Gloria Saltzman: Everything Matters

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Gloria Saltzman tries to console an old friend from Ukraine who feels angry and helpless in the face of the Russian onslaught.

It was a silly mistake. We had pulled out the detergent drawer for our washing machine. YouTube videos couldn’t help my husband and I repair it.

Alex had come to my rescue before to repair broken appliances. Luckily, he could stop by in the morning on his way to another job.

Alex and his family are from Ukraine, though he has been in the United States for several years now. He talked politics with emotion, and said he hated Putin as he had never hated anyone. He pulled out his phone and showed me a photograph of Putin’s estate. A castle for a dictator who would be king.

The washing machine repair was the day before Russia invaded Ukraine after recognizing the rebel territories Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign states. “I am sorry Alex,” I said. He shook his head sadly.

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“What do you think Americans like us can do to help?” I asked.

He shook his head again and said, “Nothing, just nothing.”

It didn’t take Alex very long to solve our stuck detergent drawer that we had spent hours trying to resolve. With his sleeves rolled up, he pushed and pulled for a few minutes. What had seemed too complicated to us was simple for him.

As he got ready to leave, I noticed the tattoo on his inner arm. The words 'shum davar' in large, bold Hebrew letters were inked on his skin just above the familiar Hebrew term, 'lo chashuv.'

My early Hebrew school days and some time spent in Israel have given me enough language skills to recognize the simple block letters.

Shum davar: It’s nothing.
Lo Chashuv: It doesn’t matter.

My maternal and paternal grandparents were from Ukraine and Belarus. They fled their homeland because of persecution. The notion that war is inevitable is not acceptable. I will never believe there is nothing more we as a nation, I as an individual, or as a citizen of the world, cannot do to promote peace.

My compassion for Alex, his family and all people threatened by violence from those with more power than they have is unending. I pray my lovely repairman can feel hope again one day and believe that everything matters.

With a Perspective, I’m Gloria Saltzman.

Gloria Saltzman is a psychotherapist in private practice and a mourner care provider for Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco.