Ukraine has been in the news in recent months for a tragic reason, yet they have inspired the world with the courage, spirit, and determination shown by their government and people. Their national flower, the sunflower, has become a symbol of hope for a brighter future, but why was it chosen as their national flower?
Sunflowers were first introduced to the country in the 1800s when they were imported from America by Spanish explorers. The people used the seeds as food, making oil from them and eating the seeds as a snack.
The oil was useful during Lent, as the Orthodox Church forbade their followers from using butter or lard in respect to the custom. It was also exported to other countries as an alternative to other more fatty oils.
Nowadays, Ukraine is one of the largest contributors to the sunflower oil trade, and it is a big contributor to the country’s economy. Sunflowers are grown all over the country and are harvested, worn as headdresses during big events, and worn as an accessory with ordinary clothing.
It is not just the economic factor that made them so popular. The flower has historical connotations of peace within the country. An example of this is when representatives from the USA, Ukraine, and Russia laid sunflowers at a defunct nuclear weapons site in 1996 as a gesture of reconciliation and a promise of peace.
One more example of the sunflower’s importance is its ability to absorb and remove radioactive material from the soil. This is especially poignant after the Chernobyl disaster in the 1980s that sent shockwaves through the country and the world. To help the damage from the radioactive waste, scientists planted sunflowers in the affected soil and nearby bodies of water.
People all over the world have adopted the sunflower as a symbol to raise money for the war effort and to protest against the war, and we must remember the meaning behind this beautiful bloom and hope that peace will come in the near future.