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ukraine, russia, lithuania, kyiv

Lithuanian people protesting against Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the cold winter months of late 2013-early 2014, gunshots and smoke filled the streets of Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. Protestors were met with violence. Many were fatally wounded. This event became known as Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, and from it arose a distinctive poetic style: one that perfectly captures the tragic, complex experience of war.



Borys Humenyuk fought in the Revolution of Dignity, and found therapy writing poems on his tablet, posting them to the internet whenever he had the opportunity. He mentioned in an interview with a local Ukrainian newspaper, “sometimes, instead of yelling or crying, I want simply to shoot the skies. Some people do so – fire from their automatic guns in the sky – I write verse.” Now he is a beloved artist of his country, fondly nicknamed “The Ukrainian version of Ernest Hemingway.”

Now, the people of Ukraine mourn in the wake of violence yet again. Just before dawn on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a series of missile attacks on the city of Kharkiv, and the invasion has spread across central and eastern Ukrainian territory. One of Humenyuk’s most captivating poems titled “When You Clean your Weapon” reflects on his experience in a completely different war. And yet, even years later, the words still carry weight. And they help connect us to those who are suffering, even (for some us) miles and miles away. It doesn't take away the suffering, but art and empathy are always a healing salve in one way or another.

“When You Clean your Weapon” tells the story of war from the perspective of a young soldier, who treats his gun like a child, swaddling it and shielding it from the rain. This happens before the young man has even held a real child. He climbs into the earth, which takes him in like a womb. For a moment, he remembers his connection to nature. But then he shoots. And never again can he get rid of the smell of gunpowder. For he and the war are now one.

The poem captures how humanity is lost on the battlefield, even to those who survive. We become one with the weapon, instead of each other. Violence repeatedly gets chosen as the solution, and yet perpetuates the same problematic cycle … trench after trench. The truth is, the weapon is never clean, once it’s fired.

"When You Clean Your Weapon" by Borys Humenyuk 

When you clean your weapon

When time and again, you clean your weapon

When you rub strong-smelling oils into your weapon

And shield it from the rain with your own body

When you swaddle it like a baby

Even though you’ve never swaddled a baby before —

You’re only nineteen, no baby, no wife —

The weapon becomes your only kin

You and the weapon are one.

When you dig trench after trench

When you dig this precious this hateful earth by handfuls

Every other handful reaches your soul

You grind this earth between your teeth

You don’t, you never will have another

You climb into the earth like into your mother’s womb

You are warm and snug

You’ve never felt this close to anyone before

You and earth are one.

When you shoot

Even when it’s at night and you don’t see the enemy’s face

Even when night hides the enemy from you and you from the enemy

And embraces each of you as her own

You smell like gunpowder

Your hands, face, hair, clothing, shoes —

No matter how much you wash them — smell of gunpowder

They smell of war

You smell of war

You and war are one.

This poem comes from an anthology series of several poems titled "Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine," translated by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinksy.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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