Today, on the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, we pay tribute to all those who defended the world from Nazism. Who defended the native Ukrainian land and was killed during the Second World War. We pay tribute to the feat of the Ukrainian people and their contribution to the victory of the Anti-Hitler Coalition. On the night of May 8-9, we will meet the first minute of peace - the moment of the fall and capitulation of the Nazi regime.
You can change the world in just one minute. You can save it. Or you can destroy it. Issue an order to carry out the first shelling, which will result in tens of millions of lives.
On this day, Ukraine, together with the whole civilized world, says: Never again. Today these are the two most important words for the history of mankind and its future. And they can't just become a formality.
All of us, especially the younger generation, are happy to live in a world where respect and equality prevail, where there is no place for xenophobia and racism. And we have no right to forget the price our ancestors paid for Ukrainians to be able to live in such a world. And we have no right to forget what we mean when we say: "Never again". These are terrible memories of war participants that can never become a reality again.
Here are just a few of these sinister memories.
"There was a downpour of Nazi bombs. We came out of the blockhouse. The hospital where I was born was destroyed. The school where I studied was destroyed. The house where I lived was destroyed. In a few minutes, my life was wiped off from the face of the earth".
"Flash. You regain consciousness. The friend you talked to a minute ago has no head… When we were taken to the war, I promised his mother to take care of him. At this moment you no longer want to live".
"Teachers said my son could become a world-class pianist. He returned from the war without both hands…”.
"We were put in cattle cars and sent to forced labor. In the morning we were taken to work by policemen with dogs. And back to the barracks - without dogs. They knew that after 12 hours of hard labor we did not have strength to even think about escaping".
Famine, bombing, blockades, mass execution, punitive operations, concentration camps and gas chambers. Never again.
Three thousand (half of them - children) were burnt alive and shot in the village of Kortelisy. Almost seven thousand were burnt and shot in Koryukivka. More than a hundred thousand executed in Babyn Yar. That's why we say - never again. That is why we need to remember what hatred, aggression and the crazy ideology of one nation's world domination lead to.
More than eight million Ukrainians died in six years of the war. Every fifth Ukrainian died in World War II.
And I don't know if it's even possible to fully understand these numbers. Millions of crippled destinies. Millions of scars on the earth in the form of graves. Millions of children who will no longer hear their parents' fairy tale before going to bed. Millions of mothers who will no longer embrace their sons. Millions of homes to which no one will return. Millions of unanswered letters. Millions of unwritten books, poems and songs. Millions of unspoken "I love you".
And all this together - billions of reasons for humanity to never allow this again.
Now I am in the Luhansk region, Milovskyi district, near the village of Pivnivka. Here, in December 1942, the expulsion of Hitler's invaders from the Ukrainian land began. It was still a long way to the end of the war. But our grandparents from every corner of the country fought against Nazism, defended their homeland, died for the homeland and won for us.
For the next generations of Ukrainians to live freely on their land, in their state in peace and harmony.
Today, our courageous boys and girls defend the Ukrainian state, our sovereignty and territorial integrity. For the sake of peace we so desperately need. For the sake of prosperity of independent Ukraine. For the sake of future generations.
Today, we honor the memory of all veterans who fought against Nazis, all members of underground resistance movement, prisoners of war, Ostarbeiters, prisoners of concentration camps, war children and everyone who suffered from the Nazi occupation.
This war has brought emptiness to our cities and villages, to our families, to our souls and hearts. We can fill this void with prayer for the souls of the dead and tortured. Fill it with stories to the younger generation about the horrors of World War II in order not to repeat this catastrophe.
Look at the photos of your grandparents, great-grandparents today. Read their letters again. And without unnecessary pathos and pomp, silently, in the soul, just say "Thank you". Believe me, they will hear.
And they will know that we remember.
And in this place, we will soon restore the symbol of our remembrance.
In memory of all those who died for Ukraine.