A welcome to our Little Kyiv

MEN, WOMEN, old and young are uniting to defend Ukraine. They have earned our respect, and maybe a place in our county (Flickr/Konrad Lembke)

“Here is the hospitality which forever indicates heroes.”

– Walt Whitman

Our cities here in Orange County have sometimes been imagined as strongholds of white middle class folks, as homogenized as Wonder Bread. But that’s not true now and never really has been.

As we watch with horror the Russian invasion and admire the courage and patriotism of the people of Ukraine, it’s clear that something remarkable is taking place. One of the world’s great military powers – spiritual heir to the evil Soviet Union – is getting its bottom kicked by a nation a fraction its size.

What with all the destruction and death, millions are fleeing. The United States has offered to take in 100,000 Ukrainians, and there are already growing numbers on the border in Mexico, hoping to find life and freedom in the land of the free.

Let’s let them in. More than that, let’s invite them to settle in Orange County.

Stereotypical images and bad memories aside, the OC – especially the western part – has long been a home to people of different nationalities and races. At present, we have large Vietnamese populations in Westminster and Garden Grove. Growing numbers of people of Arab descent are settling in West Anaheim, and immigrants from Latin America are everywhere.

Some came here as political refugees – from Vietnam and Korea – and some seeking relief from grinding poverty and unceasing violence, such as those from Mexico and some nations in Central America.

Going further back in our history, there’s been a significant Japanese population in Garden Grove and Fountain Valley, and small Chinese enclaves across the county. While the experience has not always revealed the best in human nature, it has shown us that different languages and meals have long been a part of the OC culture.

Why not add to the menudo that’s here with more people of proven courage, intelligence and a sense of humor? (Ukraine’s president is – no kidding – a former comedian).

So many Americans – left and right – have made a fetish of their rights and freedoms. That’s good as far as it goes, but without an acknowledgement of our responsibilities to each other, it’s not nearly enough.

I am so proud of what the folks in Ukraine have accomplished, and a little sheepish about our divisions and selfishness. We are still the land of the free, but are we still the home of the brave? I hope so.

So let’s put our hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) where our principles are. Fear of immigration is often just fear of being replaced or the loss of status.  Well, who wouldn’t be proud to be with the people who kicked the Russian bear in the keister?

I want to see a Little Kyiv around here. I want to breakfast with some deruni (potato pancakes) and, of course, a dinner of Chicken Kyiv (the dish formerly known as Chicken Kiev).

The Ukrainian people showed themselves to be heroes. We’ve seen old men in their 80s volunteering to become riflemen, women fighting tanks with Molotov cocktails.

Let’s show our hospitality of heroes to them.

Note to readers: There are many ways to send help to Ukraine. One of the best is the International Rescue Committee. You can make a donation by phone by calling 1-855-9RESCUE, or go to https://help.rescue.org/donate/ukraine .


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