Ukraine – A Home away from Home


March 16th, 2022

 

Three weeks of devastation in Ukraine – a living nightmare for many Americans and me, still not even comparable to the living hell of uncertainty, grief, shock, and constant sirens and missile strikes for Ukrainians. 

 

In 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the birthplace of my mom and older brother, as well as the current/past home of my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins – Kharkiv, Ukraine. In 1994, my parents (who met and wedded each other in Kharkiv) alongside my brother at the time dropped everything they ever knew and emigrated from Kharkiv to Indianapolis, Indiana. Kharkiv profoundly impacted and defined my life before my life ever even began. In retrospect, my trip to Ukraine in 2019 was one of the wisest decisions I feel I have ever made. At the end of my journey, when entering the doors to Terminal A at Kharkiv International Airport, my eyes were filled with tears, my mind with uncertainty, and my heart with sorrow and guilt as I saw my cousins in the photo above similarly unable to maintain their composure and crying as we all parted ways. Little did I know at the moment that this quite possibly could be the last time I ever see these fun and sweet cousins of mine and this city that has been so impactful to my life today. 


On February 24th, 2022, my life and the lives of many Ukrainians and Eastern Europeans alike forever changed and have not been the same since. These innocent people in Ukraine, such as my cousins in the photo, are now subject to a cruel war initiated by Europe’s most vile excuse of a human being since the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin. Every day, I wake up with two sincere emotions – gratitude and anguish. Gratitude for the fact I call myself an American. Knowing about my parent’s upbringing and immigration here is an immense privilege having this opportunity to now live in the greatest country on Earth. I wake up each morning in a cozy bed with clear skies above and another day to explore and enjoy the beauties of life. I do, however, have anguish for a multitude of reasons I struggle even to explain. For me, is it the fact that millions of innocent Ukrainian children, women, and families are being ripped apart due to the ambitions of a single soulless individual? Or my helplessness and subsequent guilt as an American thousand of miles away from “my home away from home”? Or how my heart and typically positive spirit within the span of three weeks have been absolutely ripped to shreds? Hearing the misery in my mom’s voice when she discusses her home of nearly 30 years being leveled due to airstrikes compounded with the news of family and family friends evacuating (or staying) in the homes they have lived in their entire lives has brought immeasurable agony. 


Before February 24th, I used to wake up every morning determined to start the day and eager to go, now I wake up every morning texting my cousin Sergei, my cousin-in-law Katya, my Aunt Lidiya, my cousin Ivan, our family friend Lyudmila to see if they are still alive. Minutes before writing this, I video called Katya while also catching a glimpse of my cousins once removed, Ivan and Matvei, playing with each other and just being children. Unlike others in my family, they chose to try and seek refuge outside Ukraine. They will begin a 1,000 + kilometer trek from Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine (a city they escaped to from Kharkiv) toward its western border. The tiredness and sadness in their faces and voices were clear. Several days ago, Katya, Ivan, and Matvei said goodbye to her husband and their father, my cousin Sergei, who stayed home in Kharkiv. Considering the sorrow that filled us all when I left Kharkiv in 2019, it destroys me even to begin to imagine the sorrow they felt and are feeling due to this separation of their family and this diabolical situation overall.


If western intelligence is correct, there is no limit to the unhinged dictator of Russia. Subsequently,  this destruction of families and friends, homes, and many joyous memories will continue. As my cousin-in-law Katya echoed in her video call with me just a few minutes ago, Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans alike are all counting on the West to do more. Much has been done, but not enough. As the resilient Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed, Katya also knows the West must close the skies in Ukraine. I understand, and Katya knows we have the might to stand up to this bully. Now let’s have the willpower. Millions of Ukrainian families and children are counting on the West, and they know this bully’s cruelty will not stop in Ukraine. 

How are Western leaders going to stand by and pat themselves on the back, claiming current actions have been an effective deterrent? For the sake of people like Sergei, Katya, Ivan, Matvei, Lidiya, Lyudmila, millions of other Ukrainians, and the preservation of democracy as we know it, it is about time the West shows who we indeed are and stand up to this pitiful autocrat who is determined to commit genocide against Ukrainians and undermine the future of Western democracy. 

