Ukrainian Flags Are on Show All Over Maine. Why?

Ukrainian Flags Are on Display All Over Maine. Why?

2022-11-26 15:30:19

WALDOBORO, Maine — Clam diggers go to Elaine and Ralph Johnston’s ironmongery store within the coastal city of Waldoboro for shellfish rakes and waders. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, they’ve additionally been capable of decide up a extra uncommon merchandise: the Ukrainian flag, bought for $15.99.

Throughout Maine, the yellow and blue banner — yellow symbolizing the plentiful wheat fields of Ukraine, blue, the sky overhead — flutters from flagpoles. It decorates lobster buoys and barn doorways, clapboard homes sprayed with sea salt and cabins nestled in pine forests.

In contrast to in cities like New York and Chicago, the place symbols of Ukrainian pleasure partly replicate a big diaspora neighborhood, there are few folks of Ukrainian heritage in Maine. However the flag’s widespread presence within the state reveals one other type of solidarity. Mainers wish to say theirs is a flinty spirit, born of putting up with harsh winters and an equally harsh economic system.

“Folks over there are doing an excellent job preventing for his or her land and their survival, and we in Maine, we like that,” Ms. Johnston stated. “We promote flags to individuals who really feel the best way we do.”

In Skowhegan, a city in Maine’s rural inside, Tom McCarthy, a contractor who additionally runs a Christmas wreath enterprise, referred to as up a flag maker whose workshop is down the street.

“I stated, ‘Make me the most important Ukrainian flag you possibly can,’” Mr. McCarthy stated. “He did.”

Mr. McCarthy has no familial connection to Ukraine, though he did as soon as host an change scholar from neighboring Belarus, which is ruled by an authoritarian chief aligned with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“The vast majority of folks in Maine know what wrestle is, from the pulp woods to the potato fields, to blueberry patches to lobster waters — we all know that at some point you may have one thing and one other day you don’t,” Mr. McCarthy stated. “The folks of Ukraine, they’re survivors, too, and placing up their flag, nicely, that’s a small token. However it’s one thing I might do.”

Invoice Swain, the flag maker whom Mr. McCarthy contacted, stated he had wanted to Google what the Ukrainian flag seemed like when his neighbor referred to as. Mr. Swain sometimes makes drapes for accommodations and flags adorned with a pine tree and star, the outdated Maine state emblem.

The actual shade of blue on the highest half of the Ukrainian flag needed to be ordered specifically, he stated. It’s a uncommon azure (Pantone 2935, within the parlance of the corporate thought-about a shade authority), not the navy blue (Pantone 281) of the Norwegian and Liberian flags or the royal blue (Pantone 293) of the Dutch and Slovenian flags.

Mr. Swain ordered quite a lot of fabric in Pantone 2935. Mr. McCarthy, who purchased a five-by- eight-foot flag from him, informed him the Ukrainian image would show common.

Since making his first Ukrainian flag in April, Mr. Swain has bought greater than 2,000 of them, a quicker tempo of gross sales than for his American and Maine flags. Orders are available from throughout the nation — a reminder that flying the Ukrainian flag isn’t just a Maine phenomenon — and he donates 1 / 4 of the proceeds to a charity working in Ukraine. The oldest flag maker at his firm is 73. Mr. Swain attaches the grommets himself.

“While you make a flag, you wish to do it proper,” Mr. Swain stated. “While you see flags which are printed, not sewn like ours, you possibly can inform straight away that they’re not going to final.”

Maine is politically divided between its southern coast and an unlimited inside, and it’s certainly one of two states the place districts solid their electoral school votes individually. Within the 2020 presidential election, President Biden took the coast and former President Donald J. Trump the inside.

The affinity for Ukraine, although, is bipartisan.

“Ukraine shouldn’t be a pink or blue problem, it’s a blue and yellow problem,” stated Mr. McCarthy, who’s a Vietnam Struggle-era veteran.

Kimberly Richards, who lives in Friendship, Maine, is married to a third-generation lobsterman and paints white cedar buoys in customized shade combos. Industrial lobstermen use bands of colours to differentiate the buoys floating above their traps. This yr, she has been portray quite a lot of yellow and blue, shopping for the blue paint from the Johnstons’ ironmongery store in Waldoboro.

“Just about everyone in Maine, we perceive the injustice that’s occurring over there and we wish to present our help to the Ukrainian folks,” Ms. Richards stated.

The household of Ms. Johnston, the ironmongery store proprietor, got here to the US from Finland, which was invaded by the Soviet Union early in World Struggle II. Ms. Johnston’s grandmother arrived in Maine as a bit of woman, buying and selling one snowy land for an additional.

“We all know the way it feels for the Ukrainians, with Putin appearing like that,” Ms. Johnston stated.

Waves of Finns, together with Scots and Swedes, got here to Maine to work the granite quarries. Different immigrants got here to haul timber and feed paper mills on land that was house to the Wabanaki, a confederation of Indigenous peoples.

Nonetheless, solely 4 p.c of Maine’s present inhabitants is overseas born, though immigrants from Africa and Asia have arrived within the state in recent times, many pushed from house by battle.

Muhidin Libah, an ethnic Bantu from Somalia, arrived in Lewiston, Maine, in 2005 after having gained a visa lottery spot. He helps the state’s roughly 2,000 Bantus entry social providers and apply their conventional agricultural acumen to a colder local weather. (A minority inhabitants in Somalia, Bantus have been as soon as enslaved by different ethnic teams.)

Mr. Libah sees the Ukrainian flags flying from farmhouses as he drives round rural Maine searching for land that may be cultivated by Bantus.

“The Ukrainian flags in yards in Maine, it’s good to see that help,” Mr. Libah stated.

Nonetheless, he famous that whereas many Ukrainians discovered refuge outdoors their nation shortly after the invasion, he spent 20 years in a refugee camp in Kenya earlier than profitable his likelihood to to migrate to the US.

“I feel a part of it comes all the way down to folks associating with the whiteness of Ukrainians,” Mr. Libah stated. “You wish to assist somebody in hassle who seems to be such as you. Will they really feel the identical for an Afghan refugee or a Bantu refugee?”

In contrast with the displaced of Africa, Asia and the Center East, Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed extra shortly and with wider arms in Europe and the US.

Oleg Opalnyk, a Ukrainian native, got here to Maine in 2002 and now owns a contracting and actual property enterprise. There are just a few dozen Ukrainians within the state, he estimated. When Russia invaded Ukraine, he yearned to do one thing.

“At first, I needed to go to Ukraine and struggle,” he stated, “however I noticed I might assist folks extra from right here than from there.”

Mr. Opalnyk has up to now supported 24 Ukrainians who’ve arrived in Maine below a Division of Homeland Safety program that enables for some 100,000 Ukrainians to remain in the US for as much as two years if they’ve a monetary sponsor. Mr. Opalnyk can be sponsoring one other 18 Ukrainians who will arrive in Maine within the coming weeks, he stated.

Solely one of many 24 Ukrainians who’ve arrived up to now has gotten permission to work, Mr. Opalnyk stated, making a sustained welcome from the neighborhood much more essential. Residents of the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, the place the Ukrainians have settled in flats offered by Mr. Opalnyk, have donated garments, furnishings and meals.

“They see the Ukrainian flag throughout right here, on vehicles and on buildings, they usually really feel the nice of the folks of Maine,” Mr. Opalnyk stated, referring to the brand new arrivals. “Individuals, and Mainers particularly, they’ve delicate hearts to people who find themselves struggling.”

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