A local Ukrainian reflects.

By Andriy B.

Have you ever heard of the Golden Basket? 

It’s a term used to refer to my homeland of Ukraine. The fields of wheat and sunflowers, stretching as far as the eye can see, look like a golden basket. It is a land rich in natural resources, from sunflower seeds to the neon gas used in the production of semiconductors and microchips.

Today Ukraine is fighting a war. A war that she did not want. A war that was brought to her. Ukraine’s gardeners have had to switch from shovels to machine guns. Ukrainian people are fighting for democracy, and their freedom for their children and for their land. 

I was 15 when the Soviet Union fell. Our currency collapsed, and our country had to rebuild. 

As a country, however, we knew one thing: We were Ukrainians. We had our own language, history and culture. We learned this when we were children, and we believe it, still.

Moscow has tried everything to crush Ukrainians. In the 1930s, the Holodomor killed nearly 4 million of us in just two years. They tried to eliminate the Ukrainian language. They sent Ukrainian priests to the gulags. Yet parents passed on what it meant to be Ukrainian to their children.  

When the Soviet Union fell, we embraced the idea of being Ukrainian and flew our flag with pride. 

As a nation, we had to rebuild. We had to discover what it meant to build our own democracy. 

Since 1991, we have fought for that democracy. We have had a few false starts, but each one has pointed us in the direction of success, of a respectable, representative democracy. 

Before February 24, Ukrainians’ daily lives didn’t look that different from yours. They sent their children to school in the morning before they headed to work. The children enjoyed using tablets and watching YouTube in their free time. People sat outside with their neighbors to grill; they ate  at cafes. They embraced the potential they saw emerging in our ancient, and yet new, country. 

On February 24, all of this was ripped away. I didn’t know where else to turn, so that evening I went to church with my family. The priest mourned with us and said that for generations Ukrainians have hoped to govern their own land. For the past 30 years, we thought we had finally achieved that goal. We slowly started to relax and feel confident in an autonomous and independent Ukraine. Now, Russia has been bombing maternity hosptials, schools, theaters, and shelters where civilians have fled to escape the bombings. That peace is shattered. 

Yet in this tragedy and chaos, a miracle has happened.  

The Ukrainian people have become even more united. Where people once felt differences in political leanings, languages and backgrounds, everyone has come together. Teachers, farmers and actors alike have had to learn to bear arms to defend their homeland. The fight they are waging is the fight for the right to rule their own nation and to build up a representative democracy.  

It breaks my heart to see the streets of cities I once walked reduced to rubble. But we are strong and tough, and I do feel a little hope.

Please consider supporting Ukraine. In addition to the national and international aid organizations, such as Caritas Ukraine (caritas.org/where-caritas-work/europe/ukraine/, that welcome donations, we also have local institutions that are helping; including the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, in the District, (ucns-holyfamily.org/orgs/help/index.php), and St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, in Silver Spring (standrewuoc.org/).