The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. Displaying sunflowers is one of the many ways the world has shown solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
At President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, in March, First Lady Jill Biden wore a dress with a sunflower design on the right sleeve. In Mexico City, Mexico, and Caracas, Venezuela, protesters have carried sunflowers while taking to the streets to condemn Russia’s actions. In London, supporters of Sunflowers for Peace placed the flowers between barricades at the Russian embassy building. The charity organizes aid for Ukrainians. In Reno, Nevada, people used sunflowers to decorate a public art piece that spells out “BELIEVE.”MARCOS DEL MAZO—LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES
Globally, awareness of the association between sunflowers and Ukraine has grown. The flower has come to be seen as a symbol of resistance. Since the invasion began, on February 24, Ukrainians have fought back against the Russian army. And many countries have sent military aid to help Ukraine fight the war. Displaying the sunflower has become a way of saying the world must continue to exhibit the courage that Ukrainians have shown.STACEY WESCOTT—CHICAGO TRIBUNE/GETTY IMAGES
Hope for the Future
Sunflowers have a long history in Ukraine. They are called soniashnyky in Ukrainian. They’ve been grown in the country since the mid–18th century, according to the 1993 Encyclopedia of Ukraine. The flower’s seeds are a popular snack. The sunflower also helps fuel the country’s economy. Ukraine and Russia supply up to 80% of the world’s sunflower-oil exports.
“The ubiquitous presence of the sunflower in the villages and countryside of Ukraine has made it an unofficial national symbol,” the encyclopedia says.
Throughout Ukraine’s history, the sunflower has been used as a symbol of peace. In June 1996, defense ministers from Ukraine, Russia, and the United States met at a missile base in southern Ukraine. They went to celebrate Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. During a ceremony, they planted sunflowers.
More than 25 years later, Russia and Ukraine are at war. But the meaning of sunflowers as symbols of peace has not changed. Sunflowers continue to crop up around the world. They are a call for leaders to plant the seeds again for a more peaceful future.