Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Polish Ambassador To The U.S. Marek Magierowski; Interview With The Atlantic Staff Writer Jennifer Senior; Interview With "How Fascism Works" Author Jason Stanley. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 14, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here is what is coming up.


TASHA PAGDILAO, MAUI FIREFIGHTER: It seems like a nightmare that we're trying to wake up from.


GOLODRYGA: America's deadliest fire in more than a century, as the desperate search for life continues on Maui, we get the latest.

Then, Poland's military might is on display as the country ramps up for its Armed Services Day and announces it is sending 10,000 troops to the

Belarusian border. I discussed with the Polish ambassador to the U.S.

And "The Ones We Sent Away," writer Jen Senior tells me about the discovery of her disabled aunt who is institutionalized as a baby. Why her

heartbreaking story is touching so many?

Also, ahead --


JASON STANLEY, AUTHOR, "HOW FASCISM WORKS": It's in arguable that they face a cultural genocide.


GOLODRYGA: -- Yale University's Jason Stanley tells Hari Sreenivasan what he learned by taking its course on fascism to Kyiv.

And finally, a visit to the site of Julius Caesar's murder and the theater of a mad emperor. Why Rome is opening up its history like never before.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

It's America's deadliest fire in more than 100 years. At least 96 people have been killed in Maui, Hawaii after wildfires fueled by powerful winds

tore across the island at speeds of a mile a minute. You can see here at the terrible impact on the historic town of Lahaina, which became ruins


A search and rescue efforts continue. It is believed that the death toll will grow. Island residents who survived have lost family and friends to

the fires, as well as livelihoods. Take a listen to this firefighter describe what the situation is like.


TASHA PAGDILAO, MAUI FIREFIGHTER: It seemed like an apocalypse and everything seemed to be on fire. And, yes, I'm not going to lie, it was

really hard to focus at times, but we had a job to do and stood by people that watched their houses burn and they kept continuing to fight. And, yes,

it's still surreal and I think, no matter how many times we see it every day going back to help cleanup and help put spot fires out or -- it just --

it still seems like a nightmare that we're trying to wake up from.


GOLODRYGA: Just horrible for all of those who have been impacted. And Correspondent Mike Valerio is joining us now from Maui. Mike, thank you so

much for joining us today. Give us a sense of what you are seeing now several days after these fires. What is the aftermath?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, I think to set the scene and give you a sense of place, we are at the only checkpoint

where residents in and around Lahaina can access the disaster area. So, just picture us perched on a cliff, about 300 meters above the sands of

these Pacific Ocean beaches, and when people come through these checkpoints, they are really assessing what if anything can be saved inside

of the disaster zone and thinking about how first responders, in the next few weeks and months, will be finding the missing.

But in terms of the sense of -- I should say, shared sense of trauma, Bianna, it's not spectral, it's not private, it is out in the open. And to

give you a sense of what we are witnessing and the pain people are feeling, this is just a sample of what people are telling us.


VALERIO (voiceover): With a climbing death toll, the grief on the Island of Maui is palpable.

SUSAN SLOBODNJAK, MAUI RESIDENT: I lost friends in there, you know. They were going back to get their animals, you know, and she died.

VALERIO (voiceover): The deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century leaving behind nothing but ash and devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I lost pretty much everything except for what I could grab on my way out. I'm not going to go look at my home or anything.

I've seen the videos. There is nothing left.

VALERIO (voiceover): But frustration too is mounting. There are growing questions over the island's emergency response.

MIKE CICCHINO, LAHAINA RESIDENT: There's no warning at all. There's not a siren, not a phone alert, not a -- nothing.

VALERIO (voiceover): Confusion over when and how people can return to survey their homes.


SLOBODNJAK: And I waited in line for four and half hours thinking that I could get through.

VALERIO (voiceover): And now, a rising fear over what comes next for thousands who have nowhere else to go.

CICCHINO: We're short on housing here. We just went through a nightmare and we're about to go through another nightmare trying to basically not stay


VALERIO (voiceover): Hawaii's governor surveying the affected areas with FEMA on Saturday. While there is no official estimate yet, he suspects the

losses could approach $6 billion, but vows the island will recover as a family.

JOSH GREEN, HAWAII GOVERNOR: We come at this like an ohana, because it's going to be, in the short-term, heartbreaking, in the very long-term, we'll

rebuild together.


VALERIO (on camera): And, Bianna, I want to bring us back to the first soundbite, the first woman we heard from, her name is Susan, and I think

that she spoke for a whole host of people who passed through the checkpoint hours ago who wanted to convey to everybody watching us around the world,

Europe, Asia, Africa, the rest of the North American mainland, that Maui is not just an idea, an isolated place, it's not just a movie set, a setting

for a show, this place is the soul and identity of thousands of people who belove this cherished corner of the world.

