Many of my friends in Poland have families from Ukraine in their homes now. One friend, Marta Shaw, a philologist at the Institute of Public Affairs at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, is helping place refugee families from Ukraine in Polish homes. She sent this description of a conversation with her children about what is happening now in Ukraine. —Agata Storer
Our Ukrainian guests’ two-year-old daughter falls asleep. Instead of a bedtime story tonight, we quietly look at a globe. Our boys can’t believe a huge country like Russia would attack a smaller neighbor. Isn’t it a big no-no to hit someone smaller?
Then Bernard asks, “Is Russia going to attack Poland, too? Is Poland’s army bigger than Russia’s?”
I say, “No honey, our army isn’t bigger, but look at all these other countries in Europe. They are our friends, and so is this big America over here. If Russia attacks Poland, all of our friends will come help us, and Russia will be in big trouble.”
In the back of my mind, I’m thinking of 1939. Is this the same thing Polish mothers told their children then, when we had a deal with France and Great Britain to come to our rescue?
Bernard says with gusto, “Russia will be in big trouble!” and then asks with a puzzled look on his face, “So why can’t all these countries be friends of Ukraine, too?”
I say, “You see, Ukraine would really like to be friends with all these other countries, but Russia doesn’t want them to. This is the reason they attacked them. They want them to only be friends with Russia.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” says Bernard. “If a big kid at preschool came and said I had to be only his friend and then he hit me, I wouldn’t want to be his friend!”
I tear up.
It is at this point that Daniel, quiet all this time in his three-year-old way while his brother shoots question after question, says very quietly:
I hug them tight.