love ukraine south africa sunflower protea illustration

Stand with Ukraine: A letter to South Africa

Dear friends, today I write to you from a place of great sadness, fear and disillusionment. My husband’s country, Ukraine, is at war. Just typing that word now - W-A-R - makes me want to both laugh and cry.

Laugh, because it seems absolutely ridiculous that in this day and age, it is possible for an army to simply spill over the borders of a neighbouring country and claim that this is now ours. Are we not more evolved than that?! More civilised?! More sensical?! Apparently not.

W-A-R makes me cry for obvious reasons: The unjust tyranny, the inhumane cruelness is enough to bring anyone to tears. Unless you are an unholy monster that can somehow justify this madness through more madness, of course…

W-A-R also makes me cry for less obvious reasons: Last week, we shared a lovely moment with our family in the Ukraine over video chat. Their laughter brings forth in me an uncontrollable hysteria, and I have to immediately step away from their view to gain control.

Can you imagine someone bursting into your world unannounced, and taking away everything. EVERYTHING. Your way of life stops. It is forcefully taken from you. Everything from the most mundane task to the most precious moments - and people! - and everything in between. In my hysteria, I imagined what it would be like to not hear our family laughing again. This war threatens and kills laughter and light and good.

The other day, my husband, Alex, showed me a post by South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. It read, “Thanking His Excellency President Vladimir Putin for taking my call today, so I could gain an understanding of the situation that was unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.” Alex was furious. Why was Mr Ramaphosa being so nice to Putin?! I tried to explain that if he entered into the conversation with guns blazing, accusing Putin of being a murderous bastard without an ounce of compassion or moral values, the conversation would have immediately crashed and burned in a furnace of hateful flames, thereby making any future negotiations or mediations impossible. Unfortunately, I explained, politicians often have approach each other using diplomatic language, to protect the greater good.

In that moment, I supported my president. But that, dear friends, is where my support of South Africa’s stance on this war ends.

As a country that has walked in the shoes of both the oppressor and the oppressed, South Africa should know better. We should know the importance of learning from the past and not repeating our mistakes. We should know the value of democracy, freedom, equality, and stop thinking of ourselves as lesser than. We are Russia’s equal, and by no means their “junior” in any way. Just as Ukraine is certainly not Russia’s “little” brother. We should know that a bully responds only to strength and that we have the strength to stand up for what is right.

Oppression is wrong. It is a crime of the most acute kind. That fact cannot be explained away or denied. If left unchecked, oppression has the deadly ability to spread like wildfire. Unless the bully’s flames are stomped out, it will smoulder indefinitely. And who knows where it will spread to next…

And even if the bully happens to be someone that you regard as your ally, partner, brother, justice must be done. Wouldn’t you want your brother to see the error of his ways? Wouldn’t you want to step in and help someone that your brother has wronged? Would you really just sit back and allow your brother to destroy the sanctity of someone else’s way of life?!

In the words of the esteemed Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

My dear, beautiful, strong, unique South Africa, surely we know better. Stand up for what is right. Stand up and speak up against the bully.

Stand with Ukraine.

love south africa love ukraine sunflower protea illustration

Please join the Ukrainian Association of South Africa for a peaceful rally to protest the war.

protest the war in ukraine cape town


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