Before Russia’s launch of the 2022 war in Ukraine, it might have been said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s weapons of choice in times of disagreement were, by nearly all accounts: humility, eloquence, and a natural charm. American filmmaker David Dodson, who worked for a decade with Zelenskyy on various projects, described him in interview for Business Insider magazine as “the Tom Hanks of Ukraine.”
Dodson also gave him the nickname “Chaplin” as the legendary Charlie Chaplin. A video compilation shared by Kat Abu on Twitter shows Zelenskyy competing on his country’s version of Dancing with the Stars (which he reportedly won in 2006). In one segment of the compilation, he is costumed to look like Chaplin while dancing with as much energized precision as Derek Hough, Janet Jackson, or anyone in love with life ever has. (Does this mean he’s likely to have a profile on IMDB? Actually yes.)
yThe image of performing artist Zelenskyy dancing to one infectious tune after another is far removed from that with which the world is now most familiar: an embattled courageous president struggling with all his might to save his homeland and his people.
Ukrainians follow him willingly because they fell in love with him during a time of relative peace. The world now rallies behind him because the war he fights can be viewed as unjust not only when considering Russia’s president’s unprovoked aggression, but when acknowledging betrayals which made Ukraine more vulnerable than it should have been.
Of Angels, War, & Peace
Just as the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in 202 forced me to rearrange established priorities, confirmed reports of Russia’s three-pronged land, sea, and air attacks on Ukraine did the same. My focus had been on completing pre-publication tasks for an artbook on different aspects of the pandemic upon individual lives around the world. I stepped away from it long enough to post Ukraine, Russia, and the Art of Being Human, which includes the poem “Angel of War.”
At the time, it seemed ludicrous to imagine the possibility of what we are all now seeing on screens and in print, what we are hearing on podcasts and dreading as we go to bed at night and get up the next morning.
With the conflict growing more intense by the day, the Poet, the Air Force NCO, and the Journalist in me all agreed that having already acknowledged the Angel of War with a poem from The River of Winged Dreams, it was time to show respect for the Angel of Peace with the same. And yes, Volodymyr Zelensky is as human as the rest of us, but at this 2022 moment in history he exemplifies the angelic potential “of our better natures” a lot more convincingly than most of us can claim.
The heroism and inspiring leadership of the Warrior-President of Ukraine are self-evident, and, clearly more authentic than the kind of photo-op posturing too many witness in political leaders around the world. The poem I’m sharing now, however, is not only presented as a tribute to him. It is my way of sharing the pain-ridden journey of the more than one million Ukrainians, largely women and children, who have been forced to abandon their homeland.
Angel of Peace
Such are these places
where lovers of bliss behold
the angel of peace:
Above the burning,
and below the cold of all
the sad killing fields;
Where poetry sighs,
smiling magic in the lap
of flesh and blood joy;
Upon the shoulders
of elders carved beautiful
by sage artistry;
Where a starbright gown
trails healing through gardens of
In the arms of dreams
that shepherd hope through the eyes
of praying children;
bristling silk storms from the shores
of my skin to yours;
In the taste of a
woman glowing firemilk through
the tips of her breasts;
Afloat on rhythms
of minds too stoned on love to
recall how bombs work;
At the edge of a
man’s kiss casting holy spells
of sweet compassion;
Inside the beauty
of faith’s unburied treasure
sparkling truth and hope;
Beneath trees of song
heavy with angelic light,
evergreen with strength;
Upon the wings of
nightingales trilling comfort
to embattled grace;
In your heart’s whisper,
soft as love, that truly all
is well with your soul.
(from The River of Winged Dreams)
For more reflections on the war in Ukraine please check out The Angel of War and the Year 2022 and Ukraine, Russia, and the Art of Being Human.
Author of Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah
and Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind
Creator of Original Silk-Featherbrush Artstyle
In his November 12, 2021, essay for England’s The Guardian newspaper, Booker Prize-winning author Ben Oki urged creative artists around the globe to dedicate their inspired labors to the production of works addressing the catastrophic crises of the current era. In his words:
“I propose existential creativity, to serve the unavoidable truth of our times, and a visionary existentialism, to serve the future that we must bring about from the brink of our environmental catastrophe.”
It just so happens that many creative artists already advocate not only for environmental justice, but also for economic justice, gender equality, and antiracism. That Okri declined in his op-ed/essay to comment on the last in this year when the verdict for the trial of the death of George Floyd made headlines around the world, and the trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery was moving toward a similar outcome, is a little baffling. After all, ending death by racism and xenophobia is no less a global crisis than preventing mass destruction from human-induced climate change. Neither, for that matter, is a coronavirus capable of masking itself and attacking our species in different mutated guises: such as Delta and Omicron.
Does any of that mean Okri’s call for more mindful considerations of climate change should be ignored? Not at all. But how any given creative chooses to respond to it is up to them. My own compulsion to address climate change is apparent in the article, “The Art of Reversing Climate Change Denial,” in artwork currently on exhibit in the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport Art Gallery, and in the book, Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.