Earlier this week I participated in the extraordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE), devoted to the war in Ukraine and expelling Russia from the organisation. We had meetings with the Baltic+ group, wrote amendments to the Opinion, collected signatures, lobbied allies for support, gave speeches at the plenary and Committees. That is our job, but I don’t want to talk about that now.
I want to talk about the nine brave women of the Ukrainian delegation, members of Rada (the Parliament), who had come to Strasbourg. They called themselves the Diplomatic Women’s Battalion of Ukraine, and they were fighting on the diplomatic front. For some of them, road to Strasbourg took several days. One MP had come with her two little daughters, one of them about my Elza’s age – that was for them a “holiday” from life and school in the bomb shelter. The girls joined some meetings and watched their mom speak from the balcony of the plenary hall. Another MP stopped on the way at a European capital to see her child for a couple of hours, who is safely with friends.
Ukrainian delegates were offered special treatment in Strasbourg: priority on the speakers’ lists, a special event held by the Secretary General with other women to listen to the Ukrainian MPs and offer them all kinds of help. They were enveloped in an amazing, unilateral wave of solidarity, almost too much for words.
They were also pale, exhausted yet smiling and full of spirit to draft amendments, answer questions and give speeches, all the while checking their phones for messages if their loved ones at home where still alive. I cannot imagine what it’s like.
Maria, Yevhenia, Lesya, Laryssa… it was so very moving to see and hug all of you again. To witness the outpouring wave of support and love. I, too, cried many times – looking at the pics of shelled hospitals and schools and homes, and the children and others killed by the Russian army. Listening to the stories of how your families cope. Watching the little girls in pink down jackets mischieviously running around the Council of Europe corridors folllowed by their mom.
Russia’s flag in front of the Palais de l’Europe was taken down on Wednesday afternoon. Latvia’s parliament adopted another statement in suport of Ukraine on Thursday, calling, amongst other things, for the UN to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. I keep checking my phone for messages from my Ukrainian friends to see they are all right…