To learn how you can give back, visit Indiana Supports Ukraine. All proceeds support Ukraine. They are collecting money, goods, and amazon items. They’re going through the logistics of what they feel is important and are coordinating with a Ukrainian organization called Mist to get supplies there.


###

VOTING: OUR MOST SACRED RIGHT IN THE BALANCE


Feb 16th, 2022


James Wells, Vice President of IYD

The GOP led General Assembly is again attacking out most fundamental right. We are witnessing today an affliction on Democracy.


Before the Indiana General Assembly is HB 1116, a bill designed to suppress the voting rights that Hoosiers have enjoyed for decades. 


The amended bill would require a voter to say – under the penalty of perjury – that they can’t vote in person on Election Day or during the state’s 28-day early voting period in order to claim on the reasons a voter needs to absentee vote by mail.


The question is why does that matter? Hoosiers should be asking their state legislators why do we, under the constitution of Indiana and the United States, need to provide an excuse to absentee vote when it’s our right to vote? Should we not have the ability to ensure we can cast a ballot in an election and have a say in the direction our state is going?


When I was in college at Ball State, absentee voting by mail was the most convenient way to exercise my right to vote back home in Gary, IN. 


In Indiana, of course I have to check off one of the 11 excuses as to why I’m requesting to vote by mail, although and hear me out on this, it’s my right to vote anyways. This should be a convenience.


The excuse I would check off you may wonder, “The voter has a “reasonable expectation” that they will be out of county for the entire time polls are open on Election Day.”


That excuse made perfect sense to me. I’m a three hours drive away from home on a Tuesday. There was no way I could make it home to Gary to vote and drive back to Muncie in time before classes.


With the option to absentee vote by mail, making that drive when there was a much better option to vote would have called for a strongly worded but much deserved scolding from Grandma for my lack of common sense. 


Absentee voting by mail is essential to guarantee that any eligible voter who wants to vote in an election, can. It was convenient, allowed me time to go over my choices on the ballot, and above all allowed me to exercise my patriotic duty to participate in the democracy we all share.


Again the question must be asked, “Why must any excuse be provided when we request a mail-in-ballot?” And why should the General Assembly place limits on our right to vote?


The National Conference of State Legislatures’ Voting Outside the Polling Place report even finds that there are “twenty-six states and Washington, D.C., offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, which means that any voter can request and cast an absentee/mail ballot, no excuse or reason necessary.


Eight states conduct elections entirely by mail which means voters do not need to request a ballot, and instead automatically receive one.”


That’s a healthy mix of rural, urban, and suburban Americans with easier ways to exercise their right to vote.


Where does Indiana fall? With 16 other states that are making it difficult to exercise the right to vote. 


We know Indiana can do better in terms of securing the right and access to vote in our State, but the Republicans in the General Assembly would much rather make sure they stay in power over making sure you can vote in an election.


Voting I hope is still an obligation we hold in high esteem for our fellow Hoosiers, because we can all agree that every Hoosier that is a citizen of this country should have the right and access to vote in Indiana.


Hoosiers should expect more from the Statehouse than what is being churned out lately from that building. 


Hoosiers should expect a government doing all that it can to expand access to the ballot, ensuring that every voter that wants to exercise their vote should be able to do so without hurdles to jump over. 


HB 1116 will do nothing more than keep more Hoosiers from voting, and further locking our fragile Democracy in chains.  


If you are afraid of big government, well this is it folks. And I bet it won’t stop there. 


What we need are free and fair elections in Indiana! Right now, that’s nonexistent.

###

REMEMBERING TONY FLORA


Dec 22nd, 2020

          In January 2017, I went to a meeting at the Democratic Headquarters in St Joseph County, not knowing what to expect. I wanted to get involved in politics, but I didn’t know how. During the course of the meeting, I stood up and told my healthcare story. While others were still talking, Tony Flora leaned over and “whispered” while handing me his card: “You seem like you’ll be here a while. I’m Tony Flora with the AFL-CIO of Northern Indiana.”

