Love Above All
Our cities are indeed under rocket attacks and we periodically hear the sounds of air raid sirens. And unfortunately, I do not see the possibility of a quick settlement of this conflict. Neither side is ready to make concessions, everyone is fighting to the bitter end. Ukraine wants to return its territories and force Russia to pay reparations. Russia wants to destroy Ukraine as a state and seize its territories. This means that the war will not end soon and there will still be a lot of bloodshed. However, the biggest concern is the collapse of our economy. The country is in a pre-default state, enterprises are closing, the national currency is depreciating, everything is becoming more expensive. They say that Ukraine is not ready for the upcoming winter and it will be cold in the houses.
A friend in Ukraine has recently written these words.
On Wednesday of this week, the Ukrainian people commemorated two significant anniversaries – one celebratory, one tragic.
On Wednesday, the 24th, this proud, resilient nation celebrated Ukraine Independence Day, marking Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991.
Also on Wednesday, this proud, resilient, and beleaguered nation came upon the six-month anniversary of Russia’s systematic military invasion.
It was a day of mixed and varied emotions.
For the past six months, since the beginning of this latest assault on the Ukrainian people and government, Someone To Tell It To has been in close communication with seven families who live in Ukraine. Via Facebook private messages, email, and Zoom, we have been corresponding with these families – to show solidarity, to learn and receive messages about how they are doing amidst the onslaught, and to remind them that their fears, experiences, and circumstances are not forgotten by those who care about them half a world away.
These good people – strong, determined, courageous – have something valuable and important to say.
The things they have lost, the people they have lost, the dreams they have lost, all need to be remembered. They need to be shared. They need to be validated. For this war, and every war, is hell. It destroys lives and livelihoods. It renders traumas onto people’s hearts and into their spirits that will take many decades and generations to cleanse away. As all wars do, some of the trauma and the destruction will never go away. Those malevolent effects will burrow deeply into the people’s psyche’s and lives. The traumas will be remembered, recalled over and over again. They will come out at times in violent and terrible acts, in hateful and unforgiving words. They will affect the Ukrainian national character, casting a pall of darkness over a people already saddled with a history of being invaded, overthrown, and violently imperiled.
Our friends give us hope. They are scared and they hurt. The land they love is being destroyed and threatened in ways that cause them deep distress.
And they also have resolve. They have hope. They have goodness embedded into their hearts and their goodness shines through as they try to make sense of it all and of what is happening to their country, to their futures, and to their lives.
We do our best to enable them to say what they have to say, to express what they need to express. We do our best to encourage them to get it out, the utter fears and the roiling frustrations. By listening compassionately, empathetically, we offer space for them to say what is valuable and important for them to say. For in that expression there is healing and there is hope, as they process all that surrounds and is within them. What is discouraging and what is damaging. What is helping and what is healing. That gift of space brings to the fore what is valuable to them and what is important to hold onto.
Peace. Freedom. The restoration of their country and their lives.
The other day, a thoughtful and wise colleague declared to us:
There is always a remedy.
Our colleague believes that. We believe it – or at least want to believe it – too.
And when we read and hear our Ukrainian friends’ words that ring of courage, that speak of resolve and of hope, we do believe that a remedy is possible. No matter how dire and threatening the situation, we get to see and feel the human spirit thrive and be active when we listen and when we give space for those in distress and pain to have their say.
We are so proud of our Ukrainian friends. They are showing the world what it means to stand in the face of terror and oppression, even when they are afraid. Even when they doubt. And to say:
No. We cannot let this happen here.
On August 31, Someone To Tell It To’s team of compassionate listening trainers will meet via Zoom with a dozen, give or take a few, compassionate people in Prague, Czech Republic, to train caring people there how to listen compassionately to Ukrainian refugees from the war. We are proud of them all – the trainers and the listeners – for being willing to step into the space where empathy and love resides.
We believe that compassionate listening can heal, can help, and can begin to halt the debilitating horrors – whatever they may be – that this world can bring to bear upon us. It may not always be dramatic and instantaneous. But when compassionate listening is allowed to persevere and to grow, it does change lives. It does change hearts. It does change the world, and it does bring us the peace and love we need and seek.
Listening compassionately is an expression of love. It is one of the primary ways we can show love to one another, especially when we are hurting so deeply. As we’ve written and said in many ways before over the years:
When everything inside us feels unsettled, and the events of the world add to our discomfort, we are given the privilege of hearing one another. We are given the opportunity to help us, collectively, rise above the doubts, the fears, the dis-ease in a way that only love can do. When we genuinely listen, we extend love like almost nothing else on earth can offer. We share our common human experience.
Our Ukrainian friends believe the world can be changed through love. So they write:
Any war is terrible. In addition to human casualties, devastation, difficult living conditions, there is also a very difficult psychological situation. Yes, we have frustration, anxiety, pain, desolation, hopelessness.
Now, fear is especially rising in connection with a possible nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant. This nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe. In connection with military operations, an explosion may occur at the station. The consequences of a nuclear disaster can be greater than in the case of the Chernobyl accident at the station. But we trust …
Love above all!