With the unprecedented Russian invasion of her family’s homeland by Putin’s forces, Dr. Krystia Nora has stepped forward at solidarity rallies and peace demonstrations to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Ukraine.

Dr. Nora is an English instructor at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), and a second generation Ukrainian American. While her poem is not a traditional editorial narrative with hard details about the situation in Ukraine and specifics about her family, it serves as a rhythmical expression of emotion about vulnerable loved ones facing the hardships of invasion by a foreign military.

The abstract nature of the poem’s metaphorical structure also serves as a unique description of what war means to the Ukrainian American community in Milwaukee, and the painful uncertainties that entangle them because of the love that bonds those relationships.

“The body remembers” by Krystia Nora

The sirens cry.
I feel them.
Eighty years ago,
echoes from before.
Generations of family
shelter underground.

Thought of new loss
echoes old losses,
sears my body.

* * *

My grandfather walked
home after Soviet soldiers
took Lviv – ravaged universities
to shoot or recruit –
his family’s letter in his pocket
announcing his brothers
for fighting for freedom,
part of the earth again.

Family told him not to return,
to continue studies, to give
the world
his incredible gifts.
They fought for him
and a free Ukraine.

He, determined to make
loss have meaning,
turned around
walked to Austria
walked to Belgium
felt the ocean under his feet

to seed the world with his family’s,
his homeland’s
blood, intelligence, spirit.

Feet meet the ground
entwine –
we leave traces
of ourselves
wherever we are.

His mother died forced to walk
to Siberia, sick –
sons lost,
home seized –
all for the crime of wanting

Her daughter walked
home after escape.
Neighbors raised her.

* * *

Not quite a century later
I met her granddaughter
my cousin
my friend
my blood restored.

Three days ago and daily since,
my family and
scores of Ukrainians
bunker down,
will not leave home,
believe in the strength,
the rightness of a modern country
fighting for freedom.

The earth remembers
our feet walking
our hands tending,
remembers our pain, our love,
keeps our blood
for generations
walking and standing for freedom
crying out to an air
we share screaming
for freedom.

Stitched scars leave marks –
a testament to healing.

We are a peaceful people
who want nothing of war
who let go of the third largest nuclear arsenal
because we have had too much of war.
We walk, stand, fight for peace
month after month
century after century
on earth frozen, on earth springing,
even on earth irradiated.

All for peace and freedom.

Krystia Nora

Lee Matz