Helen Mirren tears up reading emotional poem on the one year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Dame Helen Mirren recited the poignant piece at a vigil in London on Thursday evening to mark the one-year anniversary of the Ukrainian war

Helen Mirren tears up reading poem for Ukraine at London vigil
(Image credit: Getty)

Helen Mirren appeared visibly emotional in London on Thursday as she paid tribute to Ukraine with a reading of a powerful poem on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion. 

The Oscar-winning actress joined a vigil for Ukraine in Trafalgar Square last night, taking to the podium to recite the English translation of Take Only What Is Most Important for a crowd of hundreds. 

The powerful poem, which was written in 2015 by the Ukrainian essayist Serhiy Zhadan, details the tumultuous ordeal of fleeing war through the eyes of an asylum seeker. Mirren grew visibly emotional as she delivered the harrowing piece, which includes images of "blood on your heels" and "a postman with empty bags shot down." 

Zhadan's poem also features several tragic truths about escaping war, including the reality that one "will never see our corner store again" or "see familiar faces again." It concludes with the haunting line, "Unedited lists of the dead, so long that there won't be time to check them for your own name." 

At the end of the recital, Mirren looked out at the audience and said, "That's a very important, very powerful poem about Ukraine." 

The 77-year-old went on to deliver some reassuring words of her own, adding, "But I think you will be back. And I would say, peace for Ukraine, democracy for Ukraine, and freedom for Ukraine."

Helen Mirren

(Image credit: Getty)

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also spoke at the vigil, which was organized by both the US and Ukraine embassies to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of the European country. 

On February 23, 2022, President Vladimir Putin approved a 'special military operation' in Ukraine, shortly before launching a full-blown attack on the neighboring nation by land, air, and sea. The invasion, which was largely condemned by the international community, has absolutely devastated Ukraine – forcing millions to flee their native country in search of refuge. Approximately 14 million Ukrainians have now been displaced by the war, 8 million of whom are currently residing in other European countries. An estimated 5.4 million have also been displaced internally. 

An official death toll has revealed that at least 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 8,000 Ukrainian citizens have been killed by the conflict, but the United Nations has acknowledged that the actual number of fatalities is far higher. 


(Image credit: Getty)

Earlier this month, King Charles III welcomed Ukrainian President Zelenskyy at Buckingham Palace, marking the first time the two leaders had met in person since the war began. The private audience saw His Majesty offer his personal solidarity with Zelenskyy before discussing further ways for how the UK could offer further support to Ukraine in light of the invasion. 

The King has also released a powerful statement to mark the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine war. On Friday, the 74-year-old condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine as an "unprovoked full-scale attack" before commending the "remarkable courage and resilience" shown by the Ukrainian people "in the face of such human tragedy." 

He also said that "it is heartening that the United Kingdom, along with its allies, is doing everything possible to help at this most difficult time," before expressing his hope that "the outpouring of solidarity from across the globe may bring not only practical aid, but also strength from the knowledge that, together, we stand united." 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.