Although I’m not particularly adept in the kitchen (my cooking sustains me, but I wouldn’t inflict it on anyone else), I do enjoy grocery shopping. For me, there’s something comforting about meandering through the aisles, searching for the perfect apple, the freshest croissants, the most exotic coffee beans.
I chuckle to see kids wheedle their parents for treats just as I did, and I’m heartened to think that amid the stress of daily life, my fellow shoppers will find at least a few moments of relaxation over a nourishing meal.
As one jovial store manager used to tell me, supermarkets are happy, life-affirming places.
But not when your nation is under relentless attack by Russian forces.
For dozens in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, an everyday errand turned deadly, as a missile – a Soviet long-range X-22, designed to take out war ships – slammed into the Amstor mall, where some 1,000 customers and staff were on hand. A nearby machinery plant was struck by a second missile.
The June 27 attack killed at least 20 and injured close to 60, half of them critically. Many of the deceased were so badly burned in the ensuing fire — which gutted the mall — that DNA samples from relatives will be required for identification.
Six employees of the mall’s Silpo grocery store, part of a vibrant national supermarket chain that features traditional and artisan Ukrainian foods, were injured.
In a 2020 interview with a trade magazine, Silpo chief marketing officer Ekaterina Oguryaeva said her company’s growing network of stores were on a “mission … to inspire joy.”
That’s a task unshared by Russian aggressors, whose Feb. 24 invasion – which continues assaults launched in 2014, with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk – has now been declared a violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention by New Lines Institute, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and Ukraine itself, which has filed charges of genocide by Russia with the International Court of Justice.
And the suffering is by no means confined to Ukraine.
Among the atrocities cited by global leaders is Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, trapping millions of tons of wheat and other cereal grains. With Ukraine as a major global supplier of grain and cooking oils, an estimated 44 million in 38 countries are now at risk of starvation.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-backed RT network, said at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum the prospect of such suffering was a welcome one.
Citing what she called a common joke in Moscow, she said “all our hope is in the famine” as a way of having economic sanctions against Russia removed.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a renowned expert on Ukraine, stated that “Russia has a hunger plan” whereby that nation’s president, Vladimir Putin, “is preparing to starve much of the developing world as the next stage in his war in Europe.”
In the process, said Snyder, Putin hopes to “generate refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, areas usually fed by Ukraine,” create instability in the European Union and force the world to accept Russia’s barbaric land grab in Ukraine.
Essentially, “Russia is planning to starve Asians and Africans in order to win its war in Europe,” said Snyder. “This is a new level of colonialism, and the latest chapter of hunger politics.”
In the hands of tyrants, the God-given gift of food is no less a weapon than an X-22 missile, ravaging both body and soul.
Ukraine, and indeed the world, are under attack, with millions at imminent risk.
As we in the U.S. celebrate our Independence Day — sharing the earth’s harvest with family and friends in freedom – may the Bread of Life give us the courage to ensure Ukrainians and all people of goodwill can enjoy the fruits not only of the field, but of liberty itself.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.
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