Editorials, Opinion

Sunflowers for Ukraine: The global fight for democracy

Tucked inside today’s paper, you will find a poster: A field of sunflowers in front of Ukraine’s flag with the words “Let freedom ring” written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

This is one small way that we — and you, as well — can show support for Ukraine and its people as they fight Russian invaders.

Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower, and they have become a symbol of Ukrainians’ resistance to hostile Russian forces. These yellow flowers — long associated with joy and peace — took on a new meaning when a Ukrainian woman confronted Russian soldiers. She offered one of the soldiers a handful of sunflower seeds and said (according to one translation), “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here [and die].”

Her act of defiance sparked a movement, and sunflowers have appeared prominently at anti-war protests and rallies supporting Ukraine across the world. In England, the Russian Embassy has been covered in graffiti — including drawings of sunflowers.

At the time of this writing,  the U.N. Human Rights office says 227 civilians have been killed, including 17 children, and 525 injured. Russian missiles have devastated residential areas, including Zhytomyr, where 10 homes and a hospital were hit; Borodyanka, where two apartment buildings were destroyed; and Kherson, where residential buildings next to a kindergarten were struck by projectiles, among many others.

Thousands of Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, while just as many have stayed to fight. Civilians are taking up arms and fashioning Molotov cocktails from empty liquor bottles and taking down road signs — or replacing them with explicit messages telling Russian troops what they should do to themselves.

What can a poster of sunflowers and the Ukrainian flag do in the face of the horrors of war?

It’s a show of solidarity; though our displays of sunflowers and flags here may never reach the fighters across the sea, they will reach the people in our community who have deep ties to Ukraine. It tells them that their family here will support them as they do their best to support loved ones over there.

Every Ukrainian flag profile picture, every sunflower emoji, every hashtag #IStandWithUkraine and #SunflowersForUkraine helps fight the Russian online disinformation war. Russian trolls and state-run media are trying to perpetuate the myth that Ukraine brought these horrors upon itself and that Russia is fighting the noble battle. And the real world symbols of solidarity with Ukraine can help remind people who have encountered online disinformation that just because they read it on social media, doesn’t mean it’s true.

We hope you will join us in supporting Ukraine in its fight to preserve democracy — even if the only thing you can do is display this poster.