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Chester County Press

For some, the invasion of Ukraine hits close to home

02/28/2022 11:03PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The world watched in horror this week as Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, its neighbor, in a major escalation in a war that has been ongoing since 2014.

For people like Beata Baker, the horrors of the invasion hit closer to home because of personal ties to that part of the world.

“I just can’t imagine what it must be like for the Ukrainian people at this time,” Baker said. “Families are being separated. Men between 60 and 18 have to fight in the war. Their wives and children are forced to pack a bag and leave their houses, leave the country where they have lived all their life and find a way out of Ukraine. They have no idea where they are going, where they will stay or how they will survive. I feel that pain. I cannot imagine having to do that.”

Baker lives with her husband in the Borough of Oxford. She is not a citizen of this country, but rather she is a citizen of Poland, which borders on Ukraine.  She actually works for the European Division of Little League International. Her office is located in Kutno, Poland, only about four hours from the border of Ukraine. 

Baker has her green card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card) which allows her to live and work permanently in the United States. She was working in Kutno just four days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Just before I came back, the Russian military was already positioned in Ukraine. There was still time for negotiations. Poland borders on Ukraine. I don’t think Poland is threatened at this point, because we are part of NATO and the European Union. But the whole world is worried how far Putin will go,” she said.

“There are many countries close by that aren’t in NATO, such as Serbia, Georgia, Azerbijan, Armenia, Belarus, etc. and I’m sure those countries are concerned,” Baker explained. “There is a concern for peace everywhere now because of this invasion.”

Baker said this is not a surprise to her. 

“In the last few years, Europe was divided, due to the pandemic, immigration, for a number of reasons. However, because of this war Vladimir Putin has brought into the Ukraine, I think they have put that division aside. It looks like they are all coming together because of the war in Ukraine. This situation is uniting the European Union and NATO. It is good to see all those countries coming together.”

Baker’s family still lives in Poland, including her 84-year-old father.

“There is a long history of Russian oppression with Poland,” Baker explained. “Polish people have strong feelings about Russia.”

From 1945 to 1948, the Soviets deported from three million to six million Poles to forced labor camps in the Soviet Union, of which 585,000 may have died. Hundreds of thousands and possibly near one million Poles were killed during a period of Soviet terror and repression.

“The Polish people didn’t think it would happen. There is going to be so much damage in years to come in Russia because of this. No one will want to have anything to do with Russia. Already, athletes, musical and other entertainment organizations, are already protesting because of the war,” she said. “The Russian people will pay a high price for this, that is why they are protesting.”

She admitted that no one knows how it will end, but she wonders if Putin realized how much this would unite the world.

“Putin is a mad man. There is no reason for this war, for this aggression,” she said. “Unfortunately, the regular people, families and of course children will pay the price for this. Children will be traumatized by this for years to come.”

Most of the refugees coming to Poland will be women and children, according to Baker. Men from 18 to 60 years of age will be fighting for their country.

Baker explained, “Before the war one million people from Ukraine were living and working in Poland. They have left their jobs and gone back to Ukraine to fight for their country. The western countries are realizing there is too much to lose and they have to come together. This is serious for the entire world. The world is doing a lot with sanctions, but that takes time. I’m not an expert, but the fact those countries came together, I think that surprised Putin. I think Putin saw the division over the last two years in Europe and he hoped that division would transfer to this position. He over-calculated.”

Baker worries about how this will affect the economy and inflation and says the world has been focused on the pandemic and now this.

“I worry about the long-term consequences,” she said. “How much can these countries bear? It is just hard to believe that Putin thought this was a good idea.

It may be that what Putin thought was a great idea, will simply bring the rest of the world together, united against him.

“I’m talking to my dad and family every day. He and everyone in Poland is looking for the opportunity to take in refugees. The Polish people will offer houses and apartments. My dad will be taking people to his home,” Baker said.

Baker said 150,000 refugees had already crossed the border. Poland expects millions will be coming.

“People are volunteering in Poland to help others any way they can with resources, and their heart. Poland is historically and culturally connected to Ukraine. People are already helping at the border,” she said.

Like many people Baker is very impressed with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who took the oath of office on May 20, 2019.

“The president is such a great leader,” Baker said. “Many politicians would have already escaped. He has stayed. Some would make fun of him because he was an actor and comedian, but above all he is a great human being. I admire his leadership and sacrifice.”

As Baker said, she is not an expert and she doesn’t know where this war will end. But one thing for sure the Putin’s war has brought the rest of the world together. And the president of Ukraine has stayed right there beside his people who are willing to fight to defend their country.