Watching War Begin

Jordy Meow on Unsplash

Surreal. There is no other word.

Last night I was having a cup of after-dinner coffee, working on my computer with MSNBC on in the background. A correspondent in flak vest and helmet was standing in the middle of Kyiv saying, “We’re hearing shelling in the background . . .” and soon thereafter, “Sirens are now going, you can hear them . . .” And we could.

The screen switched to a map showing movement of troops, tanks, missile launchers. Hearing Russian President Putin make references to his country’s nuclear power was almost too much.

One of my earliest memories is of a night in the late 1930s, when I was about four (Yes, I am that old.) My sister Mimi and I were asleep in our double bed; Mimi was six. It seemed the middle of the night to us – in reality it was probably about 10 PM – when our father sat on the edge of the bed and gently woke us up. Then he lifted us, one in each arm, and carried us downstairs into the living room. It was clear this was not a joy ride; I remember trying hard to wake up.

My mother was there, sitting in her chair in front of the big Philco radio, and my father deposited us onto the floor. The announcer – probably Edward R Murrow, the source of all radio news in our house (and most others) – was talking but I have no memory of what he was saying. My father turned the sound down, and said, “This man you’ll hear in a minute is going to cause terrible destruction in the world. I want you to know what a madman sounds like.” Again, I don’t recall being afraid, just incredibly curious. My parents never woke us up once Mimi and I went to bed and were out of their hair; our two older sisters turned in later. They were probably also in the living room but I don’t remember.

The announcer’s voice was replaced by static crackling around the room. It was (I later understood) the sound of short-wave radio being beamed from overseas. Then we heard crowd noise and shouting. Very soon a man’s angry voice started shouting. We had absolutely no idea what he was saying – it was in German. The man was Adolph Hitler. I think it was the last time he was heard on short-wave radio in the U.S.; but soon that voice and the responses of the crowds would be everywhere in the newsreels shown in movie theaters before the feature films.

Everybody knows what happened next.

I know this is 2022, and not 1940. I don’t know if Mr. Putin is unhinged (as he seems,) but that’s just part of what we have to worry about. I’m grateful for the stability and good hearts of most world leaders here and abroad, but it’s hard to forget the angry voice of a madman who craved power at any cost, and what that cost turned out to be.

Can we still avert catastrophe? One can hope. I pray for the people of Ukraine. And for some miraculous peace.


  1. Hi Fran, thanks for sharing this. My father’s dream of coming to US to study for medicine was delayed due to WWII. I hope we are not going to see World War III.

  2. Yes, definitely a time for ACTIVE prayer. Thank you, Fran, for this reminder- and for sharing your memory: It is important we never forget.

  3. Dear Fran thank you for your thoughts and words. I feel so sad and powerless watching all of these events unfold. My love goes out to all of the Ukraineans.

  4. Who can believe that a person purported to be a leader is busy invading a sovereign nation and threatening those who might come to that nation’s aid with nuclear destruction? My parallel moment to yours is sitting with my dad in our screened porch, listening to Huntley and Brinkley talk about the Russians moving arms toward Cuba, an island that sat a mere 90 minutes from our house. I kept watching his face for signs of fear–I was a tiny girl, maybe 3, but I knew that if daddy showed fear, the end of the world was nigh. He never broke a sweat–the hallmark of a good dad, like yours.

  5. Amen, And thank you for sharing that chilling story from your childhood. It’s a tumultuous time, one to which we must pay close, focused attention. God bless the Ukraine and her dear people!

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