Ukraine, Russians and the World

white bird on persons hand

The situation for the entire population in Ukraine is terrible. The situation for part of people living in Russia is dangerous. The situation for Russians outside of their home country is challenging.

People in Ukraine are dying. Some people in Russia are demonstrating even with the risk of getting arrested and spending 2 weeks in jail. Russians all over the world may be canceled, regardless of if they are supporting the war or not.

The situation is complex. Fake news is everywhere. People’s emotions are running high, in all directions, including mine. The best way to express what is going on in my head is through a short story.

2 days ago, a young man rang our bell. I usually do not hear the bell, or I check the camera and ignore anyone I do not know. After 6.00pm people knock on doors in the neighborhood to collect money for different causes (with my wife, we prefer to give to organizations that we select, rather than the ones coming to us)

But this time my son rushed to open the door before I could say “no”. I came down and saw a young thin man dressed in a light blue shirt, khakis, and dressed shoes. Quickly he goes into his pitch. At first I thought “here we go again, how can I politely get out of this”. But quickly he hits my hot buttons, starting with “I saw you Black life matter sign in the window and i wanted to knock on your door” and “I am raising money for refugees from Afghanistan”.

Turns out he is from Syria. He fled Syria about 6 years ago. Since my son was next to me, he sparred us the hardship that came with his journey. There was no need to spell it out. I probably would not comprehend how much motivation and resilience is needed to make such a dangerous journey.

His pitch was well rehearsed and resonated with me. He expressed appreciation for Ukrainian refugees. Acknowledging the trauma of war and forced emigration. He also voice the double standard he is witnessing, and could not hide his ambiguous feelings. On the one hand, the situation in Ukraine would showcase that refugees need more help than they have been offered historically. And hopefully meant that “this tide would lift all boats”. He also half questioned why there was not this outpour of support for Syrians and other refugees. We did not need to say anything. We both understood each others and the why.

What really made me think, is that he was not focusing on himself. He was proud of his situation and his potential future. He was studying architecture at an University in the Netherlands. He was not longing for what he did not get. He wanted more refugees to get the support he received. Thanks to that support, he created opportunities for himself.

How not to be touched by his story? How not to be inspired? He could be focusing on landing a great internship. But instead, he is raising money not for refugees from his country but from Afghanistan. And how candid of him to first think that the way Ukrainians refugees are treated will have a halo effect on other refugees. This is so much of what I want to emulate. Be hopeful, not holding a grudge and always finding the strength to move forward and bring others with me.