On February 24-26, 2023, Ukrainians in more than 58 North American cities are going to come together to give thanks for support in bringing about our common victory in our fight for freedom, which continues in Ukraine. The Ukrainian community and Santa Barbara activists will also have a rally — “365 Days Defending Freedom” — on Saturday, February 25, at noon at the Santa Barbara courthouse to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.

To everyone in our local community — to World Dance, firefighters, Direct Relief, local politicians like Das Williams, churches, nonprofits, and private individuals — thank you for your year of commitment in supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians. It has been one of the most devastating wars because of how much advanced weaponry (over 4,500 missiles fired at civilians from 100-1,000 miles away), torturous violence, targeted attacks on civilians and their infrastructure, intentional murder of animals, destruction of nature, attacks on cultural sites. In the face of this violence, many remain committed to responding and helping; there are still others who refuse to accept the realities of war and what’s needed to stop it.

On this anniversary, we wanted to reintroduce our community to the speech given in 2022 by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Ukrainian human rights group Center for Civil Liberties (Kyiv). You can view it and read the translation of her talk at https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2022/center-for-civil-liberties/lecture/.

In this speech, Matviichuk reminded the world that the “war started by Russia” shines the light on the “military threat for the entire world.” She said that “for millions of people, such words as shelling, torture, deportation, filtration camps have become commonplace. But there are no words that can express the pain of a mother who lost her newborn son in a shelling of the maternity war.”

She stressed that all forms of war and violations of human rights require joint global response and answering very difficult questions. Her first question was, how to make human rights meaningful again? If the world before took to task groups and nations for their atrocities, how and when will the “Russian people will be responsible for this disgraceful page of their history and their desire to forcefully restore the former empire.”

Her second and vitally important question is “How to start calling a spade a spade?” Despite numerous and undisputed evidence of atrocities, despite the fact that Russia uses every weapon possible to destroy Ukrainians — and threatens the use of nuclear weapons — people use ideas of “peace” to give Russia a pass. Peace, Matviichuk says, “cannot be reached by country under attack laying down its arms. This would not be peace, but occupation.” In the 1940s, when Hitler and Nazi Germany were bombing Britain, similar calls were made for the British to just give up and be invaded for the idea of pacifism, to which George Orwell (author of the “Animal Farm” and “1984”) responded that at times pacificism is fascism. In Matviichuk’s words, “people’s lives cannot be a “political compromise.”

Her third point that peace is vitally important all around the globe. If UN or other international groups are incapable of ensuring peace and stopping aggression, then what other venues should we as a community envision? Ukraine’s President Zelensky has proposed a “formula for peace,” and an end of this war should herald new revitalized global discussions about making sure that we create what Matviichuk called “new architecture of the world order.”

Her fourth point is to ensure justice for those who were affected by wars and violence.

Doublespeak and propaganda should not replace the reality that someone can be attacked, invaded under false pretenses of “killing Nazis.” Moreover, she says every human life and every non-human life lost should not be just numbers. “We have to reclaim the names of all victims of war crimes … regardless of who they are … because anyone’s life is priceless.”

Lastly, together with Matviichuk and in our community, we invite people to join in global solidarity with our full passion. “We are responsible for everything that happens in the world.”

Thank you for supporting Ukraine!


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