Millions of Ukrainians today are waiting for the first star to appear in the evening sky, heralding the arrival of Christmas. A holiday of many shades. A great church holiday. An important national holiday. A family holiday. Christmas, which is always loved by children and awaited by adults. Christmas, which fills hearts with light. Christmas, which always gives hope.
For the second year now, we have learned another form of it, another dimension. This is Christmas in times of full-scale war. Christmas with a different mood, context, and flavor.
And a family dinner at home is not the same as usual. Because not all of us are at home. And not everyone has a home. And it has become much more important not what dishes are on the table, but what people are at the table. And how precious it is to have them around.
How important it is to stay in touch with those who are not around, who are defending Ukraine now. What a relief it is to see a "double tick" on the screen meaning the message was delivered and read. How crucial it is to get a response from them.
How our gifts, values, and traditions have changed. How today it's not so much about how we decorate our homes, but rather how we protect them and clean up the mess, sweeping the enemy out of our home. How we rejoice at seeing the first star in the evening sky and not seeing enemy missiles and "Shaheds" in it.
How joyously and sonorously sound the hundreds of our carols, and just three words: "air raid over."
How our wishes have changed. How children's wishes have changed. From the simple and usual "I wish for dad to come home early from work" to "I wish for dad to come back."
For all fathers, husbands, brothers, grandfathers to come back. Mothers, wives, sisters. To return victorious. All those who are meeting the Christmas Eve in the trenches with weapons in their hands, facing the enemy. All our warriors of light. Guardian angels of Ukraine, who prove to us every day: good will prevail, light will prevail, one must have steadfast spirit, and strong faith. Those who prove that miracles do exist. But we have to create them ourselves, obtain them ourselves, make the impossible possible.
Every day we pray for each of them. We pray for an end to the war. We pray for victory.
We will do so today as well. Wherever we are. Wherever we spend Christmas. Today, all Ukrainians are together. We all meet Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country. And today our common prayer will be stronger than ever. The people's prayer. Today, it will unite millions of voices - more than ever before. And it will resonate today without a time difference of two weeks. Resonate together with Europe and the world.
And this is a unique prayer. For people, for peace, for justice, a prayer for life. And today it will be heard in different parts of the world, coming from the hearts of different people, in different languages. And even from different denominations. Because this is a prayer for life, and it has no borders.
In troubled times, as we defend our land and our souls, we are making our way to freedom. The way to gaining comprehensive independence, including spiritual one. Freedom of our faith from the ideology of slavery. From a cult that has nothing human or sacred within it. One that brings violence, aggression, hatred. One that takes away security and peace, takes away other people's lands and human lives. Yet one that will be defeated. By the power of faith, the power of truth, the power of law, the power of justice, the power of our Ukraine.
Right now, I am in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Majestic. Iconic. Ours.
A thousand-year old symbol of Ukrainian history, our culture, religion, Orthodoxy, and all of Eastern Christianity. A proof of our unyielding fortitude, resilience, tough challenges and ability to overcome them. Invariably reviving and growing.
Throughout its history, this place has experienced numerous upheavals and hardships. Profanation, desecration, looting. The Horde, the Nazis, the Soviet times. This place was captured, burned, and destroyed. But no one has ever been able to destroy it completely and forever. The Lavra has always withstood to be reborn again. And after each blow, it not only recovered, but grew bigger and stronger. Because it was and remains a place of power for people. A source of hope and spirit for our people. For everyone who believes. In the victory of truth. The victory of Ukraine.
Christmas Eve is the time of the longest nights of the year. But tomorrow the day starts getting longer, the light starts prevailing. The light is getting stronger. And step by step, day by day, the darkness retreats.
And in the end, darkness will lose. Evil will be defeated. Today, this is our common goal, our common dream, and this is what our common prayer is for today. For our freedom. For our victory. For our Ukraine. For the day when we can all come together at home in a peaceful year of peaceful Christmas. And say to each other: "Christ is born!"
Dear Ukrainians! I extend my Christmas congratulations to all of you! May the light of faith reign in your souls, the light of hope fill your hearts, and love and prosperity fill your homes.
As our ancestors used to say and sing: "Let the sky and the earth bear fruit. Let the sky bear stars, and let the earth bear flowers. God grant it!"
And as we will say today: "Let our Ukraine bear victory and peace. God grant it!"
Congratulations, dear people of Ukraine!
Christ is born! Let us praise Him!