A woman from Maiden Newton who works for a Ukrainian health charity staged a moving gesture of support for her colleagues caught up in the war – with a crowd of people gathering at the village war memorial.
Rebekah Webb has been in regular contact with colleagues as Putin’s armies move through their country and has been trying to get the word out about what they need.
One of her colleagues, Valentyna, remains in Ukraine with her 12-year-old son.
Rebekah said: “My colleagues are facing unbearably awful decisions about whether to stay and fight or to leave the country while they still can.
“In some cases, they have taken their children to the west of the country to be cared for by friends and relatives. It would be like me taking my son to Scotland and not knowing if I would ever see him again.
“They are still in shock over what has happened.”
Rebekah and friends Kim Sibley, Sarah Vintner, Claire Robinson and Jen Muggleton made blue and yellow hearts and flowers and invited villagers along to show their support and call for peace. They only expected a handful of people to turn out and were delighted when scores of people turned up, many waving blue and yellow hearts and flowers they had made.
Kim said: “Speaking to Bekkie about the plight of her friends, put real places and names in my mind.
“I wished I was nearer a bigger town or city to join in some of the acts of solidarity that were taking place.
“I felt that having something in the village would give people an opportunity to express their support for Ukraine and also for each other.
“The anxiety which people experience reading about the conflict and the sense of collective pain is another terrible consequence of this war.”
Kim’s daughter Isla, 12, said: “I wanted to support people of my own age going through something I can’t even imagine.”
People gathered around the war memorial to send a direct message to personal friends and colleagues as they watch their homes and former lives destroyed.
The Ukrainian health charity 100% LIFE has been working towards establishing national health clinics across the country for the last year. However the clinics are now treating the war wounded, including civilians.
Rebekah said: “The idea for the event was to be able to send photographs direct to Ukrainians via social media as they are receiving limited news from abroad.
“The local community also mobilised to send a large horse van full of clothes, blankets and supplies to the refugees in Poland.
“What they need most now is money so they can buy what they need in Poland, because it is taking time to get supplies to them.”
Rebekah added: “I am in contact with Valentyna by Whatsapp and she tells me how grateful everyone is for the support from the UK as they feel they are not alone.
“It’s a small thing but means so much.”
Local members of the choir Viva! sang with the crowd and drivers honked their horns in support as they drove past.
Choir leader Kathie Prince said “We came here today to demonstrate our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. History has shown that when we are stripped of everything by our oppressors, we still have voices to make ourselves heard.”
Lay preacher and churchwarden Jim Robinson said: “We’re here just to show solidarity in these difficult times.“
To support Ukrainians fleeing to safety, donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal at dec.org.uk or call 0370 60 60 900.
n The WDM’s baking columnist Lizzie Baking Bird raised over £100 for support diabetes in Ukraine, with customers to her regular Saturday stall donating £75 and a further £35 donated as ten per cent of her takings. She told her customers: “You’re amazing – thank you for supporting my small business – it means a lot.”