In a southern neighborhood rocky hill, two flags are flying. On a quiet street, an 87-year-old former immigrant from Canada named Dave Birley proudly flies an American flag on a tall pole in front of his house.
But now, on this mast under Old Glory, a second flag flies.
The flag of Ukraine.
Blue for the sky.
Yellow for sunflowers.
Both together for freedom.
The flag was hung to show support for a young woman who lives across the street, named Rachel Sartain, who was born in Ukraine. And for all the other Ukrainians who are fighting for freedom after the Russian invasion which, in a few weeks, caused so many deaths or injuries or fleeing the bombardments and the war.
After Birley ordered the flag, he invited the Sartain family across the street to hoist it under the American flag. Brett and Tara Sartain have five children. Sophia, Caden, Sage, Miles and Rachel. Rachel is the only adoptee from Ukraine. She came into the family and Caroline from the south as a teenager and now 25, she works at the Family Trust credit union and Amelie’s bakery in downtown Rock Hill.
The blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag hang from a window of the Sartain house. Part of their heart is also in Ukraine.
Rachel’s family is from a province in eastern Ukraine, a few kilometers from the Russian border. The Sartains went there to adopt Rachel and learn about the country and its existence in the shadow of Russia.
“The region is as close to Russia as Charlotte is to Rock Hill,” said Tara Sartain.
Rachel was able to keep in touch with her sister via Instagram and other social media because the war has caused flight to safety, food shortages and despair. For Rachel Sartain, television and internet war news is not a story, it’s her family and her people.
“My sister, her husband, my niece, they had a hard time in Ukraine,” Rachel said. “They had to move from town to town because of the shelling.”
Rachel said that although she is American, she will always come from Ukraine and what happened there breaks her heart.
“Buildings are gone, so many people are gone or hurt,” Rachel said. “I love America. There are so many opportunities here. I am so blessed. But I want the war to end. I want Ukraine to be its own country. I want Ukraine to remain free. .
Over the past few weeks. Rachel started a GoFundMe account to raise funds for Ukrainians to buy food and basic necessities. She raised nearly $5,000.
The Sartain family has been raising awareness of the reality of the Ukrainian people over the past month since the Russian invasion. Their social networks are full of reminders about Ukraine. They talk about the situation of Ukraine and its strong and inflexible people. This is a family that knows that war is not a television news, it is a fight for freedom and survival.
So when neighbor Dave Birley wanted to hoist the Ukrainian flag to pass under the American flag, the Sartain family proudly crossed the street to be part of it. Rachel held the flag of her native country in her hands.
Miles, the youngest son, did the honors of hanging it on the mast and lifting it up. Rachel stood under the two flags that are part of her.
Neighbor Birley said the flag will fly as long as war rages and the Ukrainian people fight for freedom.
“I just want people to know that Rachel matters, that the people of Ukraine matter,” Birley said. “I believe flying the flag could inspire others.”
Rachel Sartain can see both flags from her window across the street. The flags are hope and dreams and family and resolve.
Like America, Ukraine is part of it.
“I am so grateful to have a neighbor who would care so much about Ukraine and its people,” Rachel said. “It’s precious.”