And the suffering here is something that people want everybody around the world to know about that this isn't a housing and community, this is a

community of hardworking people who are trying to save the tradition of the, you know, old royal Hawaiian kingdom which existed up into the late

19th century, and vestiges of that which were so present in Lahaina may be lost forever. So, they just want people to know that this was outside of

the realm of their shared sense of possibility and that disasters that were once unthinkable, as we've seen across Europe this summer, across the

United States, they truly can happen anywhere and the human consequences are truly incalculable.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. An island known for its lush land and calm waters and tropics there and climate and beautiful scenery going through a complete

nightmare right now. And as you mentioned, the rich history there for the community as well as the search and rescue continues.

This is all happening, as you said, we are covering climate change and its impact on a daily basis now. What was unthinkable is happening around the

world. FEMA is saying that this can cost nearly $6 billion in terms of the effort to rebuild and cleanup. And a lot of those residents, as we heard in

your piece, are asking questions, why was the island not better prepared? There are some 400 alarms in that island's network meant to alert residents

of tsunamis, they did not go off. This completely blindsided residents.

I'd like to play for our viewers what State Senator Mazie Hirono said when asked about accountability and why more wasn't done by local officials in

preparing and warning residents.


STATE SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): I'm not going to make any excuses for this tragedy, but the attorney general has launched a review of what happened

with those sirens and some of the other actions that were taken. So, that is happening.


GOLODRYGA: So, Mike, what are you hearing? I mean, there are heroic first responders there, and I don't want to deny the efforts that were made by

firefighters. In the "New York Times" one was reporting that there just wasn't enough water in the hydrants themselves and said the infrastructure

in these towns is just very limited and archaic.

VALERIO: Well, I think that -- you know, there's so many complicated responses that could answer that question as to what people are thinking

about what could have been done. So, let's start with the sirens, for example. There is the sense that something could have been done if power

was out, there should have been, if Hawaii, and it does boast this world class system of tsunami sirens, why not turn them on?

So, we've been asking that to police officers and several checkpoints throughout the island, and they have told us, well, from their point of

view again, Bianna, it's not as simple as just flipping a switch. You have to coordinate with an office over here, an office over there on a different

corner of the island.

And then, actually, locals -- some locals have said, we're conditioned to go to higher ground when these alarms go off. So, would it have helped?

Would we have been more confused to go to higher ground when this wind event was happening? But for as many people who say that, there are the

others who are inconsolable and say, we just wanted to know something. Because as they joke, half seriously, they say, we went about with, you

know, coconut wireless, hearsay somebody going door to door saying, we got to get out of here, and we have to run. So, at least the alarm would have

let, you know, them know that something was wrong.


I also thought it was quite stunning, and with the stock of this utility plummeting in early hours trading in New York, the lawsuit against Hawaiian

Electric with a couple who lives in Lahaina, represented by three law firms saying that the utility should've known with winds reaching 130 kilometers

an hour, wind gusts, to turn off their wires in some areas of the island because of the danger of these power poles being blown over and live, you

know, wires potentially snapping. And with the snap, a spark setting dry grass on fire.

So, the search in the need for accountability is there, and it's has been striking how elected officials like Senator Mazie Hirono and other more

municipal authorities in Maui have not said what they could have done better. They're deferring to, yes, we're going to have this investigation

launched by the state attorney general's office, but I don't know how long they're going to be able to keep on saying that when there is this

simmering outrage.

Again, it's private, it is vocal. And especially, Bianna, if this death toll goes over 100 and much higher when there are thousands of buildings

that have yet to be searched and hundreds of people who are presumed missing, being on this island and knowing the people of Maui, they will not

stand for it. And this would be only the beginning of the outrage that is expressed to us and --


VALERIO: -- to our media partners throughout the world

GOLODRYGA: And sadly, that death toll is likely to rise. As we know, just 3 percent of the fire zone has been searched for survivors. The worst fire

there in nearly a century, those residents deserve answers. Mike Valerio, thank you so much for joining us. And of course, we'll continue to cover

this story as well.

Well, turning to Europe now, Poland is gearing up for its Armed Forces Day on Tuesday, the annual event which shows off the country's military

prowess. It comes just as Warsaw announced it will be sending 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus.

Poland is one of NATO's most fervent supporters of Ukraine and is raising the alarm about Wagner forces in that region, which have grown

significantly since the Russian mercenary groups failed rebellion in June.

Joining me now on this is Marek Magierowski, the Polish ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. So, first,

I want to get you --


GOLODRYGA: I'd like to get you to weigh in on why Poland feels the need right now to send 10,000 of its forces to its border with Belarus?

MAGIEROWSKI: Let me tell you first, one thing. I am so profoundly proud seeing those images of the Abrams Tanks rolling on in the streets of

Berlin's capitol ahead of tomorrow's military parade. It's another proof of our steadfast alliance of this extremely strong bond which exists -- has

always existed actually between Poland and America.

