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WHERE THE SUNFLOWERS GROW

An essay

By Dana StewartPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
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WHERE THE SUNFLOWERS GROW
Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

March 9, 2022 excerpt from Social Media post. Names intentionally withheld for safety concerns.

“We are still here, the town is mostly under the control of the Russians. We have no gas, electricity or water utilities. The mobile internet is very weak and only works for a few minutes at random times during the day, but glad we have a connection.

Heavy fighting occurs all around us, so it is next to impossible to go outside. Anyone on the streets will probably get shot at. Our defenders have managed to stall the Russian advance to Kiev.

Fortunately, we do still have food. We cook over a fire when it gets quiet. It is frightening, but what else can we do? We are thankful for the cold weather because it has helped to preserve the food we have.

Our only hope is that an evacuation route will be opened up to allow us leave. Please continue to pray.”

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Under all is the land, the precious earth, the very dirt where we stake our homestead claims and begin to plot our dreams. Home is an infinite sanctuary, where our children should have the chance to grow with carefree persuasion, where dogs slumber on sofas, where friends gather to celebrate accomplishments or enjoy peaceful fellowship.

Land is an asset and annexation has been the conquest of wars since the dawn of time. If that statement seems barbaric, it's because it is.

The history books are full of stories of democracy won and democracy lost by the blood splattering acts of ego driven dictators in powerful positions. Like an antique vase, freedom is fragile, freedom is priceless, an ever-persistent unalienable right due all mankind.

Franklin D. Roosevelt offered wise words on the subject, ‘In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed, it must be achieved.’

Being an American, Roosevelt’s words aren’t easily understood.

Being an American, the mere notion of not having freedom conjures serious emotions.

Being an American, the mere notion of not having freedom conjures revolting threats.

Being an American, the mere notion of not having freedom is completely unimaginable.

In these modern times it’s unnerving to watch in real time the unprovoked invasion of a peaceful country by a larger, more powerful one. As I write this article, the history books will show that two years to the day a global pandemic was declared, which affected everyone. A pandemic with a virus so lethal it stopped everything for a time. Some paid the price with their lives. Others with their incomes, their way of life disrupted by an uncontrollable force. The pandemic was outside of everyone's control. We couldn't stop the virus, it wasn't human. It was a viral enemy.

With Spring 2022 on the horizon, quiet hope was looming. Hope for a renewed world, a return to normalcy, whatever that means. Pandemic relief was in sight, within our grasp.

That reprieve of a possible normal was not only short lived for the people of Ukraine, normal simply evaporated. For weeks the Russian military assembled on the border. Then with the conclusion of the Olympics in Beijing, the tanks started rolling, the missiles fired, the pulses of light flared in a dark sky. War in Europe. For the first time since World War II.

I’ve had the privilege to meet several people of Ukraine over the years. I’d describe them as a fun-loving, passionate people with a love of country. Their country, Ukraine, created out of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As countries go, Ukraine is in its infancy. The new Ukraine that is, without any ties to Russia. Ukraine suffered many atrocities while under Russia's thumb. The Holodomor of the 1930's is considered genocide by fifteen countries, where the Soviet Union tried to starve the Ukrainians, leaving families to turn to cannibalism to survive.

And yet, they survived. But they haven't forgot the pain a generation old.

When Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, they inherited the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. In 1996, two years after the signing of the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine handed over every nuclear weapon in their arsenal back to Russia.

My Ukrainian friends explained it this way – that their new country was a country of peace and they had no need for such serious weapons of mass destruction. They thought by surrendering the hazards of war that they could avoid conflict.

Was it really that simple to have peace? With freedom of choice, the Ukrainians opted out of destruction.

Ukrainians wanted to grow dreams, rebuild their homes. They wanted to grow their own food. They wanted to grow sunflowers.

And while Ukraine is a country that desires peace, their love of freedom has been on display since the invasion. Patriotism coupled with heroic bravery; the peace-loving Ukrainians don't go around picking a fight. But that doesn't mean that they're not afraid of one either. Fight they have. Lord willing, fight they will. They fight for the basic right: to survive. They fight tyranny. They resist oppression. Regular civilians have taken up arms. They have no choice. The enemy has a bigger army, more manpower. Ukrainians burn tires in roads as an effective shield. As long as the fire rages, there is hope. Hope that a world will step up their fight. The Ukrainians know the stakes. This war is a fight against annihilation.

Freedom shouldn't be a choice. Freedom is oxygen. Human beings need both to live.

Some women and children have been able to evacuate, war is no place for a child. Neighboring countries have opened the floodgates of hospitality to the refugees. Poland, the first country invaded by Germany at the start of World War II is no stranger to narcissistic invaders. I can only imagine the tales told from grandmothers to their granddaughters about the horrors of war. Perhaps that history compelled Polish mothers to leave their empty baby strollers at the train stations. A needed boon for the tired Ukrainian mother’s heavy child toting arms.

Francesco Malavolta AP

Ernest Hemingway said ‘Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.’ Consider this quote against Roosevelt’s. How freedom cannot be bestowed, but achieved. The distinction between declaring freedom and maintaining freedom lies in truth. Whether you desire the weapons to kill or the desire of dirt to plant dreams and leave a legacy.

Freedom should never be taken advantage of and freedom should never be taken for granted. Freedom is your voice, your champion. It’s the equalizer for humanity, and humanity is not lost. Some days have a haze blocking the light, but the sun will burn off the fog and the harvest will flourish. The crop will flourish, but only if each of us desire to plant the seeds.

My heart is heavy for the Ukrainian people. The older I get, the more I wish for calm without chaos. My prayers are for resolution. An end to conflict. Period. A renewed joy, a steadfast everlasting peace for the world. I haven’t given up hope this is a misguided notion.

I have sunflowers to plant.

Historical
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About the Creator

Dana Stewart

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