Meet my sunflowers, my new friends. They have grown tall, strong and healthy from tiny seeds planted against my side fence. Everyone loves them. People passing by stop to admire them. A neighbour asked me if he could take a photo of ‘your happy plants’. My little grandchildren love sizing up to them but the sunflower usually grows taller. Not surprisingly the bees love them too.
The sunflower – national flower of Ukraine
Recently I discovered that the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the humble sunflower has become a global symbol of solidarity. But the sunflower has long held that status particularly since 1991 when Ukraine became an independent country which resulted in ongoing aggression from Russia. However, in 1996, the Russian and Ukrainian Defense Ministers along with their United States counterpart planted sunflowers at the Pervomaysk missile base in Southern Ukraine to mark the disarmament of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
This act of peace and solidarity between the two countries was just that. An act. It did not change anything. It was nothing more than a senseless photo shoot for the newspapers. It reminded me of another photo shoot that did nothing but escalate ongoing misery. Who could forget that idiot Donald Trump raising the bible outside St. John’s Church after declaring war on his own citizens? Trump’s act of sacrilege intensified the grief surrounding the murder of George Floyd while his supporters continued their evil tirade.
The power of the magnificent sunflower
The magnificent sunflower has become a powerful symbol of peace and anti-war sentiment across the globe. Protestors are wearing them as crowns on their heads or attached to their clothing. Or wearing them embroidered on their masks and their attire. Or carrying bouquets at protests. Or using sunflower emojis to sign off on social media. Florists are selling bouquets of them and donating the proceeds to help Ukrainians displaced by the war. In many countries, sunflower farmers are doing the same with the proceeds from the sale of their crops. Other businesses are selling sunflower seeds and potted sunflowers. Artists are painting them on canvas and in the streets. People everywhere are showing their support for Ukraine through sunflowers.
Sunflowers may seem a small way for ordinary people to show they care. But we’ve got to do something because world leaders are either doing nothing or the bare minimum. Admittedly, it’s been difficult for them. Putin has threatened the war will escalate If other countries support Ukraine with military aid. And if NATO steps in and imposes a no-fly zone over Ukraine, that could signal the start of the third World War. So instead of military aid to Ukraine, world leaders are bravely taking to the world stage and calling Putin names. Murderous dictator, pure thug, war criminal, bully, barbaric. This name-calling is making Putin very, very angry.
Ukraine – the bravest country on earth
So this leads me to brave in the true sense of the word. Ukrainians are fighting and dying round the clock to save their beloved homeland and fellow citizens from Russia’s relentless attack. They will not surrender under any circumstances. Every day there are reports of Ukrainians showing extraordinary acts of bravery. Unarmed citizens blocking Russian war tanks, men and women taking up arms to volunteer at the frontline and reprimanding heavily armed soldiers are just some examples.
But let’s not forget about ‘the sunflower woman’. Her city of Kherson in Southern Ukraine was under attack on the first day of the invasion. (24 February 2022). This small brave woman stepped up to one of the Russian soldiers and berated him. She asked him what he was doing on her land and then accused him (them) of being ‘occupants and fascists’. His response was that she was ‘escalating the situation’. Then she offered him sunflower seeds. ‘Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here’.
At the time of writing …
Tragically, Kherson was the first place to fall to Russia. Now the city is running out of food and medical supplies. In other parts of Ukraine, Russia is taking hostages and refusing humanitarian corridors. More than ten million people have displaced with almost 4 million refugees amongst that figure. There are no accurate statistics on the number of Ukrainian citizens who have been killed or injured but it runs into the thousands. Included among the dead are at least 90 children.
As I admire my sunflowers, I feel the irony. A ‘happy plant’ yet a constant reminder of the untold misery imposed on Ukraine.