By Madeleine McIsaac
My heart goes out to those currently being bombed and displaced from their homes. Not only am I thinking of my family in Poland, but also everyone in Ukraine that are bravely enduring this hellish situation. The fact that they are taking up arms and defending the culture and individuality of their county speaks volumes on their power as a people.
As the Russian invasion persists over Ukraine, the havoc being reigned down on the country's most historic buildings and landmarks has left an irreversible effect on its cultural heritage. Having these artistic historical elements is a crucial part of a country’s individualism, something that is given high importance in the formerly USSR-ruled country. Ukraine has fought for decades to achieve a sense of freedom separate from Russia’s rule, and these cultural malfeasances being brought onto the country are a reflection of Russia’s incessant need for power and control.
To destroy a country, the spirit of those who reside within it needs to be destroyed which is often achieved through the destruction of cultural icons. To destroy one's culture is to destroy their individuality, and take away the unique history within their border.
As the bombing continues across the country, Ukraine’s artistic, historic, and archaeological sites are now at risk of being destroyed. Already, heavy artillery and airstrikes have been deployed into various cities and destroying the beloved artifacts and history associated with them.
One of the most well-known and established heritage sights in Ukraine resides in the capital of Kyiv. The Cathedral of Saint Sophia, otherwise known as the ‘Jewel of Kyiv’, is an enormous and beautifully stunning cathedral with high walls, beautiful golden domes, and breathtakingly colourful mosaics covered in saints and angels that date back to the 11th century. This is one of the largest preserved collections of mosaics from that period and holds a lot of meaning to the people of Ukraine. The powerful symbolism held within the cathedral is at risk due to Putin's claim that the Cathedral is a part of Russian history, a fiction that attempts to erase the thousand-year history of Ukraine’s independent culture. While the capital is already under attack, these monuments are at serious risk of being destroyed, along with their rich history.
Franganillo, J. (2017). Kyiv: Saint Sophia's Cathedral. Flickr. photograph, Kyiv, Ukraine.
Already, several monuments such as Ukraine’s Holocaust memorial, “Babi Yar” and a multitude of important churches including the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Kharkiv, and the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Zhytomyr region have been hit with missiles and have subsequently burned down or been seriously damaged. These events are no accident. These attacks fulfill the goals of the invader, to take away the artistic individuality and culture of the country as an attempt to destroy the will of the people along with the culture they hold sacred.
FB Olga Rutkovskaya, Zhytomyr, Ukraine; Eparchia.kharkov.ua
However, the spirit of the Ukrainian people is hard to crack with men and women alike taking up arms to defend their country against Vladimir Putin’s army. Together they are fighting for their rights and freedoms as a nation and to resist the Russian forces attempting to take control of Ukraine. Although they are fighting, hard, many are still being forced to flee into neighbouring countries under refugee status. One of the countries helping out, is Poland, with 1.4 million Ukrainians and counting already fleeing to its borders, with many families welcoming them into their homes and community centres.
Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP/Getty Images
While donating money is always appreciated, other donations such as school supplies (bags, pencils, etc.), baby supplies (diapers, food, clothes, formula, etc.), and food and blankets. As of right now the amount of Ukrainians who have fled to Poland is almost equal if not surpassing the population of Warsaw, so due to their doubled capacity, any and all donations are helpful and beneficial.
The following is a list of donation sites directly out of Poland supporting Ukrainian refugees: