I Want to Be a Ukrainian
Mar 04, 2022

3 minute read


When I come of age 

When I get over being a teen-ager 

When I take my life seriously 

When I grow up 

I want to be a Ukrainian. 

When I come of age 

I want to stand happily in the cold 

for days beyond number, 

no longer numb to what I need.

I want to hear my voice 

Rise loud and clear above 

The icy fog, claiming myself. 

It was day fifteen of the protest, and a woman standing next to her car was being interviewed. Her car  had a rooster sitting on top of it. She said, “We’ve woken up and we’re not leaving till this rotten  government is out.” It is not recorded if the rooster crowed.  

When I get over being a teen-ager 

When I no longer complain or accuse 

When I stop blaming everybody else 

When I take responsibility 

I will have become a Ukrainian 

The Yushchenko supporters carried bright orange banners which they waved vigorously on slim poles.  Soon after the protests began, the government sent in thugs hoping to create violence. They also carried  banners, but theirs were hung on heavy clubs that could double as weapons.  

When I take my life seriously 

When I look directly at what’s going on 

When I know that the future doesn’t change itself 

That I must act 

I will be a Ukrainian 

“Protest that endures” Wendell Berry said,” is moved by a hope far more modest that that of public  success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed  by acquiescence.”  

When I grow up and am known as a Ukrainian 

I will move easily onto the streets 

Confident, insistent, happy to preserve the qualities 

Of my own heart and spirit. 

In my maturity I will be glad to teach you 

The cost of acquiescence 

The price of silence 

The peril of retreat 

“Hope,” said Vaclev Havel, “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that  something is worth doing regardless of how it turns out.”  

I will teach you all that I have learned 

The strength of fearlessness 

The peace of conviction 

The strange source of hope 

And I will die well, having been a Ukrainian. 

** I wrote this in 2005 to honor the Orange Revolution in Ukraine that began November 22, 2004  after a very fraudulent presidential election (based on independent and local data). Although  Yushchenko had a clear majority, the opposition pro-Russian leader Yanukovych was declared  winner. Yushchenko then called for massive protests, sit-ins, and and strikes. The scale of the  protests were unprecedented. On some days, up to a million people took to the streets in freezing  weather. In response, the Ukraine Supreme Court invalidated the fraudulent election in early  December and called for a run-off on December 26, 2004. This election was free of fraud, and  Yushchenko won; the Orange Revolution came to a peaceful conclusion with his inauguration end  of January 2005. Yushchenko served as President until 2010 as a pro-European leader, although his  term was filled with internal conflicts. In 2010, his opponent Yanukovych won the presidency and  instituted pro-Russian policies that resulted in the 2014 Revolution of Dignity that Ukrainians now  mark as the beginning of the war with Russia (and the establishment of the separatist regions of  Donetsk and Luhansk that Putin claimed as the reason for war now.) Over 18% of Ukrainians took  part in the Orange Revolution.    

Margaret Wheatley has worked globally in many different roles, as a speaker, teacher, community worker, consultant, advisor, formal leader. She is a best-selling author of nine books, from the classic Leadership and the New Science in 1992 to her newest book (June 2017) Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. She is co-founder and President of The Berkana Institute, a non-profit that supports emerging leaders and emerging ideas about how to organize in life-affirming ways.

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