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1st Anniversary of Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion

Speech by Ruslana Westerlund, 2-24-23

Good morning. My name is Ruslana Westerlund and I am one of the organizers of this event.  Thank you everyone for coming.  This event is to commemorate the year of the resilience of the Ukrainian people, honor those who gave their lives for our freedom, and to thank you all for your ongoing support.  We will hear several speeches from the Ukrainian community, some of who are refugees of war, as well as UW professors.  We will also hear from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church here in town, Father Gregory as well as pastor Charles from Covenant Presbyterian church. We will have a very special young Ukrainian performer. We will conclude with a singing of the Ukrainian anthem and a moment of silence. 

Thank you everyone for coming to our rally. Exactly a year ago some of us were standing here, on these steps, on the second day of this genocidal war.  We didn’t know what will happen. We didn’t know how long we’ll stand.  We didn’t know if we will still exist as a nation. A year ago many Madisonians came to join us and they continue to stand with us.  Thank you Americans, Thank you Madison for showing up again, for standing with us the whole year, day after day.  Thank you for donating, for contacting your representatives, thank you for checking on Ukrainians with “How can we help? What can we do? Or a simple “How are you holding up?”

The war in Ukraine has been going on for 9 years and yesterday, on February 24th 2023 was 1 year since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Over the course of the year the aggressor has been systematically destroying Ukraine and committing terrible war crimes. Despite this, Ukrainians continuously defend their homeland and the world from the aggression of the terrorist country. We have been fighting and defending the whole world with dignity, together with you. You – who have been reinforcing our common victory since the first day. Ukrainians are very grateful for all support because we sincerely believe that only together can we overcome this evil.

Today we commemorate this year – 365 days of defending freedom.

365 days of resilience. 

365 days of determination. 

365 days of courage.

365 days of perseverance. 

365 days of a relentless desire to live. 

365 days of being unstoppable. 

365 days of being brave, of being brave Ukraine. 

Cлава Україні! 

The world gave us three days. But the world measured our might in military equipment. We measure our strength in how much we love freedom. Mathematically or numerically, we were supposed to be defeated because we had a smaller army, however, on the scale of how much we value freedom, we are invincible. That love of freedom, the desire to exist as free Ukrainians is how we are winning this war with a help of a few tanks, of course.  

We are asking for military support not because we are militant people.  We don’t want this war.  I repeat again.  WE DON’T WANT THIS WAR. We are a peaceful people who have been invaded at dawn when our babies were still sleeping. We are trying to protect our homes. We are trying to have a future as a people. We have been aggressed against.  We have been genocided against. Millions of people have lost their homes.  Children have lost their childhood. They continue to live with high levels of stress and trauma. Women and children have been raped and tortured. Family units have been fractured. Children have not seen their fathers for 365 days and counting. 

We are asking for military support because if we don’t, we won’t exist as a people.  The Russian aggressor is targeting civilian infrastructure, bombing hospitals, preschools, universities, schools, and apartment complexes.  One of my dear friends lost her mother-in-law and her husband in one day in the January 14th Dnipro attack.  When the time came to bury them, they had to use a DNA test to identify him because there was nothing left of him. How do you bury your loved ones identified through a DNA test?? That’s why we are asking for continued support because more people will die, and more children’s lives will be lost.  Putin is not going to stop.  And we are not going to roll over. We are not going to give up our land.  It’s our land! We live there!!! Did Putin stop after he took Crimea? No, he just waited a little and rolled in with his tanks and missiles. 

A few words about the posters that people are holding on the black background. Please hold them so people can see them.  These posters come from a series of 365 photo posters about tragic events that have happened each day since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. We chose to use 12 posters, one poster per month to represent the full year of the events. “They show Ukrainian people’s struggles for freedom for the sake of the whole world. Ukrainians are offering to remember this year together, thank the world for helping to get through it, and call on the world to defend our freedom by joint forces to achieve victory” (Alexander Krapivkin).

“During this year Ukraine has shown the whole world its capability and strive for freedom and independence, its desire to build and defend democracy. The world has seen both our authentic culture and our genuine bravery. And the free and democracy-loving world is brave like Ukraine” (Alexander Krapivkin). 

If I were to describe this year in one word: it would be the word courage.  

Courage to stand up to a country 30 times larger than us.

Courage to ask for ammunition and not a ride.

Courage to tell the russian ship to go far far far away.

Courage to absorb evil, torture, and rape so that Kyiv would not fall.

Courage to be separated from your loved ones.

Сourage to stay.  

Courage to leave. 

Courage to stop tanks by blocking streets with their bodies.

