On February 25, 2022, the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, a very brave scene went viral on the internet. In it, an unidentified woman in Henichesk, southern Ukraine, offers sunflower seeds (Ukraine's national flower) to Russian soldiers to "grow when you die!".
The video was initially published by Internews Ukraine, an independent media organization based in the capital Kiev, and later republished with English subtitles by BBC News. It quickly went viral on the internet and sparked a flurry of messages of support.
[Woman] Who are you?
[Soldier] We have exercises here. Please go through there.
[Woman] What kind of exercises? Are you Russians?
[Woman] So what the f*ck are you guys doing here?
[Soldier] For the moment, our discussion will lead nowhere.
[Woman] You are occupiers, you are fascists!
What the f*ck are you doing in our land with all these weapons?
Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so that at least the sunflowers will grow when you all die here.
[Soldier] For the moment, our discussion will lead nowhere.
We are not going to escalate this situation. Please.
[Woman] What situation?
People, people. Put the sunflower seeds in your pockets, please.
You will die here with these seeds.
You came to my land! Do you understand?
You are occupants. You are enemies.
[Woman] And from this moment on, you are cursed. I'm telling you.
[Soldier] Now listen to me...
[Woman] I heard you.
[Soldier] Let's not escalate the situation. Please go over there.
[Woman] How can it be cast even more?
You came here uninvited.
Pieces of sh*t.
ToDo: Does anyone confirm this caption?
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Good for her! Let's just acknowledge for a second how cold that insult is:
'Take these seeds and put them in your pocket so the sunflowers will grow when you die.'
This is brutally F*DA! This woman brought seeds to a shootout and somehow still comfortably won.
John Oliver on "Last Week Tonight", Feb 27, 2022
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Watch: Media Shocked by Ukraine Invasion | 3Mi views
Okay, I'm not a military strategist. But if a grandma hands me seeds and says sunflowers will bloom from my dead body, I think it's time to back off.
Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show", 01 Mar 2022
US First Lady Jill Biden on two occasions in the same week wore sunflower embroidery to convey her solidarity with Ukraine.
(28 Feb 2022) At an event at the White House to commemorate Black History Month, Jill wore a white face mask with an embroidered sunflower. Later, White House officials clarified that she wore the mask to show support for the people of Ukraine:
(01 Mar 2022) In the State of the Union address, given by her husband, she wore a blue satin dress by American designer Sally LaPointe that, while honoring the US flag, also honored Ukraine through the sunflower embroidered on the pulse:
Irish actress Caitriona Balfe made a red carpet appearance at the 2022 Hollywood Critics Association Film Awards in Los Angeles carrying a sunflower in a black bag:
After the video was published, several social media users started using the sunflower emoji to show their solidarity with Ukraine amid the Russian invasion:
- George Conway | 1.8M followers
- David Hogg 1.1M followers
- Michael Weiss | 179k followers
- Thomas Rid | 50k followers
"One of the most formidable images I've ever come across, and I study war for a living"
Thomas Rid, Political Scientist, Feb 25, 2022 @ Twitter
The trend was seen on several international websites including: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitch, Pinterest, Youtube, Douyin, Sina Weibo and WeChat. The emoji is often associated with the hashtags #standwithukraine and #slavaukraini.
Protesters around the world held up bouquets of the flower, added them to their lapels and even decorated their dogs' collars to show support for Ukraine:
Ukrainian community protest at Place du Canada in Montreal, Quebec, 27 Feb. 2022
Protest against Russian invasion of Ukraine outside City Hall in Ottawa, Ontario.
Protest in Istanbul, Turkey.
A Little Context...
Originally the sunflower is native to North America but in the 18th century it was taken to the 'old world'. There it was found to grow well in the hot, dry and fertile climate of the 'black soil' regions of Ukraine. In the 19th century there were already vast fields of sunflowers and it was common for people to chew their seeds.
In the Soviet era, producers developed a line of sunflowers that produced more oil and of better quality (withstanding high temperatures). Starting in the 1990s, demand for this new oil increased due to its popularity as being healthier. The cultivated area increased from 2.5M ha in 1995 to 5.1M ha in 2012, giving it an important share in the local economy.
Currently the sunflower occupies an important space in the hearts of Ukrainians:
World's Largest Producer
Ukraine is the world's largest producer of sunflower oil. Crop fields cover 6.5 Mi ha (ie: 10% of Ukraine's territory).
Girls wear sunflower wreaths (venki) on holidays.
Embroidery and Paintings
In addition to being planted in various residential gardens, they are also embroidered and painted (petrykivka) on walls, furniture, etc.
The sunflower is the country's national flower. In fact, a popular explanation of the flag's 'blue and yellow' colors is 'the blue of the sky over the yellow fields of sunflowers'.
Ukrainian female infantry carefully put flowers in their hair, consisting of the sunflower (the national flower) combined with a blue flower – as the flag is yellow and blue.
In 1996, to mark the country's complete nuclear disarmament, senior defense officials from the United States, Russia and Ukraine scattered sunflower seeds in a field at the Pervomaysk missile base in southern Ukraine: "The ceremony celebrated Ukraine's abandonment of third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, inherited from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991”, The Washington Post.
Photo from June 4, 1996, shows, from left, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Schmarov, and US Secretary of Defense William Perry planting sunflowers at the site of what was formerly a storage silo. missiles at a military base near Pervomaysk, about 155 miles south of Kiev, Ukraine.