In case we’ve forgotten what it looks like to be really brave, we have before us the bright and shining example of Ukraine.

As an citizen of the United States, I have been bitterly disappointed in our inability to pull together during the crisis of Coronavirus. I have been unhappy with our inability to see how Black Lives Matter isn’t embraced, because too many see it as an attack on themselves. In Iowa, I have become more and more sad as censorship moves into our classroom, people accuse teachers of teaching Critical Race Theory, and transathletes are banned from sports. Voter fraud is created by people with an agenda. All of these things are divisive, petty, and patently a manipulation by those who have something to gain from the gullible, from exploiting others. I am disappointed and ashamed of what my country is becoming.

And then there is Ukraine.

In Ukraine, where there are differences of viewpoints and ideology, the people pull together to protect their democracy in the face of despotic odds. The leadership of Ukraine, in the face of great personal danger and unlikely odds of victory stand up, and then the people of Ukraine stand up, because they all have the love of one thing to pull them together. They love Ukraine, and they wish to protect their country.

I would not wish the situation in Ukraine upon anyone. The attack of a Russian autocrat for his own private purposes is one of the most catastrophic events I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. What I am saying is I doubt very much my own country could face these circumstances with an iota of this bravery. Pockets of us would. Other pockets of us, right now, embrace the autocrat.

Witness Ukraine. An old woman tells a Russian soldier to fill his pockets with sunflower seeds so when he dies, sunflowers, the Ukranian flower will grow. The Ukranian president tells the United States he doesn’t need a ride, he needs ammunition. Children make molotov cocktails. Teachers weave nets to camoflauge tanks. Baristas make caltrops and metal traps. Highway signs tell Putin to fuck himself, and roads point to the Hague. President Zelinskyy is everywhere, telling Russian soldiers to surrender, making applications to the European Union, begging for aid, enlisting private fighters who want to fight for the cause. Witness Ukraine, its incredible bravery.

The sanctions we have against Russia are helping. The process of pressuring the Russians is helping. The protests in Russia, the arrests, these are all instrumental parts. Humanitarian aid. Border assistance. We cannot invade without widening the conflict, which in turn widens the danger. Zelenskyy could be right. This could be the beginning of a spread across Europe unless something is done. We are back up, the United Nations and the NATO Alliance.

But the Ukrainians, by necessity and design of Putin, are the frontline. Strangely enough, as dark as it is in the world, as horrible as this situation is, the bravery of the Ukranians has gone a long way to reinstating my faith in humanity, that we can stand for something more than petty principals and inconveniences. In the US we protest not wearing masks. In Ukraine, eighty year old grandfathers show up to fight for the future of their grandchildren. Ukranians are afraid, but they continue.

I too am afraid, but I have their example in front of me. The least I can do is follow their example

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.