Yvonne Baginski: Mamusha, Mama

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The war in Ukraine continues with increasing ferocity against civilians. For some, like Yvonne Baginski and her parents, the horrific scenes are much more than images on the news.

In her last year of life, mom called out, “Mamusha, Mama, Mamusha, Mama.” At age 86, she was back when German bombs were falling on Minsk, in a shelter, as others prayed to stay out of harm’s way.

I am a daughter of war refugees, and the terrors of World War II are part of my own history. I filled up on stories of murder, mayhem and survival. Mom was seven when she saw her first kill. Dad, at 12, was marched into Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp. He saw a young woman throw herself into an electric fence as camp guards lined him up for the daily count.

When escaping the camp, Dad said his mother forced him to eat grass. Mom never let go of her mother’s hand. My parents always held my hand so tightly in crowds, crossing the street or even in the grocery store. War scarred them for life, their childhood a witness to relentless evil.

Now, I watch the horror unfold in Ukraine. Scorched buildings, apartments and body bags fill my screen. I recall the black and white photos I once found boxed up under my parents first bed in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. What is now on my iPhone news feed duplicates the images I sorted, 60 years ago. It is happening again. this time in color. Bombs then, missiles now.


When Russia invaded Ukraine, mother’s Alzheimer’s was advanced and robbed her of the memory of all but the terror of the bombs. Father is gone and she has since died. I am grateful they both were spared the experience again of what was buried so deep in their souls

No more cries for Mamusha, Mama, Mamusha, Mama. The cries of a terrified child, screaming for it to stop.

With a Perspective, I’m Yvonne Baginski.

Yvonne Baginski is a Napa-based writer and environmental activist.