During a working trip to the Zaporizhzhia region, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy took part in ceremonial events on the occasion of the Day of Defenders of Ukraine and the solemn oath-taking ceremony of a military lyceum students, which took place on the island of Khortytsia.
"You were born and raised in independent Ukraine. You have never had another homeland under another name. You had no other flag than the blue and yellow flag. No other anthem . And that is why you are here today," the Head of State said, addressing military lyceum students.
The President noted that in 2014, when the Russian aggression and the war in eastern Ukraine began, those who take the oath of a military lyceum student today were seven or eight years old.
"You were in the second grade. You were very young boys who watched TV every night. But not blockbusters or cartoons. You’ve been waiting, like each of us, for the news from the east of our country. Yes, many of you had a father or older brother, a godfather, an uncle, a neighbor there. But the fact that you are now standing here, preparing to take the oath of a lyceum student, study and later become officers and defenders of Ukraine, means one thing: in 2014, near the TV screens, even then, despite the fact that you were eight years old, each of you made a choice," he said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that today he sees men, not children and schoolchildren, in front of him. And although they still have to master many nuances of military affairs, learn to shoot well, fight, endure pain, they already have the main thing - the courage and strength he sees in the war zone in eastern Ukraine, communicating with the defenders of our homeland.
Addressing the lyceum students, the President said that today, on October 14, they are born as future defenders of Ukraine.
"You represent three different institutions: lyceums of Zaporizhzhia, Kryvyi Rih and Luhansk. Each of them has its story, success, reasons for pride, reasons for tears. But what you have in common - and this has been so for decades - is your values expressed in the traditional slogan of lyceum students: State. Honor. Courage," he stressed.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that today they take an oath in a unique place - the Khortytsia natural and historical complex, which has a sacred significance for every Ukrainian.
"For many centuries, Khortytsia has been a kind of outpost in the fight against various enemies. It was here that the invincible spirit of the Cossacks was born and forged, which even today helps us fight the enemy. Today, the future elite of the national Ukrainian army is being educated on the traditions and values of the Ukrainian Cossacks,” the President said.
The Head of State said that there is a famous 700-year-old oak not far from Khortytsia, near which, according to the legend, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky gathered an army, and the famous Koshovyi Otaman Ivan Sirko and other Cossacks wrote a letter to the Turkish sultan. This oak survived a strong wind that broke its branches, it was struck by lightning, but it withstood everything and still stands.
"It's a symbol that you can never give up. And although today, unfortunately, the guys from the Luhansk military lyceum cannot return to their hometown, to the Ukrainian Luhansk, and to their alma mater, which was destroyed in 2014, we know for sure - it's temporary. And one day you will all gather together in the rebuilt Luhansk military lyceum, in times of peace in our country, under the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, and remember this day. And be sure to plant an oak sprout from Khortytsia. And you will gather together every year after graduation. Without losses. In the same squad. Or bigger - together with your parents or already together with your children. Telling how you started the path of the defender of Ukraine," the President wished the lyceum students.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine is a state that does not encroach on others' property, but protects and always returns its own.
“And so that, recalling the war in eastern Ukraine, the war in Donbas, we could all finally say: "It seems that it was so long ago… It seems that it was not with us". But no. We understand: this is not a dream. This is our life. This is our Ukrainian history. This is our challenge. And we have to overcome it. To finally say - peace has come. Donbas and Crimea are Ukraine again. And all this is not a dream. All this is a reality," he said.
The President of Ukraine also presented battle flags and awarded honorary titles to military units of the Armed Forces, other military formations and law enforcement agencies.