Let’s talk about… Ukraine, one year on

Maintaining support for Ukraine one year on from Putin’s invasion

While walking with my housemates along Middle Arch on Friday afternoon, we noticed a group of people gathered outside the Galway City Museum across the water in the distance, every other person in the huddle donning a yellow and blue flag in their hands or around their shoulders.

I hadn’t realised it until then, when we spotted them and made the connection, that a year has already passed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took place, with last Friday, February 24th 2023, marking a year to the day since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced and put into motion a “special military operation” seeking the “demilitarisation” and “denazification” of the neighbouring country.

The fallout of this ongoing conflict has been devastating, with (at least) tens of thousands of deaths and even more injuries, in addition to the massive amount of infrastructural damage incurred over the past twelve months as a result of the invasion. The conflict has also led to the displacement of 2.9 million Ukrainians from their home country out of concern for their safety. And a year on, despite progress in some respects, unfortunately no near end to the war seems in sight, with Putin continuing his tirade in the face of united global opposition, dwindling troop numbers, depleted resources, and the immeasurable damage already done over the course of the last year – not just on an infrastructural and human level, but also with respect to his own country itself.

The global reaction to the conflict has demonstrated a sweeping sentiment of support for Ukraine and condemnation of Putin’s actions – and rightly so. European countries have been taking in refugees in huge swathes (Poland and Germany alone have welcomed over a million refugees each since the invasion), NATO support has been amplified, and countries such as the US and the UK have provided Ukraine with millions in military assistance.

Here in Ireland, we have taken in over 70,000 Ukrainian refugees over the past twelve months, and we have continually been voicing steadfast support for Ukraine and all those whose lives are suffering as a direct result of Putin’s brutal actions. Evidence of this national support can be seen as recently as last week, when it was announced following a Cabinet decision that our Defence Forces will be training members of the Ukrainian armed forces as part of the newly-established European Union Military Assistance Mission.

On a community level, over the past several months, of the 70,000-odd refugees that have settled here from Ukraine, many have already secured jobs and their own accommodation in the country. And on the whole, Irish citizens have welcomed the Ukrainian refugees’ arrival, and have played an impressive role in facilitating their integration into local communities.

For example, the group we spotted gathered outside the museum on Friday was, as I understand it, part of a larger programme of events in support of Ukraine that took place across the city to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, events which were organised in joint cooperation by local volunteer groups, Galway City Council, and Galway’s Ukrainian population. Here in Roscommon, we have seen several instances of residents coming together to organise events and welcome Ukrainians to the area, and we have also seen first-hand how seamlessly and openly refugees have been able to integrate into the local community despite how unimaginably difficult that transition must be.

Considering the amount of harmful rhetoric we saw spike with the East Wall protests earlier this year, it is a relief that anti-immigration sentiment hasn’t managed to overshadow solidarity with Ukraine’s crisis and the challenges faced by those coming over here to Ireland. Our continued support – both in terms of welcoming refugees into our communities and providing Irish support for Ukraine during this time of conflict in general – is vital moving forward. We cannot afford to become complacent in our support of Ukraine and in our condemnation of Putin’s actions.

As Putin maintains his brutal tirade in the face of all logical and empathetic reason, it is more important than ever that we, in return, both nationally and with our local communities, maintain unwavering support for Ukraine, its citizens, and all those being affected by the ongoing conflict.