This article appeared in the September 29, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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In a simple bracelet, a powerful story of Ukrainian unity

Courtesy of Howard LaFranchi
Howard LaFranchi (second from left) in a selfie taken by the soldier on the right, who was off to Lithuania for training on new equipment (he was hoping for HiMars), in Lviv, Ukraine, on Aug. 19, 2022. The photo was taken moments after a young woman on the same street put a blue-and-yellow bracelet on Howard's wrist.

The story of Serhiy Sova’s blue and yellow bracelet, and the spotlight it put on one country’s resolute national unity, had me thinking of my own recent experience in Ukraine and one of the strongest impressions I brought home with me.

Mr. Sova’s body was one of more than 300 exhumed from mass graves discovered in Izium this month following Russia’s hasty retreat. On one wrist was a simple bracelet of Ukraine’s national colors, the sky blue and sunflower yellow still as vivid as those of a fluttering flag.

Word and photos of the unearthed bracelet quickly spread, allowing Mr. Sova’s widow to identify her soldier-husband’s body and to give him a proper burial.

What struck me was the way the bracelet captivated a nation, fortifying it and revealing again the remarkable unity of purpose that I had witnessed among Ukrainians of all walks of life during my reporting there.

I recalled how on my first day, as I walked about the western city of Lviv, a young woman came up to me and tied a similar bracelet on my wrist. All she wanted in return was whatever donation I could make for “our soldiers who are fighting for our freedom.”

Every day after, I came across that same unity in whatever story I was reporting. It was there in teachers preparing for the first day of school, in the young stand-up comics of Odesa giving their fellow Ukrainians a much-needed laugh, in the people of the besieged but never-fallen city of Mykolaiv, determined to persevere through war to brighter days.

Ukrainians were unwavering in their support for the soldiers fighting to preserve their freedom. More surprisingly, they all said they wanted to see this terrible war result in a better Ukraine.

These convictions were shared by the farmers of today’s story on the impact of the United Nations-brokered grain export deal. All spoke of a sense of duty to feed their country, their soldiers, and indeed a wider hungry world.

And to build from the trauma of this war a better country. As farmer Serhii Kharoschiak told me, “To be honest, 99% of everything in Ukraine has to be changed. But first we must stand together to win this war.”

This article appeared in the September 29, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/29 edition
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