Refugee Diaries: Ukrainian Independence Day — previous, current and future

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Yearly, on August 24, Ukrainians have a very good time breaking free of the Soviet Union in 1991. This yr, the holiday falls on the six-month anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s try to roll once more that freedom with tanks, troopers and missiles.  

On this installment of Refugee Diaries, POLITICO requested 5 Ukrainian refugees in Europe to duplicate on earlier commemorations, share their hopes for the long run, and write a letter to fellow refugees spending this yr’s Independence Day away from residence. 

Anna Vyshniakova

Location: France

What have been you doing closing yr on at the moment?

I was in Ghana, celebrating Ukraine’s Independence Day with a couple of fellow Ukrainians. We had a small barbecue. Nonetheless I’d moreover like to emphasize that the battle didn’t start merely 5 months prior to now, nevertheless 9 years prior to now. Solely this time, it touches every one among us rather a lot nearer than when the battle had started inside the jap part of Ukraine. 

How have your feelings in direction of being Ukrainian modified as a result of the start of the battle?

All through these earlier 5 months, although you may not actively consider Ukraine every single day, it’s inside you frequently. You feel that one factor is improper, torn in your soul. The battle means your coronary coronary heart is in mounted ache. Your self-identity, being Ukrainian, isn’t merely an attribution nevertheless one factor very rather a lot inside you, one factor you’ll have for the rest of your life. There’s an inside debt; you owe one factor to your nation that you have to give once more. 

How and the place do you hope to spend the next nationwide day?

I imagine every one among us is hoping to spend it in Ukraine.

I’d notably prefer to spend it inside the jap part of Ukraine. It will likely be good to go to Mariupol because of I imagine when the battle is over, many people will go and rebuild the city, clear the reminiscences of what was left after the missiles struck. I hope I’ll spend this second amongst Ukrainians and with Ukrainians, feeling that our nation is free and unbiased.

“Costly compatriots! My beloved Ukrainians. I want to say rather a lot. And on the same time, I want to be silent.

When the independence of our homeland is at stake, the freedom of every single one among us is at stake. There isn’t any Ukrainian as we converse who hasn’t been marked by the battle, by the priority of shedding their residence and their relations.

Our life has been divided into а sooner than and after, however it goes on. We now have to hunt out the ability to battle inside us. To battle the occupiers. To battle the despair. To think about in our Armed Forces and our private energy. To make the “war-life stability” work. And to understand that we’re Ukraine, and Ukraine is us.” 

As instructed to Elisa Braun

Larysa Deshko

Location: The Netherlands
Larysa Deshko

What have been you doing closing yr on at the moment?

Our family has always participated in public life. And I’ve been attending demonstrations since 1988.

Ukraine-Rus was baptized in Kyiv inside the yr 988. So, it was logical to have a very good time its 1,000th anniversary in Kyiv. Within the meantime, the Soviet powers decided to have a very good time in Moscow. Russia always needs to take possession of Ukrainian historic previous, along with this very important date. Nonetheless on that day in 1988, we met near the monument of Saint Volodymyr the Baptizer, in Kyiv, to have a very good time our trip.

Since then, there have been many different demonstrations. As an illustration, I keep in mind attending to Instytutska Avenue on August 24, 1991 very correctly. I approached the parliament developing, Verkhovna Rada; many people had gathered there. All of them have been prepared for the adoption of the Act of Declaration of Independence and our withdrawal from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I joined the group.

By that time, they’d collected some money and bought bouquets to be given to the oldsters’s deputies who voted for independence. There have been 450 deputies inside the parliament, and there have been merely as many bouquets. They’ve been small and low value because of there was no time to assemble additional cash. They’ve been put beside the fountain; everyone was prepared. 

The doorway to the house was blocked by a fence and guards, however it was understood that the group wanted to thank their elected officers in case of a constructive vote — 45 women have been admitted to the doorway, each with 10 bouquets of these straightforward forest flowers. I was led to the doorway and given a blue and yellow flag. Then, we heard on the printed that, other than three representatives of Russian collaborators, all the deputies had determined in favor of the independence of Ukraine. Now we have been all very blissful.

Later, at the moment grew to change into a nationwide trip. We’re very happy with our independence, many generations of Ukrainians dreamed of it.

