The war in Ukraine is on everyone’s mind. Worldwide there is enormous support for the country and its fiercely determined people. Yet Russian troops continue to advance and wreak terrible casualties.
I myself have friends in Ukraine. It is a new experience to wake up in the morning and immediately check Facebook to see if they both have posted in recent hours. When I read their stories about Ukrainian defiance, I feel a surge of aggressive triumph. The Ukrainians are tearing down road and highway signs, so the Russians can’t find their way! President Zelensky, who knows his life is at risk, refuses to leave the country and visits the troops!
Yet a more tender reaction stirs when I hear another kind of story. The news network France 24 released a video (above) about how stray dogs and cats have been helping Ukrainian soldiers both physically and emotionally. One soldier explains how a dog’s good hearing alerts him when the enemy approaches. Another soldier says of his adopted cat, “You come back from the station, and you lie down on the bed, and Chernukha comes, lies on your stomach and says, ‘Pet me, throw your phone away.’ It acts as a sedative.”
Such stories do not allow us to relax into a simple emotion. We feel pity, sweetness, sorrow, gratitude, worry. The Radical Joy for Hard Times approach to grief and beauty reminds us that there is room for all such feelings—and all at the same time.
May these soldiers and the cats and dogs they’re caring for stay safe.