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I grew up in the 1970s and '80s as the son of anti-autocratic Republicans. The description now seems both quaint and distant as the party continues to embrace Donald Trump and, by extension, Vladimir Putin.

Each of my parents immigrated from Europe to America after surviving the tyranny of despots. My father, a native of Ukraine who escaped the genocidal regime of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, arrived in New York on the Queen Mary in 1955.

My mother, born in Germany two years before the outbreak of World War II and in the midst of Adolf Hitler's reign of terror, landed in Chicago on a Lufthansa jet in 1961.

War and authoritarian rule had shaped — deformed — their lives up to that point. In Minnesota, where Eugene Kuz and Ingrid Eckermann met, married and resettled, they found peace and achieved prosperity, starting a family and building a house in Savage as my father's solo medical practice bloomed.

In the '80s, as I reached my teens and awakened to politics, my parents supported Republicans in general and Ronald Reagan in particular. They remained loyal to the then-president even when he ran for re-election in 1984 against Walter Mondale, Minnesota's native son.

Reagan earned their devotion with his unrelenting crusade against the Soviet Union and East Germany that emphasized the threat of totalitarianism to the West — and, more so, to the people suffering under its yoke.

Eugene and Ingrid knew the plight of those trapped by the ideological and physical barriers that demagogues construct. They understood the pervasive fear and policing of thought, the absence of opportunity and withering of hope. My father's immediate family languished behind the Iron Curtain in Ukraine; my mother had left Germany the same year that communists built the Berlin Wall.

Reagan gave fervent voice to the universal human desire to live free. In a speech in West Berlin in 1987, he exhorted the Soviet Union's then-leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, with perhaps the most famous line of his presidency: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

His words resonated around the world as a clarion call for liberty. Two years later, the wall did indeed fall, and two years after that, the Iron Curtain followed. My parents exulted.

Their enthusiasm for Reagan rubbed off only a little on the youngest of their three children. Before long, I came to regard him as the root cause of much that ailed the country, a verdict reaffirmed over the ensuing decades.

Still, in America's stare-down with Russia, Reagan met the moment. His Cold War policies and arms race against the Soviet Union helped hasten its demise, releasing tens of millions of people across Central and Eastern Europe from Moscow's shackles.

Reagan's strategy revealed a shrewd awareness of a force more potent than the U.S. military or economy — the American idea. Possessed of an actor's intuition, he extolled a vision of democracy that, if misleading in its sunniness, underscored the gray reality of the world's dictatorships. He recognized the power of dreams.

Which brings us to former President Trump, his nihilistic rhetoric and his open admiration for Putin.

The Russian ruler-for-life seeks to exterminate Ukraine with a bloodlust that evokes Stalin and Hitler. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year's presidential race, has praised Putin's invasion as "genius," "smart" and "savvy."

Reagan sought to export democracy to the countries behind the Iron Curtain in service of American interests and the liberal world order. Trump has sided with a fascist regime in Moscow attempting to restore its imperialist empire. He has pressured Republicans in Congress to prevent the House from introducing a Senate bill that would provide $60 billion in military funding for Ukraine, a sovereign nation fighting for its survival.

Reagan urged Gorbachev to demolish the real and figurative walls of oppression. At a recent rally, Trump encouraged Russia "to do whatever the hell they want" to NATO nations that fail to meet the alliance's minimum threshold for military spending.

Reagan pursued — for better and sometimes worse — a policy of democratic expansionism. Trump promotes a dystopian nativism, advocating for an American retreat from the world. A self-styled strongman, he appears to believe that the country's military might insulates it from ruin and eliminates the need for willing allies. The same imperious, blinkered ethos afflicted the Soviet Union and enabled its collapse.

My father died in 2015, a year after Putin annexed Crimea and first invaded Ukraine, sending troops in unmarked uniforms to occupy a swath of the country's southeast. Eugene saw Putin as another Stalin, and he feared that without greater military support for Ukraine from the West, Russia would lay siege to his homeland.

I can imagine his opinion of Trump, who has betrayed Reagan's fight against despotism. I don't have to wonder what my mother thinks. As early as 2015, Ingrid warned that Trump reminded her of Hitler, and with his potential return to power looming, she worries about the fate of America and Ukraine alike. "I miss Reagan," she says.

I do, too.

Martin Kuz is an independent journalist covering Ukraine. He writes a newsletter at