‘The atrocities are unfathomable,’ Ukraine’s former first lady says in agonizing text message
SNEED: Kateryna Yushchenko, who grew up in Chicago, shared heartbreaking details of Russian atrocities, including summary executions and mass rape.
The war in Ukraine.
The nightmare of now.
Crimes against humanity televised in real time.
“The atrocities are unfathomable,” texted Kateryna Yushchenko, Ukraine’s former first lady, who was born and raised in Chicago and has close friends in the village of Bucha, where people were found butchered this past week.
“One of my closest friends barely escaped Bucha with two carloads of neighbor children through the last corridor out,” she wrote. “The territorial defense just told her house was still standing, that it looks looted, and that it is probably mined.”
It was an agonizing text: “Summary executions of all the men, mass rape of women and little girls, shooting everyone in sight ... they even killed hundreds of dogs, leaving nothing alive,” said Kateryna, wife of former Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, who is on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s hit list.
Of the Russian forces, she wrote: “Instead of taking home the bodies of their soldiers, they looted appliances, clothes, computers, dishes, even toilet bowls and sinks.
“Their wives and mothers told them over their cellphones what they needed to bring home: ‘a fur coat for me, a computer for [a] daughter ... ’ The houses that weren’t destroyed were ransacked and then mined.”
Reports of the butchery in Bucha were backdropped by videos of a child visiting his mother’s makeshift grave in their bombed-out backyard; a body collector extracting a neighbor strangled in a barrel; a body dismembered for having the wrong tattoo.
“How many more unmarked graves?” Yushchenko wrote. “And how many people forcibly deported to Russia?”
A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants whose family suffered at the hands of the Soviet regime and descendant of those killed during the Soviet famine (Holodomor) imposed on Ukraine in 1932-33, she also praised friends in Belarus, opposed to the war, getting hold of CCTV film showing Russian soldiers sending looted items from Ukraine back home from an office in Belarus in hopes of providing proof of facial recognition in future criminal proceedings.
“The world is shocked, but we are not because we have gone through this again and again over the centuries,” she said. “When Peter the First sacked the city of Baturyn in 1708, he slaughtered every man, woman, child and animal, razed every home and did not leave one brick unbroken.
“During the 1932-33 Holodomor, every peasant who embodied Ukrainian identity, language and culture was targeted for starvation and death. For us this is existential; either we win or we will be annihilated.
“As the saying goes, ‘If Russia stops fighting, there will be no war; if Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no Ukraine.’
“Indeed, this has awakened a new determination and resilience not only in Ukrainians in Ukraine, but among Ukrainians around the world, like Mike Ditka,” she added.
She also noted her husband’s reaction years ago when they visited an old estate in England, and “the owner showed us things from his father, grandfather and relics dating back generations.
“Victor said, ‘And all I have is an old piece of rope my grandfather used for a stair rail. ... Everything else was destroyed in famine and war.’
“I have gone on too long. But you asked. ...”
Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Japan’s new U.S. ambassador, presented his credentials recently to Emperor Naruhito, whose grandfather, Hirohito, was emperor when Japan and the United States were on opposite sides during World War II.
The former mayor then headed to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which “is dedicated to the legacy of the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack” and its victims, to lay a wreath with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Sneed is told Emanuel left behind a personal memorial note that read in part: ”Paying homage to the past … guiding us to a world free of war and open to peace.”
Then, the duo headed to lunch with their wives at Prime Minister Kishida’s favorite Hiroshima restaurant to talk about raising their children in public life.
Condolences to Veronica Lynch on the death of her beloved husband, Jim Reilly, whom former Gov. Jim Edgar eulogized as “the most significant individual in the last 30 years, maybe 40, who wasn’t elected.” Jim, a powerhouse in statewide political levers involving mass transit, major construction projects and McPier, once owned a small beachside hotel in Michigan called The Sandpiper, a quiet idyll and lovely getaway for many of us. Jim could be found in the lobby’s living room relaxing while reading a newspaper. Veronica, who has a long career in state government, could be found in the breakfast kitchen. It is missed. And so is Jim. … Saturday Birthdays: singer Lil Nas X, 23; actress Kristen Stewart, 32, and actor Dennis Quaid, 68. Sunday Birthdays: actress Daisy Ridley, 30; singer Mandy Moore, 38, and music producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, 63.