The flag of Ukraine flying in the wind. Image by freeimages.com.

Small Gestures, Great Cause : Ukraine and Cultural Solidarity

Like many, I’m finding it hard to think about anything but the appalling invasion of Ukraine right now.

It’s a plight that is breaking countless hearts, prompting the universal question what can we do to help? Not everyone is able to attend a rally. Many don’t have the means to donate funds.

But something sad I’ve noticed around #langtwt this week is the number of people questioning the little gestures, those involving cultural exploration and language learning. Many (including me) felt compelled to express solidarity by starting, or returning to, the Duolingo Ukrainian course, for example.

To language lovers, it feels like instinctual solidarity. But naturally, it triggers self-doubt over tokenism and futility.

On the face of it, yes, it feels achingly inadequate in terms of stopping bombs and bullets.

But amidst all the helplessness, anything that creates solidarity and increases understanding is worth pursuing. And, more importantly, so is anything that counters Putin’s faulty reasoning on the existence of a unique, authentic Ukrainian statehood and right to exist as a distinct cultural entity.

Because those numbers add up. On the first day after the invasion, course enrolment numbers leapt by thousands. They continue to rise.

In an age of algorithms boosting visibility, those extra thousands mean something. They pay a respect, through numbers, to the identity – and right to existence and self-determination – of that group.

So it may feel like a tiny thing. But those little acts of validation do carry weight.

For sure, the grander gestures are important. Donate, if you are able. Make your voice heard by attending rallies. Write to your local representatives to encourage action.

But don’t discount those small acts, either.

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