Has Ukraine expressed sufficient gratitude to the American people for all the support they have provided since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022?
The question has lingered since the NATO summit in Lithuania in July, when a nettled White House official fumed at a public forum, “The American people do deserve a degree of gratitude.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan was responding to Ukrainian criticism – including from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – of NATO’s refusal to admit the Eastern European nation.
Mr. Sullivan’s comment took me to the Ukraine reporting trip I had just wrapped up – and in particular to one bountiful meal offered by a farmer and his wife.
During the trip, I’d occasionally received a “thank you to America!” when people learned where I was from. One soldier in the embattled Donetsk region expressed his gratitude for a particularly effective American rocket launcher by simply exclaiming “HIMARS!” – accompanied by a thumbs-up. A street vendor who sells a mix of T-shirts, military paraphernalia, and patriotic Ukrainian gear proudly pointed me to the pins with the American and Ukrainian flags. “Ukraine loves America,” she said. “America is the reason we can fight for our freedom.”
Even President Zelenskyy seems to have gotten the gratitude message from his own people. To mark America’s Independence Day, he penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which he proclaimed, “Ukraine is grateful to the U.S. for providing both support for and an example of liberty.”
But it was dinner at the farm of Serhii and Tetiana Khoroschiak in the southern Mykolaiv region that showed me just how grateful Ukrainians are.
I had met the Khoroschiaks on a reporting trip last year, interviewing them for a story on Ukraine’s role as a global breadbasket. They had even invited me and the Monitor’s Ukrainian reporting assistant, Oleksandr Naselenko, to their son’s wedding lunch.
This year Oleksandr had called ahead to say we’d be passing through after reporting in the adjacent Kherson region on the catastrophic destruction of a major hydroelectric dam. Could we stop by to say hello? The invitation was instant.
When we arrived for dinner, the table was spread with a half-dozen kinds of fish, various meats, numerous salads, and potato dishes. The conversation was warm, even loudly humorous.
I do recall at one point hearing a specific “thank you” to America for everything it is doing for Ukraine. But it wasn’t really necessary. The meal, the warmth, and the hearty hugs said it all.
To read more of Howard’s reporting from Ukraine and the Monitor’s full coverage of the war, visit www.CSMonitor.com/UkraineConflict.