My Thoughts · poetry · Ukrainian War

Two Bags: That’s All She Took!

Immigration: two bags

Two bags of belongings are all a 68-year-old Ukrainian woman refugee took with her. I can’t imagine compressing all my earthly possessions into two bags. She is 68; so am I! I sobbed when I heard her interviewed. I’ve looked for this story on different new sources, but because of the explosion of Ukrainian immigrant stories, I couldn’t find it.

I have mused over this story for a week and ached for this woman. In her translation, she said, “It’s not about things. I’m 68 years old and this is all I have.”

You know me! So, this compelled me to write a poem which is all conjecture:

Two Bags—How Can I Choose?

Woman - Two Bags

For months, I’ve worried

A war

            A rumor of a war,

                        Then it happened.

The bombing

            In the distant east




What do I do?

I have lived a simple life

            For 68 years

                        Near Kovel, in a small Ukrainian village,

                                    Near the Polish border.

I have no family left here,

            Am childless.

My husband died two years ago.

My neighbors have taken care of me, a widow—

            Loving people,

                        Who bought our farm.

Yesterday, they came by with

            A heartfelt, life-changing offer.

                        Join us.

                        Let’s leave

                                    To Lublin, Poland.

As they spoke, I wept.

            My sister lives in Lublin.



                                                Shelter from what’s coming!

            My neighbors have relatives

                        There too!

A 169 kilometers car trip,

            2 hours and 40 minutes to escape.

The plan seems extreme—

            Leave by 2:00 AM

                        In the dark


                                    Pushing the car down the lane

                                                Out of town

                                                            Not to wake anyone.  

We wonder about the possibility of

Russian sympathizers in the village,

            Caution for sure!

But I’m Ukrainian!

            Lived here my whole life.

Deep in my heart, I know I have to go,

As I look around our lovely home,

            Full of memories


                        My husband

                                    And our life together.

Two bags

            That’s all I can take.

My neighbors have a car

            With limited space.

First, I packed bag number one.

 I grab the essentials

  • Toothbrush & paste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brush
  • Soap

Next, my clothes

  • Underwear
  • Bras
  • Socks—five changes of each
  • Pants
  • Sweaters
  • Extra shoes

I cram extras into my clothes bag

  • Those minor items I have to have

Second, I packed my bag number two,

  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Financial papers
  • Passport
  • Bible
  • A small lap afghan I knitted

Third, in the space left in my second bag

My heart things

                        Our framed wedding picture

                        Mom’s secret pen

                                    From World War II

                                                When she was displaced like me.

As I look at her pen,

            I sob uncontrollably.

Why again?

            Why this horror?

I’m a simple woman

            Hurt no one

            Lived a simple Christian life

            Close to the land

            Helped my husband daily

            Good life

As I look around my home,

            One last time

I want to capture it all

            In my mind

                        Bring it all with me.

Will I be back—ever?

            Can this little house stand the bombing?

                        My heart breaks open at that thought.

To be prepared,

            I dress

                        In layers to protect myself

                                    Against the cold—

                                                Normally doesn’t get much above freezing

                                                            During the day,

                                                Then night time dives to down to 20 degrees.

            I must dress warm

                        Because I have no idea

                                    What’s ahead.

                        So layers,

                                    As many as I can handle.

Watching the clock fully dressed,

            Solemnly, I eat a hearty meal at midnight.

                        When will I eat again?

                                    I sneak some snacks

                                                In both bags

                                                            Just in case.

At 1:00 AM precisely, the soft knock on the door

            Tells me it is time.

As I grab my two bags,

            I shift the weight

                        To disperse the weight of my bags over my achy shoulders.

After one last glance,

            I shut the door and lock it,

                        Placing the key inside my purse

                                    As always.

With a set jaw, I walk towards the car

            Overflowing with my neighbor

                        And his family.

Walking with my back to my home, I choke back a sob.

            Such loving people.

To silently leave the village,

            It takes all of us



                                               Bearing down on

                                                            The car.

Safely out of town,

            My neighbor starts the car.

                        We jump in

                                    And head west

                                                Towards Lublin—


                                                            And the unknown.

And me,

            Here I am with two bags!

Two Bags—What Would I Choose?

As I write this, I looked around my house at 68 years old. How would I choose? I’ve pondered this blog post all week and thought about what I would take if I had the two bag limit. Obviously, Lin would be with me!

This is what I decided on:

  • Jesse
    • Food
    • Insulin
  • Bible
  • Laptop
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Cables for technology
  • Mom’s genealogy notebook
  • Cash
  • Credit Cards
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hair brush & comb
  • Clothes
    • Underwear
    • Bras
    • Socks
    • Extra pair of shoes
    • Changes of clothes
  • Priceless jewelry

How would I carry Jesse? I’m seeing my two bags have just grown.

