The people of the nation of Ukraine have been facing brutal attacks by Russia’s leader since late February and as a result over 11 million Ukrainians are now refugees who have had to flee their homes to find safety elsewhere.
Many neighboring countries of Ukraine, at great risk themselves, have nonetheless offered the desperate and fleeing citizens of Ukraine both safety and comfort. Poland for example has taken in more than 2.6 million Ukrainian refugees, Romania nearly 800,000 and Hungary over 500,000. These selfless actions by these and many other neighboring nations of the Ukraine show the world what kindness and compassion in action look like during a terrifying time for so many.
One of the countries that border Ukraine is a tiny nation called Moldova. Moldova has only 2 million people, and has only been an independent country since 1992. It relies on Russian imports for 100% of its gas and electricity. The people who call Moldova home are living in fear everyday that Russia’s leader may decide to attack them next. Despite all of this, to date, according to Ayman Oghanna for NBC news “Moldova has taken in more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other nation.” And according to the BBC, as of April 26, 2022, Moldova has taken in over 440,000 Ukrainian refugees even as the threat of danger from Russia to Moldovians themselves looms large.
I first heard this story on the news in late February, shared it with my family and we have followed it since. What stood out to me and the reason this is the focus of this Kindness Column has to do with who it was offering assistance in the early days of Moldova taking in refugees from Ukraine. The Prime Minister of Moldova, Natalia Gavrilita, gave credit to the ordinary people and everyday citizens of her nation for their immediate willingness to do whatever was needed to extend kindness to their neighbors in crisis from Ukraine. Before the official government of Moldova organized support for Ukrainian refugees, without extra funding to pay families to help others and without any motivation other than pure kindness, it was thousands of ordinary citizens who quite literally opened their homes and welcomed as many Ukrainian refugees as they each could. These citizens of Moldova offered housing, protection, food and comfort to complete strangers in their own homes even while they were and are afraid, facing possible attacks themselves and experiencing far more dire food and gasoline shortages than we are here in the USA. This is kindness in action in a truly remarkable way and I wonder how many of us would do the same in an instant here in our daily lives?
Inflation, higher gas prices, higher grocery store prices, longer waits in stores because of worker shortages and longer waits for things we want to buy because products are harder to find than usual are all experiences we have felt here in the United States. As a newish driver who is responsible for paying for the gas for the car I have access to, I have felt this too just as we all have. Just last Month, NPR reported results from a survey by the American Psychological Association which found “over 80% of Americans said inflation and issues related to invasion of Ukraine are significant sources of stress.” It is clear that all around the world, everyone’s stress levels are higher and everyone is feeling the effect of conflict.
The kindness challenge that I offer to everyone in this column is this: if ordinary citizens in Moldova, while facing food shortages, gas shortages, and the constant threat of attack can still find ways to be exceptionally generous to those refugees in need from Ukraine, then we here in the USA in our own daily lives can and should find at least one way daily to help someone else. Buy someone a lunch, donate money or your time to a charity or a cause that is important to you, help out at home without being asked, contact a local organization that helps those in need and ask what you can do to help, give someone a compliment to make their day a little brighter, or help someone you see or know who is in need in your own community. Each of us has many things in our lives we can complain about and wish were different. I know I do and I don’t write this column to pretend that I am perfect and never complain! But if we can all remember the lesson in selfless kindness that the citizens of Moldova are demonstrating and can make even a small effort in our own world to be more generous and caring than we have to be toward others, we will succeed in bringing more goodness to our own corner of the world and that is needed now more than ever. The citizens of Moldova have demonstrated brave and remarkable acts of kindness that should be an example for all of us to show us how we can put our own comfort aside and reach out to help others in need.
(Gracie McHugh is currently a junior at Concord High School who began writing this column during her freshman year and has continued writing the column several times a year since that time.)