This week, Ormstown’s municipal flag was taken down so the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine could be raised in its place. This is just one in a long list of actions taken by locals to show their support for the people of Ukraine. As the heart-wrenching stories continue to fill our screens – scenes showing the desperate plight of Ukrainians as they flee cities devastated by the Russian invasion – it is all we can do to organize and prepare for the likely arrival of displaced people in the Valley.
The war has been top-of-mind in several municipalities in recent days. Ormstown has launched a coordination centre from its town hall to organize volunteer efforts, while the Town of Huntingdon officially condemned the actions of the Russian government in a resolution passed during its regular council meeting on March 7. While encouraging the Canadian government to do everything in its power to force Russia to abandon its assault, the Town also moved to invite its citizens to participate in local efforts to support the people of Ukraine. It also confirms it will contribute to the collective humanitarian response by welcoming those who would take refuge in Huntingdon from the war. Some might question the value in making such a declaration, or in the raising of a flag, but the symbolism speaks volumes about a community coming together to help however it can.
Such displays of support have been celebrated but also challenged in recent days, by reminders that similar waves of solidarity are rare, and welcome mats are not always rolled out when conflict erupts around the globe. Numerous articles and reports have accused Western media outlets of racist coverage, bringing to light the uncomfortable feelings we may be experiencing given how differently other populations fleeing violence in war-torn countries have been treated in comparison.
That being said, the Ukrainian population is undeniably in need of asylum, and local efforts are without a doubt unwaveringly genuine. The organization and preparation that takes place now will be critically important in supporting those who come. The Valley community will, no doubt, rally around new residents and the generous families who host them.