As I scanned even just one room, what else? I’d sift through my belongings and despair like my Ukrainian counterpart over what I had to leave. What about Dad’s saddle and chaps? All of my beautiful square dance outfits?

How heart-wrenching! Millions of immigrants have left Ukraine, flooding Poland especially and all the other border countries. Displaced describes what has happened to them—forced to leave their homes!


I get it that this is happening thousands of miles away from me, but when I heard that 68-year-old woman interviewed, I sobbed! Two bags—how do you fit 68 years of life in two bags?

What would you take if you faced the situation of having to compress your worldly good to two bags?

Pray for Ukraine - two bags

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God · My Thoughts

Does God Hate Anyone?

Does God hate anyone? A Jesuit priest, Fr. Tom Weston, often said in recovery retreats I attended, “We create God in our own image, and he loves who we love and hates who we hate.”

Again this week, I veer off the British Isles travelogue to address a current issue. I frequently post pictures on Facebook because I’m a visual learner and I believe a good picture says more than words. The above photo had words, too, and it elicited some reactions this week which caused some deep thoughts for me.

Searched the Scriptures

During my quiet time this morning, the reaction to this photo sent me to my digital Bible, and I searched the Scriptures and found answers like I always do.

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalms 82:2–4 NIV) These words should direct my actions in this world today.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV), so I see an invitation to any weary traveler.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16, 17 NIV) My Jesus has a world view, the whole world, not excluding anyone.

St. Paul wrote, “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,” (Romans 3:29 NIV)

“The term refers to a person who is not a Jew.”

So, my God is for all men and women.

Look at the Text on the Photo

 “Jesus wasn’t neutral. He sided with the poor, sick & immigrant. Be like Jesus” posted on a church board.

My Jesus is not neutral on what many call social issues today. He loves the poor, the sinner, the immigrant. If that is political, then my suggestion is choose the side that “DWJWD” (do what Jesus would do). It shouldn’t be a political issue–it should be a person helping person issue.

“He sided with the poor, sick & immigrant.” The Scriptures above confirm that, and many today active in social action reach out to these three entities.

“Be like Jesus.” Quite a daunting task in this twenty-first century, but I must try!

My Higher Power

As a person in recovery, “my Higher Power” or “the God of my understanding” is a loving God, and to me his name is Jesus. I love the imagery of a shepherd and sheep–probably from my ranching background. The idea that my Jesus cares for me the way my cowboy Dad cared for his calves is precious!

My Jesus hates no one and invites all to His feast. God, the Father, hates no one—He hates sin.

My Jesus was a rebel in his time, ignoring what it meant to be politically correct and got in the face of those in power in the Jewish world. He rebuked the Pharisees. He questioned the establishment and hung out with notorious sinners.

My Jesus has open arms, embracing anyone in need whether they are on the border of the United States, living desperate lives on the streets of many of our cities or monetarily comfortable but living a life in quiet desperate.

Each political party says God is on their side, but really? My God doesn’t hate Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Green Party people. I think he applauds honest involvement focused in his goals: serving the poor, the needy and the immigrant.

My Father God especially doesn’t hate brown people—He sent His Only Son as a brown man.

If My Jesus Were at the Border Today

If my Jesus were at the southern border of the USA today, would He support snakes and alligators as a deterrent? Would He support separating a crying eight-month-old baby girl from her loving scared mother? Or would my Jesus be detained and imprisoned?

My Jesus had brown skin and long cobalt black hair with no possessions. His body smelled of sweat, dirt and grime. His calloused sore feet, caked with mud from his travels, needed the care of Mary Magdalene, her loving touch and her oils.

If the border patrol stopped Him, His searing stare would say, “I’m a man of this world—I claim no country. The world Is my home!”

My Conclusion

Yes, I know this photo has political overtones, but it’s time I face that head on. It is my duty as a God-fearing Christian to stand up for what I believe my God meant in the Scriptures. This controversy became religious when many like those who responded to my Facebook page twist and turn everything to support their political views!

When a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40 NIV)

I must not be neutral. I must love the poor, sick & immigrant. And if I do this, I will be like Jesus. How can you argue with that?

I encourage your thoughts!

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My Books · My Thoughts · Prejudice, Mistreatment, Mexican, immigrant

Can You Speak English?

            Because Papa and his family could not speak English, he was doomed. Hatred and prejudice could have destroyed his future and Maria’s. Is that still true today? Read what happened to Papa that broke Maria’s and her Momma’s hearts.


            Papa and I finish our daily chores and head for the house, hungry and ready to eat. Papa spots a five-point buck and three does. Their movement is slow and graceful. They are in no hurry to travel to the water hole east of our house. He signals me to be quiet and grabs my hand. We ease down the ridge to watch these free, beautiful animals water and graze in the cool of the evening. Their silhouettes stand out as the last rays of sunshine etch their forms against the ground.

