Just outside of Oleksandria, along the train route, it stood high above all the village houses. It flew briskly in the wind, proudly identifying the owner’s patriotic stance that they were for Ukraine.
The blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag have become symbols in the fight for true independence. When I left Donetsk in April, it had become dangerous, and one time deadly, for a person to wave the Ukrainian flag. However, as I drove into the Dnepropetrovsk region, immediately I noticed cars with Ukrainian flags hanging from the windows. Bridges, walls and even trees were painted blue and gold.
In my 3 years of visiting universities in Donetsk, I often joked with students that I was probably more “patriotic” about their country than were they. Most of them were looking to complete their studies and then move to western Europe, Canada or the USA. They complained that there was no chance for them in Ukraine due to government corruption that had infiltrated even businesses.
Since the events of February and March 2014, more and more people are embracing their Ukrainian roots. Traditional Ukrainian shirts have grown in popularity, to the point where you can easily purchase them even in the supermarkets.
The national anthem has also become a source of pride. Recently on a different train ride, a group of young people were quietly singing the anthem. I noticed the man sitting across from me murmuring the words. I bet that if they would have sung it just a bit louder, the whole wagon would have broken out in song.
As an American who has sung our national anthem since “birth” I find all of this a cause for excitement. I have enjoyed watching Ukrainians begin to really love their country and desire the best for it. How long this last is any one’s guess, but I, for one, am happy to witness it.