With War a World Away, Some Struggle to Help at Home

WESTLAND, Mass.  Ginny Knight is a chubby twelve-year-old who’s had a passion for figure skating since she was a little girl, but lately she’s soured on the sport.  “It’s the Russian-Ukraine conflict,” says her mother Maribeth.  What, this reporter asks, does a potential World War have to do with her daughter’s favorite pastime?  “Her hero . . . heroine I guess . . . was Irina Slutskaya,” the zaftig Russian woman who won two world championships in her prime.  “She . . . my daughter, not Slutskaya . . . feels betrayed by the whole invasion and bombing thing.”

Irina Slutskaya!

A trip to the young girl’s bedroom reveals her sobbing quietly as she prepares a hand-made sign that says “Stop it Putin!”  “What are you going to do with that?” her mother asks, hoping she doesn’t plan to attach it to her wall with thumbtacks.  “I’m going to take it downtown to demonstrate,” the girl says.  Her mother patiently explains that the only Russians in town are the owners of a mathematics tutoring service, which only adds fuel to her daughter’s fire.  “All the more reason,” she says through tears, “I hate math!”

Similar scenes play out across this wealthy suburb, where local citizens often find themselves at a loss as to how to aid their favorite cause du jour, since good-paying jobs and high real estate values tend to insulate them from social and economic upheavals.  “It is frustrating,” says Midge Fletcher, President of the local chapter of the Junior League, a prestigious women’s organization.  “We bought a tasteful ‘Peace’ banner in those sprightly Ukrainian colors, blue and yellow, for $150, and will hang it off our front porch,” she says.  Do any of the proceeds go to aid Ukrainian refugees, she is asked.  “Well, no, but the money we spent on our ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner didn’t help any Black people, so I guess that’s fair.”

“F***in’ Russkies!”

In the basement of his parents’ home Todd Blintz, a 28-year-old who has been “between jobs” for several years, views those who are new to anti-Russian sentiment with scorn.  “I’ve hated the Russians for like, forever,” he says, pointing to a poster on the wall from the movie “Miracle on Ice,” about the victory of an underdog U.S. hockey team over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.

Blintz says he is “taking his game” to the next level when it comes to the current conflict.  “I’ve made a vow not to have phone sex with any Russian woman until they withdraw their troops,” he says.  “Ukrainians only.”  At a going rate of $30 for 60 minutes, this reporter points out, that won’t make much of a dent in Russia’s military budget.

“I know,” he says, “but it’s the least I can do.”

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