The Heroes of Azovstal

Heroes of Azovstal
Azovstal Steel Mill

Sing a Song for the Heroes of Azovstal

Russia has given up a final assault upon the Azovstal Steel Mill. It’s simply too dangerous. Instead they have engaged in siege warfare planning to starve them out of their position. It’s an old tactic, but a taxing one. It will commit Russian soldiers to watch over the steel mill for an indefinite period of time. Meanwhile, Putin declares victory over Mariupol despite the presence of this last pocket of resistance. Moreover, it’s not clear what Russia has won when so much of the city was destroyed and so much of the population has left.

But my focus is on the last 2,000 Ukranian fighters who refuse to surrender. It’s time to write songs and poems to commemorate their struggle. While nobody knows whether they will overcome overwhelming odds and survive, their place in history is already secure. We remember the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae who held off the Persian Army. Americans remember the Alamo in songs and movies. More recently, the passengers of United Flight 93 became known for their bravery and sacrifice.

Of course, some will diminish the deeds at Azovstal, because the heroes are not all saints. Indeed, the heroes include members of the Azov Battalion, a far-right militia. However, heroes are not always saints. The Spartans committed unspeakable crimes upon the Helots. Nonetheless, the bravery at Azovstal has stalled the Russian Army. It has allowed new weapons to arrive. It has improved the chances for Ukraine to overcome Russia’s aggression.

So, let’s call on musicians to write their songs and poets to write their poems. It’s past time to turn their deeds into legends. At the same time, I recognize Ukrainians need no new rallying cries. But the world needs to understand what has happened as well. The world needs to feel the pain, sadness, and anger of Ukrainians.

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