With all the new stories vying for our attention lately, it’s important not to lose sight of a continuing struggle where we as Americans can help: Ukraine.
Recently Netflix released a powerful documentary following the unrest and continued struggle for democracy occurring in Ukraine. The film is called Winter on Fire and I strongly encourage you to watch it:
The film recounts the 2014 citizen-uprising against a president who wasn’t afraid to use the state’s military to inflict violence on his own people. I was moved by the unflinching unity, unshakable resolve, and the self-organizing nature of the Ukrainian people to ultimately oust a government that clearly did not have the citizen’s interests at heart. But their resistance came at a steep price: Over 100 people died and over a thousand were injured during the protests. Some of them were armed only with makeshift body armor, construction helmets, and wooden shields for protection against trained soldiers in SWAT gear with live ammunition at times. It’s heartbreaking.
But their spirit, their heart, their refusal to capitulate ultimately led to their victory. By sticking together in large groups and occupying their own capital city, by staying organized and sustaining each other, they won. Can you imagine standing in a huge press of your fellow unarmed citizens in the dead of winter, singing your national anthem every three hours, surviving off camaraderie and patriotism to see you through such a conflict? Their desire for true freedom and to secure their own democracy is inspiring.
But even after that hard-fought victory of ousting a president and holding elections to replace his government, they had only reached the beginning of a very long and arduous path. President Putin took quick advantage of the fledgling government and fringe factors around the revolution. Sometime after the events recorded in the documentary, Crimea was annexed, separatists fought to rejoin Russia, and the de-facto occupation of Ukrainian territory by Russian military began. And it’s still occurring to this day.
The United States and our allies are pressuring Russia as best we can in these tense times. Sanctions, actions by NATO and the G20, and supporting the Minsk Protocol agreements laid down that Russia must comply with are all tools coming to bear on this crisis.
But there is much more to do and you can help:
- Watch Winter on Fire to get a good understanding of how this all started
- Follow @UnitedforUkr, the U.S. Department of State’s dedicated Twitter account for updates and ways to stay engaged
- Visit the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv for the latest in-country updates
- See Vice President Biden’s trip to Ukraine recap from December 8th, 2015 and the transcript of the speech he gave before the Ukrainian Rada
- Connect with USAID in Ukraine for more opportunities to donate and partner to support the Ukrainian people more directly
But simply and more than anything, you can make an impact right now by talking about this and sharing with your circles of influence. The best way for us to support Ukraine is to make sure people continue talking about their struggle, in solidarity with them, and ultimately build enough social and political pressure against Russia to make Putin move on this issue.
I hope you’ll take time to get educated and familiar with this crisis, and help show your solidarity by keeping the Ukrainian people top-of-mind as they continue to drive toward the promise of democracy and their own sovereignty as a free and independent nation.