I had the pleasure of attending the launch of We Stand With Ukraine on the 3rd of May. The event took place in Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin, and it was fantastic to see so many people gathered to support it.
We Stand With Ukraine is an anthology of poems and prose written by protesters who’ve picketed the Russian embassy here in Dublin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What struck me most was that these were all ordinary people. All with different backgrounds, walks of life, and professions. One thing bound them all. From the moment they heard about the invasion, they wanted to do something.
Without any organisation or central leadership, ordinary people banded together to amplify the voices of Ukrainian civilians. Regardless of the weather, they engaged in peaceful protest outside the Russian embassy. They may not have been able to influence the outcome of such an unjust and cruel war, but they were determined it will never be forgotten.
The anthology came about as a suggestion from my good friend, writer, poet, and protester Helen Dwyer. She wanted to document the thoughts and outlooks of such a diverse group of people, to better understand why they were there and what they hoped to achieve. After some discussions, most of the protesters signed on to write a little bit about their experiences. One goal drove them. All proceeds and royalties from book sales of We Stand With Ukraine, go to Ukrainian Action, a registered non-profit organisation built to get much needed funds to Ukrainian civilians in need.
The book launch was a moving event. Protesters read excerpts of their work and spoke of their heartbreak at the suffering of so many civilians. Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland spoke of the horror inflicted on their country and thanked everyone who refused to remain silent and continued speak out against the crimes of the Russian war machine.
I’m still reading the anthology. What I have read is a powerful account of people shocked by the invasion who are determined to exercise their democratic right to protest. There’s a clear distinction between the corrupt leadership of the Russian Federation and the Russian people, who don’t even have the right to speak out against the war without suffering criminal charges.
There’s hope, too. Optimism that Ukraine will prevail, this horrible war will end, and tyranny will be brought down, as it has been so many times in the past.
We Stand with Ukraine is available now for Mercier Press and all good bookshops: