Ukraine, Seedlings and the Greeks of Oxi Day

Just Breathe

On Thursday, February 24th I took a walk outside to my small garden to the east of our home here in south Florida.  It was snack break time for my three children as we had just finished our morning lessons for our Eagle Palm Academy—the official name of our hybrid homeschooling program.  

Usually, I use snack break time to do some grading or get ready for the rest of the day’s activities but instead I needed to take some deep breaths to think and reflect.   Our whiteboard this very morning had a Ukraine flag made out of colorful cardstock and the date written out with the caption “Official End of Post-Cold War Europe and the Rest of the World”.

I was in upper elementary school when the Berlin Wall began to crumble in November of 1989 and I recall our educators trying to convey the critical importance of the history that was unfolding at the time. Today I was finding the roles reversed as I tried to wrap my head around the current events and translate their significance to my own children.  A walk outside without talking was in short order to help me calm my mind and heart.

The Field Reveals Life Loves Life

A walk outdoors has always been a balm for our human spirit and this morning had a nugget of philosophical wisdom I was not expecting.  As I traversed our grassy lawn to my hodgepodge of a vegetable and herb garden, my eyes were literally downcast and something caught my eye in the yellowish-tinged light of the sun highlighting it. Dill. A baby dill plant to be exact.  

Baby Dill Plant Procured…

Why did the dill catch my eye? Because it was in the middle of a weed-infested lawn that had just been cut by machines and yet here was this little dill plant the size of a golf ball and it was proudly standing and spreading its aromatic feathery arms skyward.  I bent down to pinch a tiny part of one of its limbs and raised the dill piece to my nostrils and took a deep breath.  Yes, it’s strong and resilient.  It has little hope of surviving this hostile environment but it is giving its all through the programmed DNA inside of it to make food with the sun’s energy, H2O and to interact with animals and humans like myself to take in its own life breath of carbon dioxide.

As the dill scent wears off in my senses, I began to look around on bended knee and start to see the other little dills along with cilantro and the occasional collard greens.  All three of these plants I’ve had in my garden over the past few years but several feet and in some cases even hundreds of feet away from where I see them now as I get up and walk around in circles.  Instinctually the nurturing mother in me bolts for my gardening tools and within minutes I’m bending over on my knees again and digging out these seedlings.  

There is a slim chance that these seedlings can survive being transplanted and becoming full grown in one of my garden beds, but I cannot bear the thought of knowing that they’re out in this lawn alone without support to at least try to bear more limbs and eventually their respective goals which is to continue on through reproduction as they bolt to seed one day.

Later that day I took my children to their extra-curricular activities but stopped at our local Home Depot store to pick up more enriched soil and some small pots.  I was determined to have the best available supplies at my disposal as my side activity for the rest of the week would be identifying any seedlings in the sea of our grassy lawn around our home and giving them a fighting chance at fruition of their destiny.

Tying Them Together: A Trinity of Democratic Destiny

Even as I type out this blog essay, reporters around the world like BBC in Great Britain are saying that the Ukrainians are showing defiance to the Russian troops and military attacks on their nation in the last several days.  Pundits and military planning specialists alike give their thoughts and theories on whether or not Ukraine can hold its sovereignty and at the same time the citizens of Ukraine are living in the moment and have made their collective decision to defy tyranny and put up a fight to say “no!” There is doubt about their ability to hold their nation from complete occupation by Russia.

As a proud Greek-American myself I cannot deny that our “Oxi Day” has come up in my mind lately as the world grapples with the showdown between Russia and Ukraine.  When the Greeks of northern Greece stood up to Mussolini’s encroaching soldiers, the world at that time thought them to be foolish and naïve.  Yet it was their small victory of showing defiance against the fascist regime that helped give leaders like Winston Churchill the courage to fight Hitler and his Nazis.  I direct you to John Kass’ piece on Oxi Day for a better review of what that event was all about if you’re unfamiliar as he has a personal connection to its history:

My deliberate morning walk last week helped me understand the trinity connection between the bold seedlings in our weed-choked grass, Ukrainians today and the Greeks of history’s marker of Oxi Day.  Hitler ended up going into Greece anyway and occupying them during WWII but he couldn’t break the Greeks’ spirit and the fight for freedom across Europe and subsequently the U.S.  The seedlings in my yard aren’t held back by logic and careful pragmatism or delicate diplomacy—they are breathing and beating the odds and can soar to full term if given some extra care from a humble home gardener like myself.  

