Jim Beam column: Ukrainians gain major victory

Published 6:38 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

What a sad day it is for this country when the U.S. Congress continues to hold up financial support for the millions of freedom fighters in Ukraine. CBS News’ “60 Minutes” did another great job Sunday explaining why Ukrainians deserve our undying support.

The deplorable U.S. border situation is certainly worth a quick solution, but it shouldn’t be linked to aid for Ukraine. Congress should have done something about the porous border a long time ago.

Scott Pelley, described by CBS as one of its most experienced and awarded journalists, did an excellent job telling the story of five resistance fighters in the port city of Kherson, Ukraine, who helped drive the Russians out of their city after its early occupation in the war.

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“They were typical civilians — a wedding planner, business owners and retirees,” Pelley said. “But after Russia’s unprovoked invasion, they chose to fight. Not unlike Americans after Lexington and Concord, they joined the resistance and pledged ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor’ to defend the free world from tyranny.”

Olha Hrynchenko said, “They didn’t want me because I am a woman. But I insisted and convinced them I could help.”

Vitalii, the wedding planner, organized his civilian friends to fight. “We jammed two cars (full of) weapons, and we went to defend our city,” Vitalii said.

Pelley asked Vitalii to “help an American audience understand why you feel so strongly about protecting this country and these people.”

Vitalii said, “(The Russians) came to our home. Someone at the top decided that they could come to your home, tell you how to live your life, rape your wife, kill your child, smash your fields with tanks, and lay mines.” He called the Russians “bloody savages, no more no less.”

Borys Silenkov, 62, came out of retirement to defend his country. “I told myself, ‘No, I won’t flee. This is my land. This is my region.’”

Pelley said, “Armed with flags, civilians confronted Russian teargas with bullets. In secret camps, volunteers organized an underground force to harass the invaders, while others gathered windowsill intelligence to upload to the Ukrainian military.”

Silenkov is a retired politician and former governor of the province.

“I had gasoline,” he said, “and oil for my car, and so following a recipe we made Molotov cocktails in bottles.”

Silenkov was shot and said when he took his body armor off, his chest was covered in bruises as a result of two bullets that hit the body armor. He was also shot in the leg.

“I heated my knife, and with a stick between my teeth, I cut off all the muscles that were loose on my leg,” Silenkov said. “I stitched the wound up as best I could (in the dark) with no anesthetic. I knew that if I surrendered, they would torture me to death.”

A couple that asked that their names not be used was burning armored vehicles and collecting weapons until they were betrayed by traitors collaborating with Russia.

Russians asked the couple to give up names of other members of the resistance, but they refused. The torture, which they described in detail, was tough to hear them explain.

Russians burned the wife’s legs with boiling water. They put a gun to her eyes and said they were going to shoot her. She wasn’t giving up information to protect her children, she said.

The man was tortured with electric shock. Clips were attached to his genitals and his lips and the Russians were trying to take his tooth out with pliers. However, he and his wife never gave them the names they wanted.

Pelley said Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that Kherson would be Russian “forever.” “He did not know that the Ukrainian forces outside the city and the resistance fighting within would never let up.” And after about eight months, the Russians could no longer hang on to Kherson.

The day after the “60 Minutes” program, Zelenskyy was in Washington making a speech saying that Russia may be fighting in Ukraine but its “real target is freedom” in America and around the world.

Pelley said Vitalii, the wedding planner, had one last thing to say.

“When misfortune came, it was America that offered help to my country,” Vitalii said. “The USA and Great Britain were the first countries who came and offered their shoulder, giving us a chance at the very start to take a deep breath in order to re-group.  So, thank you, to all Americans from Ukraine.”

What a shame it would be to give up our support now.