The Shadows of History

I saw a documentary about a guy who carved totem poles somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He said he loved working with sharp tools. I think that’s a lot like editing a really good story. It’s more fun than work.

My editorial cup is running over at GoNOMAD with stories from Max Hartshorne and Cindy Bigras, New Zealand, Sarah Banks Hartshorne, Oaxaca, Kent St. John, Papua/New Guinea, Sony Stark, Switzerland, and Kelly Westhoff, How to Travel Together Without Killing Each Other.

On top of that we have a really first-rate new (to us) author, Sophie Ibbotson, who sent us a great story about Dead Goat Polo in Kyrgyzstan.

Still I have to say the greatest pleasure this week was putting up Roman Skaskiw’s story about Visiting Free Ukraine. It reminds me of James Michener’s Iberia, not a work of fiction like Michener’s other works, but a travelogue that combines a personal journey with an exploration of the history and culture of a country.

One part of Roman’s story that I find particularly moving is when he talks to his relatives about the Soviet era.

“I heard of people who were taken away for fighting the Soviets, for criticizing the Soviets, for supporting Ukrainian nationalism, for being wealthy, for being university professors, for being writers, for singing Ukrainian folk songs in a pasture, for being related to someone who was deported, for nothing…”

“Peasants are a silent people,” Solzhenitsyn wrote, “without a literary voice, nor do they write complaints or memoirs.”

I felt I was helping to tell a story that might otherwise remain forever untold, not so much in the interests of justice — it’s a bit late for that — but in the interests of truth.

I think it’s important for us to hear how children betrayed their schoolmates and their families and how people tyrannized one another to serve a totalitarian state. It’s a lesson that applies to all humanity. And we all know what happens to people who don’t study history.