Ashland Culture of Peace Commission director shares message of solidarity with Ukranian Rotarians
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Nearly 5,800 miles separate Ashland from western Ukraine, but a letter of shared hope and solidarity between an Ashland peace leader and Ukrainian Rotarians in the war-torn eastern European country aims to narrow the gap just a little bit.
David Wick serves as executive director of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission and is this year’s president of the Rotary E-Club of World Peace. Not to be confused with Ashland’s two Rotary chapters, the virtual E-Club, with national and international members, is based in southern California, but meets virtually each week over Zoom.
Frustrated, like many Americans, by passively watching Ukranians flee their home country, Wick on Sunday chose to take action. He reached out to Volodymyr Bondarenko, a Ukrainian Rotary leader in Lviv, Ukraine, with the following message:
“As friends and fellow Rotarians from the Rotary E-club of World Peace, we hold you in our hearts with care and love, and we pray for your safety and well-being. What you are experiencing is the exact opposite of what we stand for and hold dear as Rotarians and peacebuilders. We refuse to accept conflict as a way of life. As a humanitarian organization, peace is a cornerstone of our mission.”
Wick emphasized the bond between Rotarians runs deep across the world, as members share core values of service and humanitarian work.
“We honor you as we learn about the courage and strength of the human spirit that you and your country people are demonstrating in the face of this horrible disregard for human life and human rights,” Wick wrote. “Through this extreme ordeal, you have brought a majority of the world together supporting you and peace, and showing again how the violence of war has no place in our global family.
“We are all members of the Rotary family, and this is a vital time to reach out to you and offer humanitarian service and support. We are members of the human family, and it is our birthright to care for each other. Please let us know how we can assist and support you. We will do all we can to do so.”
The message of encouragement and solidarity on Sunday was welcomed warmly by Borys Bodnar, who replied on behalf of the District Governor. Bodnar is the executive director for Rotary Club Ukraine Unity in Lviv, Ukraine.
Bodnar told Wick he planned to forward the message by email to Rotarians throughout Ukraine.
“On behalf of (District Governor) Volodymyr Bondarenko we express our sincere gratitude for your care and support!” Bodnar wrote back to Wick. “Your kind words will be shared with all Rotarians in Ukraine. We firmly believe that the unflinching efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces and population, together with the support of the free world, will conquer this evil and restore peace to the world.
“The role of Rotary in supporting these efforts is enormous and we speak for all Ukrainian Rotarians and all Ukrainians in expressing our appreciation for the united efforts of our organization! Rotarians from all over the world are joining and supporting Rotary in Ukraine. On the ground we are working 24/7 to deal with the humanitarian crisis, movements of people and provision of medical and general humanitarian aid. Accounts of committed Service are too numerous to mention. Together we will overcome!”
Bodnar ended the message with “SLAVA UKRAINI!!” which translates to “Glory to Ukraine!,” a phrase that was once outlawed by Russia. It is seen as an insult to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose army invaded the country on Feb. 21.
The Ashland Culture of Peace Commission, formed in 2015, has worked with a number of other Ashland organizations to further its mission, including the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and the city of Ashland.
Wick’s time spent working for Ashland Culture of Peace Commission led to being asked to speak at the E-Club, and now his serving as its president.
“Fundamentally, it’s about how do we create peace in our lives?” Wick said, of the commission’s work. “How do we create an environment for everyone that really helps sustain our quality of life? … In this case, we’re able to do this international outreach, which really matters to people.”
Rotary International has set up a Disaster Response Fund to help Ukrainian refugees due to an unstable banking system, according to Wick.
“We can’t send literally boxes of food or clothes … but we can send funding to help them out,” Wick said. “Rotary is all about service to humanity and being of service in so many different ways.”
Learn more about Ashland Culture of Peace Commission at ashlandcpc.org.
To learn more about the Rotary E-Club, go to RotaryEClubofWorldPeace.org.