          It turns out he was right. I have been here a while, and I will continue this fight for him. At the time, I lacked confidence and knowledge in the political system. Just his simple act of handing me his card, as if I was somebody he needed to network with, gave me confidence when I needed it most. Our continued conversations over the next few years gave me knowledge in politics. It also taught me that his abrupt introduction was so very Tony of him. I am so sad about his passing, but I know that his fight lives on in so many others he has inspired like me. Though older than our 35-year age limit, his advice, education, and unwavering support of the St. Joseph County Young Democrats has earned him an honorary young-at-heart membership status. His legacy will live on through our work.  Rest in power, dear friend.

 

Jennica Liberatore

President of St. Joseph County Young Democrats

2nd District Chair of Indiana Young Democrats

###

YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE A MORAL IMPERATIVE TO VOTE

I’ve always been baffled when asked “Why did you decide to get politically involved?” because I never felt I had a choice. Each of us is impacted by politics, from paying rent to working to riding the bus to attending college. To be aware of the political factors that impact our day-to-day lives is to be outraged, to take action, and to enact change. As the saying goes, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Young people are especially impacted by politics at every level, as we will be around to see the furthest-reaching ramifications of the decisions made today. On top of this, many young people are particularly vulnerable to some of the most egregious challenges Americans face: a broken health care system, absurd costs of higher education, poverty wages, skyrocketing housing costs, systemic racial injustice, the devastating effects of climate change, and much more.

It’s no secret that voting rates are low for young people, and I see a distinct and legitimate lack of faith in the electoral system from my peers, including frustration and disappointment with the Electoral College, lack of ranked-choice voting [when voters are allowed to vote by ranking the candidates in order of preference], and elected officials. Those factors all contribute to the feeling that it doesn’t make a difference whether we vote or not. I won’t claim that the process is always fair or transparent or inspiring, but it’s our responsibility (and in our best interests) to improve it, and greater engagement from young people will change the shape of our nation.

This August was the centennial of white women’s suffrage, and it was only 55 years ago that the Voting Rights Act guaranteed voting rights to people of color. Today, it’s undeniable that voter suppression of Black Americans persists, from voter-ID laws to insufficient polling places to voter roll purging. The right to vote is not to be taken for granted, and the social responsibility lies heavy on each of us who are able to do so.

That being said, voting alone is not going to solve the countless injustices in our nation, particularly for people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, low-income people, and women. It is also the responsibility of each of us to enact change with our own skills, interests, abilities, and experiences. That can take the form of volunteering with a campaign, joining a constituency caucus, donating to a candidate, taking to the streets as an activist, running for office, and much more. Our democracy depends on that diversity of approaches, and it is predicated on citizens exercising their right to vote.

It’s important to remember that there is much more on the ballot than the candidates for U.S. president (as important as that is), and that local elections have concrete and immediate impacts on our lives; so don’t disparage the entire ballot out of a belief that Indiana will vote for Trump. Last year, a Bloomington City Council race was decided by 23 votes, and in 2018 a mere 26 votes separated two judicial candidates. Voter turnout for those respective races was around 15% and 20%, respectively.

Why do we vote? We vote because it’s our privilege, our right, and our moral imperative. We vote because people of color and women and activists have fought for that right, yet so many still experience disenfranchisement. We vote out of love and rage.

Kaisa Goodman, 27, serves with Indiana Young Democrats (Ninth District chair), Ninth District Democrats (deputy chair—training), Monroe County Democratic Party (treasurer), Debs Foundation (board), and Hoosier Women Forward (board). She works as special projects manager for the City of Bloomington Department of Economic & Sustainable Development. Goodman previously worked as Monroe County Democratic Party executive director and managed electoral campaigns for Mayor John Hamilton (2019) and City Councilmember Dave Rollo (2015).