Courage to hitch a russian tank to the tractor.

Courage to run to the shelter.  Courage to shelter children with your bodies. 

Courage to continue educating the future despite air rades, shelling, and no electricity.

Courage to go to work, to create, and to have babies.

Courage to dream of a future without war. 

Courage to believe in victory despite all odds. 

The victory of Ukraine will be the victory of every nation that values freedom and democracy. 

Ми з тобою, Україно! 

National Anthem of Ukraine 

Український текстTransliteration*Translation
Ще не вмерла України і слава, і воля,
Ще нам, браття молодії, усміхнеться доля
Згинуть наші воріженьки, як роса на сонці
Запануєм і ми, браття, у своїй сторонці.
Shche ne vmerla Ukrayiny, ni slava, ni volya,
Shche nam, brattya molodiyi, usmikhnet’sya dolya.
Zhinut’ nashi vorizhen’ki, yak rosa na sontsi,
Zapanuyem i mi, brattya, u svoyiy storontsi.
Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom,
Luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.
Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,
and we, too, brothers, we’ll live happily in our land.
Душу й тіло ми положим за нашу свободу,
І покажем, що ми, браття, козацького роду.
Dushu y tilo mi polozhim za nashu svobodu
I pokazhem, shcho mi, brattya, kozats’koho rodu.
We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom
and we’ll prove that we brothers are of Kozak kin.
Станем, браття, в бій кривавий від Сяну до Дону,
В ріднім краю панувати не дамо нікому;
Чорне море ще всміхнеться, дід Дніпро зрадіє,
Ще у нашій Україні доленька наспіє.

Stanem brattia vbiy krivavyi vid Syanu s Donu, 
Vreednim krayu panuvati ne damo nikomu;
Chorne moreh sche vsmikhnetsia, deed Dnipro zradiye,
Shche u nashiy Ukrayini dolenka naspiye. 
Brethren, stand together in a bloody fight, from the Sian to the Don
We will not allow others to rule in our motherland.
The Black Sea will smile and grandfather Dnipro will rejoice,
For in our own Ukraine fortune shall flourish again.
Душу й тіло ми положим за нашу свободу,
І покажем, що ми, браття, козацького роду.
Dushu y tilo mi polozhim za nashu svobodu
I pokazhem, shcho mi, brattya, kozats’koho rodu.

We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom
and we’ll prove that we brothers are of Kozak kin.
А завзяття, праця щира свого ще докаже,
Ще ся волі в Україні піснь гучна розляже,
За Карпати відоб’ється, згомонить степами,
України слава стане поміж народами.
A zavzyattya, pratsia schyra svoho sche dokazhe,
Sche sia voli v Ukrayinee pisn’ huchna rozlyazhe
Za Karpati vidobyetsia z-homonit stepami,
Ukrayini slava stane pomizh narodami.
Our persistence and our sincere toils will be rewarded,
And freedom’s song will resound throughout all of Ukraine.
Echoing off the Carpathians, and rumbling across the steppes.
Душу й тіло ми положим за нашу свободу,
І покажем, що ми, браття, козацького роду
Dushu y tilo mi polozhim za nashu svobodu
I pokazhem, shcho mi, brattya, kozats’koho rodu.
We’ll not spare either our souls or bodies to get freedom
and we’ll prove that we brothers are of Kozak kin.
The Ukrainian National Anthem, including lyrics in Ukrainian, transliteration, and a translation

For a brief history and a more official transliteration following the international transliteration guidelines and the international pronunciation alphabet, visit this wikipedia page

Languaging in COVID19

Languaging in COVID19

By Ruslana A. Westerlund, Author of From Borsch to Burgers: Cross-cultural Memoir. 


To be human is to language (Who said language cannot be a verb? The same person who said that like cannot be a noun?)

To language is to unite and bring people closer together through words such as “social distancing”, “separate but together”, “six feet apart”, “підтримуйте дистанцію на два метри”, “stay home”, “quedarse en su casa”, “blieben zu Hause”, “залишайтеся вдома”.

To language is to laugh and cry through “where did all the toilet paper go?”, “covidiot and Lysol” (please do not do Oxford comma between the last two words).

Source: Outstanding Portland Coffee Shops with Free Wi-Fi

To language is to travel back in time, to say things like “let’s get together for coffee” and be instantly transported to your favorite table by the window in your local coffee shop.

To language is to let go of phrases that drag the whole cultural practice with it such as “excuse me, is this seat taken”, “excuse me, I’m going to sneak right past ya”, when grabbing something off the shelf two feet away because you are already six feet apart.