            Papa squats down on a sandstone rock ledge that overlooks the watering hole, and his rough hands encircle me as I squat in front of him. I can feel his heavy breathing on the back of my neck and smell the familiar aroma of his sweaty clothes mixed with horse and leather. I so enjoy these special times together.

            He surprises me with a tight squeeze, stands up and walks towards the house in front of me. He drags his feet and the dust stirs up in small clouds. I see the nape of his neck, tanned by long hours in the sun. Tonight, it is tense and tight with the load of his world.

            We sit down to supper with an unusual silence hanging over our table. We try small talk about Papa’s trip to Trinidad and what happened here in his absence. Each of us jumps at any strange sound outside during the meal, fearing the unknown. Mama lights the kerosene lantern, placing it in the middle of the table to illumine our dark kitchen. The anxious mood lingers in the dim amber light.

            Usually the yellow light from the kerosene lamp comforts me in our long evenings inside our house. The shadows dancing on the walls have become good friends and playmates, but tonight it is so different. The dark, forbidding forms on the walls add to the suspense, feeling evil and scary.

            Halfway through our delicious, but modest meal, the much-feared event happens. Horses approach our house in a rush of noise from men and animals. The dreaded moment arrives and catches us all clustered together in the dark corner of our small kitchen. Three unfinished meals cover our deserted table.

            Several loud men on nondescript sweaty, panting horses ride up with shouting and cussing. A brisk pounding at the door sends us further in the corner. Before Papa can open the door, this mob forces the door open. What a violent invasion of our home! Six gringos fill our small, modest house of stone and adobe with their foreign language and foreign smells. One of these invaders is the sheriff of Las Animas County.

            Peering from behind Mama’s protective full skirt, I see the sheriff, now our enemy, argue with Papa in English. Papa pleads. I don’t understand the words, but I do understand the tone of his voice and theirs. Grabbing the sheriff’s hand, he begs, pleads, and cries! And then, they laugh, a communication that crosses all languages. Their laughter overflows with power, ridicule and anger. And all this is aimed at my Papa, my hero! That laughter bounces off of our adobe walls and crashes into my head.

            The sheriff and one man get on each side of Papa and push him outside towards the corrals. The others move back to their horses, light cigarettes and stand talking. Mama and I move closer to the closed door, listening and trying to understand what is happening. I don’t understand their words but I know they feel they have won.  

            In a loud voice, Papa continues to argue with the two men who take him to the corral where the horses are. I hear English words that I do know: “The Rose horse ranch” where we bought Smokey as a colt. From the conversation, I see in my mind the two gringos surveying our two horses, especially Papa’s horse. Papa continues his litany of innocence with his voice growing louder and shriller with each statement, but they ignore him. Laughter is their only response.  

            I hear Papa beg about something. The two ruffians bring him back to the house for our tearful good-bye. The last thing I remember hearing is his screams as they drag him from our house. “¡Mi hijita, mi esposa preciosa–esperame, esperame!” His screams for us to wait for him echo through my mind. I must have fainted because the next thing I remember is waking to Mama and our neighbor and friend, Pablo, standing over me with worried looks on their faces.

            “Where’s Papa? Where’s Papa? ¿Dónde está mi Papa?” I scream, demanding to know and trying to shake the cobwebs of uncertainty from my mind.

            Mama falls across me on my small bed, crying and sobbing out of control, “¡Papa, se ha ido! Papa’s gone! He’s gone. Se lo llevaron. They took him away.” The weight of her body and sound of her wails almost suffocate me.

            Pushing Mama aside, I scramble out from underneath her, search our two-room home and explode. Uncontrollable anger rages from deep within me and I attack and destroy anything I can get my hands on. My doll crashes against the hard rock wall; my marbles fly out the door in all directions.  

            Mama tries to console me in the midst of my savage tantrum, but I push her away. I shove open the front door and collapse on the front step. I scream, I cry, and I wail! Finally, I take a breath and open my eyes—Paco is staring at me a few feet away. He seems apprehensive about coming any closer. My tantrum has lost its power, so my little friend ventures near and I scoop him up in my skirt. I gingerly hold him in my hand while my sobs are subsiding. He seems to know that I need him close to me. I sit there with him consoling me.  

            I look around and see my marbles strewn around our front door; I don’t pick them up, but go inside, leaving Paco outside. Mama and Pablo stop their conversation, and I slide into my bed fully dressed. Pablo touches my brow with gentle rough fingers and whispers, “Adios.  Hasta la mañana.” I appreciate his good-bye and the hope of seeing him tomorrow. Mama walks to the door with him and says her good-byes.

            She returns to my bed and repeats what Pablo did; she touches my brow with her long slender fingers and whispers, “Buenas noches.” I sigh my response and turn to the wall, heart-broken because the most valuable person in my life has been taken away.

Maria changes through this heartless event. I won’t give away the ending, so go to Amazon and buy a copy:

Here’s a trailer for this heart-wrenching story:

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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!