We are -- back to your point about our engagement in the border area along the Polish Belarusian border, we are committing more troops and more

military equipment and we are deploying more units to that area because we consider it to be our obligation and our duty, not only to defend ourselves

but also to protect the external borders of NATO and the European Union in the face of Russia's and Belarus' growing aggressiveness.

GOLODRYGA: What signs, aside from what we're seeing publicly, and that is even President Lukashenko irresponsibly suggesting that he had to pull back

Wagner forces who wanted to go over the border into Poland? What other signs are you seeing that worry you about the current situation there,

specifically after that failed mutiny of the Wagner Group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the increase in the number of Wagner forces we've now seen in


MAGIEROWSKI: I do believe that many of our viewers are aware of the fact that Poland is the only country in Europe which borders those three

neighbors, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. So, you can only imagine how volatile the geopolitical situation in the region has become recently. So,

we have to brace ourselves for further provocations, not only in Poland, also in Lithuania and in other Baltic countries.

Just a few weeks ago, social platforms in Poland were flooded with fake images of Wagner mercenaries penetrating into Poland and operating on

Polish soil. Just this morning, two Wagner operatives were detained by Polish authorities accused of distributing propaganda materials in Warsaw

among many other cities.


So, I think that this situation is becoming really very sensitive from our viewpoint, not only in terms of our political engagement, but also in terms

of our military involvement in that area.

GOLODRYGA: As we know, you plan to send 10,000 troops to Poland's eastern border, and Russia has just announced that it's planning to discuss at

least sending Russian troops to its western border, citing Poland of all reasons for the justification for this. I would like to hear -- have you

listen to what Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said about this issue.


SERGEI SHOIGU, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): There are existing risks associated with the militarization of Poland, which has

become the main instrument of the United States' anti-Russian policy. Warsaw announced the intention to build, according to the polls, the most

powerful army on the continent.


GOLODRYGA: What are the risks that he's talking about, if you have any insight into that?

MAGIEROWSKI: Of course, we would like to avoid any confrontation, I mean, direct military clash with the Russian federation. We don't want to drag

NATO into a potential war with Russia, especially today, but we know very well, on the other hand, that the Russian army, for example, has performed

so miserably in Ukraine, and no wonder that the Russians are pretty much preoccupied with our efforts to reinforce our military capabilities, not

only along our borders with Belarus and with the Kaliningrad exclave.

But generally, we have entered a path of maybe not militarization as Mr. Shoigu has just said, but trying to build one of the strongest armies in

Europe, again, because we -- Poland has been perceived until recently as a net recipient of security. We are now transitioning to the role of net

provider of security, also for our partners in the European Union and NATO.

You know, Russian officials, Mr. Shoigu being one of them, love to wallow in kooky conspiracy theories. We have also heard his remarks about our

willingness to invade Western Ukraine. Of course, those remarks are as outlandish as it gets, and we have already rebutted many of those

allegations on multiple occasions.

There is, of course, a kind of rivalry in that part of the world, but I think nobody has any doubt whatsoever who is the aggressor and who has

committed profoundly to defend their borders and their security in central and eastern Europe.

GOLODRYGA: In a recent interview on CNN, your deputy foreign minister accused both Moscow and Minsk of transporting illegal migrants to the

Polish border in order to destabilize the region, and that has echoes of what we saw in 2021 before the February 2022 invasion, larger scale

invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and that was Poland accusing President Lukashenko of manufacturing a migrant crisis of sorts at its border.

And that's you know, some of your tactics and Poland's response to this drew condemnation from your E.U. allies and members as well. There is an

election coming up in your country in just a few months, in October. Is there any reason for your allies once again to be concerned that perhaps

this border issue is being politicized?

MAGIEROWSKI: Unfortunately, we can expect both Russia and Belarus to weaponize another migration crisis along that border, orchestrated by

Belarus, but quite clearly instigated by the Kremlin. As you know, we have erected a fence along the border in order to prevent another crisis of this

kind. And again, I can only reiterate that it is our obligation to defend not only Poland but also the external borders of the European Union.

We are dealing with an unpredictable foe. It's absolutely impossible to foresee what will happen in the months to come, but I'm sure that we have

to remain vigilant for this kind of operation, this kind of hybrid attacks and asymmetrical warfare, on the part of both the Russian federation and


GOLODRYGA: Can we see any similar -- are you expecting to use similar tactics as the ones deployed in 2021, the last time we discussed those

border issues?


MAGIEROWSKI: I've got no doubts whatsoever that both the Lukashenko regime and President Putin would be ready to do anything to intimidate Poland and

other NATO countries. This is one of the very few things Russians and Belarusians -- I'm talking about the ruling elites, of course, not about

peoples and nations, this is one of the very few things they excel at, intimidating and instilling fear in western societies, and that's why we

have to brace ourselves for further provocations of this sort.

GOLODRYGA: You have -- as we have noted, Poland has been one of the Ukraine's staunchest supporters throughout this war, increasing your own

defense budget close to 4 percent at this point and providing Ukraine with a lot of financial aid as well as a military and humanitarian aid as well.

