Today, on May 9, Ukraine celebrates the Day of Victory over Nazism. To understand and comprehend the significance of this victory, it is enough to have a walk in Kyiv on Sunday. Families with children walk along the embankment, newlyweds are photographed near Kyi, Shchek, Khoryv and Lybid, a grandfather teaches his granddaughter to ride a bicycle in the park, people enjoy desserts on the terrace of the cafe, and a street violinist brilliantly performs "Melody" by Myroslav Skoryk nearby.
All this is happening under the blue and yellow flags, in independent Ukraine. And in it, May 2021 looks significantly different than May 1943, when Kyiv was occupied by the Nazis. Everything I said was impossible there. And behind me there are the faces of the people who made it possible. Of course, there are many more. And almost every Ukrainian family has such a photo in the family album. Where a father, grandfather or great-grandfather is depicted.
And where a mother, grandmother or great-grandmother is depicted. And there is no such museum in the world where there would be enough space for all the photos of Ukrainians who fought and defeated Nazism in the Anti-Hitler Coalition. This is at least seven million Ukrainians, without whom victory would be impossible.
What is victory over Nazism for us? It is gratitude. Which has no boundaries, statutes of limitations or geographical division. Gratitude to our ancestors for expelling the Nazis from Kharkiv and Donetsk in 1943. For the expulsion of the Nazis from Odesa and Crimea in 1944. For the expulsion of the invaders from Kyiv and Lviv, Rivne and Poltava, Ternopil and Kryvyi Rih. Gratitude from Luhansk and Zakarpattia, Volyn and Podillia, Kherson and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. Gratitude from every corner of Ukraine for expelling the Nazis from every corner of Ukraine.
What is victory over Nazism for us? This is memory. About its horrible price. About the fact that more than eight million Ukrainians died in World War II. That every fifth Ukrainian did not return home. In total, the war claimed at least 50 million lives. And because of these horrible numbers, the word "victory" should be taken without euphoria and dizziness. And the desire to repeat the victory may relate to the hockey or football championship, not to the war and the deaths of each of the 2194 days of World War II.
Modesty glorifies winners even more. Everyone who was lucky enough to talk to World War II veterans knows how they always talked about the war. Modestly, without strain, boasting, vanity, pathos and without a drop of romanticism. Because romance in war happens only in movies. And in real life, in the piles of corpses, torn limbs, in concentration camps, bombings, blockades, trains with ostarbeiters and gas chambers, there is no romance. They saw it, endured, overcame it, and every year on May 9 they said one, unchanging toast: "Let there never be a war".
And for us, the victory over Nazism is a treasure gained through suffering, not another reason to go for barbecues. These are not stickers on cars, but flowers on the grave of ancestors. This is not a carnival, not a costume party, and certainly not a photo shoot of politicians in the uniform of an army to which they had nothing to do, with a machine gun that they do not know how to hold in their hands.
What is victory over Nazism for us? This is involvement in a great cause for humanity. After all, this war was not about whose army would win. And about whose philosophy would win. And it is important not only that we have won, but also that Nazism has lost. Lost forever. With a prescription: to disappear from this world together with xenophobia, racism and inequality.
And the victory over Nazism for us is pride for Ukrainians, pride for our ancestors who were an integral part of the victory.
A common victory, where all countries and peoples who fought Nazism were important, without the prefix "more" or "less". And we will not allow anyone to minimize the contribution to the victory of Ukrainians who not only defended their land, but also as part of the Soviet army and allied forces of the Anti-Hitler coalition along with dozens of other nations did not allow the Nazis to rule in Vienna, Paris, Prague, Warsaw, Madrid, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, Berlin and many other cities around the world.
We will not forget and will never tire of remembering and reminding others every year that on April 30, 1945, the Flag of Victory over the Reichstag was hoisted by Ukrainian Oleksiy Berest. That Michael Strank, a native of the Ukrainian Lemko family, hoisted the US flag on Iwo Jima. That on September 2, 1945, the instrument of unconditional surrender of Japan was signed aboard the USS Missouri by a Ukrainian, Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko.
That the best pilot of the Second World War is Ivan Kozhedub, Ukrainian who shot down more than 60 enemy planes. That sniper Liudmyla Pavlychenko killed 309 Nazi soldiers and officers. That the Ukrainian crew of the Ukrainian tank was the first to break the gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
That Ukrainian spy Yevhen Bereznyak, the prototype of the famous film hero Major Whirlwind, is called the savior of Krakow, Poland. And let's not forget hundreds of thousands of names of Ukrainians who are inscribed in the history of World War II and the victory over Nazism.
And all this today increases the pain and sadness, if we imagine the reaction of these people to the fact that their descendants, modern Ukrainians, years later learn again what war is. It was our duty to preserve the memory of the Second World War. That is why, from generation to generation, parents told their sons about the war. But it turned upside down, and since 2014 sons have been telling their parents about the war. And not grandparents can tell grandchildren, but grandchildren can tell grandparents about things like bombing or captivity. And in the history of the city of Mariupol, next to the date of September 10, 1944, the date of June 13, 2014 appeared. And this city, along with many other Ukrainian cities in the east, 76 years after World War II, will celebrate two liberation dates.
All this is painful and unfair in relation to everything that our ancestors went through defending the Ukrainian land. But their feats and heroism give strength to the new generation of Ukrainian soldiers, our defenders.
And they give hope that the day will surely come when it will be possible to walk on Sunday in Donetsk, Luhansk or Yalta and see how families with children walk along the embankment, newlyweds are photographed, a grandfather teaches his granddaughter to ride a bicycle in the park and a street violinist performs Myroslav Skoryk's "Melody" nearby. And all this is happening under the blue and yellow flag, in independent Ukraine.
With faith in this, with hope for peace, we thank and bow today to all Ukrainians who defended and liberated our land from the Nazis in World War II.
Happy May 9! Happy Day of Victory over Nazism!