This article appeared in the February 24, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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At this DC cafe, a signed Ukrainian flag is ‘the most precious thing’

Linda Feldmann/The Christian Science Monitor
Ksenia Dudareva (left) and Vira Derun stand in front of a Ukrainian flag behind the sales counter at D Light Cafe & Bakery in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2023. The flag – signed by grateful Ukrainians – came directly from the war front last summer, hand-delivered by Ms. Derun's mother.
Linda Feldmann
Washington Bureau Chief

Signs of American support for Ukraine are everywhere, it seems. In the Ukrainian flags flying from people’s homes. In the halls of Congress, where bipartisan support for military aid remains strong. In the traveling art exhibition called “Women at War,” featuring works by and about Ukrainian women.

But on this anniversary of the Russian invasion, I am most affected by my neighborhood Ukrainian hangout, the D Light Cafe & Bakery. When I dropped by this week, I discovered a prominent addition to the decor: a big Ukrainian flag, covered with handwritten messages, hanging on the wall behind the sales counter.

Vira Derun, who owns the cafe with her sister, says their mother brought the flag to Washington last summer, direct from the war front. It was signed by Ukrainians grateful for the supplies she had delivered, purchased with funds raised by the cafe – $30,000 so far, Ms. Derun says.

“This flag is literally the most precious thing to me,” she says.

And she may be about to get another one. Ms. Derun heads to Europe today to renew her American visa, and also visit Rzeszów, Poland, near the Ukrainian border. There, if all goes according to plan, she will see her mother, aunt, and grandmothers, who are driving from their town south of Kyiv westward into Poland to see her.

Ms. Derun’s mother has another signed flag for the cafe, this one thanking the wider Washington community for its support. The first flag thanks the Derun family.

During our conversation, I didn’t have the heart to tell Ms. Derun about polling that shows a growing share of Americans believe the United States is doing too much for Ukraine. As the war drags on, keeping funds flowing could be a heavier lift.

But for now, sympathy is strong. On a recent walk, I happened upon the “Women at War” exhibit in the Art Gallery at Stanford in Washington. After my visit with Ms. Derun, I went back and got two catalogs, one for myself and one for her. Ms. Derun’s eyes lit up when I gave it to her.

This article appeared in the February 24, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/24 edition
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