I got a unexpected invitation to spend Christmas with my friend Lynne. What a lovely occasion after I had already adjusted my expectation to be home alone with Heidi and the four cats for the holiday. I was able to get a ride with a neighbour who was going south to spend Christmas with is family. I all worked out well.
We had a white Christmas at my place with a foot of snow falling just before Christmas. In Mississauga they had no snow. Usually, there was a little snow for Christmas. I remember as a youth being able to go out Christmas morning with our new sleighs, toboggans, skates, skis, tuques, scarves and mitts to play in the snow after breakfast and while my mother and father were getting the turkey stuffed and into the oven for he afternoon meal. It seems climate change is seeing more brown Christmas Days in Southern Ontario than I remember.
I enjoyed tagging along with Lynne to her eldest son's home for Christmas Eve. all the immediate family were there along with a couple of older relatives of Lynne's husband's side of the family and me. the tag along guy.
The next morning Christmas Day, Lynne and I got away early to go to her daughter's place for Christmas morning. so we could seen her granddaughter open presents. It seem to be that now these days Christmas is a group of adults watching one representative child at Christmas. I find this a little sad. At a previous generations Christmas were there were to adults there might have been 10 or 20 young children at a Christmas gathering..
This is 4 year old Leigha, Lynne's granddaughter. She is a bright delightful child. This past year she has successfully fought off a childhood form of Cancer involving her kidneys.
I managed to get a picture of camera shy Lynne playing with Leigha. The house was full of toys, a real embarrassment of riches. for one child, so thinks this old simple Puritan.
I had to cut my holiday with Lynne short when I learned that my dog sitter, Jenny had to have an emergency appendectomy. Also, she had called the vet on an emergency basis due to Heidi having ear infections. She has a couple of other concerns over Heidi that I needed to take care of. I managed to locate my son who was in Toronto so I was able to get a ride home with him.
It all worked out well except I had hoped to spend a little more time with Lynne. As it turned out the night after I got home the temperature dropped to -20C, a temperature that concerns me with limited heat on in the house. It is best that I am home to feed the wood stoves when it is this cold or colder..
This book is Lynne's gift to me. To-day I am enjoying it. This is perhaps the wrong way to thing of it. It is the historical account of Hitler and Stalin's struggles over the domination of Eastern Europe. I am learning a lot. which I enjoy but the details of this history are grim.
I know a lot about the Nazi horrors of the Second World War but I am less familiar with Stalin's legacy of horror. While the United States was worrying about the Depression and Britain was anxiously watching Hitlers rise to power, Stalin was murdering millions of his people. It has come to be known as the Great Terror.
In 1933-34 collectivization of the farms contributed to a poor harvest but it was the Soviet policy to set high quotas of productions that had to be met. As a result, in the Ukraine there was a man made famine that was genocide by starvation. All the harvest was taken for export to Europe. When the peasants could not meet there quotas in grain their cattle were taken, their seed grain for the next year was taken, their personal property was taken. Many were murdered or sent to the Gulag. It is hard to comprehend how bad it became. Many resorted to cannibalism. Some families even killed and eat the weakest among them. Gravediggers, paid the bury the dead on a piece work basis sometimes took the near dead and buried them alive alongside the corpses.. All the while the Soviet government denied their was starvation. One of the few Western eye witnesses to this was the journalist Gareth Jones
, who tried to inform the West of the genocide in the Ukraine.
Stalin's crimes against the peasants began as an attack against prosperous peasants, the Kulak, that he saw as a special and dangerous class. It spread to include anyone the secret police wanted to capture to meet their quotas to round up, kill or deport to the Gulag, these dangerous "enemies of the State" and "criminals"
By 1936 Stalin was targeting ethnic groups within the Soviet Union who he saw as enemies in his paranoia:. Poles, Germans, Jews., Lithuanians and others were murdered in the hundreds of thousands, at the same time that the Soviet Union portrayed itself to the West as being a peaceful multi-ethnic socialist society.
Then there were the purges, The Great Terror,
of the leadership of the military just before the outbreak of the Second World War. There was also purges of the old communist guard where lead the revolution of 1917. There was even purges of doctors and intellectuals and writers. In the end, Stalin murdered 10 million of his people even before the Second World War began. His crimes made Hitler look like an amateur. Before 1039, the Nazis had killed only a few hundred people. It is a chilling tale that was for a long time kept from public knowledge outside the Soviet Union which was isolated from the West during this period and later during the Cold War. It is a story that needs to be known better so that not only the names of Hitler and his war criminal associates are known and shamed in our understanding of history but also Stalin and his "war criminals" (never brought to justice) need to be exposed and named and shamed in our historical record
. The 20th Century, our century, has a shameful record of genocides and wars which we need to know about and learn from, particularly their relationship to the creation of the Nation state,colonization, industrialization and the quest for raw materials to feed our industrial society. Perhaps, we can begin to stop the continuation of the crimes of the 20th Century into the 21st Century.