We owe the Ukrainians our respect, prayers and energies toward whatever is in our capacity to assist them as they fight for their human driven instinct to seek freedom and sovereignty in their homeland.

May Love guide us all.


Where the Dill and Other Plants reside, refuge plants below from the field…

For a musical break, an oldie but goodie for inspiration of how even our smallest actions can help the biggest events unfolding out of our control:

America and Greece: More Alike than Some Would Like to Admit

Veteran’s Day Morning in SoFla

This morning at Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton, Florida we had a color guard and an acting officer in our U.S. military present both the American and Greek flag in celebration and honorance of Veteran’s Day.  As a congregation we sang in unison both respective national anthems with our hands over hearts. The speeches, music and unified revere for both nations created an emotional atmosphere.  It was a reminder that the United States and Greece are still bound with more similarities than we realize.

U.S. Presidential Election Redux: So Easy to Throw Punches

It’s less than a week since our nation had our elections and already the discussions abound as to how our country can move forward and actually tackle some of the immediate problems that affect our citizens: among some of the major topics being a sluggish economy, widespread debt in personal lives as well as the municipalities and the ongoing threats to our active military posts.

It was just a few weeks ago during the second publicized debate between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that Greece was mentioned in a less than favorable manner.  In short, Mr. Romney verbally attacked President Obama’s notions and policies as sending America down the path of becoming like Greece.  Just in case you missed it, this was a grave insult hurled at Greeks both in America and abroad.

Roots, Entanglements and Exercises

Documented and debated history points to Ancient Greece as the cradle of what we know as modern democracy today.  For instance, about 2400 years ago in Athens they would draw 500 names from the citizens of Athens (excluding women, children and slaves/servants) who would serve as the law makers and all eligible citizens were required to vote on proposed legislation and such—the formation of various city-states like Sparta and Athens were formed around 1000 B.C.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, modern Greece entered World War II in late 1940 and the country itself suffered through a famine that killed thousands between the years 1941-42.  By January 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was persuaded to create a new 112nd Infantry Battalion to be based in Camp Carson, Colorado.  Incidentally, the number “122” had a symbolic meaning at the time representing 122 years of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire.  This battalion was comprised of Greek-Americans who would be sent over to help Greece as she fought against the Nazis’ occupation and such.

Whether it be by infused political and military philosophies, shared love of food and fun, the athletic contests of the Olympic Games and several articles that could be written on the subject matter we have in common—The United States and Greece have a historic love affair with each other that we can readily embrace or with weak arguments try to disguise the existence of such a liaison.

Dollars, Euros and Sense?

In today’s the New York Times, there is an article referring to Greece’s most recent struggle to face the specific realities of its current economic problems—“Friedrich Schneider, an economics professor…in Linz, Austria estimates that about 120 billion euros in Greek assets lie outside the country…representing an extraordinary 65% of the country’s overall economic output”.  The piece outlines the current idea to create an amnesty program for those who have evaded taxes in the past with a lure of a 15-20% flat tax on everyone. For more of the article:

Here in America, the latest from newly re-elected President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have been trading sound bites on their hope that both sides can work together avoiding the infamous coined “fiscal cliff”.  Although President Obama should be able to garner support with House Republicans since he’s going into his second and final term and doesn’t have the political pressure to stay sole party line—in turn, Republicans should be willing to work the President for the common goal of bringing American back to financial health and onward.

From President Obama’s 2012 Campaign: How Do We Go “Forward”?

I’ve only mentioned a couple of items that both Greece and the United States have to tackle despite the general consensus of negative attitudes toward the government and the sparring respective political party factions.  When will the goal of government leaders become to harness power to work for positive change in the interest of their citizens rather than trying to convince their citizens as to why they are the better ones to have the power over their political opponents?

What Greece and the United States have shown in their respective election cycles and financial meltdowns is that a change in philosophical mindset and public discourse is happening whether those in governmental power recognize it or not.  Greece will forever hold a place in the United State’s history of a democratic influence and today the U.S. is linked with her still as we are trying to navigate this new ground of adjusting our economic policies and trying to energize our population to continue its education, creativity and overall American way.

Americans and Greeks alike have changed the course of human history when they summon the courage to go forward for the right reasons and sacrifice the wrong reasons to blaze a positive and resounding trail forward.

R. Saridakis Bean