Guest opinion: Why do Americans support Ukraine? Maybe it’s because our stories are so similar

During the past eleven days, I have wondered why many of us as Americans have come together in support of the Ukraine. The United States of American and the Ukraine are separated by vast oceans, differing traditions and large tracts of land, yet something seems to call to us as Americans to voice support for the Ukrainian people.

Perhaps the reason lies within our own history. We as a country began as a British colony and broke away from our mother country England. With a handful of men and boys, we stood against the British in Concord and Lexington on a bright April spring morning, as we took a stand to fight against violations of our rights, and our freedoms as British citizens. 

We endured a war that began more than a year before July 4, 1776 and ended in September 1783. Led by a 44-year-old general named George Washington, it was a war we were not expected to win as our small army was untrained, undisciplined and largely unpaid. 

In the depths of despair, we cried out to the international community for help. We fought alone as foreign superpowers watched on the sidelines waiting to see if the rebels in the British American colony could actually prevail against the strongest military force in the world. 

It wasn’t until February 1778, almost three years after the beginning of the Revolutionary War, that the French under King Louis XVI signed a series of treaties which ultimately led to the French sending arms, troops and ships to support our fight against the British. Because of France we prevailed in one of our greatest victories against the British, the Battle of Yorktown.

Make no mistake about it, without the French, we would have lost the war and the American Revolutionary War would have simply been a small footnote in the annuals of history of an unsuccessful revolt in one of the many British colonies.

As we have read about the situation in the Ukraine, the similarities between the United States and the Ukraine are worth noting. Like us, the Ukraine gained their independence from Russia when the Soviet Republic dissolved. Like us, the Ukraine was one of the most populous and prosperous republics of the Soviet Union. Like us, they are fighting for the independence against a world superpower. Like us, they are outnumbered, under supplied and outgunned and calling out for international support. Finally, like us, they are led by a 44-year-old leader who has taken arms to defend his country and fight for liberty.

When Russian President Putin authorized Russian troops to invade the Ukraine, we all watched with amazement as endless Russian troops, planes and ships surrounded and began their assault on this nation. 

We as Americans also listened with awe when Ukrainian President Zelenskyy spoke to his people on the eve of invasion who said, “If we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces.”

As their president, he has remained in the capital city to lead the fight for his people even as an overwhelming enemy force is assaulting his city. When offered safe transport out of the country, Zelenskyy responded, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.” Isn’t this the spirit of our greatest leaders?

The plight of the Ukrainian people is one we as Americans understand as standing for your country, defending your home, family and freedom speaks to us. 

We know that freedom is often paid for in blood and we recognize a strong leader advocating for the freedom of their people when we hear them.

As we watch from the safety of our homes the horrors of the conflict unfold in Ukraine, we need to do more than just question, “How long will they survive?” 

We need to do more than send well wishes in support of a struggling nation. 

We need to become the France of the American Revolution and not wait until the end of the Ukraine is sealed. 

Support of the Ukraine is not a Republican or Democrat issue as freedom transcends party. We need to petition our leaders, local, state, and federal to send the support needed to help this struggling nation fighting in the streets for their freedom. 

While many of us are weary of foreign entanglements, we can and should send monetary support, supplies and engage in diplomatic efforts to ensure the survival of the Ukrainian people.

If we failed to do so, if we continue to wait, we will see the determination and will for freedom and liberty that once was ours be stamped out and watch in real time as a nation is destroyed.

Tony F. Graf, Jr. serves as an attorney and is a member of Tooele City Council.