This is not an easy time for any Ukrainian. We are barely able to process what is happening in our country - never mind the people who are now trapped in places like Mariupol and Kharkiv. Cities that are hundreds of years old that are now turning into rubble. And all I can do to help in my own little way is this: do these podcast episodes, help my husband fund raise for his friends back home who are fighting - actively, passionately and heroically fighting - for our homeland and volunteer some more (something I've spend my entire adult life doing).
And I see what others are doing here in the Diaspora - all doing something. Sometimes for a homeland we've never seen, at other times for a homeland we've just recently left behind and for some lucky few - a shared homeland: travelling back and forth, staying connected with friends, moving back for several-year stints.
And the more I think about us Ukrainians, the more I think about bees. Active, little bees who work hard to get their honey made, have their little comb homes to work out of but will unite when attacked. And that's us: we may bicker amongst ourselves, we may complain about one another, about our politicians, about how we would do things differently - but we are all Ukrainian. We share in loss, we share in grief and we will help our own.
We work from what we have: we were given the ruins of a communist hellscape, we created something uniquely our own. We worked, and we worked and we turned manure into honey through blood, sweat and toil. It wasn't perfect, we weren't there yet - but we were getting on our way. In cities that I never thought I would experience a uniquely Ukrainian culture - I felt. In Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro, where yes the Russian language was heard most often, I found people answering me in Ukrainian freely and without restraint. The beautiful grafitti artwork on the many bridges of Dnipro, the truly soulful experience of Khortytsia - where the Cossack spirit is overlooked by a giant blue-yellow flag, Odesa which is filled with new-age hipster locals. All of this was the slow work of our busy little bees. They might not all look like one another, but they all feel Ukrainian - like one of ours, one of us. They experienced the freedom to be themselves and work they did: they began to create highways, they began to share their culinary skills with the world, they opened their hearts to their breathren in the Diaspora. And all of us shared one special bond: Ukraine itself.
And our queen bee isn't a person - it's our homeland. It's the fields of the steppes, its the ravines of our Dnipro valleys, it's the mountains of the Carpathians and the ancient cities that dot our country from west to east and from north to south. We drove this route many times and yes I was only in Mariupol once for 2 days, but even that short experience bonded me to that city. It was a city on the front lines, but hell if they were going to give up. It was a city of metal and maybe that hardened their stubborness. Yes, I was there back in 2015 and my Ukrainian was certainly out of place but the nurses and doctors at that maturnity hospital that was hit several days ago weren't bothered by it. They joyfully shared in their work and how the hospital planned a bomb shelter even back then - because they knew that the enemy wasn't above bombing pregnant women and infants.
When when our queen bee is attacked: we won't sit back and allow it to happen. We will work together again and defend it. I don't know how long it will take, but we will get our independence back. We will defeat the fascist horde that is now on our land. It might be with a swarm or it might be with thousands of little pin-pricks. But we'll get there. That is one thing I know as I look back throughout the ages: from the Cossacks, to the Sichovi, to the UPA, to the Shistoshesiadnyky - we won't be happy until we have our own to complain about. Russia a foreign entity now - they have lost this war by starting it. They have created a divide so deep, it might not ever heal.
But Ukrainians will continue to work - like busy, little bees - to help our people, help our soldiers, help our family and friends, help our homeland, help our queen bee: Ukraine.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its Heroes!