and beating him. I don’t recall another occasion before or after where I saw her angry and certainly not with me. Michael escaped and went home and I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing from him again. I think they left town not long after but I hasten to add that I hope it was not as a result of my bullying. Michael was a little smaller than me as you can probably tell from the picture above but he certainly would not have been able to match the rage that I could generate on occasions. I can not remember anything of what provoked the attack but I certainly felt properly chastened and shocked by my Grandma’s reaction.
Now it is with an enormous amount of guilt and embarrassment when I recall that I did this to a person who had come to see me as one of his few friends in this strange town. That I did it to anyone at all, inexcusable.
I can only remember fighting on one other occasion and that was at primary school after some considerable time of bullying by a much bigger boy. One day I just snapped and the rage overtook me. I beat him to a standstill and won some respect and admiration for my efforts, such that I never experienced bullying again in my school years.
Sorry Michael Wasylyck, where ever you are. I wish I had the opportunity to apologise in person but I have admitted it publicly now. I have been ashamed of this for years and have never mentioned this to anyone else before, privately or publicly.
I am also sorry that your countrymen and women from the Ukraine are suffering yet again and for no better reason than I had.