How have your feelings in direction of being Ukrainian modified as a result of the start of the battle?

What has modified in Ukraine as a result of the beginning of the battle . . . People have realized that their rights need to be protected, that Russia is neither our brother nor our pal, that we’re united in our must defend our nation.

The angle in direction of the army has moreover modified. In the direction of our defenders, we actually really feel that we’re united inside the public must win and persevere and rebuild our nation, which we love. We actually really feel that we’ve received such a rich language, an exquisite historic previous and that we are actually Europeans. We actually really feel that we’ve received many points to be happy with.

How and the place do you hope to spend the next nationwide day?

I hope for victory. We’ll have a very good time with all the people, and we’re going to have a very good time in Ukraine. I’ll go to Maidan sq. to commemorate and thank those who fought for our independence.

“Costly compatriots, dear Ukrainians,

I congratulate you on this Independence Day.

In the intervening time, this trip is totally completely different, as you might have wanted to depart your properties and switch to completely different nations resulting from Russian terrorists and murderers.

I perceive how exhausting it’s for you, and that your hearts and souls stick with Ukraine. That is the explanation I’m glad that you just:

think about in Victory,

pray for Ukraine and our Army,

help Ukraine,

perceive that every one of us signify Ukraine overseas (this could be a “people’s diplomacy”).

Costly Ukrainians, we now have been welcomed by nations with a high quality of life (I’m not talking about these which have been forcibly taken to Russia by the occupiers). This could be a distinctive various to test the experience of those who have constructed a society for themselves — an intelligent, sincere, superior and civilized society.

I do know that we’re going to shortly return to Ukraine, and we must always carry our info with us to assemble a model new state the place people can keep luckily — not merely the oligarchs. We should always create a system whereby the Authorities is pressured to work for the oldsters.

Collectively we’re going to win!”

As instructed to Carlo Martuscelli

Olena Ostroverkh

Location: Ukraine

What have been you doing closing yr on at the moment?

Ultimate yr was the thirtieth Independence Day of Ukraine. I was in Kyiv, watching the great air parade. I observed Mriya* — a very powerful airplane on the earth. It was destroyed in the midst of the primary days of the battle…

How have your feelings in direction of being Ukrainian modified as a result of the start of the battle?

I was always happy with being Ukrainian. I spoke Ukrainian with my friends who spoke Russian. Nonetheless now, I’m additional happy with being Ukrainian, and I now talk Ukrainian with my friends who moreover talk Ukrainian.

How and the place do you hope to spend the next nationwide day?

Subsequent yr, I want to have a very good time the Independence Day of Ukraine in a deoccupied Kherson, the place my mother-in-law lives.

(*Editor’s observe: The big Mriya cargo airplane, the one one ever to be produced, was destroyed inside the early days of the battle. The federal authorities of Ukraine has talked about it needs to rebuild it, or presumably full a second unfinished airplane.)

Image by Ronny Hartmann/AFP by the use of Getty Photos

“Costly Ukrainians!

Lastly, we perceive how extremely efficient we’re. Our energy lies in our solidarity and dedication. Enable us to be happy with our id! Enable us to develop rather more assured and proceed to boost ourselves. We’re going to endure each little factor!

We’re going to flourish and rebuild our nation. Our ancestors endured, and we, too, will get by way of all troubles. Enable us to flip to our custom and proceed to review from the historic previous of every family and nation.

Now might be the time to defend our borders in every methodology. The enemy solely understands the language of the Ukrainian Army, the language of weapons.

We’re going to win! Glory to Ukraine!”

As instructed to Carlo Martuscelli

Nelli Karpachova

Location: Belgium

Bonjour, comment ça va? Ça va très bien, merci! 

What have been you doing closing yr on at the moment?

Ultimate yr, it was the thirtieth anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day. I was in Kyiv, with my daughter Lyuba, for the military parade.

Nelli (left), collectively together with her daughter Lyuba (correct)

It was an infinite celebration, and we listened to our president’s speech and cheered our troopers on. It was a gorgeous day, the place people shouted Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine)! For the first time in my life, I moreover observed the world’s largest airplane, Mriya, which suggests “dream” in Ukrainian. It was actually memorable.

