Friday, March 4 StFX University and the Town of Antigonish raised the Ukrainian flag in a virtual ceremony titled, We Stand with Ukraine.
Dr. Robin Neustaeter, who leads Coady Institute’s work in peacebuilding and conflict transformation, gave moving remarks about the lived realities of war and the precariousness of peace.
Watch the video or read the transcript below for Robin’s full words.
Добрий день. (Dahbre Deyn)
мене звати Робін Нойстатер. (Mene zvahty Robin Neustaeter)
Good day, my name is Robin Neustaeter.
I am third generation Ukrainian-Canadian.
I would like to begin with a moment of silence to remember:
- people whose lives have been turned upside down by violence and war;
- people who fled and are fleeing from home, stayed home, and are in bomb shelters;
- the caregivers, the soldiers, and the civil resisters;
- and those who have died.
– (Please take a moment of silence) –
This silence…. I assume, for most of us, is not interrupted with air sirens,
Rapid artillery fire,
Tanks rumbling down the street, closer, louder, and closer and louder.
This silence…for many of us is not
Reeking with anxiety and worry
Is my family safe?
Are my neighbours safe?
Is my home standing? my neighbourhood still there?
We were not wondering, how much silence do we have this time?
When will there be silence again?
For most of us, this silence is
Once we saw through a single pane of glass, now it is through a kaleidoscope.
We see you:
The land of Ukraine –
The beautiful mountains, hills, lakes, rivers, shorelines, forests, steppes, islands, fields, meadows, wildlife;
Towns, villages, and cities;
A country with a rich, dynamic, and complicated history,
As all countries have
Vibrant with languages, cultures and arts;
With beautiful peoples, Ukraine, people full of life and dreams and passions, determined and resilient.
We see you: the people in Ukraine and who have fled Ukraine
So fresh, so real, so shocking,
And violence so bold,
And so old.
We see the multiple media feeds pulling for our attention,
And we know,
We know there is more, much more happening,
While far away, we eat, study, work, sleep, play – while you…
Do what needs to be done.
We see –
The extraordinary and ordinary, the brutality and the compassion, of humanity.
We see –
Women fleeing with children, elderly, and with their hopes, cares and dreams.
Women taking in their arms children, elderly, and diversely abled, searching for food, scarce food, to feed loved ones, hugging the scared and crying – as they cry too.
Women taking in their arms guns to fight, to fight for their home, their identity, their freedom; for tomorrow’s Ukraine.
Women, at borders, violated and manipulated into sex trafficking and prostitution.
Women organizing humanitarian response – in Ukraine and in collaboration with regional and international networks,
Women organizing parallel peace actions and talks –
To compliment the negotiations at borders and tables with the typical actors
We see –
Men staying to give care to women, children, elderly, neighbours,
Staying to fight, staying to survive another day in the life, this life now,
Men staying for lives tomorrow.
We see the gender, race and ability and disability realities and complexities of survival in war.
How the colour of one’s skin determines my passage to freedom.
How the ability to hear air sirens determines if one makes it to the bomb shelters.
We see you the thinkers, the doers, the learners, the activists, the advocates, the feminists, the LGBTQIA+
We see –
Global political leaders, mostly male, speak international polictical strategic jargon, to stop a Vladamir Putin, a bully,
Who is once again destroying the lives of people – remember Grozny, Aleppo,
Imperialism is so close, it lingers, bubbling, brewing, erupting….
It is real and present, and its effects felt strongly for many around the world – Right. Now.
Patriarchy, Militarization, Discrimination, Racism,
Domination, Colonization, Genocide,
We are reminded of the precarity of the “peace” and democracy as we know it – Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Ukraine,
And many more.
We are shocked, saddened, and disoriented as an 8-year violent conflict becomes a catastrophic war,
Not since the Second World War as one European Nation invaded and waged war on another European Nation. Not since….
And tomorrow…? What does tomorrow bring?
My ancestors fled the imperial reigns and troubles in what is now Ukraine to build new lives in Manitoba, Canada.
Ukrainians have made their homes in countries and communities around the globe, becoming family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and citizens.
Together, we stand,
Together, we see…
We all – look up at the sky and see the same sun, moon and stars.
We all – take another breath.
– Dr. Robin Neusaeter
Coady Institute; Department of Adult Education