Back in ought seven, as associate editor at GoNOMAD.com, an alternative travel website, I received a story called ‘A Brief Tour of the Holy Land‘ from a US Army officer named Roman Skaskiw.
I figured since he had served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had a right to be heard. He has since served a second tour in Afghanistan.
The problem was, it was about seven times as long as all our other stories. So I made a deal with the boss to put it up off the clock, as it were. I mean, it added a whole new dimension to the website, but then, I really couldn’t justify the time I wanted to spend fussing over it.
We have hundreds of great stories from all over the world, and most of them take about a half a second to put up.
But Roman’s story was positively worth it for me as an editor. I could tell right away that this was the real stuff, the next Ernest Hemingway, in this respect — the guy can’t lie.
So just after posting Roman’s Holy Land story, we find his Email From Afghanistan has been published by the Atlantic Monthly, probably the most prestigious literary magazine in America. I emailed him that he is exactly what America needs: a faceful of truth.
Our country is hearing a lot of patriotic palaver from scoundrels and chicken hawks, and when the day comes when the American public can hear from honest soldiers like Roman Skaskiw and Andrew Bacevich, I believe our country will be better off.
Dr. Bacevich, who served in Vietnam, lost a son in Iraq. He has some very insightful ideas about American Exceptionalism which you probably haven’t heard.
Anyway, after GoNOMAD published his story about the Holy Land, Roman sent me an email saying he had story about hiking in Afghanistan.
“I’m in the army,” he said. “Does that count as travel?”
“Travel’s travel,” I replied, and GoNOMAD became the only travel website with an article about hiking in Afghanistan. It’s not much like your typical hikes because you have to wear body armour and you have to crop out all the local residents, even the tea guy, because they might be killed.
Now he has a superb article in the New York Times which I think every American citizen ought to read, and here’s the really good part — I have his best work yet, a story about his trip to his family’s farm in the Ukraine, and I’ll have it up on GoNOMAD next week.
I don’t want to give away anything, because this will be a blockbuster of sorts for us, coming, as it does, in the wake of the Times article. But it’s exactly what I have come to expect from Roman, and it’s a privilege to present it to the public.
Roman’s grandfather got tipped off that the Soviets were about to arrest him and he swept up his family, including Roman’s mother, then two years old, and escaped to Poland and then the United States.
Some of the questions he raises relate to the Soviet genocide in the Ukraine. Nazi war ciminals were brought to justice. but not Soviet war ciminals.
Large historical questions like this are interwoven with a deeply personal journey to Roman’s family homeland and his meetings with those who stayed behind. And there are lots of great photos.
For an editor, it’s a real pleasure to work with great material.