Why Are We Supporting Ukraine’s Fight? (And Why Did my Childhood Friend Go There?)

Suzanne Cloud
7 min readMay 26, 2023
Townspeople in the farming hamlet of Prybuz’ke, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine. (note the bullet holes behind them). Photography: William Steagall, Jr.

My mother used to love telling me how I met Will. We were new neighbors in a spanking, brand new, post-World War II subdivision in Southern New Jersey. We were both four. Will was mad about something only preschoolers care about and was throwing clumps of dirt at me — the streets hadn’t been paved yet. Will’s mom saw what was happening out her front window, and raced into the street, her house dress flapping in the wind, and grabbed her wayward son, marching him into the house amid a cascade of loud admonitions.

I don’t remember any of this, but it was a drama that cemented a long friendship between my mom and Will’s. Unfortunately, a prickly relationship developed between Will and I during our childhood years. One minute we’d be playing puppet fairytales with stuffed animals with his sister Melinda (my best friend), and the next he’d be throwing colored water bombs in Tupperware at my feet. My relationship with this oddly inventive, yet excitable boy ended when he left for good to live with his dad in California in seventh grade. I have to say, I missed him.

Many decades later, Will and I picked up our lost friendship on Facebook when we were both way past middle age and into our golden years. Will had forged a gratifying career in the U. S. Navy on active duty during Vietnam and in the reserves, and later joined IBM. I became a nurse, jazz singer, and writer. In my hippie head, surely the one childhood friend to grow up to be ultra conservative, would be Will. But his elder Facebook postings proved me wrong. The excitable boy from my youth had grown into an engaging online force exemplifying a fun-loving, liberal life. All was well until he posted he was going to Ukraine. Wait, what?

Will posted with abandon online his acute dislike of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his deep admiration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian fighters, and his deep anger at the indiscriminate civilian carnage, the kidnapping of children, and the malicious destruction of homes and infrastructure. An old friend of Will’s from California, Regan Schmalz, tapped him on his cyber shoulder and dared Will to participate rather than pontificate. Did he want to go to Ukraine? After two weeks of deep thought, some private bouts of…

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Suzanne Cloud

Writer, historian, jazz singer-songwriter, PhD American Studies. Author of Images of America: Philadelphia Jazz and the play “Last Call at the Downbeat”