Ukrainian resilience and a son’s homage to his father
A Monitor reporter shares how his Ukrainian father’s experience shapes his coverage of the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Monitor reporter Martin Kuz often sees the Ukraine conflict through his father’s eyes. “He’s the root of my empathy and interest in this country,” says Martin.
We felt it was important to share that with our readers because transparency can be a key ingredient in producing credible journalism. Martin is aware of his allegiances, and he wants you to know them too.
Martin’s father was a child in Ukraine during the 1932 famine inflicted upon the country for its resistance to Russian leader Josef Stalin’s efforts to replace small, independent farms with big, communist collectives. At least 3.9 million Ukrainians died of starvation. Then, German and Soviet armies clashed on Ukrainian soil during World War II, devastating the country. Like the hundreds of thousands now fleeing the fighting in Ukraine, Martin’s dad also fled but ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy.
Eventually, Martin’s dad was released. He made his way to England, Ireland, and finally America in the 1950s. He became a small-town physician and raised a family in Minnesota. Martin grew up hearing proud stories of Ukrainian generosity and kindness amid hardship. “He was the strongest person I’ve ever known,” says Martin.
In 2014, Martin visited his relatives in Ukraine for the first time. He saw his dad’s hometown of Lviv. He never learned his father’s native tongue because his parents – both immigrants – insisted he speak English. When Martin sees the vast prairies of Ukraine, “Europe’s breadbasket,” it reminds him of home. And he wonders if his dad felt the same way gazing at the grasslands of rural Minnesota.
Martin, who covered the war in Afghanistan for three years, sees historical similarities: Both nations have been at the crossroads of outside forces pulling at them for centuries.
With Ukraine once again caught in the gears of war, “it’s deepened my appreciation for my father’s homeland and the man himself. Specifically, his ability to endure what he did and yet continue to pursue his dreams and ambitions in the U.S.”
Martin says his reporting from Ukraine is a kind of “homage to my father. I know what his people withstood and how they’ve remained remarkably resilient. That was a lesson imprinted on me by him.”
What Martin has witnessed – and the world is now seeing – in Ukrainian villages and cities amid the Russian invasion reinforces that lesson: “The strength of the collective spirit of Ukrainians, their ability to face up to more hardship, uncertainty, and [now] bloodshed.”
Martin Kuz is part of a team of Monitor reporters covering the conflict and its geopolitical implications from around the world. Our full coverage can be found here.