At times I don’t hope. At times I can’t. It slips from my grasp, like mercury, these days more than ever. As I write death is raining from the skies in Ukraine. Civilians are hiding in basements, seeking sanctuary from Russian shells and missiles. Tanks have been unleashed on apartment blocks. Families, homes and communities have been destroyed.
In our time there is war in Europe on a scale not seen since 1945. What I have seen on the ground since Russia invaded its neighbour – a sovereign democratic state – makes it hard to write, or think, or speak of hope. The concept seems misplaced amid a new landscape of scorched earth and mass graves.
But what I have witnessed on Ukrainian soil is resilience, strength and courage. For those forced to flee their homeland – more than five million in the first few months of the war – there has been shelter and support in neighbouring states.
Ireland too opened its doors, in the face of an existing housing crisis. People running for their lives were given a place to go. Children were enrolled at school. That perhaps is hope made real – the capacity to respond to the suffering of others, to look at them and see a reflection of ourselves.
And critical in all of that is the decision not to simply turn away. Having covered conflicts in many countries, for many years, I also draw hope from the example of Northern Ireland. What seemed impossible throughout my childhood and teens in Dublin came to pass. The Troubles were brought to an end. The guns fell silent. And that silence echoed around the world, lending a measure of hope to those mired in conflicts elsewhere.
The peace may be imperfect. Divisions and deep scars remain. But few would return to the bombs and the bullets. In this, there is hope.
Dublin-born journalist Orla Guerin is the BBC’s International Correspondent, based in Istanbul. In herlong career this veteran foreign correspondent has held a succession of high-profile postings. Herwork has been recognised with awards in Ireland, the UK, the USA, France and Italy.Since joining the BBC in 1995 she has been based in Cairo, Islamabad, Johannesburg, Jerusalem andRome, as well as spending periods on attachment in Los Angeles and Moscow. Prior to joining theBBC, she was Eastern Europe Correspondent for RTÉ. She took up that role in 1990 – at the age of 23 -and has been in motion ever since.