By Jill Brooke
Look what flower power can do.
We’ve been reporting on how floral artists around the world are supporting peace in Ukraine by creating floral arrangements – especially the national flower of the sunflower — in blue and yellow arrangements that also symbolize the Ukrainian flag.
With immense pride and tears in our eyes, we’ve been showcasing these arrangements for several weeks and were serendipitously contacted by Anastasia Zhmurenko, a florist in Lviv, Ukraine whose floral shop had to be abandoned while she and her two young sons sought shelter. (Thank you Instagram).
She thanked us for this flower power support and also mentioned how she was distraught at having to leave so many flowers in her shop that now would wither and die. My colleague, friend and fellow flower lover Tonnelli Gruetter suggested a Lewis Miller-inspired flower flash for Ukraine.
“What is that?” Anastasia asked. We sent her images of what the famed florist Lewis Miller had done with “Flower Flashes” to cheer up New York City residents during the pandemic and at other times as his way of giving back to the public.
Within days, Anastasia gathered some of her friends and used the wilting flowers to create an inspiring installation at the train station in Lviv where emotionally-drained and tired Ukrainians arrived to seek refuge in nearby Poland.
Anastasia tells us that the installation “made people smile.” She also plans to create another one when her friends and family can return to Ukraine and rebuild.
Here is her story that she shared with us.
ANASTASIA IN UKRAINE
“Beginning in November 2021, news began to appear frequently that Russian troops were lining up near the borders of Ukraine. We continued to live, because no one believed it would happen.
And here we are in 2022! Valentine’s Day was wonderful. There were many beautiful flowers! New acquaintances. I made an order for March 8th. I bought a lot of beautiful vases, new shades of wrapping paper, ribbons and boxes. I also dreamed of ordering my favorite Crown tulips on my birthday.
On February 24, at 5:30 am, I was awakened by the call of a crying mother: “Daughter, the war has begun!”
Then everything was like a fog. I didn’t know where to start. Collecting things, sons barely held back tears. Not to scare them! Sirens that never stopped howling. Cat wrapped in a jacket. And absolute misunderstanding – what to do next?
And then there were empty shelves in stores. Queues at ATMs and gas stations. Lack of drugs in pharmacies. Groups of volunteers, news and queues at the border in messengers. Application “Alarm!” on the phone. Permanent control of the phone’s charge. And calls from relatives!
Now the most popular phrase is: “How are you? = I love you!”
We have learned to appreciate the simple things: hugs, a cup of coffee, sleeping in bed, warm food, received outgoing calls. We continue to keep in touch between cities. Lviv-Slavyansk-Odessa-Dnipro-Kyiv-Kherson-Rivne-Ternopil-Lutsk-Ivano-Frankivsk…
At first, my sons and I sat on backpacks in a shelter. But this is underground parking. It is not designed to protect against air strikes or cruise missiles. And for children in -5 degrees by Celsius is absolutely not suitable. Later we lowered the mattress, blankets, pillows and minimal food into the basement. The longest period so far was 6 hours. And this is due to the fact that Lviv is currently one of the safest cities.
Our store was in Kharkov. Precisely, it was… not anymore. It opened in December 2021. Now it is a bombed-out house in the center of the once beautiful Kharkov.
Once upon a time, I lived in Kyiv, walked with children in the Mariinsky Park, went to museums, taught floristry courses.
On March 16, the Dramatic Theater in Mariupol was bombed. About 1500 people hid in it. The elderly, women and children.
This heroic city stands! With Ukrainian flags. Without water, gas and electricity. Without food! It is being bombed every day more and more terribly.
My mother is a civil doctor. Anesthesiologist-resuscitator. She returned to Ukraine from Germany as soon as the war began. She saves our military. She was scheduled to get married at the end of March.
We all became volunteers. Weave camouflage nets. We are looking for vehicles to transport provisions. Cooking food for refugees.
My kids make sandwiches for the military at checkpoints.
As a side effect — siren phantom syndrome and survivor complex.
Every day I watch the news. Every day I see alarms in different cities. Every time I write to friends, relatives and acquaintances. I’m really scared.
After all, our beautiful cities are leveled to the ground. They are killing our people. Children. Fire ambulances, hospitals, maternity hospitals, schools, orphanages, churches and even theaters! I’m scared! Now it’s dangerous just to be.
And I’m incredibly angry. And this mixture gives me a lot of strength!
I am the senior florist for a large chain of stores. We have many stores throughout Ukraine. More than 40.
Often organized charity events. Organized celebrations. Trained and taught florists. I am happy to be a florist. And I love flowers! But now we are not up to them… because the only thing that matters now is life. People’s lives. Ukrainian lives.
This war has united us as a nation. We have never loved each other as much as now! We never thought that the whole world would support us! We are grateful to everyone. To each. For all the help and support. For not being silent.
Our skies are shattered by cruise missiles and airstrikes. Our houses are destroyed or burning.
On March 14, together with a great local pianist, we held an action near the railway station in Lviv. We created a flower installation around the piano. It symbolizes our country. Blooming. Generous. Diverse. But wonderful. And most importantly peaceful.
When we finished work, a woman approached me. She asked: “Is the war over? Did you decorate the station with flowers for this? Is that why you distribute them?” It hurt me to answer. But I promised her that when the war is over, we will definitely give many flowers to each other.
And thank you to flowerpowerdaily very much!!! For supporting! For all your words!!! For everything!!!”
Hope is always the language of flowers. And never doubt the impact of any floral movement and the importance of petaling on. Flowers have throughout history been messengers and symbols of peace.
We will continue sharing Anastasia’s story as the days unfold.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and a contributor to Florists Review magazine.