A Future Without Ukraine?

  • National Newswatch

The contrasts grow starker as Europeans increasingly complain about the stringencies the war between Russia and Ukraine has caused, while Ukrainian refugees wonder if the country they knew intimately will still exist should they ever return.The uncertainty of inflationary costs driven by rising energy prices has the European continent on edge, leaving governments to deal with a collective angst that could at some point have political consequences.  The broad coalition against Russia's violent aggression remains intact. Still, there is a mounting sense that with winter not far off, rising fuel and energy prices will result in more restive democracies, eager for financial relief.Compare those concerns with the realities faced by Ukrainian journalist Maria Zavialova, a refugee in exile in Italy.  Opening up to the Huffington Post concerning her ordeal, she confessed she has lost everything, is now without a job and is watching her savings dwindle to nothing.  When bombs started falling in Kyiv, where she lived, Zavialova faced a crucial choice: stay with her family, where she was the chief breadwinner, or flee to protect them.  She chose the latter and now faces a new reality of pain and loss.  “As a journalist, I covered refugee camps,” she says.  “Now I am living in one.”  She talks of the irony of accepting charity where she once used to donate to many causes.She has kids and has found them a place in school.  She worked at a pizzeria (learning to make one for the first time), then a steak house, and finally as a maid in a hotel packed with Ukrainian refugees just like herself.  She is now unemployed and stands in line for hours at the Ukrainian Consulate with scores of other Ukrainian women, seeking to apply for financial assistance.“We know who really cares about us,” she confesses.  “They're the people who write, as five of my friends did on a recent day when bombs fell on Kyiv: 'It's too dangerous.  Stay where you are.' ”She looks for any way she can find to assist the war effort.  “I speak to my foreign friends about Ukraine, about our courage and all the best of our nation.”In truth, Zavialova's inner resources are diminishing.  “It slowly kills your spirit, as surely as a bomb kills your body.”  Part of her despair is knowing that the West won't remain committed forever.  A final plea escapes her lips.“And, to our foreign friends: We are no longer in the headlines every day, but please do not forget us. We need all of you ― not just your governments ― to do everything you can to help us secure our democracy and protect the West from Russia's aggression.”Are we losing that interest, as Maria Zavialova fears?  To a degree, certainly.  The white-hot interest of February has given way to the summer distractions of escape and our own financial challenges.  We hear news of Putin's permitting safe passage from Odessa and then attempting to bomb it into submission a few hours later and we fume.  We know winter is coming and with it a time of great discontent.  War crimes are everywhere in Putin's actions, but he seems determined to outlast the entire Western coalition, and he might succeed.Western nations are facing significant challenges in the months and years ahead, yet when you listen to Zavialova's heart-wrenching reflections, our struggles seem to pale in comparison.  Years of struggle remain, but if we forge our way to better days while simultaneously losing Ukraine and its noble people to Putin's designs, we will have lost part of our collective democratic soul in the process.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.