January 17th

Photo: public domain


THIS story happened in a place called the Caucasus. Every time I think of it, Mordochka, I remember the power of true words, calmly spoken. 

     A man named Nikolai was in the Caucasus. It was a time there of much conflict and war. Nikolai was there because he knew, from long experience, that, in the end, words are more effective than guns in solving problems between peoples and nations. He knew that, Mordochka, because he had proved it. Nikolai was a mediator, using words to help people consider seeing things with new eyes and thinking in new ways. That’s not easy to do, Mordochka, but it’s possible so long as the person who is the mediator is honest and never lies to either side. 

      On this particular journey, Nikolai was traveling in a war zone, to the camp of the commander of one of the warring sides. Nikolai knew how much innocent people from both countries had suffered. He knew how much distrust there was. But his message to both commanders was going to be the same: harming your enemy will never result in peace. 

     The commander listened to Nikolai because he respected him, but he answered, “If we lay down our weapons, our enemy will attack and kill us.” 

     Nikolai answered that he understood the commander’s position and responsibility. Still he asked the commander to give him a day to get to the other commander and talk to him.  So Nikolai left to go to other camp as quickly as he could. On the way, however, he was ambushed by a soldier and held at gunpoint. Nikolai didn’t try to get away. He didn’t act afraid and that had a strange effect on the soldier.  The soldier kept saying, “You shouldn’t be here. I have to kill you. Those are my orders.” 

     But Nikolai kept answering, “You don’t want to kill me. You were told to kill me, but you don’t want to. You don’t have anything against me. You know I have no intention of hurting you. You are free to let me go.”  He finally told Nikolai to go quickly.

     These kinds of stories have happened many times, Mordochka. But the stories will have to be relived many, many times until they are believed.

—Told to us by Nikolai.

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