Remarks delivered at a manifestation for Ukraine at Leksand Church, Sweden on 10 April 2022.
My remarks are in English so that our Ukrainian guests may understand.
Opa, my grandfather, hungered for the black soil of Ukraine. He was an SS man, a real Nazi, a fanatic complicit in hounding unarmed men, women, and children in occupied Poland where he was stationed throughout WWII. But he never reached his goal. Blinded by his own racism, and unhinged ambition, he believed that the enemy would soon collapse by virtue of its own weakness. At his life’s lonely end, in the interior of Brazil, the country of my birth, he searched revisionist literature endlessly for answers as to why the war had been lost. In such accounts, the Holocaust, the murder of millions, was downplayed or unmentioned.
My wish for today, apart from this war and all its suffering ending as soon as possible, is that someday in the not-too-distant future, the child or grandchild of a Russian perpetrator will stand here before you in my place. He will tell you about the atrocities committed by his forefathers, the silence about them in his family, and the shame that formed his life. She will relate to you the way that lies and taboos asphyxiated her family―that no one escapes genocide unscathed― and that one day all this became unbearable. He will explain that the dam inside him broke, and that he decided to learn the truth for himself. She will describe the heart-rending meetings with the families of the Ukrainian survivors. These won’t have been easy, and neither should they have been. But by listening and not flinching from the truth, a transformation will begin to take place inside of him. The shame that she has borne for so long will be reborn as responsibility. He will seek out his grandfather’s victims and their families and, unimaginable as it is today, they will stand together and offer the world trust and hope. This work will never end and will keep opening itself like a never-ending succession of romanesque arches.
Now I would like to read to you a beautiful poem in Swedish by Nobel Prize winning poet Tomas Tranströmer about our human complexity and the pride of being a work in progress; our humanity, a never-ending succession of Romanesque arches.
Romanska bågar/Romanesque arches