We have all watched with horror as Putin continues to attack Ukraine—it is heartbreaking. It is also clear that Putin has created his own reality to justify his personal beliefs, not the beliefs of his countrymen. The needless and cruel war Russia has inflicted on Ukraine, in my opinion, is pure evil and millions of innocent people are being killed, hurt and deemed homeless.

Amid this horror, I am fascinated by one question; how did Putin become the man he is? Ok, maybe two questions…how can we be sure we do not create more Putins?

Putin’s childhood

Putin had a bad childhood. Many people have had difficult childhoods, yet most do not intentionally seek to destroy 40 million people’s lives. Putin is not just a bad man, he is evil and there is not a single soul on this earth who would not agree with that.

Here are some interesting facts: 

  • Putin was born in Leningrad in 1952. Leningrad was under a nearly three-year siege by the Nazis during World War II that wiped out most of the population of more than three million people. One million people starved to death. The siege has been termed genocide and is described as the world’s most destructive siege of a city. His father was badly injured in the war; his mother nearly died of starvation.
  • Before Putin was born, his parents had lost two children, one from diphtheria. Leningrad had not yet recovered, and life was extremely difficult. His parents reportedly shared an apartment with another family. We’re not totally sure, but they may not have had hot water, or a bathtub, and perhaps little or no heat. 
  • His mother took any odd job she could, while his father was a factory worker. One report says they left him with another family. But it was clear that he was left to fend for himself in the company of other kids in the apartment building. He was severely bullied.

But at least two experiences kept him from being homeless his entire life:

  • He probably had support from a coach who may have taught him judo to defend himself.
  • It is also reported that a sixth-grade teacher took interest in him and helped build his confidence in his intellect and he went on to excel in high school. He eventually got a law degree but then joined the KGB.

These fact in no way make it okay for him to continue his reign of terror. The damage that led to his current behavior was obviously done early on. It produced a “macho, distrustful, unpredictable, a cultivator of half-truths and disinformation…a former KGB officer who remains culturally and psychologically tied to a Soviet Union that no longer exists,” according to a source quoted in the American journal Foreign Policy.

Ahhhh, but there is another factor involved here, one that connects a rescue pup to what you can do to make sure no child ever grows up to be a Putin.

A dear friend of mine, T.D. Hughes, enlightened me to what’s called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). When you look at Putin’s early years, the ACEs certainly add up—lack of food, inadequate housing, bullying, neglect, parental depression, etc. And he obviously inherited many ACEs from his parents, including wartime trauma personified by Nazi forces that threatened their existence and their homeland.

But it is also clear he did not receive any appropriate attachment from his parents for a variety of reasons. Appropriate attachment is the much needed connection between a parent and a child that leads to a healthy life. Without that attachment, children can die or be severely damaged.

What Can We Do?

We’ve seen study after study about how children who are loved and treated with kindness, respect, understanding, and warmth will develop different characteristics from those who experience neglect, contempt, violence, or abuse, and never have anyone they can turn to for kindness and affection. Sadly, the result is that these children will tend to take advantage of every possible opportunity to apply such violence, possibly on an enormous scale. Kindness and affection didn’t seem to be part of Putin’s world, and unfortunately, it is not part of many children’s lives today…enter the rescue dog.

In our effort to eradicate bullying, we hope to curb as much violence and hatred as we possibly can through the power of a story of a little rescue dog, who by all rights, could have ended up being a bully himself—except for the power of love. The children we’ve seen over the last few weeks could realistically have very high ACEs. We hope through our stories and visits, through our sending books home for the parents to read to them, and through our support of the teachers and principals, we are making an impact. Real strength means being able to love others by being kind. It helps to understand our feelings and not be driven by unconscious fears like Stalin, Hitler, and now Putin.

Love is the antidote, and it is up

to us to love others.

Join our movement and make an impact. Invite us to schools, purchase books for classrooms, or donate to Unleash Love. Contact us at info@unleash-love.com

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