Many of us have been dismayed by the invasion of Ukraine and the relentless destruction of infrastructure and cultural sites, and the horrific loss of ordinary citizens’ lives. We are distant geographically but this undeclared war’s impact has extensive global reach. We may feel helpless but we can take small actions that will make a difference. Here’s a list of 10 things ordinary people can do:
1 Read Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva, the winner of the $25,000 KOZBAR Book Award. Presented biennially, this award recognizes outstanding contributions to Canadian literary arts by authors who write on a topic with a tangible connection to the experiences of Ukrainian Canadians.
2 And then read some more: there were two finalists in the KOZBAR competition: Fields of Light and Stone, a poetry collection by Angeline Schellenberg, and Enemy Alien: a true story about life behind barbed wire, a graphic novel by Kassandra Luciuk.
3. Create art. Even better create art and then use it to shine a light on the invasion of Ukraine and maybe raise some funds to support non-profit groups providing support inside the country. For example, Bekky O’Neil and Keith Del Principe, artists and farmers in Northumberland County, created a lino print of the words spoken by an elderly Ukrainian woman as she gave sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers who captured her city. Writer Diane Taylor blogged about it and what it means to her.
4 Rent a B&B in Ukraine. There are over 11,000 B&B rentals which gives a sense of how popular this country was to visit before February 25. Visit the European B&B site and rent a room for a night or two to help add needed dollars to the Ukrainian economy. Let the hosts know you won’t go there to stay but it’s a good thing you’re doing. We might be dealing with inflation, but imagine what happens to a nation’s economy with mined blockades at seaports and targeted infrastructure missile hits.
5 Purchase tickets to Ukrainian zoos. Imagine the challenges of keeping animals healthy and safe in a war zone, including non-indigenous animals with specific diets. You can help feed the animals (and the local economy) by buying entrance tickets online. Here’s three zoos in Ukraine that would appreciate your support. The Mykolaiv Zoo is close to the active war zone. You can read about the zoo in Оleksii Platonov’s article in Geneva Solutions and then buy entrance tickets. Check out the Kiyv Zoo in the nation’s capital. And the Kharkiv Zoo, in a city recently retaken by Ukraine, has an direct link on their site for donations. No matter how you feel about zoos, the immediate need should take precedence.
6 Write a letter of encouragement to President Volodomyr Zelenskyy sharing your support. This media savvy politician has used his skills as a writer, comedian and actor to keep his citizens’ morale high. He’s also kept his country’s peril in the spotlight internationally. We don’t know for sure but we do think some direct “Good for you, Mr. President” might help keep his morale high.
7 Create a collective project. For example, Penn Kemp, poet, playwright and dedicated activist, has gathered the voices of 48 prominent Canadian poets to produce an anthology with profits going to PEN Ukraine, to support the cultural community. Poems in Response to Peril features Gary Barwin, George Elliott Clarke, Kim Fahner, Tanis MacDonald, Daphne Marlatt and Goran Simić, among the 41 contributing poets. As these poets know, words are powerful.
8 Download the Ukrainian Flag. Add a show of support to your social media. This Kapwing Resources blog shows how you can add the flag, or its distinctive blue and yellow colours, to your Facebook, Twitter or TikTok profiles.
9 Research how we got here. There’s a lot of background on how Ukraine became an established country and why it has attracted the interest of surrounding countries, especially Russia, over the centuries. Here’s a list of 20 books from Book Therapy on understanding the history of Ukraine and Russia. And here’s a list of 12 essential books from the L.A. Times newspaper.
10 Write a poem or essay about how you feel. Writescape’s Ruth E. Walker wrote a prose poem entitled “Shell Shock” and it’s being published this fall in Beyond Words magazine. She wrote the poem to deal with her distress of what ordinary people were living — and dying — through in this senseless war. As happy as Ruth is that the poem is going into an international journal, she wishes with all her heart that the inspiration for the poem was not real.
Of course, Ukraine is not the only country dealing with warfare. There are conflicts all over the world and these examples of support — and others — can be used and customized as your creative and thoughtful mind can manage. We can make a difference, not matter our distance. Peace.