To language is to imagine the future where the new normal doesn’t drag with it the old normal.

To language is to mean without words by using body language to create meanings that words are too loud for in virtual meetings.

To language is to redefine “face to face” by “facetime”.

To language is to reopen again where “we are OPEN” means more than being open 9-5.

To language is to be mindful that not everyone has a family to talk to and walk with and say, “I’ll walk with you because you live alone.”

To language is to be human in times of crisis.


Writing is an Act of Courage

By Ruslana Westerlund, Author of From Borsch to Burgers: A Cross-cultural Memoir

A month ago today I self-published my first cross-cultural memoir From Borsch to Burgers, available on Amazon.  While I was writing it, I was in love with the process.  It was meaningful, analytical, deeply introspective, and highly cathartic.  The writing was preceded by much thinking and deep analysis. It also gave me a chance to relive some memories, revisit places of my childhood, remind myself of where I came from, give tribute to the people in my life, and resurrect some stories almost forgotten.  The words were for my eyes only, on the screen, protected with a password, not for the world to read. As soon as my story became public, I suddenly became terrified. I started questioning my confidence, my writing, my message, the quality of my own translation from my “upper intermediate” level of Ukrainian to English.  I sat out to analyze sources of my fear. I lay out these reasons below.

Writing is an act of courage, especially when you are writing a memoir. 

Memoir is such a personal genre (unlike a novel with fictional characters or your thesis or dissertation where you distance yourself from your writing and report on the results). A memoir is the story of your life for everyone to read and scrutinize, including your personal struggles, doubts and wonderings.  As an emigrant and an immigrant, you write with the fear of not offending anyone, as you analyze and describe Ukrainian and American cultural nuances.  Cross-cultural memoirs are particularly prone to such vulnerabilities because your writing analyzes both sides of your cross-cultural living: your birth place and your new home. For memoirs to be authentic, the stories have to be real and honest. Honesty leads to vulnerability. In the end, to write cross-culturally is to be vulnerable.  

Also, writing as an immigrant gives me a chance to humanize the immigrant experience by telling my own story.  Every immigrant has their own story.  If we don’t tell our stories, somebody else will.  In sharing our immigrant experiences, we provide a glimpse into the immigration journeys with all their twists and turns.  One person recently told me that they had no idea that immigrants had to struggle with so many things.  And I didn’t flee a war-torn country or a drug violence.  I came here by an invitation which I describe in my memoir with lots of details.  By recounting our immigrant experiences, provide an insight for people who have never had to immigrate or never had to defend their dissertations in their fourth language or learn the cultural nuances of communication that go beyond perfect grammar.

Writing is an act of courage, especially when writing in a language that’s not your native tongue. 

When Rob and I were doing the first round of edits, he kept saying, “Honey, in English we would say it this way.  I see what you are trying to say. I don’t want to lose the message but a native speaker would say this way.” I appreciated how he valued my ideas and tried to revise the form to help the audience appreciate the message and not be distracted by my idiosyncrasies.  He also worked very hard to preserve my voice.  More recently, someone said to me that my writing feels like it’s transliterated. That means it doesn’t read “native”-like. It reads like it was translated from Ukrainian. Two things are at play here: English is my fourth language. Technically, English is not my first language, but it has become my primary language of communication.  In the second language acquisition field, the notions of nativeness are being problematized. Who owns the standard language? Who speaks it? What does it mean to write native-like? What does it mean to sound native-like? Those conversations give me permission to continue improving my writing without striving to meet some elusive native-like standard.  

Second, I wasn’t taught writing in school.  Instead, we were only taught grammar because for our teachers writing meant following rules or constructing perfect sentences, not learning how to contextualize language.  Writing for a variety of audiences and genres and adjusting tone for different effects were never a focus of my education. The first paper I produced in grad school was a personal reflection.  I started to expand my genres when learning how to write a dissertation, my first bio, resume, CV, book reviews, and only recently, a memoir. Writing in a new genre is learning to write from square one, it’s a new journey.  What applied in writing my dissertation, didn’t apply in writing my memoir. Even the standard rules of grammar fell apart. Like complete sentences or using past tense to recount past. As an act of resistance, I wrote my memoir in present using past only when referring to the events that happened prior.  

Writing is an act of courage, especially when there is no agent to represent you. 

When you don’t have an agent, your story becomes your agent.  There is no one to represent you, your book or your message. Self-publishing is being courageous with every book signing or approaching acquisition directors in libraries and bookstores.  Courage doesn’t end with publishing the book.  That’s when it only begins.