Tag Archives: The Ukraine

The Battle of the Bulge

16 December marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.  My uncle Irv was in it.  16,000 Americans died fighting Germany.  75 years later it passeth understanding why America is defending a Germany which refuses to pay 2% of its budget in defense.  Defense against what? Against Russia, a third world country with a first world army and educational system, which was unable to maintain its European empire 30 years ago?  Please.

Europe has a GDP of 18 trillion Russia of 3.5 trillion, a population which dwarfs that of Russia, whose own population is declining.  President Trump has supposedly offended our NATO “allies” by asking them to meet their 2% commitment.  Some progress has been made.  When he took office 3/30 were actually doing this, presently it’s up to 8.

Europe is quite a different ensemble of countries.  The two largest economies,  France and Germany have unemployment rates of 9 and 3.1%.

But joint action isn’t impossible.  Consider what the 13 colonies had to face, stitching together Virginia population 538,000 in 1780 with 4 colonies with populations under 10% of that (Delaware, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island).  As Benjamin Franklin said at the time “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Withdrawal of US funding would wonderfully concentrate the European mind.   They would need to make the guns vs. butter decision that we’ve postponed for them for the last 50 years. Perhaps we could use the money for our own social services, rather than theirs.

Back in college in the early stages of the Cold War, I took a wonderful course in Russian history, and even better had Cyril Black as a preceptor (https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/november-1989/in-memoriam-cyril-e-black).  He noted that Russia was the only country in the world surrounded by hostile communist powers, and that the real problem of the cold war was not our security but Russia’s.   Mucking about in the  various Russia/Ukraine conflicts (which have been going on for a millennium) is not in our interest.

We are still scarred by 9/11.  Russian loses in World War II (civilian and military) were 27,000,000.  Their security is paramount to them, and they are operating on the theory that the best defense is a good offense. Ditto China.

Well that was fairly harsh.  I’ll end with how I found out uncle Irv was in the Battle of the Bulge.  I knew he’d been in North Africa at the battle of Kasserine pass, but I didn’t find out about europe until much later.

My father graduated Rutgers in 1928 and lived long enough (to 100) to be one of their oldest living alums.  He and I enjoyed going to Rutgers reunions each year where he would hold court.  Two other uncles went to Rutgers as well.  In 2001 one of them was at his 60th reunion.  Uncle Effie had been in the South Pacific with two other family uncles (one of whom was at Iwo Jima).  He introduced me to his old roommate, a tiny little man.  Eventually it came out that he wasn’t too small to fight and had been in the battle of the bulge as well.  The whole Rutgers class of 1941 served in the war.  I was amazed that this little guy was even in the army and mentioned it to uncle Irv, who said “I was in the Battle of the Bulge”.  That generation just didn’t talk about what they did in the war.



The Ukraine

“Are you Russian?” I asked (age 10) on meeting the formidable Dr. Antyn Rudnytsky, my future piano teacher for the first time. I then received a frightening, lengthy and intense lecture concerning the difference between Ukranians such as himself and Russians (gangsters as he called them).

What he was doing on a chicken farm in southern New Jersey in the late 40’s is quite a story. I was incredibly fortunate to have been taught by an individual of his caliber, and at amateur chamber music festivals, usually someone asks me where I’d studied. I was extremely well taught, and I spent my senior year in high school studying just the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto.

I have no way of checking the accuracy of all of this, but this is what I heard about him. He had a PhD in music and had studied Piano under Artur Schnabel. He was, at one point conductor of the Ukranian State Orchestra, and didn’t like the way a particular violinist played and chewed him out. The violinist denounced him to his party cell, and Dr. Rudnytsky saw his name in the paper as Mr. Rudnitsky (not Comrade Rudnytsky or even Dr. Rudnytsky). He got out and came to the USA. It took him several years to get his wife (an opera singer) and his two boys out of the Ukraine.

He never quite adjusted to the USA, speaking of how people would wait for hours in the snow to go a great concert back there and how little respect classical music had in the USA. What really must have torn him up was seeing one son (Dorian) go to Julliard, and found the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble in the 60’s where he played cello along with two guitars and a clarinet. Leonard Bernstein plugged the group for a time, ignoring the father.

His other son, Roman, was very useful to me, in that he showed me what real musical talent was like, so that I didn’t get inflated ideas about my own ability (I’m a not-too-bad amateur). At age 3 he started telling his father what notes passing trains were emitting. Then when people would come over to the house for lessons, Roman would sit behind a door, and then play what they had played (without looking at any music) on the piano. Also a Julliard graduate.

Addendum 4 Mar ’14 — I sent a copy of this post to both sons — Roman and Dorian, and almost immediately got back a nice note from Roman. Just Google him (Roman Rudnytsky) for some of his U-Tubes etc. He said that everything I remembered about his father and his history was ‘spot on’.

One more Ukrainian bit before moving on to the present. In the 80s a newly arrived Ukranian lady was interviewed by the local paper in upstate NY. When asked what she liked about the US, she mentioned having people over to her house for prayer without having to draw the shades.

So now Russia has invaded the Crimea again, and Europe is reduced to making a few noises. Since they spend about 20% as much as the USA on defense, it’s about all they can do (but look at the great social services they have — they won’t be much help if Russia moves west again).

Another even more disturbing point, is that we talked Ukraine into giving up its nuclear weapons. In June 1996 they transferred all 1,900 of their nuclear weapons to Russia. It is very doubtful that Russia would have invaded, had the Ukraine retained them. It is even more doubtful, that any country with nuclear weapons will ever again voluntarily give them up. It is also quite likely that many small countries without them will try to go nuclear. The world has just become a much more dangerous place.

On the bright side, Europeans can now put their large numbers of unemployed youth into their armies, solving at least one problem.