I'm curious to get your response to what you are seeing there in Washington play out here in the United States as we enter our own presidential

election season, specifically with regards to the Republican Party and some of the statements that we're hearing from the front runner, Former

President Trump, on his views on the war and future aid to Ukraine that would be in question.

But not just, that there is a new CNN poll that found 55 percent of Americans, not just Republicans, but Americans say that Congress should not

authorize additional funding to support Ukraine.


GOLODRYGA: How is that being reacted to in Warsaw and other European capitals?

MAGIEROWSKI: Of course, that also affects our diplomatic work on a daily basis here in the United States. We are following those polls as well. And

the only thing that I can tell you, as a diplomat, is that we have been insisting on the necessity of talking constantly with American lawmakers,

reaching out to the American public opinion in order to keep vivid the interest in what is going on in Europe on the battlefield, also in terms of

our diplomatic efforts in order to help and allow Ukraine to win this war.

GOLODRYGA: Ambassador Magierowski, we'll have to have you on to continue this conversation. In the meantime, thank you so much for your time today.

We appreciate it.

MAGIEROWSKI: Thank you very much.

GOLODRYGA: Well, from conflict on a global scale to a small human story that's proving to be shockingly universal. A staff writer for "The

Atlantic," Jennifer Senior, dug into her family history for her latest piece, "The Ones We Sent Away." In it, she reveals that her aunt, Adele,

was spirited away as a baby, institutionalist because of a severe intellectual disability.

The piece has triggered an emotional outpour since its release, as people have their own hidden family respond to her wrenching article. And Jennifer

Senior joins me now from Vermont. Jennifer, it's so good to see you.

And listen, the team and I, and all of those who have read this piece are still talking about it, and I can't get your aunts, Adele, or your mom or

you out of my head because, clearly, this is a story that resonates not just with your family but millions of families around the world.

So, first of all, I just want to begin the conversation by saying thank you for raising this really important topic that doesn't get discussed nearly

enough. Let's talk about the origins.

JENNIFER SENIOR, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I have to thank you for introducing me like that. I mean, that's just a very generous thing to say.

GOLODRYGA: Well, it's a genuine response. And I do want to talk about the origins of your piece, and that was from a tweet.


GOLODRYGA: And that was one father, Joey. Joey is 25 today. He's never said a word in his life, but has taught me much more than I have ever taught

him. Now, this resonated with you because it wasn't so long ago that you found out that your mother, who for most of your life you thought was an

only child, had a younger sister who was sent away when your mother was only six years old. You and your mother went on this journey together to

find out more about her sister. Tell us about your Aunt Adele.

SENIOR: Right. So, I actually learned about her when I was 12. Until I was 12, I thought my mother was an only child. And she told me, it was rather

surprising, if you're (INAUDIBLE) under the impression that you have no aunts or uncles on a particular side. And then, we never talked about it


We had one conversation at the kitchen table. And when I was maybe 28, I said to her, you know, I kind of want to meet her. And met her briefly. And

the visit was awkward. It was sort of a visit without context in which I met my aunt, we were just sort of shown into a room. She had transitioned

out of an institution and into a family setting. But the family, I think in hindsight, was probably rather indifferent. Met her custodial needs but

didn't really tell us anything about her. I didn't know what she liked, what she disliked, what made her come alive.


And so, after seeing this viral tweet two years ago, I said to my mother, do you think we should try again? And we did. And this time it was

completely different. We went to this a new setting. She was with a new family. And suddenly -- I mean, first of all, my mother shows up to this

visit and Adele is wearing a bright red sweater and so is my mom. They're both wearing necklaces that they've just both made, because they're both in

these beading stages, right, they're making necklaces.

And even when I met Adele the first time, she needlepointed, so did my mom. She, you know, could sing on key, my mother studied opera. But this time,

we really got to know her. And what was striking in addition to the fact that like I had been -- I had never kind of understood how much of a kind

of idiosyncratic personality she had until this moment.

Her family was full of in-jokes and all these great things with her. What was fascinating was sort of seeing the ways that she was eerily like my

mom. Forget about the beading, forget about the musicality, forget about the red sweaters, they're both really fastidious. They both don't let you

load the dishwasher. They both -- you know, they're neatniks, whereas I'm kind of like the Oscar Madison to her Felix. I'm totally a slob.

I mean, it was just kind of amazing to see the same traits recapitulate, you know?


SENIOR: That blew my doors off. Yes, it blew me away.

GOLODRYGA: And you aunt had been diagnosed with microcephaly, and that was basically it. Your grandmother wasn't told --

SENIOR: Exactly.

GOLODRYGA: -- anything else by physicians. And it wasn't until you actually --


GOLODRYGA: -- decided to do some genetic testing. Did you find out what she exactly had? And I'll get to that in a moment, but I do want to talk about

what your grandmother experienced and what so many family members and parents experience at the time and were told by doctors that it was in

their best interest and in the interest of their families and even their intellectually disabled children to be taken and living somewhere else and

to be taken care of by other professionals.

