In the early morning of February 24th, the Russian military embarked on an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, setting off a European conflict of a magnitude that hasn’t been witnessed in the region since the final days of World War II. The developing war in Ukraine can feel both alarming and confusing. Moreover, it is a terribly sad moment in our shared history as human beings living on this sometimes wonderful, always delicate planet.
But where there are calls for war and orders for invasion, so too exist appeals for peace and acts of goodwill. On the afternoon following the invasion, the poet Amanda Gorman tweeted:
There is no such thing as gentle war.
There is no peace
That can’t be flung aside.
Our only enemy is that which would
Make us enemies to each other.
Around the world, people are striving for peace. The Empire State Building, The Eiffel Tower, and the Roman Colosseum have been lit up with the gold and blue of the Ukrainian flag. Thousands of Romanians have driven their own cars to the border of Ukraine, intent on picking up refugees, strangers bound by an unwavering belief in human decency, and taking them to safety. Even in Russia, ordinary citizens are laying flowers at the steps of the Ukrainian embassy. And so there are other stories at play here, myriad tales of empathy, goodness, and abounding care for our neighbors, however near or distant.
These stories bring to mind a quote from Wings of Desire, a film set in a divided, post-war 1950s Berlin:
"My heroes are no longer the warriors and kings.. but the things of peace, one equal to the other. The drying onions equal to the tree trunk crossing the marsh. But no one has so far succeeded in singing an epic of peace. What is wrong with peace that its inspiration doesn't endure... and that its story is hardly told?"
In reference to, and in defiance of, the attack on Ukraine, consider that unsung epic of peace. How might we relay the abiding beauty of peace today, so that we may finally stop “making us enemies to each other” in the future? We must not forget the good that writing can do in solidifying relationships, calming our minds, and championing understanding across borders. Write the World is a global community, and you, its writers, are both engineers of our community’s power as well as symbols of the radiant compassion made real when we pick up the pen.
Consider this prompt as an open invitation to reflect (in any form or style, be it prose or poetry) on the invasion of Ukraine, on the care we can give to one another, and on “the things of peace” that rightfully animate our world.