I found a Tang Dynasty poem by Zhang Ji (c.776 – c. 829) that seems to reach across 1,200 years to soldier’s wives in Ukraine today.
Given the continued bombing of civilian targets in Ukraine by Russia this past holiday season, the war refugees weigh heavy on my mind. Before Thanksgiving 2022, there were more than 1 million Ukrainian women and children refugees in Poland alone. Millions more were spread out in other European countries. Putin said there would be no cessation of bombing during the Christmas holidays and he kept his word. Some on Christmas eve and on Dec. 27, 2022, Russia dropped 33 bombs on a Ukraine city in the Donbas region, including on a maternity hospital. On Jan. 14, 2023, they bombed an apartment building, leaving 60 dead, including one child. Primary targets have been civilian buildings, including power, heat and water plants. Basically, Putin is committing aerial genocide, bombing infrastructure and increasing the number of deaths due to exposure during the dead of winter.
Millions of grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunties, girls, boys, and infants will never see some of the males in their lives again. This is also true for the Russians, many whom have no desire to be there in the first place. There are also women fighting on the front lines on both sides, so those female soldiers who are killed will never be seen alive by their respective male family members.
The horrors of war continue for those refugees alive after the war ceases. Millions will have no homes to return to, schools and hospitals have been destroyed all over Ukraine.
The United States has monuments to the Unknown Soldier and “missing-in-action” flags still fly here in the CNMI. Thank you to President Biden for helping Ukraine. The sentiment and reality of this anti-war poem extend across the centuries and around the world today. Here is the poem, “A Soldier’s Wife Complains” in its entirety:
A Soldier’s Wife Complains*
In September the barbarians killed the border general
and all our Han soldiers died by the Liao River.
No one can travel three thousand miles to pick up white bones,
so the families tried to summon the lost souls and bury them.
Women depend on their sons and husbands,
happy to live together, even in poverty,
but my husband is dead in a field and my son’s in my belly
and though my body remains, my life is a candle in daylight.
*Since they didn’t have the bodies, the families buried the dead soldier’s clothes and summoned their souls to lie at rest.
By JOEY ‘PEPE BATBON’ CONNOLLY (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Joey aka Pepe Batbon is a retired educator who taught in the CNMI, NOLA, and LVNV. He is a sonnet practitioner who enjoys stargazing.