The humbling gratitude of Ukrainians

One word: humbling. That was my feeling as I listened to the remarkable conference speech by Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik on Monday morning. She is leader of Holos, the first Liberal Party to be elected to the Ukrainian Parliament.

All one’s everyday concerns were reduced to insignificance as we heard of the bravery and tenacity of Ukrainians under the most harrowing conditions. Their belief in the survival and eventual flourishing of their country, their incredible solidarity, is absolutely awesome.

Just to see Kira’s astonishing poise and searing honesty – as well as humility – on stage, was… well, er… humbling. That is the only word for it.

Yesterday evening, Ukrainians, currently staying in Bournemouth and Yeovil, expressed their thanks to the British people, and the Liberal Democrats in particular, by helping to stage a lovely fringe reception for all in the Marriott hotel, Bournemouth. It also marked the official recognition of Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine as an affiliated body of the party.

As a conference-goer, one develops a sixth sense for free food. You become like a pig foraging on the forest floor. One was rather shameful of one’s normal greed, as Ukrainians happily and proudly offered their traditional, delicious savouries and cakes.

It was then humbling to hear the horrific stories of courageous Ukrainians. I’m sorry but I am going to use the “h word” again. It was truly humbling to be treated to their grateful and dignified hospitality.

I showed two of them, currently residing in Yeovil, my membership card with its photo of a former MP for that town, Paddy. I explained how he, were he alive today, would be at the forefront of supporting Ukrainians.

This all came to a climax as Kira Rudik gave a speech of thanks.

It was then truly thrilling to hear the beautiful Ukrainian national anthem being sung.

This includes the words, roughly translated:

We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom
 and we’ll prove that we brothers are of Kozak kin.

There was then the traditional ceremony of the welcome bread – Kolach – as a woman in traditional dress (above) went round the room and we all took a small piece of bread, dipping it in salt before eating it.

I was in tears. It was all deeply moving and touching.

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

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