Dear Ukrainian Grandparents,

Rachel Steinman
8 min readMar 14, 2022

When I watch the senseless human suffering in Ukraine with tears in my eyes, it’s as if my dear Jewish-Ukrainian grandparents' history is being repeated. My family members were the lucky ones who were able to escape as is evidenced by me, their Jewish granddaughter and great-granddaughter whose Ukrainian blood runs through me and is here today to be able to write this without fear of censorship. Because my family was able to escape Ukraine a little over a century ago, I was fortunate to be born at the right time and in the right place. My childhood began in Southern California in the 70s, at a time when girls were not only encouraged to take ballet but to play t-ball. As a Jewish girl in the 80s, I was not only encouraged to go to Hebrew School but to be bat mitzvahed, a practice reserved for boys only not long before. In the 90s, I was not only encouraged to attend college but to go on to graduate school and to continue to use my voice to try to make a difference in the world, even if it’s just with my daughters.

Seeing mothers rushing out of Ukraine with babies in their arms fleeing harm to find safety and peace to live freely is exactly what my great-grandmother, Anna Kaplan born Anna Komsky, had to do with her son, my grandfather more than a hundred years ago. My beloved grandfather, Isadore Kaplan who my oldest daughter is named after, was born in a shtetl, a village on the outskirts of Kyiv. Think of Fiddler on the Roof and you’ll get a good idea of the life his family led. The village in the famous musical takes place in Anatevka, less than twenty miles outside of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Like Tevia’s family, Grandpa’s family was forced to flee because of the Russian pogrom, creating a stream of refugees looking for a home, displaced people looking for a safe place to lay their heads at night without fear of massacre.

Since the recent Russian invasion, the UN has reported close to three million people have become refugees. Ukrainian parents are taking unthinkable measures to protect their children including sending them into school wearing stickers identifying their blood types in case of bombings. My great-grandmother left her home just outside Kyiv with nothing but a few coins sewn into her jacket pockets and her baby in her arms. She did whatever she had to do to survive and get to America where she hoped what she heard was true- the…

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Rachel Steinman

Host of “Dear Family,” the Podcast, Writer, Educator, and Mental Health Advocate https://writenowrachel.com/