When I first heard about Sunday’s rally, I did not plan to attend. The flier read Detroit Flashmob #StandWithUkraine in two languages. I was unfamiliar with the Flashmob choreography and unsure whether such a grand gesture was the appropriate way to show solidarity.
On Saturday, I spoke with my sister, aunt and uncle in Ukraine. All three are in Dnipr. My nephew is in Lviv. My cousins are in Dnipr and in Kyiv. I was born in Moscow. My father was born in Ukraine. My mother, in Belarus. I never think of myself as Russian or Ukrainian or Belarussian. My core identity is Judaism.
I took to social media with a simple request.
Please take a moment to pray for peace.
Hundreds of people reacted to the post and dozens wrote comments, including Noah Arbit, whose activism and engagement precedes his current campaign for State Representative.
Thinking of you and your family and the entire Ukrainian people. Are you going to the rally downtown tomorrow?
I decided to bring my camera (the one that isn’t also a phone) to capture the rally.
What did I capture? A lot of Ukranians, many with babies and small children. People who seemed to have a direct connection to the conflict. A lot of flowers, especially on posters and props. Truck caravans driving on Jefferson, honking and waving Ukrainian flags. (No flashmob, to my relief — must have gotten lost in translation.) And no other cameras, other than phones and drones.
When I heard people speaking Russian, I asked them if I could take their pictures and thanked them in our native tongue.
Then there was the call and response I was having trouble understanding. I asked a woman to translate. With the caveat, that I’m using English letters to write what she translated for me over the shouting:
Leader: Slava Ukraine
Crowd: Geroem Slava
Glory to Ukraine
Glory to Heroes
I felt embarrassed after responding to her Ukrainian in Russian, the language of the oppressor. But we found a way to understand each other and I could tell that she received my expression of gratitude and empathy in kind.
My heart aches not only for the people of Ukraine, but also for the people of Russia. This conflict is already impacting countless lives — the lives of people who have no interest in aggression or war.
It is powerful to witness people in Russia demonstrating against the Putin regime and this unprovoked conflict. The dire consequences of protest there do not deter those who refuse to blindly follow Putin. Maybe the relative ease of protesting in America is what makes it relatively easy not to.
Please pray for peace.
Please rise up for peace.
We will have peace or perish as one.