Moving at the Speed of Folklore: The Sunflower Curse

The war in Ukraine is a fast-changing affair, but one event from two days ago has already spawn a meme that has folklore scholars (like my friend Sabina Magliocco) shouting, “Folklore rules.

It started with a video (there are two versions) of a confrontation between a Ukranian woman and a Russian soldier in or near the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.

She starts right out with “What the fuck are you doing here?”

The soldier tries to downplay it, saying that he is part of an “exercise.” She won’t have it. And she death-curses him, telling him, “You’re occupants, you’re fascists! What the fuck are you doing on our land with all those guns? Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.”  (Sunflowers are a national symbol in Ukraine and quite popular in decorative arts.)

Her video, with her phone slightly hidden, is here (Twitter).

An accomplice across the street was also recording — the sound quality is so good that I wonder if it was not mixed in from the first video.

WIthin 24 hours I saw this on Twitter:

Shortly after, there were other versions, such as this:

This conflict has no common name yet, but some are already calling it The Sunflower War.

Only hours later, Sabina Magliocco posted on Facebook a new meme, for magical work against President Putin. On it, the words of the curse:There you are, war and magic at the speed of social media. But there might be more to say about putting your magical intentions out on the internet. I will have more to say about that in a short time.

9 thoughts on “Moving at the Speed of Folklore: The Sunflower Curse

  1. Kalinysta

    LOL! For those who are curious, the words in the lower right hand corner translate as, “Go fuck yourself, Putin”.

  2. I saw a meme yesterday or the day before sharing the quote with only the tagline “-Ukrainian Curse” and no other context. Haven’t seen “traditional” attached yet, but probably a matter of time.

        1. Kalinysta

          Didn’t use the links because I had previously seen it on YouTube. Sorry ’bout that. Brain’s tired from working in the garden. 🙂

    1. Kalinysta

      The “meme” is from a video on YouTube of a Ukrainian grandmother accosting a Russian soldier and asking him what he was doing. I tried to put a link to the YouTube video, but the AI wouldn’t let the comment post. You can find it by typing in “Ukrainian Grandmother Sunflower Seeds” and the video will pop up.
      Even late night comedians have latched onto this story.

  3. Kalinysta

    I don’t know why they have the curse as “N??” since there’s no “N” in Russian or Ukrainian. It should be “???” which means “Go” (I have to keep switching back and forth from the English to the Russian keyboard.) I think it’s a typo.

    1. Kalinysta

      Sorry. The phrase should be “??? ?????”. (Hope this translates because the previous one didn’t.)

  4. e

    Thank you for posting this. I’m forwarding it to my friends. Thank you to Sabina Magliocco for the illustrated curse. Something good coming out of social media…

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