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Stand with Ukraine: Staunton rally encourages sharing feelings and experiences about war

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

peace in ukraine
Photo courtesy Jennifer Lewis.

STAUNTON — Sunflowers.

They are the national flower of Ukraine.

On Saturday, March 5, at 3 p.m., the community is invited to bring signs painted with sunflowers to “Solidarity with Ukraine,” a rally in front of the Staunton courthouse on West Johnson Street.

Signs and markers will be provided for anyone who would like to come and make their own signs and show support.

“The goal is just for everyone to come together and reflect not just on the horrible things going on in Ukraine,” said Jennifer Lewis, who lives in Waynesboro. Lewis and a couple of friends, including Lee Ann Kincaid of Staunton, who had the idea for the rally, decided earlier this week to organize Saturday’s event in Staunton, which also has a goal of supporting anyone affected by war.

Lewis said that participants are encouraged to attend who would like to also speak. A microphone will be passed around to anyone willing to share.

“We really want people to come to share how they’re feeling,” she said. Anyone who has been affected by war is also encouraged to share their experience. “And just kind of be there for each other.” Lewis said the rally welcomes anyone who has experienced fleeing war to come and share their experience, because most Americans do not know what that is like.

“I feel like this is something that has brought all kinds of people from different political backgrounds together,” she said.

On Tuesday, March 1, Lewis said she posted on her personal Facebook page about making signs in support of Ukraine at her Waynesboro home. Children have come from Waynesboro and Staunton to paint signs of sunflowers and Lewis posts them in her yard.

She said she asks the children if they know what is going on in Ukraine but then she listens to what they have to say.

“I’m just letting them have their own thoughts,” Lewis said of the children. Some are aware of what is going on.

Lewis said after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, she and her husband had a conversation about what would they do if tanks rolled into their neighborhood. Would they join with their neighbors and stand together? The concept of being in such a situation had never occurred to them.

“It’s these kinds of moments that really help you understand privilege.” And to be grateful for being an American. Lewis said she has even thought about what if she had to say goodbye to her husband as he stayed to fight for his country while she left the country.

Lewis said that the hope is also for participants of Saturday’s rally to take signs home and place them in their yards to continue to show support for Ukraine.

“This is not just a one-day event,” she said. Everyone must continue to think of Ukraine’s people and others impacted by war.

Masks, while encouraged for the rally, are not mandatory.

Lewis said she hopes that anyone who is unable to attend the rally will still take time Saturday to reflect on current events.

“I hope that people reflect on their personal lives,” she said. “I am also still naïve enough to believe that peace is possible.”

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