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A Duty to Remember: Bearing Witness in the War for Ukraine

William W. Pinsky, MD, FAAP, FACC
CEO, Intealth

This week marks one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an act that has ushered in a new era of needless loss of life and profound suffering. The impacts of this aggression extend far beyond the borders of Ukraine. The entire region is forever changed, bearing the indelible marks of refugee crises, societal damage, political unease, and economic disruption.

In late January, I landed in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, one of many locations where the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold. In the days that followed, I shared time with refugees and with the aid workers and medical staff who are working to sustain them with the basics of life. As a visitor, I can bear witness to the depth and constancy of this crisis, which is far from the mainstream media’s focus on nightmarish landscapes of devastation in Ukraine.

Past generations of my own family include those who fled persecution and violence in Russia and made new homes and new lives. I am a product of that history, shaped by the same kind of violent disruption occurring today in eastern Europe. Perhaps it is the reason that I became a physician, and why I continue to look for ways in my work to promote well-being for all. The consequences of today’s war for Ukraine will ripple through generations, in the form of lives that have been lost, families that have been torn apart, and homelands that have been abandoned.

William Pinsky in Prague

William W. Pinsky, MD, at the grave of his aunt, who aided WWII refugees. Prague, February 2, 2023.

The resilience and hope needed to rebuild lives also are evident in Chișinău, and I am in awe of those who can focus on a better future while enduring terrible conditions. Individuals from agencies are working daily to provide food, shelter, and medicine. The continued commitment and support of these agencies, and of private citizens, will be needed by refugees long after the geopolitical conflict ends.

In my own family, I grew up with stories of my aunt, Gertrude Pinsky, who left the comfort and security of her home in Cincinnati, Ohio, and traveled to Amsterdam in the aftermath of World War II. There, she worked to assist in the long and arduous process of relocating war refugees until her death in an airplane crash in 1946 while flying to Prague. Buried in Prague, she is both far from her home and close to one of our ancestral homelands. After Chișinău, I flew to Prague to visit the resting place of this woman who died in the service of others before I was born.

My trip was an intensely personal and spiritual one, fueled by the need to take action, and by connections to people and experiences through space and time. It is one of the ways I choose to honor and support the victims of the war for Ukraine and all of those working to care for them. While it is a trip that not everyone can or should undertake, it is part of a larger journey that is for all of us—to nurture a shared humanity and the opportunity to remake ourselves in the face of adversity.

Please remember and support the victims of the war for Ukraine, now and in the years to come.

Categories: Advocacy & Wellness

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