In the early 1920s, Russia endured one of the worst famines in history. Approximately 5 million people died from starvation. Thanks to the perfect storm of the Russian Revolution, several years of a Russian Civil War, and a horrible dictator known as Vladimir Lenin, the people of Russia were forced to a level of depravity and awfulness that we can’t even fathom today. The people were so hungry that they sometimes resorted to cannibalism. There are famous photos which can be found on the internet today, of starving people on the streets of Russia selling human body parts for meat. Oftentimes, the body parts were from their own children. The situation got so bad that Lenin eventually capitulated and asked for help from other nations… with the US being the first to respond. This was, if you know Russian history, a really big deal.
Well, a short 10 years later, in the 1930s, a new dictator named Joseph Stalin was in power… and not to be outdone by Lenin, he oversaw the Great Famine of Soviet Ukraine. It is estimated that 3-10 million people died from a completely man-made famine that can be described as a failed communist experiment by some, and an act of genocide by others (it’s theorized that Stalin purposely took means of food production away from the “kulaks” in Ukraine as a means of keeping them from revolting).
Much like in the famine in the 1920s, Ukrainian citizens sometimes committed the worst imaginable horrors to stay alive. The Soviet government, recognizing the hellish situation unfolding, printed posters that read “To eat your own children is a barbarian act”. To quote one account that was written at the time:
“Survival was a moral as well as a physical struggle. A woman doctor wrote to a friend in June 1933 that she had not yet become a cannibal, but was ‘not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you.’ The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did.”
After several years of actively boycotting Jewish businesses and setting up ghettos in German cities to keep the Jews segregated from the rest of society, the powerful and growing Nazi party of Germany got together in 1942 at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin to discuss exactly what they should do with all of these Jewish undesirables. It was determined that the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was, obviously, death… a solution which had already been underway with much success. Roving paramilitary death squads were already put into motion and over 1.3 million Jewish people were murdered in mass shootings. What resulted from the Wannsee Conference was a sense of urgency. Why move around and kill in such an inefficient way? Why not just gather all of the Jews together in camps and murder them there? Thanks to the for-cite of Hitler and his ilk, they already had camps for undesirables scattered around Germany and Poland that dated back to 1933. How convenient.
In total, it is estimated that approximately six million Jewish people were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. They were shot, worked to death, gassed, and used in sadistic medical experiments.
Why am I sharing all of this? Why a history lesson on Dad Starting Over?
A sense of history is important. Recognizing the suffering and sacrifices of those before you is important. Putting everything into perspective is important.
I’ve heard it many times: “I know I should exercise… but I have an old ankle injury.”… or, “I know I should have that sit-down final chat with my abusive wife, but I’m worried about what my future holds without her”… or, “I know I should apply to other jobs and further my career, and I know my boss is a tyrant, but the benefits at this job are too good”.
Fear. That’s all it is. You’re trembling in fear… for what?
We still have Holocaust survivors alive on this planet today. That hell they endured was NOT that long ago. Not at all. They will tell you the same thing every historian will tell you. These tales of unfathomable evil are real. They’re not fairy tales. They’re not fables. They’re history. These people were one day complaining about the bread on their table being a little stale, and the next day they’re watching their father get shot in the head and their mother carried away never to be seen again. In the blink of an eye, what was once an annoyance is now a moment that they long for more than their next breath.
Picture yourself sitting down for coffee with a survivor.. complaining about your fear of taking that next step in life. Tell that old man who is forever crippled by the malnutrition and torture that you know you are blessed with good health and an able body… but that fast food is just so damn good and it’s really really hard to lose weight. Tell the other survivor with numbers tattooed on his arm that you would be happy and enjoying life, but you live in a town in the middle of nowhere and there are no hot chicks to date.
Guys… you don’t know how good you have it. You really don’t. Most of you live in a world of abundance and wealth that was unfathomable just decades ago. You owe it to yourself, your family, and those who suffered before you to get up and get moving. It’s time to set aside the petty bullshit and see life for what it is: a blessing. It can all go away in a hurry.
Do you know what those survivors would say after hearing your tales of woe? They would smile and grab your hand and say, “You lucky bastard. Don’t you dare take this for granted.”