By George Capsis

How is it still possible for one mind, one cruelly knotted personality, to initiate a war, to indiscriminately kill adults and children? 

Well, think about it: we are all prisoners of our personalities that tie our thoughts and actions with steel cables to a few accidents of birth.

Putin is short and nearly bald and a man who is cruel and inflicts persistent punishment that he is constantly aware of. When he meets the leader of another nation he insists they sit at opposite ends of a 10-foot table. In every photo he does not smile. And he chose to be in the KGB so he could always comfort himself that he had life or death powers over those who sneered at his short bald presence—the comforting absolute power over arbitrary cruelty.

Thousands of Russians in Moscow took to the streets to protest Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, testing whether the dictator mentality can still survive in Russia. Photo credit:

But how, oh how can a vast modern nation like Russia seemingly allow, with indifference, one man to hold his hand over the button to start the indiscriminate killing of human beings? Perhaps it hearkens back to the absolute power of the Czars.

When I was in the fifth grade at P.S. 192, I found myself in the hallway at dismissal time one day with a bunch of other kids and a few parents. One tall and militant mother spoke commandingly in Russian to a student that I didn’t know. Then she turned to me and invited me to her home, to play with her son Eugene Volkoff who became my daily companion until high school.

Eugene’s father had been an officer in the White Guard army of the Czar and was wounded by the emerging communist Red Army. His nurse became his wife after they fled to Turkey, and eventually they came to the U.S. where he worked on Long Island for Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of the helicopter.

Through my long daily friendship with Eugene I became immersed in the White Russian community of New York, and began to understand the god-like power of the czar that Stalin easily acquired and now the short bald Putin covets (he poisoned a critic).

Later, at my first real job at IBM they placed on my desk the very first IBM personal computer. I ripped open the carton to discover a three-volume instruction book and made my way, with great difficulty, through three pages before I shoved it back into the carton and decided to bring it to my new friend Dr. S. I. Samoylenko of the Soviet Academy of Science in Moscow. 

When I arrived at the Moscow airport I was greeted by a hand-written sign stating no foreign newspapers or magazines were permitted to enter the Soviet Union. I felt the command was so ridiculous; I strode right through the customs barrier with the Sunday Times under my arm.

Dr. Samoylenko was not Russian; he was Ukrainian. I did not know of any difference then, and only now, looking back, as Putin sends his tanks into the Ukraine, do I recognize the difference.

Dr. Samoylenko took me on a trip to his home in Ukraine and I was struck by the cruelty of the Germans whose tanks had blasted tortured mounds of earth on their way to Moscow.

The Ukraine has been the path of war since Napoleon.

Dr. Samoylenko invited me to a group meeting at the Soviet Academy of Science. At the head of the table was the Communist Party’s designated leader. (It seemed that no meeting of any importance was held without the control of the party leader. He was not a scientist, but dominated the meeting with irritable questions and complaints.)

And here is Putin, trained as a KGB secret police officer, not in the “science” of government. He does not want to allow Ukraine to become a part of NATO because it is an affront to him as the “leader of Russia.”

With searching intensity we pause and review the education and qualifications of a supreme court judge; but we allow a Putin or Trump to push their way in as our leaders.

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