It’s been a year since Russia illegally and violently invaded Ukraine.
Today, I light a candle and summon Courage and Victory.
I light another, invoking Peace.
A third sending Love and Comfort to those in Ukraine.
It’s an important ritual. It allows me to consider, reflect and send my thoughts to those struggling. It keeps me from falling into despair when I try to stay informed.
I have had the honor to get to know some Ukrainians, through my work with the PR Army and a fundraiser for the MacPaw Foundation for Humanitarian Aid. The grief of seeing their homes and culture destroyed, the grief of being displaced and/or separated from loved ones, the grief of life being forever changed is palpable.
What can I say or do? Not much.
I can be present with them. I can witness their sorrows. I can listen to their stories.
Here are a few.
Z’s friend, a prominent ballet dancer, just 24 and dancing for Paris Opera Ballet, well on his way to a beautiful career, who quit to fight for his country and is now missing, presumed dead.
The silver ring G wears, which is the only thing she has from her home, having escaped to Germany before everything was bombed. She had only her handbag with her, with two pairs of underwear. She laughs at herself as she tells this story, saying ”why did I grab underwear? What not photos? My brain wasn’t rational that day.”
Sunflowers grow tall in Ukraine, and particularly on the farm of P. They have grown sunflowers for generations in this family. P tries to describe the smell of sunflowers, it’s warm and earthy and very unique, to her it smells like comfort and her grandmother.
R’s son and husband, still in Kyiv. Men are not allowed to leave. The winter is cold and brutal, electricity is minimal and often they are in the dark, freezing in their apartment. They huddle together and dream of tables full of food and laughter for Christmas, family and friends and the way it was just a short time ago.
D is on a mission to educate the world about Ukraine. She’s put together a powerpoint with elegant photos and talks about her heritage with pride. Scotland has been welcoming, she says, people are kind and want to hear more about where she’s from. She feels that she is keeping Ukraine alive, as it disappears miles away under artillery fire and bombs, blood on the ground, buildings toppled over.
O wants to make a magic potion – poison for Putin. It has sunflowers and a blue blue sky in it, the resilience of Ukrainians and arsenic.
I am now the keeper of these stories. They hold sacred space in my being, as I light these three candles. My hope for a better world is wrapped up in the candle’s flicker, the smell of sulphur, ash and beeswax.