10 August 2015
August 24th marks the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s renewed independence, when in 1991 Ukraine’s Parliament valiantly proclaimed an end to the nation’s bondage and announced the promise of a free and democratic Ukraine; a promise that for all Ukrainians became a driving force in our existence.
This day has enormous significance for Ukrainians as for centuries the nation remained under the oppressive rule of foreign regimes, most notably the Russian Czarist Empire and later, the Soviet Union. The people of Ukraine endured cruel persecution, unspeakable hardships and garish attempts by the Russian czars and, later, the Soviets, to eradicate the nation of close to 50 million. During the Holodomor – the Famine-Genocide of 1932-33, 7-10 million Ukrainians were murdered when, in an attempt to destroy the nationally conscious Ukrainian peasantry, the Stalinist regime confiscated all food, leaving the people to starve to death. Countless others suffered in Soviet Gulags forced into backbreaking labor and unbearable conditions, only to perish in desolation. Ukrainians endured numerous purges, assaults and discrimination throughout history. And yet – they endured.
Today, Ukraine, once again, is struggling to maintain it’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against its historical nemesis - Russia. Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, and its government’s continued support of terrorists in eastern Ukraine have resulted in over 6,000 casualties and more than 1.3 million internally displaced persons. Yet while this terrible war rages on, Ukraine’s government continues to implement desperately needed economic reforms to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures and to help stabilize the country for the benefit of its citizens. In Ukraine, the brave people rise to fight for their beloved homeland and pursue their dream of a democratic and free Ukraine, despite the overwhelming odds. And Ukrainians in the Diaspora actively work to support their freedom-loving brethren in Ukraine by providing medical training, sending humanitarian assistance and serving as their voice before the U.S. Congress and the Administration in this desperate time of crisis. We are united today more than ever before, across borders and seas, in our goal for a free, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Ukraine.
Such perseverance in the face of tyranny is what makes Ukrainians who we are today - fiercely independent, unwaveringly loyal, passionate about freedom. We will endure… and persevere!
In this 24th year of Ukraine’s renewed independence, may the Lord bless the Ukrainian people with continued strength and fortitude as they stand on the frontlines defending democracy and the post-WWII legal order. Let us also pray that the United States and the democracies of the world stand firmly with Ukraine in their fight against tyranny. Slava Ukrayini! Heroyam Slava!