Guest column: Foreign Support in Ukraine

Olena Kagui

Since the peaceful protests that began on Nov. 21, 2013 turned violent three months later, the whole world has been watching Ukraine. There have been talks between European Union member states, NATO, the United States and Russia on how to help stabilize the situation, but there is still unrest in Ukraine. People from all over the globe have been trying to help support Ukraine in non-political ways too, such as by sending reporters, doctors, money, clothes and supplies. But there are fun and simple ways to help as well.

On March 16, I attended the fifth Flag Parade organized by Expats in Kiev, and it was an amazing experience. As we prepared our flags at the meeting point, I met many interspersing international people. Everyone was mingling, having a great time and, most importantly, supporting Ukraine. With yellow-and-blue ribbons tied to his English flag, stood one of the organizers, a British man named Chris Taylor. He explained that he helped organize the event “to show unity, to show that the international community [in Kiev] does support the new government.”

Taylor has lived in Kiev for four years and believes an event such as a flag parade “is a very visible thing that the international community can do to show support.”

He had supported Ukraine from the beginning of the conflict and he wants this event to show a continued support for Maidan.

“Even if Crimea and Russian aggression wasn’t happening, we’d still be supporting Ukraine,” he said.

As the parade walked through the streets, Ukrainians cheered and thanked everyone for the support.

I was pleasantly surprised when someone yelled “Slava Ukraini” and all around me, expats from at least 20 different countries responded in unison with “Herojam Slava.” This created a strong feeling of unity between all of us within the parade but also with the Ukrainians around us.

When we got to Maidan, some of us got to go on stage and say something to the thousands of watching people. Everyone had really beautiful and supporting things to say. Ukrainians, like everyone else in the world, have heard a lot about the “American Dream,” yet on the stage of Maidan, Americans living in Kiev stood up to praise Ukraine and its people.

People spoke of how inspiring the protests were to them, and all the short speeches spoken in Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and French ended in loud applause. Once everyone spoke, the Ukrainian national anthem was played, and everyone, no matter what nationality, joined in to sing along with it. The speaker who welcomed us on stage had said, “We might not understand all the words, but support speaks for itself.”

As a Ukrainian, I found all this very inspiring and remembering that day still gives me goose-bumps. The speaker in Maidan was right – support really is a universal language, and there can’t be too much of it.

Many people think they can’t help because they don’t have the money, political power or the words to share with Ukraine. But every picture of foreigners holding up Ukrainian flags from abroad adds a drop of hope to the Ukrainians who are fighting for their freedom — many of whom still gather at Maidan today to fight for a better future.

Contact Olena Kagui at [email protected].