Angel on the Square

After he left, I wailed to Mama, “He’ll be killed in a war like my papa and his papa were.”

“Nonsense,” Mama said, trying to comfort me. “There are no wars for soldiers to fight these days. Countries are too sensible for such things.”

— from Angel on the Square, Gloria Whelan, 2001

This older-aged children’s book is about the Russian Revolution. The narrator, a young girl named Katya, is an aristocrat going to live with the Russian tsar and his family. Her cousin Misha, a strong-willed boy being sent to military school, is a supporter of the Revolution. The history comes alive in this story, as do the attitudes of the common people, the aristocrats, and the revolutionaries. Katya’s attitude, torn between her own tenderheartedness for the mistreated peasants and her loyalty to her royal friends, strengthens as her country weakens and eventually falls into the evil hands of Lenin.

The quote above struck a warning chord with my own naivete. Like Katya’s mother, I would like to believe in peaceful, sensible countries. But also, like Katya, I know that wars will happen, countries and their people will fall, governments will be overthrown and changed, and that is how the world works. Sometimes God chooses to build His kingdom through the crumbling of earthly kingdoms. Like Katya, God’s people rise from a war in changed circumstances but with stronger hearts.

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