I hope you are watching. There is a tragedy unveiling in the middle of Europe. A dictator that poisons and imprisons its own people is now moving his armies to strangle a fledgling democracy that believes in the same principles you do: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. There is a thin red line across their country that divides us from the madman whose desires and fantasies threaten the world as we know it. In this new order he wants to impose, the use of military power needs no justification. He tries to remake and rewrite history and fill it with his own delusions of grandeur.
It seems that the existence of the Ukrainian identity stands in the way of his fantasies. He thinks that Ukrainian people are not real. They have been made up to uphold an illusion that he holds most dear. Here is the problem: they are real, and they have been denying his authority. While the Ukrainian democracy is only three decades old, her people are already willing to die for it.
Just in the first 24 hours of the invasion, we have seen examples of this. When a Russian fleet attacks a small island with a Ukrainian garrison in the Black Sea and offers its defenders to surrender, “Russian ship, Go f**k yourself ” replies the garrison over the radio. They know that there is no chance to survive the barrage of gunfire that will come unless they give up. They most likely died in the next hour, but did not leave their post. A lone marine stands on the bridge realizing that there is no time to get back to safety before Russian tanks start rolling in. He calls his friends to say goodbye and blows up the bridge. His platoon retreats to safety. even once the enemy troops occupy the townspeople try to drive the tanks with their bare hands. They do not act like victims, they do not want to be conquered. They will resist.
I am Ukrainian and my entire family is in Ukraine. Until recently, I talked to them on the phone every week. As the war fears started growing, we started calling every day. Now, there are only women answering the phone. All the men are gone, they are joining territorial defense units, while some may already be in the fight. I do not know where they are at the moment, but I know that wherever they are they will do what they must. They are protecting their home and their loved ones.
Still, there is a much larger issue here. This is not just some local war. If Russia is allowed to prevail, the world as we know it will not exist anymore. Instead of nations working together and caring for the future of all humanity, the governments will spend the foreseeable future arming hoping that the madman with the nuclear weapon may leave them alone. Make no illusions. The absolute power has already corrupted the madman in charge of Russia absolutely. If Ukraine falls, this will come to your parent’s house too.
My parents’ house in the western part of the country now has a different family of refugees from Kyiv living in every room. After I call my sister, I cannot think of anything but their faces: worried, tired after sleepless nights. We try to make small talk, but it is difficult to find the right words. I know that they just want to go home and live their normal life. I do not know what kind of news is waiting for them tomorrow.
Many people have reached out to me since the war started offering help and just trying to show their solidarity. I appreciate this a great deal. Just knowing that there are people that there are so many people that care gives us hope. If Ukraine is on the right side of history, it can never lose its fight. It will have to win in the end one way or another. For their family, for country, for all humanity.
I hope you are watching. If you do, you probably care. If you care, you may want to help. Here is something you can do first: reach out to the Ukrainians in your local community. This may be your neighbor, your colleague, your daughter’s best friend’s father from elementary school. They are living next to you and they are personally connected to their families in Ukraine. Reach out to them, ask how you can help. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing.
I invite you all to join us Monday, March 7th through Friday, March 11th at our information table, which will be set up in the Oakland Center next to the Habitat. People can come and show solidarity and their support and receive updates on the situation in Ukraine. There will also be information about how to support: the Ukrainian military, wounded people, refugees, and humanitarian organizations.
I also invite you to join us at the “Light a Memorial Candle” ceremony to honor the victims of war and the heroes defending Ukraine. The ceremony will take place at 4 pm on Friday, March 11, in front of Elliott Tower. Candles will be provided.