Your aunt was sent to Willowbrook, and this was in Staten Island. In 1965, just to give our viewers a sense of this facility, Senator Robert Kennedy

visited Willowbrook. And here is what he said after he saw what was inside.


SEN. ROBERT KENNEDY: The state institutions for the mentally retarded, and I think, particularly at Willowbrook, that we have a situation that borders

on a snake pit and that the children live in filth.


GOLODRYGA: Now, the terminology, obviously, has changed, but the sentiment is still exact in terms of the care, or the lack of care that these

children, for the most part, and patients received. In 1972, Geraldo Rivera brought a camera inside and exposed what was happening here.

When you and your mom learned about what your aunt likely went through, what was that like for your family?

SENIOR: I mean, I watched the Geraldo special and I could not do it in one sitting. And it shows just how delicate the subject is that I don't -- my

mother and I haven't even had a conversation about the Geraldo special. And you were very artful in saying that our language has changed. We don't use

the words mentally retardant anymore, which was how my aunt was described to me. And in fact, the first doctor who diagnosed her called her a

microcephalic idiot, which was a technical term, found in textbooks.

But word snake pit still applies. Like I'm happy to use that word. And the expose that Geraldo did is so upsetting, and anybody can find it on

YouTube. And it's just all this footage of -- they show naked bodies that were very careful so that you couldn't see everything, but these children

and adults rocking on the floor, back and forth, wailing, totally neglected.

Nobody was clothed, people were rotting in their own diapers. There was an overpowering stench in there of human waste. There was no stimulation,

nothing. I mean, it was built as a school, which is an utter joke. I mean, if an attendant dropped a piece of paper on the floor, the kids would fight

to grab it so that they had something to play with.

It was wrenching to think about it and it's wrenching to think about the fact that this is where my aunt spends all of her formative years. She was

then transferred to another state institution, which was equally grim, and she didn't have the vocabulary to explain to me what it felt like. We will

never know.


She -- you know, she was -- she's just a, you know, kind of nested said Russian doll of kind of buried pain, I imagine. I mean, but she doesn't

have the language to recruit from, to explain what she went through, and I can't even guess. No, I can't.

GOLODRYGA: And thankfully times have changed and care has changed, and those kinds of institutions are no longer open.


GOLODRYGA: That having been said, you do raise the question of what if, what kind of life could Adele had had if she had proper care, better care,

been treated humanely?


GOLODRYGA: And as we mentioned, you did pursue genetic testing and you found out that Adele had Coffin-Siris syndrome 12. And you decided to find

others who also have the same syndrome, specifically younger people, to focus on their care and the quality of life that they lead. And you found a

precautious seven-year-old named Emma in Missouri who has, I would just say, incredible heroic care from her parents. But I was blown away by the

happiness, the life that this child is leading thanks to that care. Talk about what you saw.

SENIOR: Yes. It was bittersweet. I mean, it was astonishing, but it was bittersweet because you can't help but do the counterfactual, like what if

my aunt had had this, what if, what if, what if? What did I see? I saw exactly what you said, right, a precocious sort of bubbly ingenue brimming

with personality. Speaking in complete sentences. My aunt, you know, staccato sentences, I would say, at best. She had access to her inner life,

had been encouraged to think, how does this make you feel? Mad, sad, happy? You know, she has -- she can add, she can subtract. She is -- can do a tiny

bit of reading.

This is what happens when you have state subsidized interventions, starting from the time you are zero years old, you can get occupational therapy,

speech therapy, physical therapy. The public school took Emma and she had this explosion of speech. She went from having essentially nothing to

talking, because she was surrounded by peers who did. They provided supplementary reading and all -- speech and all these kinds of resources

for her.

And as you point out, she has this heroic mother and terrific dad. They're both highly involved and they've dedicated their lives to trying to figure

out how to make learning an enjoyable, tactile, kind of multi-sensory experience for her. It's just night and day.

GOLODRYGA: Their entire story was inspiring. You write that it took you a few seconds to not break down in tears when you left. I was probably doing

it as I was reading your description of this family and of Emma's thriving surroundings.

As we close here, I -- you know, the part of the story that stood out to me the most, I would say, that I still think about, is the caretaking that

your aunt received the last two decades of her life, a polar opposite from what she experienced in the first several decades of her life, and that is

thanks to people who you call the hidden saints, and that is Carmen and Juan Ayala. And these people took 23 years of their lives to care for your

aunt as if she were their own, until she died of a heart attack in May.

And I'd like to read a passage from the piece, about the love and the bond that your aunt developed with this family. And I'm going to read to your

description of Adele's funeral. We buried Adele three days later. It is a gorgeous afternoon, perfect really, but the incongruities and dissonances

of the hour are hard to. Here we are, having a Jewish funeral for a woman who has never been exposed to the Jewish tradition her whole life, while

those whose lives have been most brutally upended, those who have spent the past 24 years loving and caring for Adele are Catholics.

