Ukraine’s National Bird
Ukrainians love storks. They come to nest and breed in springtime, then migrate to winter in Southern Africa. They are considered monogamous, often returning with their mate to the same nesting site, where both parents share the feeding of their young. The stork is Ukraine’s national bird, symbolising family, loyalty and patriotism.
Yesterday was Mothering Sunday and I was thinking of mothers in Ukraine left alone to explain to their children why their family has been separated. So many sad farewells at the windows of packed evacuation trains. Of course, their Mother’s Day is celebrated, like the rest of the world, on May 8th. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by international Mother’s Day this ugly war was over and like their national bird, they could return to their homeland.
It’s hard to imagine going back to cities where homes and infrastructure are totally destroyed. So many fathers and husbands killed. I just read about a woman who arrived at the Hungarian border with four children. Only one was her own. One was her sister’s. She had gone to search for water but didn’t come back. Another she found in the street beside her parents who were lying dead. The fourth child she had met wandering in the ruined streets, so she took him in as well. This is just an example of so many tragic stories.
I remember comforting my own children in the 80s when my husband Julyan was arrested with other members of the Turkish church; plain clothed policemen searched our house in the middle of the night and removed bibles and many of our Christian books. Emma, aged 7, was relieved her dad was together with the ‘uncles’ she loved and trusted and who could help answer difficult questions. Samim, aged 4, was concerned that if the police were reading all our books to understand Christianity, it might take a long time! He suggested we send them his books which had pictures.
Actually, it was a children’s story book that gave my heart peace. ‘The Very Worried Sparrow’ reminded me of God’s care. We read and reread it. A sparrow need not worry for not one bird falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge. Jesus encourages us not to be afraid for the very hairs on our heads are numbered (Luke 12:6-7). May the mothers in Ukraine find strength and serenity through many tokens of God’s love and grace encountered along the way, and may their present ordeal end soon.