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Reflections from the SwampSunflowers and Ukraine

Sunflowers and Ukraine

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

Last week I saw a Ukrainian woman bravely approach a Russian soldier. The video went viral. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of sunflower seeds, and said:

“Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here…

While all the world is swirling about the invasion of Ukraine, I have not been able to stop thinking about the Ukrainian woman. She has become an icon in my mind of the war. The woman’s words have captured the whole meaning of resistance. Like the religious icons and the painted easter eggs, the sunflower has taken on a much deeper meaning.

Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine.

Take the waves of emotion you’ve felt over the last week of Russians moving into Ukraine. See the people fleeing to the borders, leaving their brothers, lovers, fathers, and husbands behind. Imagine all Ukrainians carrying sunflower seeds in their pockets. Where will we plant these seeds? Can we grow in other countries? When can we go home? Why is this happening to us?

Putin’s comments. “Ukraine’s not even a country. It’s a concept. It’s not even a country.”

Is it a concept? When does an image, vision, or concept become a reality?

Ukraine has a checkered and bloody history, as do we. That doesn’t make us concepts; we are sovereign states. We are democracies that determine our own paths. We don’t want or need other countries to lord it over us. An attack against Ukraine is against all people who believe in democracy.

To call a country with 40 million people, its unique history and culture nothing more than a concept is a weak justification for perpetrating war crimes against a people.

One out of 36 Canadians is of Ukrainian descent. Most, if not all, immigrants came here for a better life. They are a part of the “concept” of Canada and are part of our reality. We have the third-largest group of Ukrainians globally after Ukraine and Russia.

I admire the Ukrainian people for standing up to a much bigger Russian force. We know that Russia didn’t expect to meet so much resistance. It pains me to see them standing alone. I fear for their lives against incredible odds. Our governments tell us that the dangers of world war are too great, at this moment, to join our troops in the fight. Where is the line in the sand when we say no to Russia and mean it?

The invasion of Ukraine is the biggest war in Europe since WW II.

As spring approaches, I’ll be planting sunflowers in our garden. Sunflowers are my favourite flowers, and we have consistently grown a variety of sunflowers.

This year the sunflowers will take on a new meaning. They will become the Ukrainian woman with the seeds in her pocket. The sunflowers will become a hope for peace and freedom. The sunflowers stand up during the storms, seeking the sun and showing the world the beauty of their colours. Sunflowers are full of hope that their new seeds will have a fertile environment to grow in peace.

Plant some sunflowers. They are not a concept. With good soil and sunlight, they have a place in your garden. Sunflowers and Ukraine make this world a beautiful place.




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