I took pictures of sunflowers from a train window. I was in Bulgaria, and it was 1994. The train cut through a sea of sunflowers, and I’d never seen anything like it. The pictures were blurry, of course. A moving train makes for unsteady photographs. This picture was taken on the side of the road on my way to a village near the border with Romania.
The picture pales to the reality. Even if everything else went wrong, it was worth it just to see this expanse of yellow, a color so alive and magical.
I wouldn’t mind keeping sunflowers in my pocket if it meant something would grow wherever I eventually fall. What if flowers grew from our graves?
Bulgaria isn’t Ukraine. Their languages are both Slavic, but I just watched a silly video of two girls talking to each other in Bulgarian and Ukrainian. Sometimes they understood each other. Sometimes not! And Bulgarians have a very different history with Russia.
Certainly I met Bulgarians with family ties to Ukraine, and in the years since returning to the States, I’ve had students from Ukraine (far more than I’ve ever had from Bulgaria) and from Russia.
Other people have smarter things to say. I recommend On the Media for some understanding, and even more depth here. There’s the need to understand more of the world. Honestly, there’s so much to read and learn, and other people can cover it better than I can.
I’m just here for the sunflowers, to say how beautiful it is to sail through a sea of sunflowers awash in sunlight. No country in world is without beauty. Despots and fools might set it on fire, but it will outlive us all.