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Searching for stories of courage

I’m always in search of stories. I lean toward authentic, well told tales that bump up against my heart — and make me think about life a little differently.

I look for stories that profile courage and selflessness. I hold dear the depiction of ordinary people who take incredible risks, often without hesitation and no idea how they will survive that risk.

That, of course, leads us to Ukraine. A Democracy in peril. A country and its people modeling for the world to see their unrelenting courage and boldness. Perhaps it will embolden us to appreciate more and do a better job in our own Democracy.

I write this column several days before it’s published, which means there will be more stories. I am tracking with all of them but particularly tuned to those depicting Ukrainian elders who were unable or unwilling to flee to safety in neighboring countries.

When you look at the television footage, you see women and young children trying to board crowded trains or waiting in the bitter cold for food and shelter. I look for more about the patriotic Ukrainian grandparents who did not or could not leave.

I salute the aging woman as reported on CNN making Molotov cocktails from empty wine bottles — she “learned how to do it on the internet.”

Our family has a “then and now” link to Ukraine. The decades-old map on my husband’s desk is tracking his ancestral roots in Moldavia and Romania. My nephew and his family lived and worked in the Ukraine for years — their youngest son was born there.

For that reason I ask you to consider an internet correspondence I received today.

“Dear Members of the Ukrainian Community in the United States. The Embassy of Ukraine in the United States receives numerous requests about possible ways to provide financial support to the Ukrainian army and volunteers, protecting their country against the aggression. Here are the contacts of trusted organizations:

“Come back alive: https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate/ (works directly with the command and personnel of military units, purchasing infrared thermal imaging cameras, night vision goggles, hemostatic, etc.)

“Army SOS: https://armysos.com.ua/pomoch-armii (manages purchases of necessary ammunition, shields, intercommunication and reconnaissance facilities, etc., and delivers all goods directly)

“Hospitallers: www.facebook.com/hospitallers/posts/2953630548255167 (works directly on the frontline)

“Phoenix Wings: http://wings-phoenix.org.ua/en/about-fund/ The appropriate equipment and uniforms, personal nonlethal protection (vests, helmets), required treatment of wounded soldiers, and repair of the buildings used by the army.

“Please share widely among the members of your community. Respectfully, Kateryna Smagliy, 1st secretary, Embassy of Ukraine in the United States.”

I echo the request to share widely this information. And consider the examples of demonstrated patriotism if you will. Respectfully.

Sharon Johnson is an Oregon State University associate professor emeritus and the author of “How Gray is My Valley: Enlightened Observations About Being Old.” Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.