WALDOBORO, Maine — Clam diggers visit Elaine and Ralph Johnston’s hardware store in the coastal town of Waldoboro for shellfish rakes and waders. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, they have also been able to pick up a more unusual item: the Ukrainian flag, sold for $15.99.
Across Maine, the yellow and blue banner — yellow symbolizing the plentiful wheat fields of Ukraine, blue, the sky overhead — flutters from flagpoles. It decorates lobster buoys and barn doors, clapboard houses sprayed with sea salt and cabins nestled in pine forests.
Unlike in cities like New York and Chicago, where symbols of Ukrainian pride in part reflect a large diaspora community, there are few people of Ukrainian heritage in Maine. But the flag’s widespread presence shows another kind of solidarity. Mainers like to say theirs is a flinty spirit, born of enduring harsh winters and an equally harsh economy.
“People over there are doing a good job fighting for their land and their survival, and we in Maine, we like that,” Elaine Johnston said.
In Skowhegan, a town in Maine’s rural interior, Tom McCarthy, a contractor who also runs a Christmas wreath business, called up a flag maker whose workshop is down the road.
“I said, ‘Make me the biggest Ukrainian flag you can,’” McCarthy said.
“The majority of people in Maine know what struggle is, from the pulp woods to the potato fields, to blueberry patches to lobster waters — we know that one day you have something and another day you don’t,” McCarthy said. “The people of Ukraine, they’re survivors, too, and putting up their flag, well, that’s a small token. But it’s something I could do.”
Bill Swain, the flag maker, said since making his first Ukrainian flag in April, he has sold more than 2,000 of them, a faster pace of sales than for his American and Maine flags. Orders come in from across the country, and he donates a quarter of the proceeds to a charity working in Ukraine.
Maine is politically divided between its southern coast and a vast interior, and it is one of two states where districts cast their electoral college votes separately.
The affinity for Ukraine, though, is bipartisan.
“Ukraine is not a red or blue issue, it’s a blue and yellow issue,” McCarthy said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.