14 Comments

Thank you for these beautiful thoughts. It helps me put the passage of time and the events that for each of us mark our own before and after in perspective. It encourages me to reflect on whether it is better to move only ever forward without regard for the before, or to return to the before to reflect on how we arrived to the after and if there are lessons there yet to be learned.

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Loss of lives and place by brutal force is genocide. Thinking about what the millions of Ukrainians face ahead with losing loved ones and loosing their communities, going back to rubble in many cases, it's overwhelmingly heartbreaking. Reading your essay, i buoyed by hope of a return for Ukrainians to their land to make art and to live with love. For now, their terror needs to end.

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An insightful part of this essay for me was this paragraph: "The two dominant ideas of the past after 1989 had a certain political coloration: the forgetters were neoliberals, the memorialists tended toward the nationalist far right. Despite the obvious difference between the two attitudes, they were linked. A declaration from Western powers that history did not matter elicited a response from people who believed that their history was not known. A capitalism that began and ended with the individual naturally generated a vague sense of a missing collective. And a multiculturalism that preemptively tolerated difference could be a way of stepping aside to avoid conflict rather than stepping forwards to make contact. " Thank you very much!

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This is a wonderful essay, Professor Snyder. It has helped me to better understand my friend Jadwiga, who remains in denial about much of 20th-century Polish history. Your mention of klezmer music calls to mind the third movement of Mahler's first symphony. The movement is in D minor, and is a funeral procession. It opens with an ostinato in the timpani, D-A-D-A, followed by a solo double bass playing "Brüder Martin"--"Frère Jacques" which is afterwards joined by other instruments in a canon (round). Then suddenly, out of nowhere, comes the klezmer music, which is performed by "very bad musicians" (Mahler). For this Mahler uses two of the three Turkish instruments (cymbals and bass drum, but not the triangle. For all three, listen to the overture to Mozart's Singspiel "Die Entführung aus dem Serail," K.384: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHa6pYhlMA8), plus oboes, clarinets, and trumpets. When the funeral procession passes a band of Bohemian musicians, Mahler has that group playing at the same time as the klezmer musicians. The sound of it is at once brash and magnificent. My favorite reading of this symphony is by Andrés Orozco-Estrada, directing the hr-Sinfonieorchester: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqVIMEQfEd4&t=125s, starting at 24:50, but I recommend listening to the whole performance, as it is superb. Just bought the book, and am really looking forward to it.

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Apr 14, 2022·edited Apr 14, 2022

This is a far better performance of the overture to Die Entführung: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrFbiw77_90. I can't see the bass drum in the other performance. All throughout his 10-year stay in Vienna, Mozart regularly heard Turkish music (not a surprise).

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Beautiful. When Czeslaw Milosz taught at UC Berkeley, his son, Peter, attended Berkeley High School. My husband, Alex Panasenko, was a teacher there and Peter was one of his students. They became good friends and stayed in touch for many years. We fear he is dead, but his brother Tony might still be alive. He might like the porcelain!

Speaking of Alex Panasenko, he was born in Ukraine in 1933 during the Holodomor, and witnessed the Battle of Kharkiv in 1941 when he was 8. His family was taken east by the Germans, across Ukraine to Halbturn in what is now Austria, where they were forced into slave labor. Alex was separated from his family and put into his own camp at age 11. So as you can see he was able to connect with Milosz through some common experience.

By the way, Alex has written a book about that experience called "The Long Vacation." I sent a copy of the book to your assistant (Daniel.) I sure hope you get to read it. It is excellent, imho. Very pertinent to today’s war in Ukraine, unfortunately. Thanks again for all you do!

https://www.amazon.com/Long-Vacation-Alex-Panasenko-ebook/dp/B08BT1DJ76/ref=sr_1_1?crid=34BWQ1I2H4GO9&keywords=the+long+vacation+memoir&qid=1650151513&sprefix=the+long+vacation+memoir%2Caps%2C128&sr=8-1

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((Correction: Alex's family was taken west, not east.))

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Thank you, Professor, for this essay. Brought me even closer to the plight of my father who left Poland in 1937. Interesting that Yiddish is still spoken. As a child growing up in Borslav Poland, my dad only knew Yiddish, not Polish. It wasn’t until his grandfather insisted he go to a Catholic school to learn to speak Polish. My father found it to be a humiliating experiencr as all of the Jewish boys were made to stand up throughout the classes. He forgot Polish the minute he landed at Ellis Island.

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Half way through your book Bloodlands and beginning to comprehend more about this region. Thank you for your work in this area. This poem is quite stirring.

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Bloodlands is such a good book! It gave me so much more perspective on eastern European, and world, history!

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"You cannot get beyond things without getting through them. You cannot go home again, so you have to rebuild home, again and again." These two sentences struck me so deeply. There is no bypassing experiences. I think that each experience lays the foundation for what can come next. If we don't examine, and learn from, the past, we have a very shaky foundation -- for now, and for the future.

Thank you for sharing this!

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I am sharing the following quote. It is from an article on war, and women, and the author learning that courage is contagious.  The context of the quote is surviving war, but it strikes me as being very true of many experiences of conflict and violence too.

“Life is about surviving,” the voices of these women say. “Mourn your losses, but put all your strength into what is still possible. Cry when you must. Then pick yourself up and get going.”

Among all the horror and sadness I read about and see on the screen day after day, these, for me, are the words of true solace and hope. Having been raised by these strong, formidable women, I know that strength is contagious. That the children who now cling to their mothers in fear and tears will learn what I have learned from my mother and grandmother. “Your first steps will be small, but necessary. Food, shelter,basic comfort. The rest will come, and you will manage, for you have no other choice.”

Excerpt from “’War never leaves you’: Lessons from the women who raised me,” by Eva Stachniak

From that excerpt, the statement that "courage is contagious" strikes me most deeply.

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Apr 15, 2022·edited Apr 15, 2022

Thank you so much for this reflection! It is so deeply and terribly appropriate at this time. I read quite a powerful article in the NYT today, but I believe it was from yesterday's paper or perhaps earlier in the week by Jeffrey Gettleman, whose heritage is Eastern European. Here is a link. I hope you may be able to access it. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/14/world/europe/poland-ukraine-holocaust-dispatch.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

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Your profound and graceful foreword to Czyzewski's "Towards Xenopolis" moved me to seek out and read Milosz’ “Song on Porcelain.” For that prompting alone, thank you. The entire foreword is rendered with such care and knowledge of the region, its people; and partly because of that, it resonates with many of the cultural struggles of this era; the seemingly vast and intractable schisms in the US. For instance, “Much work had to be done to allow people to express what had hitherto been inexpressible. But a simple acceptance of the voices that markets summoned forth or carried the furthest was no solution. Adam Smith understood that capitalism depended upon virtues that it did not create. How should such virtues arise?” We do well now to ask this of ourselves. “You cannot get beyond things without getting through them. You cannot go home again, so you have to rebuild home, again and again.” Artists and historians can surely help us do this. Thank you, again.

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