Ukraine Vigil for Peace & Freedom

To all those who want to see a recording of the Middlebury College “United for Ukraine” Concert from 4/24/22, here it is! It was an extraordinarily moving program:

As  we are all painfully aware, the situation in Ukraine is not getting any  better; with several weeks into Russia’s invasion, there’s no clear end  in sight. As of April 10, almost 700,000 Ukrainians crossed the border into Romania  and 7.1 million are internally displaced. Behind the figures lies  unimaginable suffering that only grows as humanitarian needs increase. For most of May, we’ll collect for Providence Charity of the Hungarian Unitarian Church referred to us by Neil Chippendale. You can contribute to this UUA Faithify supported project through CVUUS or online here.

  1. Attend to the needs of hundreds of Ukrainian mothers and children transiting through Kolozsvár/Cluj railway station
  2. Provide housing and other support for 38 refugees in the Kolozsvár/Cluj area (more than half are children)
  3. Transport urgent supplies to Transcarpathia (southwest  Ukraine), consisting of nonperishable foods and other items needed by  shelters housing internally displaced Ukrainians (cots, mattresses, sleeping bags, flashlights, light bulbs, hotplates)
  4. Deliver a second shipment of medical supplies to a health center in Odessa (disinfectants, bandages, pain killers, syringes, flu medications, milk powder, diapers)
  5. Launch a kindergarten classfor Ukrainian refugee children in the day care center of the Hungarian Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár/Cluj

For the last week, we’ll describe and collect for Razom for Ukraine, relief effort designated by Diana Herasim, a Middlebury Union High School exchange student from Kherson, Ukraine. Her city is occupied by Russians and her family is in hiding.

CVUUS hosted a public vigil in our Sanctuary on Wednesday March 2, 2022. This was a time for sharing concerns, compassion, and music (one reason it is scheduled right after choir practice). This was an interfaith (and no faith) event open to the wider community.

Speaking priority was given to Ukrainians and those among us with relatives there, such as Diana Herasim (pictured), a Middlebury Union High School exchange student from Kherson, Ukraine. Her city is occupied by Russians and her family is in hiding. We also heard from Masha Makutonia, a recent Middlebury College graduate from Odessa living with her international host family in Middlebury.  Since the war broke, she and about 4 other MiddKids from Ukraine have been meeting, strategizing, networking with amazing UWC alums and advocates, channeling their desperation into constructive action.  Along with others, they’ve vetted news sources, composed communications to US officials, advocated in public forums, and identified appropriate organizations worthy of receiving donations that will do the most good. See the link to such resources here

In addition to the music CVUUS provided, we welcomed others to perform their sharing rather than speak it.

We welcomed 77 people and recorded it. We had a few technical glitches, but you can still hear many parts in our YouTube post here.

Are you looking for an online way to support peace and freedom in Ukraine? Check out this opportunity co-sponsored by the UU United Nations Office THIS Thurs March 3 at noon online. More here.

Children attending our religious exploration class during Sunday’s worship service made sunflowers to display in windows in solidarity with Ukraine.

In acknowledgement of our pain at these current events, here’s a poem written by a Unitarian Universalist colleague, the Rev. Robin Tanner. Blessed be and peace be with you, Rev. Barnaby

Middlebury Union High School students of SCHOR assembled in response to the continuing heartbreaking news from Ukraine shortly after our vigil.

Pray to Be Brave when Fear Is Catching You

“We have to be brave because of the children.”

She is clear-eyed, flushed and leaning against a steel column in a subway station.

One child sleeping against her leg,

The older boy staring,

Round, brown eyes

Fixed on his resolute, rosy-cheeked mother.

Pray

To be clear to speak truth.

She offers sunflower seeds to the Russian soldier

Before she curses him

She reminds him that he will die for a dictator

Who asks him to betray their humanity.

Before she curses

She levels her eyes to this young man to remind him

She could be his grandmother, she unarmed and ready to fight.

Take this truth, if you will die here, remember the flowers will grow again.

Pray

To endure when the waves crash over your head.

My grandmother’s hands

Ukrainian hands

Always with a long slim cigarette

Even as she moved the hand mixer

And sipped cold coffee.

My not understanding

The meaning of chocolate cake with raspberry sauce

Until this moment

Staring generations forward

At the rosy-cheeked mother.

The weary lines that hid a world war

And the endurance in the ocean of grief, to mix, bake, find life in depression.

Pray

To resist even if your name will never matter.

Ordinary people

Under a fascist

Ordinary people who in a moment

Grabbed a coat, made a sign, and stood in the public places

Knowing they will disappear

Die without

fame or name

And who resist because some day, they will say, “not all the people were silent.”

Pray

To love enough to cry and kiss the head of your child, filling their pockets with sunflower seeds as they board the last bus out of town.

Hands pressed to windows as one last ritual of love

Because we know

We may not see the sunrise

But someday when the sunflowers bloom

They will return to harvest seeds again

To feel the warmth of sun

And to sit quietly before the arching open bursts of yellow,

That mark the memory and prophecy.

“We have to be brave because of the children.”

Pray for peace, yes.

Pray for the truth, also;

Pray for endurance, amen.

Pray for resistance.

Pray to remember that love

That can never be

Bombed

Obliterated

Or silenced.

The children

The flowers

And the sun

Return.