I had something else in mind for this week, but the lens has shifted a bit, and I feel it is necessary and right to zoom out and look at the world.
With Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, I was reminded of meeting my first Ukrainian people when I was 19. Their stories of leaving behind their lives and most of their belongings due to the Chernobyl disaster seemed so distant and unusual from my own experience until I remembered the year that I, too, had to leave most of my belongings and my poodle behind as my mother moved us to a new residence. My Ukrainian friends had to pack a small suitcase, not more than 25 pounds, and make their way through decontamination and on to an unknown fate in a nation willing to accept them. The backdrop of the stories are different, mine was parental and theirs was the now infamous nuclear disaster, but the commonality of having to abandon a life you’ve spent cultivating and forming relationships are just as devastating. Most of us don’t know what it means to leave behind everything we know or to be pushed away with war on your doorstep. I was a child with scars that many children bear and the only war in my life was between the adults who were supposed to protect me. What happened in Chernobyl and what is happening in Ukraine are quite different and yet, new scars are being created. Scars that will carry over for many years and affect generations of people.
A few years ago, I interviewed a Syrian family for LEO. Again, this was a family who was displaced by a conflict that they had no part in creating, but because of the machinations of others for greed, territory or religious control, they were forced to abandon their home, friends and family. As we talked, they asked me, “Can you help?” I had no answer but to say, “I wish,” because truly, I do wish to help. I’ve always wanted to write something that could change one heart or one mind. I think many of us come to this job wanting to have some influence and voice in the world around us.
Now with the gears of war turning in the Ukraine and conflict still happening in Syria and other parts of the world, the desire to help is big, a weight more than any one of us can bear alone, but collectively, we can.
Those who have been in the streets protesting around the world, despite the risks of contracting COVID or their own risks of oppression, have set the tone for the rest of us who care about those in the Ukraine being attacked. As well, those of us who recognize the interrelationships of struggle are shaken even more because all of these conflicts speak loudly to those similar in our own nation, with many of our neighbors — Black, Asian, Latin or other BiPOC — still looking over their shoulders as violence and oppression continues to follow here at home.
As loud as we are about Ukraine and Russia, we have to be as loud still about Syria, about Palestine, about the Uyghurs… about ourselves. Why? Because none of these issues are isolated and none of us are free until all of us are free.
So as Louisville’s eyes and hearts join the world in standing beside Ukraine… As we lit up our bridge in support, we must keep a space alive and lit for those who need us everywhere, including here. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us many things but right now, these words are speaking ,as loud as ever: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
And when someone asks, “Can you help?” The answer is yes. If you are in the streets, yelling in protests and waving the flags of the Ukrainian people, you are helping. If you marched and ran from tear gas and flash bangs in the streets of Louisville during the 2020 protests against police violence, you helped. The will of the people is bourne when we join each other and let those demands be known. Ukraine, we’re with you, and by being with you, we are also with ourselves. Strength in numbers.
For direct support of those in the Ukraine, there are many organizations accepting donations. Here are a few.
World Central Kitchen: WKC.org
Voices of Children: voices.org.ua/en
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