The current Russo-Ukrainian war brings back difficult memories of another conflict that occurred in my youth and displaced virtually all of my paternal relatives from their homes. It was July 1974. I had just completed my first year of university at Bethel College in Minnesota where I was majoring in music. During that summer, I was working in my father’s office, taking his sister’s place while she was returning to their native island of Cyprus to visit family. No sooner had she arrived but a coup d’état removed President and Archbishop Makarios III from power, replacing him with a military junta backed by the colonels’ regime in Greece. It looked as though Greece’s annexation of the island would be a fait accompli.
The Turkish government had other ideas. On the pretext of defending Cyprus’ ethnic Turkish minority, its military invaded five days later, establishing a beachhead at Kyrenia and occupying a corridor of land extending to the capital city of Nicosia. The following month, Turkey expanded its foothold in Cyprus to cover 37 percent of the island’s territory. Our relatives, including my elderly grandparents, fled from their homes in Famagusta, thinking they would be able to return once the crisis had passed. Sad to say, they never returned to their homes, which are now in a United Nations buffer zone, hopelessly overgrown with the passage of nearly half a century.
A Kyiv connection
Two years ago, I spent some three hours online with a man named Roman in Kyiv who was editing the translation of an article of mine to appear in the journal of the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary. I was most impressed with his patient efforts to understand the jargon associated with Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd, the subject of my article. When I contacted him shortly before that fateful day in late February, he told me that everyone “was sitting on bags,” which I assumed meant that they were on edge for fear of what might happen next.
Throughout the past months, I have sat through the grisly footage on television, often breaking into tears at the sight of what Russian troops are doing to innocent civilians. I cannot fathom why they would think they are in the right, but they have the tacit blessing of the odious Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who refuses to discipline his most powerful parishioner for his crimes. As in Cyprus, many Ukrainians are refugees in their own country, and many may never return to their homes, if they are still standing.
Pray to God that justice will be done: that Russian soldiers will lay down their weapons and return home, that Ukrainians will no longer live in fear for their lives, and that God will pour out his wrath on Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. May he fall into the trap he has set for others (Psalm 141:10).