Rebounding and Rebonding – winning and waking the European hearts again


You see an error in the text - select the fragment and press Ctrl + Enter

In the first months of Russia’s war in Ukraine, I witnessed the solidarity, love and generosity of Europeans. They offered homes, food, clothes and assistance for the flood of fleeing refugees. After a couple of months, both Ukrainians and their hosts were exhausted and thirsted for their normal life. Politely, yet sternly, hosts asked the refugees to move out and move on. The tiredness and confusion created hard questions and sometimes hard feelings between the cultures.


Why are you not integrating? What did you do here in the first months? Did you learn our language already? How is the job search going? When will you go back to Ukraine? Honestly, Ukrainians did expect everything to go back to a normal life after a few months. Many were seeking shelter until the bombing was over. It is not that Europeans did not see that, but the desperation of the complex situation created a fight-flight-freeze effect for everyone.


After the initial wave of intense giving, European hosts got tired, but also the displaced Ukrainians grew weary after that time of awkward survival. It is exhausting to share personal space over a longer span of time. Admittedly, it takes large efforts to help refugees understand a hosting country’s systems. At the same time, Ukrainians no longer want to feel displaced. Rather, they just want to be at home again. None of us have the energy to tolerate the injustice of innocent people being attacked, killed, bombed and repressed. But the truth is, neither one of us is wrong, yet Moscow’s fury does not let any of us have a chance to breathe.


How do we push restart on the European heart? To find a solution, we need to understand the problem from a bird’s eye view. On one side, the more we cry out, the less we will be heard. On the other, if we don’t cry out, we will be forgotten. Ukraine’s people – inside and outside of its borders – need support. If Europeans don’t support Ukraine now, they will have the same problem soon. But everyone is too tired to hear this and want to continue on with comfortable lives. It is their right to do so, but the problem of war will not go away.


Of course, we want to shake the world and wake it up. The desire is to scream that the lives of innocent millions, especially children and young adults, are being senselessly ruined. Unfortunately, this fact will only land on numbed ears. It is important for us, as people who desire to support Ukraine in all imaginable ways, to understand that Europeans are not ignoring us maliciously. Their love and will to support did not disappear. They are just exhausted. They, we, all of us, need fresh energy again. So how do we escape this vicious circle? How can we help rebound back to the first-love we all had in 2022?


As Chair of Writers at Risk Austria and CEO of the NGO Words and Deeds, I have witnessed this concept several times. Not only do we need to rebound back to where we were, but we need to rebond to European supporters. The psychological principles of this are always the same: spark passion, and if one wants something, then you also have to give something. This creates a positive attraction, helping those involved to rebound. We also want to reignite the fire in European supporters, so they need to feel our passion. Passion! Not hate. Not desperation. We need to show them what Ukraine has that makes it attractive, like our arts, literature, history, dance, song, talent, people, inventions, creativity. We have to make them want those things, and we have to make them not want to lose them.



RELATED: Big politics, love and self-discovery in the novel “Ivan and Phoebe” by Oksana Lutsyshyna



For example, at Writers at Risk we defend freedom of expression and create awareness about where writers are treated unjustly. Mrs. Narges Mohammedi is one of many examples. She is imprisoned for being a writer promoting freedom and for her fight for human rights and activism in Iran. Her efforts earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2023. Despite the attention she is getting through the media, she has been arrested 13 times and is sentenced now to 31 years of prison in Tehran. We at Writers at Risk ask the question, “How can we get Europeans to support authors jailed in other countries that have nothing to do with his or her life?” Most people feel they have enough problems of their own and need help themselves. What can make them overcome their passivity? Writers at Risk gives jailed authors a voice. When the average person hears the authors’ words they are moved. Moved people take action. That’s passion. They will sign a petition, write the author a letter, buy the book, donate money or even help pass on the news. We need to do the same with Ukraine – a country at risk. We need to give its beauty a voice and show the world how attractive it is by binding their passion to beauty. If people see this beauty is at risk of being lost, then people will take action. On a practical level, this advocacy and passion would help to create more events, books, art exhibits, plays, concerts, articles, etc. emphasizing Ukraine’s beauty. These events would create the desire in the European public to know more.


Also, we should not forget about the war, nor be shy to mention it. It is invaluable to find the balance and show the world the brutal truth. This can be possible if we focus on the aesthetics of this wonderful culture, which will be lost, if we don’t take steps in the right direction. Examples like the death of Maksym Kryvtsov can shake up the understanding that a true literary talent has been lost forever.


Additionally, during my talks with Ukrainian authors and artists, inside and outside of Ukraine, they tell me that the quality of their art is suffering. The war and the new challenges of life have lamed their creative spirits. On top of that, most of them living in foreign countries are struggling to survive financially, since they cannot write fluently in the local language.


The beauty pouring out of Ukraine should not be stopped. The world needs it – in word, in color, in tone! This passion and loveliness will wash out the bitter taste in European mouths and give them a fresh perspective, encouraging them to support and think positively about Ukraine again. The eyes of the world must be drawn to Ukraine to recognize its richness, its beauty, and the enormous loss we will all suffer if Russia is not stopped.



Editing: Nicole Yurcaba


Photo credit: Walter Pobaschnig



Mark Allen Klenk is the Chairman of Writers at Risk (PEN Club Austria) and Chairman of the NGO Words and Deeds. He is a writer, moderator, mental health expert and keynote speaker.


This article is the author’s column, and his opinion may not reflect the opinion of the editorial board