My aunt will be buried next to her mother, forever reunited, while the woman whom she called mommy who just four nights ago rubbed Vicks VapoRub

on her back and brought her tea because she had a cough will go back to a house with an empty twin bed.

That was so beautifully written and a wonderful tribute to this family. But can you talk about that, and I'm sure the comfort knowing that your aunt

had this lovely family taking care of them that this brought you and your mother?

SENIOR: Yes. I mean, I can't even think about that day without losing it myself. They're extraordinary people, and it's a roll of the dice, right?

You don't know who you're going to get when you -- we finally -- Adele moved out of these horrific institutions, this snake pits, into family

care, and one family, as I said, was probably fine, the Ayala family was extraordinary. Extraordinary.


They had in-jokes. They had these like little vaudevillian (ph) routines where they taught her how to salsa. They have these vaudevillian (ph)

routines where they would say, who's the turkey head? And she would look at Juan and she would say, daddy, daddy is the turkey head, because she called

him daddy. They knew that she was neatnik, so they would deliberately leave things untidy just so that they could watch her wander over and straighten

it up, because it was like fun and funny. And, you know, they wanted us to see. They wanted us to appreciate all her ticks.

People like this don't get acknowledged, right? Like there's no glory in this. There's no nothing in this. And yet, they were everything. And it

also -- I mean, my grandparents, it must have killed them to give their baby away. I mean, they had spent 21 months loving her and then they were

told -- falling in love with her, forming a bond with her, and then they were told that for her own goo and for the good of my mother, that she

really -- they really, in all good conscience, should give her up.

You know what? If -- and I couldn't help sort of just transposing them into the Ayala's place. What if they had the opportunity to do that? And they

never did. They were told not to. I was so glad she just found it at the end of her life. I just am.

GOLODRYGA: Well, listen, Jennifer, there's so many ways to define family, that is biological and that is those who love and care for you as if you

are their own.

SENIOR: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm sure it brings you just a lot of comfort and your mother to know that she experienced that with you and your mom, and knowing that

she is buried there with her mother who loved her, as you said, from day one. So, that is a richness of life as well. And thank you so much,

Jennifer, for bringing her to our lives as well.

SENIOR: Thank you. Thank you so much for this conversation. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: It's great to see. You thank you.

Well, since the start of Russia's war on Ukraine, Moscow has been forcibly removing children from its neighbor in apparent efforts to erase Ukrainian

culture and identity. Jason Stanley is a philosophy professor at Yale University who recently traveled to Ukraine to teach at the Kyiv School of

Economics on fascism, colonialism, and imperialism. He joins Hari Sreenivasan from Kyiv to discuss the complicated identity of Ukraine.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Jason Stanley, Professor, welcome back to the program.

We're talking to you. You're in Kyiv right now. And I want to know, for the past couple weeks, you've been teaching a course in Kyiv. Why?

STANLEY: Well, I'm an anti-imperialist and an anti-fascist. And my whole life, America has been fighting wars to topple oppressive regimes and

install democracy and none of these wars have been successful.

Here, we have a government that's not an oppressive regime, it's a democracy. It's a healthy democracy, probably healthier than our own, and

it's facing a violent fascist imperial regime that is attacking it, setting up concentration camps and the territories it occupies. And so, I felt,

especially, as a child of holocaust survivors, an anti-fascist, that I had to be here and support and to talk to people about what they're going


And then, secondly, I'm a philosopher. And it's an existential moment, and I don't want to do theory with other people's suffering, but learn from

Ukrainians about what this existential moment is like, a young democratic nation fighting for its existence was an opportunity that, as a

philosopher, I couldn't miss.

SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about what it is that you're teaching, why you thought it was important to, I guess, get this syllabus


STANLEY: First of all, I'm here to gain an understanding -- gain knowledge about Ukrainian's self-understanding. And my -- and then, I had a

hypothesis about what's happening. The hypothesis is that Russia is the most fascist -- explicitly fascist regime since -- certainly in Europe,

since Nazi Germany. And that Ukraine has been in a colonial situation.

And so, I wanted to bring to Ukraine different colonial experiences. So, we looked at the experience of British imperialism in Kenya in the 1950s when

they experienced the brutal suppression by the British, the Kikuyu. You know, Kikuyu were -- if they spoke the Kikuyu language in school they were

whipped, they were forced to carry signs saying I am dumb. And the Ukrainian language faces extinction by the Russians.


So, we're looking at British colonialism and what the Belgians did in the Congo, and I wanted to see if those resonated with the experience of

Ukrainians. And then I made -- I chose the reading, for instance, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the great Kenyan intellectual and writer who talks about the

extinction Kikuyu identity under the British, I chose the reading to resonate, to see if these colonialist -- these experiences of colonized and

oppressed people resonated with the Ukrainians. And I think they really did, even though, you know, Ukrainians often see themselves as Europeans.

