When Anxiety Has Historical Basis

Sarah Darer Littman
3 min readMar 2, 2022


It’s not irrational — it’s a survival mechanism.

I have a bottle of anti-anxiety meds that my psychiatrist prescribed when I was having a Kavanaugh hearings related PTSD episode. At the time, she assured me “You aren’t alone.”

I haven’t had to use them since then. I’ve had enough therapy and have learned cognitive behavior strategies to overcome the times when anxiety flares.

Or at least I did until yesterday. How was it that I managed to survive two years and counting of Covid, shifting classes online with a week’s notice and very little training, plus disturbing research and intense book deadlines for Some Kind of Hate without reaching for the pill bottle, but was so unsettled yesterday?

“I don’t know what’s the matter with me today,” I told my husband.

“Yeah, you’re definitely acting weird,” he observed.

It wasn’t until last night that I put two and two together. It was the news that Babyn Yar, the ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv where German Einsatzgruppen killed an estimated 33,771 Jews over a 36 hour period in September 1941, was hit by Russian missiles.

It’s not clear if the hit was intentional, but if it was, it wouldn’t be surprising. For years, the Soviets tried to erase that Babyn Yar was a place where Jews were massacred, just as they tried to erase the practice of Judaism.

As Natan Sharansky said, “Babyn Yar is a symbol of the Soviet Union’s efforts to physically erase memory. They took the most tragic part of our history and tried to make it disappear. Thanks to an independent Ukraine, the policy was fully changed towards the memory of the Holocaust.”

Over the past decade, I have asked politician after politician (especially Republicans, as the party has run headlong into its embrace of right-wing extremism) to speak out publicly about antisemitism. Time after time, I’ve been met by obfuscation at best (“I didn’t see it, so it didn’t happen” from a late member of CT Republican State Central) and deliberate, rude, obtuseness at worst (“Why isn’t anyone allowed to have a different opinion than you?” from the current First Selectman of Greenwich, CT when he refused to speak out against a grossly antisemitic photoshopped mailer of a Jewish state rep by his Republican opponent.)

I’ve watched in horror as we’ve witnessed the mainstreaming of white nationalist ideas across the world and a growing number of antisemitic hate crimes.

Just last week, two current members of the GOP House delegation spoke at a white nationalist conference (as if CPAC weren’t becoming extremist enough) and the cowardice of GOP leadership was on full display.

President Zelenskky summed up my feelings best, yesterday.

Still, there was an even more personal reason for the anxiety that made my nerves feel like someone was running a serrated blade over them.

My paternal grandfather and his brother left Ukraine through Romania, so they could emigrate to the US. My father remembered his family getting a telegram telling my grandfather that his parents had been murdered, from relatives who’d managed to escape further east.

Chaim and Fayge Darer: murdered 1942, Ukraine

I remember my father weeping as he read me a recounting of how the Jews of town where my great-grandparents lived were murdered:

On May 8, 1942 approximately 2,300 Jews were thrown alive in the phosphate mine, helpfully indicated to the Germans by a local engineer. The entrance to the mine was bricked up and nobody could get out. For three weeks the locals heard cries for help, moaning, agonizing screams. They starved to death or suffocated.

If you find that hard to read, then don’t just sit there -SPEAK UP. Call your Congressional representatives. Tell them that Ukraine can’t wait for military help and aid.

Hitler became emboldened when the world didn’t respond strongly enough to his aggressions. We’ve already allowed that to happen with the extreme right in our country, and with Putin, and Viktor Orban and so many others abroad.

“Never Again IS NOW.”

To help Ukraine in addition to lobbying your Congressional reps, here’s a list of places to donate. Also: World Central Kitchen.



Sarah Darer Littman

insatiably curious middle-grade/young adult author, writing mentor. SOME KIND OF HATE 11/1/22 Scholastic Press #medialiteracy sarahdarerlittman.com