Slava Ukraina

The Ukrainian flag billows in the breeze on Whitehall. Photo: Jaime Ashworth, February 2022.

I spent about three hours at the demonstration in Whitehall today, joining hundreds of Ukrainians as they protested the Russian invasion. No words can really express the atmosphere: deadly serious in their desperate appeal for help from the international community, passionate in their belief in those defending Kyiv and other cities; but gracious and clear-sighted as well. This was, to make a distinction that is sometimes tenuous, intensely patriotic but not nationalistic.

I had a brief conversation with two women, standing with their backs to the Cabinet Office, looking out at the crowd with tears in their eyes. They both had family in Ukraine: one in the west, the other in Luhansk, in many ways the eye of the storm. Her name is Olga and she wanted to say how grateful she is for the outpouring of support.

Olga. Photo: Jaime Ashworth, February 2022.

Was there bad language? Absolutely. The response of Ukrainian troops on Snake Island yesterday to a Russian warship asking for their surrender is becoming iconic, and to exclude those placards from any visual record would be absurd. One man even taught me how to say it in Ukrainian. But there was humour and compassion in abundance too. As the day comes to a close and the defence of Ukraine enters its third night, I hope this post may help to reassure and comfort those at the sharp end that they are not forgotten, and that we will continue to demand an adequate, effective and appropriate response from our government.

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