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A gift for Globe Santa, from Ukraine

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“This is legendary postage stamp from Ukraine,” wrote the woman, who signed off “with love.”

Josh Reynolds/The Boston Globe

The letter to Globe Santa arrived with a commemorative postage stamp.

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Not a US stamp, though. One from Ukraine.

It was just a “little gift,” explained the mother who fled the city of Kharkiv last year with her family. She’d stapled the stamp to her letter requesting holiday gifts for her 5-year-old.

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It’s a very meaningful little gift. In Ukraine, people waited in line for hours to buy one.

The stamp depicts a 2022 act of defiance that became a defining moment in the country’s war with Russia – the refusal of a border officer to surrender a tiny Ukrainian island in the Black Sea to a Russian warship.

After the stamp was issued, the warship was destroyed by Ukrainian missiles. So the post office issued a new version, this one commemorating the destruction, with the word “DONE,” in English, triumphantly in the corner.

That’s the stamp Globe Santa got. “This is legendary postage stamp from Ukraine,” wrote the woman, who signed off “with love.”

Her letter – like so many of those Globe Santa receives from immigrants and refugees – reflects how international affairs are so often hyper-local. They may carryMassachusetts return addresses but tell a global story, offering vivid glimpses into the difficult circumstances families were forced to leave behind. In the case of Ukrainians, it’s a glimpse of their enduring trauma.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, international attention has shifted away from the Ukraine-Russia conflict. But these letters tell us that the ordeal is anything but “done” for Ukrainian families in Massachusetts, though they are miles away from the Black Sea.

“This year has been very difficult for me and my family,” writes a 9-year-old Ukrainian girl living outside of Boston. Last year, she said, Santa Claus did not come to her – “probably,” she reasoned, “because there is a war in my country and he was scared.” This year, she has just one wish – “that the war would end in my country. I know you are a wizard and a very good person,” she continued. “Say hello to your reindeer!”

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Almost all the letters from Ukrainians are neatly penned in English script but with Cyrillic-style lettering.

Some parents are writing Globe Santa for the second year. “Hello, it’s us again!” writes the mother of two girls, ages 7 and 11. “We have been in the USA for a year. Our city, Sumy, was attacked by the Russian military forces on the very first day of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The children go to school here; however, they are still experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress.”

Now the family has other problems. The woman’s husband is undergoing medical treatment and can’t work. The youngest daughter just had surgery. “We cannot afford to buy holiday presents for the children,” she wrote.

The letters convey much optimism and gratitude, but it’s not hard to read between the lines and sense their grief, along with their heroic determination to stay strong.

There’s the little boy, for example, who needs presents, his mother says, because he gave all his toys, books, board games, and sports gear “to other children who currently live in Kyiv,” the Ukrainian capital.

The two girls whose father stayed in Ukraine to be a soldier and “defend our country.” The 12-year-old boy from Odessa who misses his father back in Ukraine and is trying hard “to be a better boy, son, nephew, and student” so as not to rile the aunt and uncle he is staying with here. The mother who left her “homeland motherland country” 19 months ago with her two little boys, ages 5 and 8. “Nineteen months when we don’t see our dad living in Ukraine.”

Her boys then chimed in: “We believe in magic! Our favorite film is ‘Polar Express.’ And of course, Christmas is a special time when dreams come true!”

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The letter closes with this: “Our mainest dream is Peace in Ukraine and all over the world, we pray innocent, civilian, military people not to die and everybody to have home and close people nearby.”

Linda Matchan can be reached at [email protected]

For 68 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.

Source: Boston Globe

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