The courage of Ukrainians should truly humble us

The Ukrainian border guards on Snake Island had a while to think about their response to a Russian warship demanding that they lay down their arms.

Several years in fact.

There can’t be much to do at such a border post, apart from contemplate your potential enemy and the day of reckoning that might finally arrive.

So their response of “Russian warship – go to hell”, or alternatively fruity translation, was spoken in full awareness of the potential consequences.

We’ve seen similar awe-inspiring bravery and defiance from President Zelenskyy to ordinary pensioners berating Russian soldiers.

And what for?

What are they fighting for?

A large parcel of land where they and their ancestors have lived.

In its driest form, it is, I guess, the principle of “self-determination”. That is a term I first came across in a Devon classroom some 50 years ago. Duly writing down the definition from our history teacher, I noted it in my studies of the establishment of the League of Nations after the First World War.

It is something which can easily be dismissed as an inanimate concept.

But Ukrainians today infuse its syllables with breath and blood.

In our (generally) cushioned western lives, we live somewhat detached from reality.

But this past week should give us reason to stop and be truly humbled.

We should be truly humbled by the courage of the Ukrainians and resolve to do all in our power to help them.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Brad Barrows 6th Mar '22 - 9:34am

    I really feel a Ukrainian version of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath sums up the situation perfectly…
    “…for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under Russian control. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

  • Helen Dudden 6th Mar '22 - 5:41pm

    It’s time we all stood up for the right to be.

  • John Hall 7th Mar ’22 – 9:08am..

    I wholly agree but the government in question is our ‘friend’ so their actions don’t count..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Mar '22 - 12:35pm

    Excellent piece from Paul.

    John Hall, it would help to not use language that is so skewed. Expressions like apartheid and ethnic cleansing are not appropriate in that situation. As much as I loathe the approaches of some governments , where they are democracies, there is potential for change. Palestinians would help their cause, if, like Ukranians, they voted in moderate, democratic governments. In the Palestinian Authority, they prefer, or did when their leaders deemed them able to have elections, extremists like Hamas.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Mar ’22 – 12:35pm..

    What words would you choose to cover the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes (and giving them to Israelis), the destruction of olive groves and deliberate poisoning of water supplies, etc., etc. to force Palestinians off land they have lived on for generations? The promise made by Naftali Bennett to increase the use of the ‘state land’ law..

    The list goes on…,

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Mar '22 - 4:24pm


    I would call it, awful!

    It is a land grab. It is not ethnic cleansing or apartheid really, as I see those . I believe ethnic cleansing, a wretched phrase implied with it, that purification, the desired result, means, in fact, genocide. There is no genocide in that area.

    Apartheid refers to a separation within a country, and loss of rights for one side. The USA Deep South in the sixties had a form, as well as South Africa. where that description comes from. If you describe the State of Israel, rather than two states, taken together, included in that being the Palestinian Authority, then, again, apartheid is not accurate, because there are no differing rights in law based on ethnicity, in the State of Israel, now oir before. The recent act, is bluster and nationalism, jargon not an erosian of rights other than automatic citizenship for the Jews who seek it there, which was always so.

    Terrible yes, though the recent policies of Likud, even some , now, these words, as used do little to describe the real injustice.

    The problem is authoritarianism, it and hatred between extremes.

    I do not make light of the suffering. I make sure it is accurately understood.

    But of course that is easy from the UK. I get this. But I like us to do nuance too.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Mar ’22 – 4:24pm..We, obviously, differ.

    However, Regarding the UK government’smuch vaunted supportr for Ukrainians..

    Guardian (today)
    So far the UK has only been accepting those of the 1.3 million-plus Ukrainians to have fled the country since Russia invaded who have family connections in the UK or if they have been sponsored by a third party….
    Home Office sources confirmed that “around 50” visas had been granted under the Ukraine family scheme by 10am on Sunday…

    Thank heaven Johnson, et al, weren’t in power in 1939 .

  • Brad Barrows 7th Mar '22 - 6:57pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    Just to point out that Israel does have different laws in Israel based on whether a person is Jewish Israeli or Arab Israeli. These range from rights regarding marriage to non Israeli citizens and whether their partner can move to Israel, to requirements for military service. Though a democracy, Israel acts in ways that would lead to severe economic sanctions being imposed on any other country such as annexing the Golan Heights from Syria.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Mar '22 - 7:52pm

    I believe in the promised land. After the Holocaust many from the Jewish Community sought a place of peace and safety. Many times the Jewish Community have been moved on.
    That’s why I believe the Ukrainian people deserve their homeland.
    I understand little of the Palestinian issue, I also believe you have to live it, to know it.
    I too have received prejudice as I personally comment on the subject of human rights.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Mar '22 - 10:16pm


    I know, those refer to what I allude to, right of residency /citizenship.

    Have you seen those in the UK? More draconian or complicated hard to find

  • Helen Dudden 8th Mar '22 - 10:49am

    There are 120 Jewish children orphaned, other’s trapped in the Ukraine. They hadn’t passage.
    This is just a section of those whose fate in in the hands of Putin.
    In the Odessa region they are praying for peace.
    Our government treads softly, on those who should either be sanctioned or removed.
    For too long things have not been transparent to say the least. The odd donation here and there, the need for funds the one important factor.
    Our country refuses to help those in the most need.
    Those children will never have parents back, lives changed by a missile or bullet.
    This is just what I have personal knowledge of, there are many others.
    Priti Patel and Dominic Raab have found a home in Great Britain, and although, for many when Ukraine may return to being a home for those escaping they probably will return.
    I find this disturbing that as human beings we are living under a threat from Putin, a bully and dictator.

  • Peter Hirst 8th Mar '22 - 12:22pm

    There’s nothing like being threatened to determine your values and priorities. The Ukrainian people have responded positively. Dying for anything however involves a sacrifice that the rest of us can only be in awe of.

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