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Submitted by Dr. Mark Gallo
The world has become an uneasy place because of events that unfolded this year between Russia and Ukraine.
In the early days of the invasion, an elderly woman went out in the street to the soldiers, offering them sunflower seeds and saying, “Take these seeds so sunflowers grow here where you die,” as roughly translated by BBC News reporters.
It is with such resolve and solidarity that the people of Ukraine have thwarted the efforts of their Russian aggressors. The sunflower has a special meaning to Ukraine, as it is their national flower. It is a major crop in the region, and is useful for the value of the seed as well as sunflower seed oil. People in Ukraine use sunflowers for other purposes, as well: They can be found weaved into fashion accessories such as headdresses or wreathes or affixed to their clothing.
The sunflowers are also seen by many as a symbol of peace. People typically adorn them to show their support of Ukraine in its efforts to defend its homeland, as well as a deeper meaning for world peace and prosperity.
Russia has indicated it will not stop its efforts, and there is fear the war may escalate with dire consequences. Numerous organizations are helping the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes, assisting the medical community to treat the wounded and sick, and providing humanitarian aid as needed.
Dr. Mark Gallo, a professor in biology at Niagara University, was taken aback by the early images of this conflict. He decided to plant a field of sunflowers on his property with the intent of using the flowers as a means to raise money to donate the humanitarian efforts in the Ukraine.
The flowers are currently available at the Gallagher Center on the Niagara University campus for people who would like to donate to this cause. All funds collected will be given to Catholic Relief Services, which has been recognized as a top-rated nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization – and one that has made it a priority to assist those who are still in the Ukraine, as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries.
Those who are unable to pick up a flower in person can obtain a virtual flower for a donation toward this cause. For additional details, contact Gallo at 716-525-5973 or email [email protected].