Blue and Yellow

Photo of the National Museum, Prague

They’re on government buildings, homes, cars, clothing – They are draped banners, bumper stickers, even graffitied on bridges and overpasses. The blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag has become the décor centerpiece of the European city.

Obviously, there are a few European countries not following this latest style trend; This piece is not written about them. It would seem that those who support Ukraine far outweigh those who do not – And yet, with so much support for Ukraine on the news, on the streets, and among governments across Europe, what can everyday people do? – Besides a flag…

My neighbor in Germany backs his car up to his house and pops the trunk. A stockpile of cans and dry goods piled high noticeably weighs down the suspension. He and his family begin carrying the goods from the car, into the house, and down into the cellar. He speaks calmly and relaxed. He only wants his family to be prepared in case things take a turn for the worse. Positivity still permeates through his words and humor. Peering over an armful of cans with identical labels, he jokingly comments that soon this conflict will be resolved, and he will be eating his favorite soup everyday — twice a day — for weeks.

For many, mornings here are spent skimming the newspaper or online news, learning what happened overnight; mid-day, during a coffee break or with a glance at a smartphone, there’s a quick check of the headlines; finally, the day comes to an end gathered around the television watching with dismay the daily evening news. Fuel prices continue to soar, rumors of a toilet paper shortage (among basic essentials) continue to pop up, and like my neighbor, there’s a general fear that the violence in Ukraine will overflow, spilling across Europe. Without knowing what tomorrow will bring, most Europeans continue with their everyday lives. As refugees begin to make their way across Europe, outside Ukraine, many could argue life goes relatively uninterrupted — But the reality: things are very different. Europe is filled not only with fear, but anger, concern, and a lot more Ukrainian flags.

I’ve heard a lot of anger expressed during my time in Germany, Czechia, and Slovakia. An aggressive foreign leader, suppressing information within their country, pushing troops in a violent invasion of its neighbor(s) – all this is uncomfortably reminiscent of basic history books. Where every one of these conversations eventually leads is to the hesitation of direct action by European nations. Sending aid and condemning Putin’s actions from outside Ukraine has not been enough for many citizens. At the same time, others, including officials and experts alike, describe the situation as delicate and volatile. Regardless of differing opinions, there seems to be a consensus that what is being done is not enough. Hanging flags can only do so much.

Flags hang from windows across many major cities. (Photo taken in Prague)

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