On August 24, Ukrainians throughout the world will celebrate thirty two years of independence.
Independence anniversaries are celebrated annually in many countries with much fanfare, but very often without spiritual content. This is not a criticism of these nations. Independence is routinely celebrated because people are self-confident about the future and nothing threatens them. Their borders are safe and although there are political opponents or even enemies, they are not threatening or dangerous at least for the moment. In these countries, the celebration of the anniversary of independence is simply an occasion for a holiday with fireworks.
But not for Ukrainians. Ukrainians, perhaps like few others, view their independence as the basis of the nation’s existence. If there is a danger to the independent state, the question of the existence of the nation also arises. This may be an emotional, but unfortunately, a very real feeling, because the Ukrainian nation existed and persevered for centuries stateless. Ukrainians value state independence differently than other nations. The 32nd anniversary is the longest existence of our state since medieval times.
My late father, who passed away long before the declaration of Ukrainian state independence in 1991, wrote as follows in the early 1960’s:
“The idealistic pillars, deeply rooted in the spirituality of the Ukrainian people from the earliest times, became the basis of an idealistic worldview with the central focus being the concept of nation, namely its independence and the free development of its strengths and values in a legal and political structure – known as a state Only a state can ensure freedom and equal justice for every person within the framework of the general good of the nation, which is an essential and inviolable law of all social existence. The state represents the (essential) good of the entire nation, encompassing all its generations, living, dead and unborn, bound by a common origin, language, history, culture, territory…. In a state of political enslavement, the prime postulate for the Ukrainian nation is the creation of an Independent Ukrainian State, and the duty of every person of Ukrainian blood regardless of whether he has a second, chosen homeland or not, is to serve the Ukrainian nation, especially when it is engrossed in a struggle for its existence and freedom against a most heinous and barbaric enemy.”
An independent state is the culmination of the aspirations of the people. It (the state), if it is both independent and democratic, is the best protector of the rights of its people and all residents of its territory, whether they are indigenous or not. Over time all feel part of the country’s culture. Whether it is such depends on the traditions and culture of the indigenous people.
This is clearly manifested in the tradition of building a state by the Ukrainian people in more than a thousand years of history, even in medieval times when the head of state (Kyivan) was not elected, but laws were implemented that ensured the rights of the population (Ruska Pravda). In the Cossack era of free people where the leaders were elected. This tradition was halted by the culturally authoritarian Moscow horde after the Treaty of Pereyaslav, but the basic principle and desire for choice and rights of the people was defined clearly in the Orlyk Constitution after Poltava in 1710. Ukrainian culture and traditions allow for the fact that the best president of Ukraine so far is a person of neither indigenous origin nor religion. There is no better Ukrainian in the world than today’s president of Ukraine.
Here is the true understanding of our state independence in the 33rd year and the struggle for our existence in the second year of a very difficult war. The enemy challenged us. We accepted this challenge and managed to overcome it. But it remains for us to prevail ultimately, not just for the sake of victory but for our own existence. The whole world is assisting us, but only in a moderate relative manner. The decision in Vilnius at the NATO summit gave us a clear answer that only we are responsible for our future.
And that’s probably how it should be. This is yet another lesson for us. We have had allies in our history who betrayed us, as well as our own traitors. We have learned that friends will come to help but not shed their own blood. Only our and enemy blood will be spilled on our lands.
In the 33rd year of independence, I have more faith in the spirit of my people than at any time in the past. The concept of “Little Russians” has been abandoned entirely, the Ukrainian language, which is the heart of the nation and the state, now resounds from the Carpathians all the way to Donbas. Ukraine is becoming stronger every day, even with bloodshed and physical destruction. Transcarpathian poet Ivan Irlyavskyi wrote that often life blooms on the dead, which is born in the fire of an existential struggle. And so it is! Our nation and our state are built on the heroism of our people. All the more so today when this nation and state are the recognized champion and defender of its destiny and the future of all of Europe, perhaps, the world as well as of good over evil.
On this anniversary of our independence, each of us should remember today’s heroes who gave their lives for all of us and resolve to do everything within our abilities and circumstances so that the Ukrainian people and their state persevere. Everyone should bear in mind that the fortune of millions rests upon each one of us and we must answer for the fate of millions. So wrote our great poet, Ivan Franko and this is how we should approach the anniversary of our national independence, with love and selfless dedication to a greater good.
August 11, 2023 Askold Lozynskyj