Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Mother’s Day through the eyes of Eastern Europe

I took the mother of my beautiful Amy on what I billed a second honeymoon two weeks ago. The trip through Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic was a huge success, although I’m not sure Myra will agree that the honeymoon part lived up to its billing.

While I don’t make a habit of discussing what I do in my leisure time — except yearn for so much more of it — I think it appropriate to discuss it since today is that very special day set aside to honor mothers. We met many in Europe, and we learned a great deal from them.

Myra has always been interested in current events, especially those that threaten the well-being of her family, so she didn’t let an opportunity go by to discuss the recent and ongoing events in Ukraine. Hungarians and Czechs, we found, were only too eager to share their opinions.

Without any prompting, most of the opinion expressed was based on what the local folks saw as the European appeasement of a dictatorial leader whose designs on their country were clearly reminiscent of the 1930s. One thing you come to understand about that part of the world is that for most of the past 1,000 years, the people who live there have been occupied, governed or ruled by forces from outside of their country.

Other than a few brief periods of time — the past two decades, for example — Hungarians and Czechs have almost always been subjugated by others. They like their lives and their freedom today.

And they are scared to death that they, or their parents, have seen this movie before.

In the late 1930s, a Europe concerned more with its business interests and its disdain for war gave Adolf Hitler practically everything he asked for. You want the Sudetanland? Czechoslovakia? Sure, why not. It was a small price to pay for “peace for our time.”

We all know what happened.

Speaking of movies, when I returned, we went to a movie called “Walking with the Enemy.” Coincidentally, it was about Hungary in 1944 and Hitler’s decision to abrogate yet another of his worthless agreements and move the German Army into that country. More importantly, it was an excuse to move Adolf Eichmann into Budapest to handle the “Jewish problem.”

The movie is based on a true story about a young Hungarian Jew who stood up to the Nazis, donned an SS uniform and managed to save thousands of innocent people as the Nazis worked to exterminate them ahead of the Allied effort to liberate Hungary.

It is the same movie with different players that is keeping mothers awake at night today — a Europe hellbent on appeasement in the face of a dictator hellbent on conquest.

Yes, we have seen this picture before, but one of the reasons you should see “Walking with the Enemy” is a heart-wrenching scene played out countless times during World War II.

A mother, faced with but a second or two to determine whether her child would live or die, put her daughter’s little hand and her life in the hands of strangers while she went to her certain death. Like that, the decision was made. No mother, no parent should have to make that choice.

Yes, there are mothers throughout Eastern Europe who are petrified that history is starting to repeat itself, the very worst part of history. They are looking to the United States — which has never been conquered — to help and appeasable Europe find the way toward independence from the iron will of strangers.

That is what mothers do. They protect their children.

The least the rest of us can do is to help them.

To all mothers — especially the mothers of my child and of my grandchildren — a most happy Mother’s Day.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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