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Lessons from Ukraine

October 2, 2022 by  
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Like many of you, this war in Ukraine has been weighing very heavily on my mind. It just seems so stupid and pointless. It has gotten me thinking about my visit to that beautiful country in 2011. Back then, we spent a very pleasurable couple of days in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. The city has been on a crazy roller coaster throughout its history. It’s gone from great prosperity and prominence to near obscurity and everything in between. And although the Russians aren’t at the capital, and hopefully will never get there in this crazy war, the spirit of that city represents the whole country, a place that we can all learn from as we hope and pray for an end to this awful fighting.

It was thought that Kiev was a commercial center of Eastern Europe as early as the 5th century, being on the route between Scandinavia and Constantinople. In the 9th century, the city was seized by Vikings, then it was demolished by Mongols in the mid-13th century. The city made a comeback during the Russian Empire’s Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, going on to eventually be chosen as the capital of the newly formed Ukrainian National Republic in 1917. It weathered the sweeping communist reforms of the early 20th century only to be greatly damaged in World War II. Even so, it recovered to become the 3rd largest city of the Soviet Union. Half a century later, Ukraine claimed its independence and Kiev, again, became the capital of a richly fertile, if still financially struggling, land.

For all its hardships, including the one it’s dealing with right now, the country is historically resilient and strong. It has had huge challenges and, sometimes, great defeats. But being knocked down has only been a temporary state for this country and its capital city. It keeps getting back up and keeps moving forward.

If this place, which has been invaded, demolished, controlled by its neighbors, and beaten-up multiple times can recover to claim and reclaim its prominent position after all it’s been through, we can hold on to tremendous hope for the Ukrainian people, and for ourselves, because they represent the possibilities for us all.

So, next time you are facing a huge challenge or defeat, consider how much the country of Ukraine has been through and how the people there are persevering and even pushing back the much bigger country of Russia. If Ukraine and its beautiful capital can do that with all they have been up against, there is no reason why we as individuals can’t weather our challenges and fully recover from our own losses and defeats as well, if not come back better than ever.  

Hard Working Spies

February 21, 2021 by  
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My dear wife Kimberly read a very fascinating book which she then talked me into reading. The book’s title is The Spy and the Traitor written by Ben Macintyre. It’s a true story about spies and counter spies in Russia, England, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. I was not too interested, at least not at first, but with her request and gentle prodding, I picked it up while on vacation in Kauai and began to read.

Wow, what a book it is! Now, I’m only 100 pages in out of 335, but it’s really got me hooked. It’s a very fascinating read about some very dangerous spy and counter spy activity that I’m pretty sure is still going on. But the thing that really impressed me was the lengths these spies would go to accomplish their objectives.

The main character is a guy by the name of Oleg Gordievsky who is working for the Russian KGB, but the more he sees the western world of Denmark and England with its free market, freedom of speech, and all those things that go with Western and free enterprise countries, the more he realizes that communism is not the best way to go for human beings. So, Oleg is drawn towards the free enterprise cultures but as a top Russian spy he has to hide his thoughts and beliefs so as not to be sent back to Moscow where he could be imprisoned or even put to death.

Reading this great book about the true story of Oleg and so many of his friends and enemies certainly made me stop and think of how good we have it living in a great free country that allows us to think our own thoughts, write about them, and publish them without fear of being arrested or put to death. Plus, we have this amazing freedom to make a terrific living, maybe even making millions of dollars without bribing anyone or dodging the law.

The spies on both sides in this book were pushed to lengths that were almost unbelievable. They worked, studied, and spent unbelievable amounts of time planning what they were told to do and accomplish. It made me think that if we, as free men and women in America, were pushed half as hard by others or by ourselves, it would almost be a certainty that our success would be astronomical. So many of us could be making millions, or even billions, as well as helping others to do the same thing or to chase other great and noble causes that don’t involve money.

Our problem is that so many times we have it way too easy and we just move along at a normal, or even slow pace, depending on where we live and what our friends and relatives around us are doing. For the most part, it seems like we follow our family, friends, and neighbors rather than push ourselves to great new heights. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all up to you and me. Think about how hard you push yourself and whether you can push yourself further to gain even more in your life.