August 24: Ukraine’s National Independence Day 
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Culture and History

August 24, 2023

August 24: Ukraine’s National Independence Day 

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On August 24, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine) voted in favour of the independence of Ukraine. At the end of this historical meeting, parliamentary members sang Chervona Kalyna (red viburnum) the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich riflemen:

In the meadow, there a red viburnum has bent down low,

For some reason, our glorious Ukraine has been worried so.

And we’ll take that red viburnum and we will raise it up

And we, our glorious Ukraine, shall, hey, hey, cheer up and rejoice!

Citizens who had gathered outside parliament joined in singing the anthem. At the all-Ukrainian referendum on 1 December 1991, more than 90% of Ukrainians from all regions voted for the independence of Ukrainian.

Today, on Ukraine’s 32nd Independence Day, three Ukrainian women describe what independence means to them and we share some fascinating facts about Ukraine.

Ukrainian Voices: The Meaning of Independence

Dariia Voloshyna, Kharkiv

“For me, ‘independence’ is not only a page in a history book or a state formality, it is also about inner freedom. It is about the will and independence that grows from the depths of each person's soul, creating the spirit and soul of the nation. Since the terrible date - February 24, 2022, the word "independence" has taken on a whole new level of meaning for me. At this time, our country and our people are going through horrible events that require courage and heroism to protect our land and our peaceful life. For us Ukrainians, independence and freedom are way more than words – they're like the air we breathe. We're ready to give everything we've got, even our lives, to defend them. Glory to Ukraine, and glory to our Heroes who are fighting for the freedom of our country and who gave their lives forever.”

Yuliia Domerat, Vinnytsia

“I primarily see independence as a possibility to choose the future of our country on our own. And despite the ongoing war with Russia, constant terrors and frequent civilian deaths, I feel that our generation stands the closest to that possibility. My parents and grandparents lived through constant terrors of people being kidnapped and killed for voicing their opinions and speaking their native language. Their parents and grandparents went through hunger and wars for the same reason. I feel it was worse for them though, as they had no chance of a victory, no international support and no hope for a brighter future.”

Nina Onyshchenko, Kyiv

“For many centuries, Ukrainians fought for the opportunity to live in a unified, independent and free country. And so on August 24, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada declared Ukraine an independent democratic state. From this moment on, only its Constitution and legislation are valid on the territory of Ukraine, which enable all citizens to have freedom and protection of their rights, as well as duties, the fulfillment of which makes living in a country safe and comfortable.
For me, the Independence of Ukraine is the opportunity for each of its citizens to be a free person, to openly express their opinions, to influence the adoption of state decisions, not to feel dictated either by their state or by a foreign one. As the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko wrote, ‘in your own house, there is your own truth and freedom’.
However, for many centuries there has been an aggressive neighbour who is constantly trying to destroy Ukrainian statehood. In 2014, Russia treacherously occupied Crimea and started a war in Donbas, and on February 24, 2022, it invaded the territory of Ukraine along the entire length of the common border. During a year and a half of the terrible bloody war, great grief was caused, hundreds of innocent people were killed and tortured, a huge number of towns and villages were destroyed, and an incredible ecological disaster was caused. And only the help and support of all our partners is the real evidence of how the civilized world united against the aggressor and supports Ukraine at this difficult historical moment. After all, democratic countries understand that it is necessary to stop the insidious enemy as soon as possible, before his evil spreads even further to other European countries, to which the Russian Empire has already expressed its claims more than once.
And while the enemy does not stop, we must concentrate maximum efforts, opportunities and resources to support the heroic soldiers-defenders of Ukraine. After all, even a small help today is important for victory. So let's fight, help and bring victory closer together!”

Carpathian mountains

Did You Know?

  • The national animal of Ukraine is the nightingale, which holds a special place in Ukrainian folklore. Ukrainians call their language “the nightingale language” because of its affinity with this beautiful bird song.
  • The first higher educational institution in Eastern Europe, the Ostroh Academy, was founded on Ukrainian soil in 1576.
  • Ukraine has more folk songs than any other country in the world, with more than 200,000 folk songs.
  • Genes from the Trypillian civilization (c.5500-2750 BCE) are still present in the blood of Ukrainians.
  • The Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine was drafted in a school notebook by Leontiy Sandulyak and Levko Lukyanenko.The original first page of the Constitution is kept in the National Archives of Sweden.
  • On December 2, 1991, Poland was the first country to recognize Ukraine's independence the day after the all-Ukrainian referendum. 
  • Ukraine is the largest country in Eastern Europe.
  • At the language beauty competition held ​​in Paris in 1934, Ukrainian was hailed as the sweetest and richest language in the world, taking second place to Italian in overall beauty.
  • The Ukrainian Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk is one of the oldest constitutions in Europe, dating to 1710. 
  • The hryvnya, Ukraine’s national currency, first came into circulation on September 2, 1996.

Today, let’s remember the words of President Zelenskyy:

“Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV. Support us in any way you can. Any - but not silence. And then peace will come.” 

Volunteering in Ukraine with one of our partner organisations is an invaluable and meaningful way of supporting Ukraine at this critical time. Check out our current volunteering opportunities here.

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