SREENIVASAN: So, is Russia using its nationalism in a way that these other colonizers did, including Nazi Germany.

STANLEY: So, no two colonial situations are the same. I do worry that -- and one of the reasons I'm here that -- is that I do worry that we --

Ukraine faces a genocide, certainly a cult. It's inarguable that they face a cultural genocide because, in the occupied territories, Russia forbids

the Ukrainian language, they replaced textbooks to erase Ukrainian identity. But there's a slightly different structure, let's say, with

British colonialism.

The British, when they occupy the country, they didn't think that the Kikuyus in Kenya were actually British. They wanted to make them British.

They wanted to civilize them in the language and -- of colonialism. They were seizing their territory and pushing them off into reserves, but they

wanted to erase their identity.

This phrase, Africans have no history, was part of the colonialist mindset. Here, it's somewhat different. The Russian ideology, the Russian national

ideology is that Ukrainians really are Russians and that they've invented this identity, a fake identity, and the fake identity is all about being

anti-Russian. And so, the reason I'm worried about genocide is because you have this conception that in Russian ideology, that as long as there's

Ukrainian identity, it's an existential threat to Russia because it's this is anti-Russian identity.

And so, that's very much like what Hitler thought, what the Nazis thought about Jews, that they were just there on the planet to destroying

(INAUDIBLE). And so, it isn't like British colonialism and that there's no even pretense of a civilizing mission. I mean, I think the pretense was,

you know, a pretense and not correct.


STANLEY: Because the British (INAUDIBLE). But there's just the genocidal intent here.

SREENIVASAN: When you say genocide, what comes to my mind is maybe what happened in Rwanda or what happened with the Nazis, and those images aren't

necessarily ones that we're seeing today. We're seeing horrible devastation. We're seeing war and suffering. But when you use parallels

like Nazism and like genocide, how do the students respond and do they get it? Do they push back?

STANLEY: So, there's cultural genocide. There's elimination of identity. It's like what we did in America with indigenous populations, we did a

physical genocide. We seized their land. We killed a huge portion of them, physically. We penned them into reserves. But we also eliminated -- we

tried to do a mass extermination of their culture and identity. What you have here is clearly that. You clearly have cultural genocide. You clearly

have a systematic attempt to erase a distinct Ukrainian identity.

And increasingly, we're seeing physical genocide. Look, one statistic I saw, as they said, 19 -- they kidnap 19,000 Ukrainian children and sent

them to Russia to be raised by Russian families. You know, that's evocative of the indigenous boarding schools. So, we know that indigenous genocide is

what happened in the United States, it was a model for Hitler. It was manifest destiny. It was a model for what he wanted to do in the east.

So, as the philosopher of language, a scholar of language, I can tell you without any doubt at all that this genocidal language, there's genocidal

vocabulary, there's a genocidal ideology. We're seeing exactly that in the occupied territories, they call it filtration, where they torture people to

see if they have Ukrainian identity, and that's why I think you can't cede any territory, because it is the Russians are speaking genocidally, the

Russians in -- are setting up institutions that are paradigms of fascist regimes and genocidal regimes.


So, it's not like the kind of mass instant slaughter of Rwanda. They don't have Auschwitz here, that's true.


STANLEY: There are these distinctions. But we can talk about cultural genocide, we can talk about kidnapping children, a lot of -- there's an

overlap with other genocides that we recognize.

SREENIVASAN: So, why is it important for Ukrainian students or whoever is in this class, so to speak, to get this hypothesis, to internalize it, to

think about it, to struggle with it, to take it to their friends? What is kind of your contribution here by injecting this thought into Ukraine at

this time?

STANLEY: OK. I think there's an intellectual purpose, a solidarity purpose. I think Ukraine feels alone. And I wanted to show that -- show them that

they have -- there are allies, in a sense, that there are other people who have gone through this experience.

And the second thing was strategic. I think Ukrainians by constantly identifying themselves with Europe, and western values are losing allies,

they're losing allies who are victims of American imperialism, they are losing allies who suffered under European great powers and the scramble for

Africa that was decided on in the 1984 Berlin conference. And so, those are valuable allies.

The acts -- the former colonized countries in Africa, victims of U.S. imperialism in Latin America should be on the side of Ukraine. And

Ukrainians, by constantly affiliating themselves with Europe, are losing those allies.

SREENIVASAN: Do they see themselves as colonized?

STANLEY: Very, very interesting question. So, that was really the effort, because I think that there is resistance to that. There is resistance

because they do identify themselves with Europe. And so, when you talk about what Europe has done, when you talk about how enlightenment values

were a pretense, they're very familiar with the Soviet Union being a pretense, that the Soviet brutality to Ukrainians, as well as to many

different people, including to Russians, was done under a pretense.

