woensdag, maart 1, 2023

A sad anniversary

Last week was the sad anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The 24th of February 2022 did not only shake Ukraine. It was a wake-up call for the rest of us in Europe. It opened our eyes to the real Putin. We had been asleep up till then. Or chosen to look away, in spite of warnings from visionary people. Yet, we could have known from how Putin operates, imprisoning and poisoning dissidents, bombing and ruining Grozny and Aleppo, and in 2014 invading and annexing Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. The war against Ukraine started then and caused many thousands of deaths and immense suffering in those nine years.

Yet, to this day the Ukrainian people have resisted with courage and resilience. Motivated by the fact that there is no alternative, other than death or living in a brutal dictatorship, where the lie rules and people are silenced. To keep their freedom is what they fight for.

In 1993 IofC launched in the countries of the former Soviet Union the leadership program Foundations for Freedom (F4F), aiming to demonstrate and strengthen freedom and democracy, based on moral values. The program consists of courses, seminars, workshops, and follow-up meetings where people are encouraged to promote honesty and transparency in civil service and business life; to support the development of an honest and independent press; to base education on sound moral and spiritual values. F4F developed a strong network in different countries, especially in Ukraine, where the program is based. How this most treasured freedom would, some three decades later, be tested in an unprecedented way, no one could have predicted.

The brutal Russian invasion overturned all the plans of F4F and the organizations they work with. The first thing that mattered now, is to save Ukrainian lives. The people that knew each other from working as volunteers in an ecological community center in central Ukraine started the organization Solidarity in Action, to deliver lifesaving goods and to support people in Ukraine.*

From the beginning of the war, I have been in touch with one of the organizers, Lena Kashkarova, who fled Kyiv two days before the war started, and helps with the coordination of Solidarity in Action from Berlin. Through IofC NL we have done several actions to raise money for the help they give in Ukraine. It has now become a continuing action, and some people give monthly.

My husband and I were on a family visit in Berlin last week, and were able to meet Lena. Talking with her we realized again how much we are in this together. How their brave battle helps all of us in Europe. They fight for freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights, all of which we have taken for granted and know now, how valuable, but also how vulnerable it all is. They lose lives, they are at the forefront of the battle. People die also of stress, lack of medical aid, of hospitals being bombed. Their courage, resilience, and organizational ability are exemplary.

What we can do, is stand with them as much as possible. Lena is grateful that people from many countries show their solidarity. The support of those giving money so that Lena and the rest of the team can protect people in Ukraine, gives them strength. This is a terrible time to live through, and yet underneath all the suffering, she sees signs of being part of something bigger, of a divine force to which we all belong. So even though no one knows the end, she and her team continue to do what is necessary, what is possible, and what is right. Next to the hard power, with which Ukraine fights for its land, freedom, dignity, and bare physical survival, Lena and her team witness also how the soft power of fragile human connections shows amazing resilience in the face of the scariest manifestation of violence.

If you want to help, please go to Ukraine | Solidarity In Action. And sign in for the newsletter to learn more.  

Hennie de Pous-de Jonge

* Illustration Solidarity in Action