Snow winter barn field

With repeated and ongoing news reports from eastern Europe, my admiration, respect and awe for the Ukrainian people continues to grow.

Their resilience, determination, persistence and endurance through months of continuing assaults against their people and their infrastructure by a brutal and aggressive neighbor almost defies imagination. News clips repeatedly show government buildings bombed, homes destroyed, industrial establishments reduced to piles of rubble ... and yet, the Ukrainians continue conducting a semblance of normal living.

They lost electrical power and heat in the freezing cold of winter and had water supply systems destroyed, with phone service spotty or nonexistent. It has drastically changed their daily lives, but it hasn’t stopped them. And, they continue to persist, all while mourning tragic casualties resulting from this senseless war.

The description that immediately comes to mind is “spunk.” These folks have true spunk.

Under similar circumstances, how would most of us compare? How many of us would demonstrate similar determination, defiance and persistence in the face of the same odds many Ukrainians are confronted with daily?

Their situation has come to my mind a lot lately.

It haunted my thoughts through the recent holidays, when our temperatures plunged to Arctic levels. We fed the outdoor furnace regularly with chunks of firewood, our back-up oil-burner furnace ran frequently, and still the house often felt chilly. Heavy wind tossed items around the neighborhood, littered the yard with twigs, small limbs and leaves from trees we don’t even have. Loose tin on outbuildings rattled endlessly.

A sort of uneasy feeling persisted for several days over the potential of power disruption here and the ensuing lack of heat which could result. Millions of Americans across the U.S. actually dealt with that reality, some for extended periods of time.

And, I’m still trying to locate the owner of a lovely, new holiday garden flag that came to rest among the dried weeds on the road bank past our house after blowing away from some neighbor’s yard.

So, it was with great relief that we watched the thermometer climb to springlike readings. A couple of water service pipes to the barns, some of them no longer in use but still in place, began thawing after having frozen on a zero-degree morning with persistent wind. The nagging concern about loss of power slowly faded away with the settling of the weather and the arrival of a new year.

Cleaning up the kitchen after lunch on New Year’s Day, I noticed that our water pressure seemed to be significantly lower than usual. I mentioned it to The Farmer, who promptly checked our water system valves in the basement. Momentarily, there was no water at all flowing from the sink faucet.

After repeated troubleshooting efforts, which stretched through much of the beautiful, sunny afternoon, it was apparent that our deep-well pump had failed. With pipes having thawed at the barn and some leaks not discovered immediately, the pump, which has served us for many years, had quit.

It has been legendary here for years that if something was going to break or go down, from milking systems to field equipment, it would be on a Sunday and/or a holiday. New Year’s Day was both.

Retrieving a large insulated drink cooler from the attic and a couple of clean, plastic jugs, we headed to our daughter’s house a few miles away. There we could gather and haul home a small reserve supply of water. A couple of buckets of water lugged up from the pond beside the yard would do for flushing the toilet.

Although the following day was the official New Year’s business holiday, our plumber’s office answered the phone and promised to be here first thing the next morning. Late in the afternoon, I restocked our drinking and cooking water supply for the next day. It was a reminder that one can get by with minimal amounts of water in an emergency, at least for a short time. But, doing it for months as many Ukrainians are? I can’t imagine that.

About 48 hours after losing our water system, a new one refilled our faucets, and the buckets of pond water were no longer needed. Sure, it was an inconvenience, but a reminder of how easily we take for granted our supplies of power, water, online services and other utilities.

And, my admiration and awe for the Ukrainian people jumped up several more notches.

We had a mere taste of the inconvenience of being without water. Many of them live daily with lack of running water, electricity and numerous other services, sadly with no end in sight.

It takes spunk to keep going under such conditions. And those folks have lots of it. We can only pray that their nightmare soon ends.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.

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