And I have been trying to urge, following the -- you know, a lot of the anti-colonial literature, Du Bois, Cesaire, Fanon, to show that something

similar is true of European values, and that's been hard. That's been a tough battle. It reminds some of Marxist critiques of Europe -- of liberal

concepts, and it's toxic in this part of the world to compare anything to Marx, to echo of Marx.

But I think that a lot of the parallels resonate with them. For example, one thing I hadn't realized before I taught this course that would resonate

with them is Fanon's description of the difference between -- of the relationship between the Metropole, the capital of the empire, and the

colonies. I hadn't known that, you know, in the past, the best intellectuals went to Moscow.

And, you know, if you wrote in Russia -- if you are an intellectual, you wrote in Russia. Moscow was like Paris for the French colonies, and that's

something that Fanon talks about in detail and strongly resonated with them this sense that, you know, Ukraine was, you know, a province or a colony,

and they -- the real intellectual hub was Moscow.

So, I think it's been tough because no colonial subject wants to view themselves as colonized. You know, it's a form of oppression. And so,

there's been a lot of barriers, the European self-conception the -- and the first. And secondly, you know, the sense that, you know, colonized subjects

are made to feel inferior. And, you know, there's a reluctance to accept that. But there was also a comfort in seeing the overlaps between what

(INAUDIBLE), what Algeria or what Kenya went through.


SREENIVASAN: When there is an attack on a nation, people have a tendency to rally around the flag. We saw it after 9/11 here. We've seen pets in so

many places. And I wonder whether there is -- you know, it's not just Zelenskyy's vision for Ukraine, but there are probably likely more

nationalists' visions for Ukraine. And in a way, that's what Vladimir Putin is calling them out to be, right? And I don't know how your students

perceive that and what that conversation is inside the country.

STANLEY: So, that's been one of my main points. There are really two battles. One is on the battlefield. And the second is to avoid being the

country -- becoming the country that Vladimir Putin falsely says Ukraine is.

Ukraine, unlike most democracies in the world, has no far-right -- has almost no far-right representation in its legislature. It has held off the

kind of extremism that you find in antidemocratic far-right, quasi-fascist extremism. You even find in its European neighbors to its west, like


But the worry is that, you know, Putin is saying Ukrainians are really like the Ukrainian nationalist who allied with the Nazis. They're like Stepan

Bandera who was a profound anti-Semite, who participated in the massacre of Jews, and that's in Ukrainian history. And the concern is that coming out

of this war, Putin will win. If he doesn't, he's not going to win on the battlefield. The world, I hope, will prevent that. And Ukraine, the

Ukrainian armed forces will.

But if, emerging from that, they lose the second war, the war for their identity, the war for their soul, as it were, you know, that would be

deeply tragic. We've been talking throughout about how to avoid really bad nationalism. And so, you could nationalism, you learn a lot about your

country, but you learn the bad and the good. And if you only learned the good parts of your country or exaggerated versions of the good parts of

your country, you risk falling into a kind of nationalism that undergirds fascism.

So, I've been saying, look, Ukrainians did have complicity in the evil empire that is the Soviet -- the imperial empire, that is the Soviet Union,

the problematic, you know, evil empire, that is the Soviet Union. And Ukrainians -- Ukraine did have a history of antisemitism. You -- there was

a version of Ukrainian nationalism that was associated with a narrow conception of the people, the nation, that excluded Jews and resulted in

great violence.


STANLEY: And so, it's been a difficult conversation because, at this time, you know, Ukrainian nationalism is required, as Fanon argues, to fight

back. So, it's hard for them to look at figures in the past who were nationalists but also, you know, committed acts of great violence against

the Pols, against Jews, and completely denounced them.

But I have emphasized that -- I've tried to emphasize that you're going to have to avoid fascism, to avoid the kind of nationalism that underlies

fascism, you're going to have to embrace the bad and the bad aspects of your history as well as the good ones.

And then, we've been talking about how to treat national minorities, especially the problem of how to treat, you know, monolingual Russian

speakers when this is over, you know, we've been talking about the importance -- you know, how, when you're so angry at them. And in general,

like the importance of representing people, different minorities.

One of the things that has really impressed me about Ukraine, it's one of the most loved families is the Nayyem family. They're Afghan refugees, and

they're incredibly patriotic Ukrainians. Mustafa Nayyem is now the head of the agency for reconstruction and infrastructure, which is obviously

important. So, that will help against the bad version of nationalism.

Just like in America, representation of minorities, while not enough to prevent white supremacy, is a necessary condition of overcoming our past.

SREENIVASAN: It sounds a bit like you're learning a lot more than your students are?

STANLEY: I am learning a lot more than my students. A lot.

SREENIVASAN: Jason Stanley, author of "How Fascism Works," and a professor at Yale, joining us tonight from Kyiv, thanks so much for joining us.

STANLEY: Thank you, Hari.



GOLODRYGA: I think we all learned a lot from that conversation.

Well, that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can

always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.