Joyce Watson MS’s ‘Politically Speaking’ column
St David encouraged us to do the little things. Faced with Russia’s horrifying invasion of Ukraine, we might feel powerless. What can we do? But everyone can do something meaningful to help, however small.
Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees – and groups like it up and down the country – are organising emergency collections of aid and essential supplies. Please support them if you can.
In his statement to the Senedd on Tuesday, announcing £4m in financial and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, First Minister Mark Drakeford asked people to consider making a financial donation to the British Red Cross, UNICEF UK or to the UNHCR UK. It all adds up.
On Wednesday, Mark went to Brussels for a series of meetings with diplomats and parliamentarians. It was scheduled to celebrate St David’s Day – to build and reaffirm Wales’ relationships in Europe – but, of course, events overtook the agenda, and discussions centred on Wales’ identity as a European nation – committed to freedom, free speech, and peace.
And you may have seen that my friend and colleague Mick Antoniw, the Senedd Member for Pontypridd and the Welsh Government’s legal adviser, travelled to Ukraine last week, to hear from people on the ground. Mick has deep, personal roots in Ukraine, having been brought up in the country’s culture. He gave an extraordinary bi-lingual – English and Ukrainian – speech at the Welsh Parliament on Tuesday.
Politicians have privileged access and responsibilities. But we can all stay informed. Watch the news, read about what is happening on the ground, support local journalism like The Kyiv Independent. Join a peace protest – community groups across Wales are organising local solidarity events. And support the brave Russian people who have been demonstrating against the war all across the Russian Federation. Write to Powys’ MPs to demand that the UK Government put in place a simple, fast, safe and legal route for sanctuary in the UK, like in other European nations.
The Welsh Government has this week been holding urgent discussions with local authority leaders to ensure preparations are in place to accept refugees. Powys has done a brilliant job in recent years settling families from war-torn Syria – in Ystradgynlais, Newtown and Llandrindod. So, when people do begin to arrive here from Ukraine, I know we will all do the little things that add up to a warm Welsh welcome.