I last met this friend of the Ukrainian people on a cold December afternoon in 2013 on the Maidan in Kyiv as he was about to step onto the stage and deliver remarks. It was blustery cold indeed and the Senator was not dressed for the weather. He wore a sweater-like vest and a sport jacket. I shivered as he laughed at my comments. I believe that he was the first non Ukrainian dignitary to speak at the Maidan revolution which had started on November 21, 2013. His words offered heartfelt and inspirational support. He stated unequivocally and to huge applause of several hundred thousand Ukrainians, “I bring to you the support of the American people. Ukraine and freedom will prevail. Slava Ukraini!” The applause was much more than perfunctory given to a non-Ukrainian dignitary. John McCain was known in Ukraine. His words of support were meaningful to every Ukrainian on the Maidan and echoed on many screens.
Shortly, he went back home and for the next five years despite tremendous personal ills, worked incessantly for America, Ukraine, the cause of liberty and justice for all. He died in August 2018, five years ago.
I would never suggest that John McCain was your average politician. Politics was important as a means to ensure what was good and right. He was a politician with an ideology and a soul. His convictions were more important than his reelection. He was an American war hero. He was always direct and often troublesome. He compelled his colleagues and friends to introspection.
As we observe the tenth anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, we must take note also of the passing of Senator John McCain five years ago. His passing unfortunately was a political milestone in the halls of the United States Congress. With all his good deeds and his legacy I am certain that he is watching the current course of Ukraine, its defense of freedom against one of history’s most heinous aggressors. In the hearts of many Ukrainians who were fortunate to have met him or simply witnessed his exhortations, we know that he is with us. Ukraine and its people never had a better friend. Ukrainians are forever grateful to have known John McCain.
Unfortunately, he is not alive to tangibly support Ukraine, today to lend his voice and experience within the halls of Congress. I hesitate to mention the palpable irony on these anniversaries today. John McCain, the senior Republican Senator from Arizona travelled to Ukraine that cold December 2013 in the company of his Democratic colleague, then the Junior Senator form Connecticut, Chris Murphy. They could not have been more complementary from both sides of the aisle, in their support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
Today, some in the United States Congress, mostly from the party of John McCain are reluctant to support Ukraine at a time of its most perilous existential crisis. Frankly this is a surprise and a significant blemish on American history. Support for Ukraine today is not a political or partisan issue. It is a matter of being on the right side of history. It is simply a question of whether one supports good, a country and a people who are fighting for freedom and democracy, over evil, a regime guilty of kidnapping children, perpetrating war crimes, and already accused of heinous crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Choosing sides is not difficult when the evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply follow
the path laid out by Senator John McCain. There is a Ukrainian phrase that captures the legacy of John McCain. “Vichnaya Pamiat!” May his memory be eternal!
There is no better way to ensure the lasting memory of John McCain than by following his example.
Go to Ukraine! See the devastation! Speak to Ukraine’s warriors! Meet with those who were forced to leave their homes. That is precisely what John McCain did on the Kyiv Maidan and elsewhere throughout his life. His convictions were informed. He also distinguished between good and evil.
The dual anniversaries are coincidental perhaps, but they should serve as inspiration. Ukraine’s struggle was John McCain’s struggle as well. Ukraine’s cause of freedom and democracy is a test for all of us, whether we are Ukrainian or not, as long as we are simply human, caring for others. We should not be moved only because the war in Ukraine may be a prelude to Russia’s aggression against Europe but because in our hearts we know that Ukraine’s cause is just and we dare not be indifferent to injustice.
12 November 2023 Askold Lozynskyj