I was honored to share the stage with so many talented writers at the Ukrainian American Poets Respond launch last weekend. Our poems were a cry for justice, a prayer for peace, a call for remembrance, and a demand to be seen and heard.
It is my father, Walter Dudycz’s birthday today. These past few weeks I have been thinking about a lot about what he taught me about hope. (In Ukrainian the word is надія….also my sister’s name.) I can see how hope shaped my father’s life, and his example of hope has shaped who I am.
When I was a teenager, I thought that I was just an optimist; but the older I got, the more I realized that was not true. Optimism is not the same as hope. Optimists expect good things to happen.
I’m actually not an optimist. What I am is hopeful. I was taught by my father that hope is the belief that when the bad things happen, you can work together to overcome those things.
That idea and all its parts have shaped everything for me:
It implies awareness that bad things that have happened and will happen.
It calls out that hope requires action.
It also implies that hope can be shared. Hope in community is powerful.
And at its heart, hope is a belief. For my father and for me, belief implies the mystery of something greater than us in the Universe. That belief means that hope and prayer are interconnected.
From my father, I also learned:
We need to keep practicing hope, or we can lose it. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
The memory of hope can help us to rediscover it.
Hope is a tool. We take it, and we do things with it. We need hope to make changes in the world.
Sometimes those changes take a long time. Hope can come in tiny steps.
Stories and songs about hope help it to grow and spread.
When we share hope, it gets stronger.
I thought about this when I was at one of the rallies in support of Ukraine last weekend. I saw that hope in my father’s eyes, and on the faces of the people around us holding signs and chanting, as well those passersby who honked and waved.
Someone asked me why we go to rallies, what good does it do? I think I have a better answer for them now after thinking about it.
On March 9th, 2022, at 1pm CST (that’s 7pm GMT), I will be one of the poets reading for POETRY FOR UKRAINE ??, An International Fundraiser.
While poetry cannot stop bullets or protect the skies, Ukrainian poets have been putting into the words the heart and spirit, the joys and sorrows, the strengths and sacrifices of the Ukrainian people for hundreds of years. The fact that this reading will occur on Taras Shevchenko’s birthday underscores the fact.
Ukraine has been a target, a battleground, and a prize for centuries. After all that, to achieve independence for three short decades and have it threatened so brutally by Putin’s megalomaniac ambition and insecurity…this is why the Ukrainian people fight.
The rest of us must do what we can to help—to have their backs, to hold them up, to catch them, to join our voices with theirs.
In support of Ukraine, this online poetry reading will be raising funds for The Ukrainian Red Cross & The Refugee Council. The participating poets are