The help-a-refugee way to save Ukraine
Generosity toward the war’s refugees, especially non-Ukrainians, helps counter Russia’s excuse for the invasion.
One video that’s gone viral out of Ukraine shows volunteers on a train giving food to university students of various countries trying to reach the Polish border. Some 76,000 students from 155 nations were in Ukraine when Russia attacked Feb. 24. They, like nearly 1 million Ukrainians, have fled a war that is more than a clash of armies or the preservation of an independent nation.
The act of generosity toward the non-Ukrainian refugees is a reminder of why so many countries oppose this war. Certain values such as individual rights are globally embraced and rooted in principles made practical anywhere. They are not tied to a specific culture or “civilization.”
On the other hand, President Vladimir Putin says “Russia is not just a country, but a distinct civilization,” one that includes Ukraine and many other Slavic peoples. For him, Ukraine’s drift toward the European Union’s project of implementing universal values must be stopped.
As the war escalates, the EU is rushing to help innocent civilians from Ukraine who are pouring into the border states of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania. In Romania, for example, 175 Egyptian students who fled Ukraine were airlifted to Cairo this week. Moldova aided the evacuation of nearly 1,000 Chinese students. Polish soldiers helped nearly 150 Zambian students reach the Warsaw airport. In the United States, a Texas-based nonprofit, Sewa International, has launched a help line to evacuate international students stranded in Ukraine.
The EU’s 27 member states have united like never before in preparing for a flow of refugees from Ukraine. “We must show the power that lies in our democracies,” says Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive arm. “We must show the power of people that choose their independent paths, freely and democratically. This is our show of force.”
The people who remain in Ukraine to fight Russian forces, adds Ms. von der Leyen, are “also fighting for universal values and they are willing to die for them.”
There’s nothing more universal than strangers feeding other strangers in a crisis, just like those desperate students on the train to Poland.