Mriya meant fairly a bit to us. It was a typical, united dream for us to be unbiased. Sadly, the airplane was bombed and destroyed inside the early days of the battle. Nonetheless Ukrainians will dream on. We’re going to come once more and have a very good time future nationwide days in our nation. 

How have your feelings in direction of being Ukrainian modified as a result of the start of the battle?

As a result of the battle in Donbas started in 2014, I’ve been feeling additional patriotic in direction of my nation than ever sooner than. I grew to change into acutely aware that Russians and Ukrainians merely don’t share the similar methodology forward; they’ve separate nationwide identities. Our values are nearer to European ones. That’s as soon as I noticed my soul is with Ukraine.

Sooner than Russia invaded Donbas, the reality that I was Ukrainian felt unquestioned: It was written on my passport; I supported Ukraine’s soccer crew — nevertheless that was nearly it. 

I used to return to Belgium sooner than the battle when visiting [my daughter] Lyuba, who’s based proper right here. Nonetheless I’ve in no way felt so many exhibits of respect in direction of Ukrainians — not solely from Belgians nevertheless from Europeans often, in one of the best ways we in the mean time are dealt with and spoken to. 

In the intervening time, I actually really feel rather more proud to be Ukrainian. Sooner than, we was Europe’s little neighbor. Nonetheless now, I’m a proud Ukrainian in Europe.

How and the place do you hope to spend the next nationwide day? 

In the intervening time, on Ukraine’s thirty first nationwide day, I’ll be with my two friends, every named Tatiana — my daughter calls us “the Musketeers” — in a café in central Brussels, alongside completely different Ukrainians. 

Nonetheless as to how and the place I’ll spend the next nationwide day, I’ll allow myself to hope and dream. I don’t know why, nevertheless my intuition tells me that it’s all going to be achieved by subsequent summer season. We’ve had quite a few help from worldwide nations, our troopers have been learning recommendations on use their weapons quickly, and the morale of Russian troopers goes down. So, subsequent yr, I want to be celebrating in a free Ukrainian Donetsk.

“Costly Ukrainians!

Congratulations on Ukrainian Independence Day!

In these grave events for our nation, I need everyone to be sturdy and by no means lose hope and faith in our Victory.

I bow to all defenders of Ukraine. You’re our Heroes.

Eternal memory to those who died for the independence of our homeland, Ukraine.

Costly compatriots, wherever you could be, keep in mind that you just’re Ukrainians. Give resulting from all the people of the world who’ve welcomed you into their properties in these troubled events.

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the troopers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces! Glory to the Heroes! Collectively to Victory!”

As instructed to Camille Gijs

Maria Bodnar

Location: Germany

What have been you doing closing yr on at the moment?

Ultimate yr, I watched the parade on TV. I appeared on the Mriya airplane — a very powerful airplane on the earth — and marveled at its greatness.

I keep in mind this airplane from my childhood. After I used to be little, I grew up in Hostomel, and the Mriya would land above my residence. It’s an unbelievable feeling to see the world’s largest airplane coming in. That’s why I couldn’t miss it on TV and wanted to see it as soon as extra.

How have your feelings in direction of being Ukrainian modified as a result of the start of the battle?

For me, being Ukrainian means behaving with dignity. After I used to be in Berlin, it was exhausting for me, most of all resulting from my nationality. Once more in Might, I was merely strolling down the highway, carrying a Ukrainian ribbon with me, and a Russian received right here as a lot as me and insulted me, merely resulting from my nationality. It was mentally very robust for me.

How and the place do you hope to spend the next nationwide day?

I want to have a very good time in Ukraine, the place there’ll probably be no additional battle, the place everyone will probably be blissful and might not hear explosions. I want to welcome nowadays at my residence in Hostomel. I want to see Mriya as soon as extra, flying inside the sky. I’ll wave to it and smile.


Beloved, sturdy, exhausted, impressed, unbiased.

Congratulations on our Independence Day!

Our nation simply isn’t 31 years outdated — we’re 1000’s of years outdated.

1000’s of years of our historic previous, of our Ukraine.

Dream, keep, hug, kiss, help and handle each other.

Utterly blissful Independence Day!”

As instructed to Joshua Posaner

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