The entire world is looking at Ukraine, and Poland is no exception. Yet these last days have shown that Poles are not content with sitting idle while its Eastern neighbour is on the verge of civil war: citizens have taken action to send Ukrainians messages of hope and togetherness.
Kiev, February 18th 2014, photo. Artem Slipachuk/AA/ABACAPRESS.COM / East News
The escalating conflict in Kiev has a spurred a spontaneous outpour of virtual goodwill from even the remotest corners of the planet. Poland’s empathy for Ukrainians, however, could not be contained by social media alone and has spread into the streets.
Poles have every reason to be especially touched seeing the widespread suffering in Kiev. By no means are Ukrainians strangers in Polish culture. The border between Poland and Ukraine has moved right and left over centuries, resulting in the current artificial boundary between states which runs over shared lands, families, dialects, friendships. But more than this kinship between the two nations, it is maybe because Poles are familiar with hardship and bloodshed in pursuit of freedom that they reacted in such massive numbers.
While the political sphere has shown concern, civic and cultural circles held the most impressive demonstrations. The initiatives range from salutary gestures like treating wounded protesters and collecting medical supplies to send to the frontlines, to artistic happenings meant as a reminder that Ukraine has friends in the West as well.
Reading for Ukraine
Solidarity demonstrations are organised in practically every city, but certain gatherings have also decided to read excerpts from Ukrainian authors and Polish authors writing about Ukraine. In Olsztyn, the Stefan Jaracz Theater will feature actors reading from works on the social changes having taken place since 1989, a tumultuous period for both countries.
The inhabitants of Gdańsk will meet at the City Library to read and listen to Ukrainian literary creations, and to Ukrainian songs performed by the band Źdźbło. In Warsaw, the popular venue Café Kulturalna will hold an evening with a score of famous actors reading and leading a fundraiser to help Ukraine.
According to Slavic tradition, the souls of the dead leave the earth after forty days. To accompany the first fallen heroes among protester, Serhiy Nihoyan, Mikhail Zhyznewski and Yuriy Verbytsky, the inhabitants of Wrocław will gather on March 2nd.
The organisers of the event write: We want to show that Wrocław is with Ukraine! Bring Ukrainian flags, hats, face paint, candles. We want to create a happening.
Dear Mr Janukovych
Kiev, February 20th 2014, photo STRINGER / REUTERS / Forum
In Warsaw, protesters will gather in designated venues to hold a marathon of letter writing to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. For those far from the Polish capital but still willing to participate, the Amnesty International also features a petition addressed to Yanukovych.
PL2UA is a compilation of independent music dedicated to Ukraine from Polish artists. Independent is used here both as music genre and as a symbol of Ukrainian independence. The entire compilation is available for a minimum of 10 zlotys, and each song for 3 zlotys (approximately 3 dollars and 1 dollar respectively), but the artists suggest people pay what they want. Profits will be given to a humanitarian foundation helping Ukrainian citizens.
Culture.pl's Filip Lech interviews the artists.
Visit the website here: pl2ua.bandcamp.com
Solidarity Map With Kiev
For those desirous to follow the widespread Polish endeavours to help Kyiv, there exists a comprehensive online map of all the support initiatives across Poland, available in English. Its creators write on the page that they ‘hope that calm returns and change for which you fight comes soon.’
The above mentioned events are only a few of the hundreds of small and not so small steps taken to wish Ukrainians well in those difficult times. An inscription in Ukrainian symbolizing the general sentiment in Poland has now become ubiquitous on and offline, almost identical in both languages in spite of the differences in alphabet: ми з вами, we are with you.
Sources: based on the Polish article by AL, edited by LB, 22/02/2014