Ukrainian Woman Offers Seeds


You say to the Russian soldier,
Put these seeds in your pockets,
so when you fall on this land,
at least sunflowers will
spring from your body.

Maria Stepanova offers courage:
нет войны, No War. She writes,
Today, we cannot go
to work as usual, pretending
that nothing has happened.

You are an old Ukrainian woman,
amidst the rubble of streets,
dressed in mourning for your country,
but you are strong, and you raise
your fist with the rest

of the world and shout in its face.
You offer a symbol of peace, but you mean it
as a warning: What are you doing in our land?
And the Russian soldier responds,
Our discussion will lead to nothing.

Ilya Kaminsky offers his poet-friend help.
Anything, he says, What can I send?
He responds, Putins come and go.
Send us poems instead. He, too,
is fighting a war with words.

You are not alone, brave old woman.
So cast your seeds, sow your courage
and we will stand with you,
rooted against enemies
until flowers rise from our ashes.

About the Poem

A friend shared a New York Post article and video with me about a Ukrainian woman offering sunflower seeds to a Russian soldier to put in his pocket, not to be kind, not to offer sustenance, but as a warning that when not if, he dies, at least something good would come of him when the flowers took root in his corpse. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine and Russia. The irony struck me, this flower of peace and loyalty, this brave old woman, the whole issue of Russia invading Ukraine as a “peacekeeping” mission. Within ten hours, I read a translation of Maria Stepanova’s editorial entitled “No War” and a few minutes after that a tweet by Ilya Kaminsky wondering how she could help a fellow poet stuck in the throws of the violence there. All of these words seemed to come at me all at once, speaking at the same time. It was a powerful experience full of sadness and dread, at the same time resilience and power.

About the Author

Julene Waffle, a graduate of Hartwick College and Binghamton University, is a teacher in a rural NYS public school, an entrepreneur, a nature lover, a wife, a mother of three boys, two dogs, three cats, and, of course, she is a writer. She finds great pleasure in juggling all these things and managing to seem like she has it all together.. Her work has appeared in NCTE’s English Journal, La Presa, The Non-Conformist, and Mslexia, among others. She was also published in the anthologies Civilization in Crisis, American Writers Review 2021, and Seeing Things (2020), and her chapbook So I Will Remember was published in 2020. Learn more at

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