It isn’t surprising to see news from Ukraine making international headlines. However, the fact that one focus is Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, a.k.a. “Human Barbie,” should give parents reason to show their kids how to look past distractions to get to the real news.
Ms. Lukyanova, who claims she is using her good looks to share a spiritual message, is making news for declaring her conversion to Breatharianism – the spiritual practice of surviving only on light and air.
My 10-year-old son, a science fan, was amazed at the story of this human trying to live on less than a houseplant.
Then he realized she is Ukrainian. “Is that the same as Ukraine?” he asked. “Isn’t there something else happening there, like a war?”
The fact that an elementary school student can look at human Barbie eye-candy, shake it off, and see a war in Ukraine is not a naturally occurring event.
It happened because as a household, we have been briefing my son and his brothers on the news from abroad, showing them videos online about the Crimean war and explaining news stories about the unrest.
Having been to Kiev as a reporter at the breakup of the Soviet Union, I had that precognitive “mommy sense” that the goodwill of Sochi was unlikely to last on Mr. Putin’s part.
Kids, and many parents, may see the headlines about Lukyanova, the Ukrainian model, and will never make the connection to what is happening around her in Ukraine today. Some may not even go on to read hard news about the unrest, stopping at her story as good-enough online reading.
My son was still upset by the transformation of Russia from “good guy” to “bad guy” because he was hoping for a standard Disney ending.
This was one of those sad times in parenting, when I had to dispel the comforting belief of childhood that things will always turn out for the best.
Then, I turned it over to an Associated Press video, which explained how Ukraine ousted its president and Putin used that as an excuse to swoop in with troops, when there was arguably no credible threat to Russia.
I also showed him a story from Bloomberg on how the Russian president has used the gas pipeline that runs through the Ukraine to pressure the country into doing what he wants by threatening to raise rates too high to afford the fuel they need.
Still, it’s understandably hard for kids to get their minds around the news in Ukraine when just last week, our TVs were broadcasting images of global goodwill during the Olympic Games.
For Lukyanova, she is using her good looks to broadcast what she feels is a deeper, spiritual message.
“My [recent press coverage] is only based on my physical appearance,” Lukyanova said in one of her YouTube videos. “Unfortunately, spiritual ideas will never get so much attention. If a nun starts talking about spirituality, will anyone notice her? No. No one will. But if a beautiful, inspiring young woman starts talking about it, many people will start thinking.”
Despite the pretty images – from a model or a produced TV event like the Olympics – it is vital for parents to excavate real issues behind the scenes, and bring their kids along for the dig.
Here in America we can do little more than watch the unrest in Ukraine unfold without rose-colored glasses, teaching our children to look past the glossy images to see the truth.
Beyond that we can do what so many are calling upon the world to do – pray for Ukraine.