President of Ukraine

Address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the Day of Defenders of Ukraine

1 October 2023 - 08:45

Address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the Day of Defenders of Ukraine

Fellow citizens! 

Dear people!

What can you do in a minute? What significance can it have for history? What momentous steps can be taken in this one minute? All these questions are evoked by both today's date and the place where I am now. Behind me is the Golden Gate. Around me is modern Kyiv. And the thousand-year-old majestic gate that protected the entrance to the capital is behind.

In front of each of us and for the sake of each of us stand our modern-day guardians, our warriors along the frontline, who are defending our land today. Above the Golden Gate, the gate church of the Most Holy Theotokos was built that served as the heavenly protection of the city. The sky above us today is protected by the air defense forces and all our warriors, whose guardian is the Intercession.

In a way, I, our people, and our country are now at the crossroads of history. On the way to tipping points. Where, with the memory of the past, we create the present and write a new page of our destiny. This is especially clear and noticeable on this day - the Day of Defenders of Ukraine. A state holiday that has become a truly national holiday. A people's holiday. A holiday of millions of Ukrainians who defend their land and do not stop for a single moment. And today, at 9 a.m. sharp, as a sign of respect and gratitude to them, Ukraine will stop for one minute.

The central streets and squares of our cities, transport, all of us, no matter where we are, should stop and honor the memory of the fallen heroes. And thank all our defenders.

This time is a good opportunity to think about the important things. To remember the important things. To recall another minute – the first minute of the full-scale war. The minute that changed everything. Divided life into before and after February 24. Changed each of us. And the proof is the answers to the questions: who were we before February 24? Who are we now? Who should we become?

February 24 began not when the clock struck midnight, but when the enemy launched an offensive. For us, the first minutes of that day were the first missiles and the first strikes on Ukraine. Addressing our defense and security forces at that moment, I said: "Stand your ground! You are all we have..."

Today we thank everyone who stood, stands and will stand strong. All those who were the first to take on a difficult battle. Our border guards, our infantry, tank crewmen, pilots, sailors, artillerymen, anti-aircraft gunners, our paratroopers, special forces, intelligence, the Security Service of Ukraine, the National Guard, police, territorial defense. All those who defend the Ukrainian land, sea and sky. Whose protection we feel and whose courage we see everyday. Along the entire frontline, without a break, advancing during the ongoing counteroffensive. When Ukrainians from different regions, cities and villages are now together. In the same dugout, trench, in the same tank, aircraft, IFV. Side by side in different sectors, they are fighting for villages and towns they may have never been to before, but they are fighting as hard as they can as if those were their homes. Because that's what they all became for us in the first minute of February 24.

We thank everyone who defends our borders and frontiers, law and order and safety on our streets, protects our land from mines and shells, and our homes from fire. All those who defend Ukraine. All our security and defense forces. Soldiers, sergeants, petty officers, sailors, officers and generals who together prove that it does not matter what is on the shoulder boards, it is important what is in the minds and hearts. Those who have been doing this for the past 585 days and the past nine years. And to the question: "Where was I on February 24?" many will say: in the ATO and JFO area... I fought in Donbas. I defended Ukraine in the east, and then in all directions. I liberated Kramatorsk and later Kupyansk. I defended Donetsk airport and then the aerodrome in Hostomel.

We all remember the day of February 24 well. It's no exaggeration to say that I remember it almost minute by minute. How, addressing all Ukrainians, I said that from now on, we are all one big army of millions.

The Ukrainian people made sure that these words remained not just words. Not mere rhetoric, but actions. And today, when asked what I was doing before February 24, many people will say: I had a civilian life. I was an IT specialist, an engineer, a farmer, an actor, a lawyer. I was who I dreamed of being. But I became who I had to become. A defender and a fighter. Because there are moments when the fate of the country is only in our hands. And then we must have weapons in our hands. And the one who was a wedding cameraman now sees other shots and flies drones into the sky, "greeting" the orcs. The one who transported passengers now transports the wounded from the battlefield. The one who swapped a downtown private clinic for a field hospital near the frontline. The one who used to sew fashionable clothes and now – body armor. And someone will say that on February 24 he was in his first year of study. But shortly after, he was breaking through the first line of the occupier's defense. All those who had to grow up fast. And someone, recalling February 24, will say: I am a father, and in the first minutes I thought about my children. About the day when they will become adults and ask me where I was and what I did after February 24. And I know what I will answer: I went to defend us. And it is important for me to have this answer not only because someone will ask, but because one day you will ask yourself this question one way or another. Someone was on vacation abroad on February 24, someone was working there, someone was studying abroad. And thousands of them, traveling with many transfers and then even crossing the border on foot, returned to Ukraine to defend it. And, like millions of those who were here, they put aside all their affairs, work, and plans, saying: "'All this will wait. After the war. After the victory."

Dear Ukrainians!

The purpose of this day is to honor the bravery and heroism of the defenders of Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity, military traditions and the victories of the Ukrainian people. From the first minutes of February 24 to the present day, the whole world has been witnessing these victories every day. These are millions of Ukrainians protecting each other. All those in every region who took up arms and went to the front and to the territorial defense units. All those in every occupied city who took up Ukrainian flags and went to the squares. All those who made a rule: I will not stand aside and will do what I can every day. I will work, heal, train, teach, help, bring victory closer as best I can. I will protect and provide for the needs of the frontline, find, buy and bring everything necessary, manufacture equipment, weapons and ammunition. I will protect people's homes from darkness and cold, strengthening and repairing the power supply system even under explosions. I will protect our people and the peoples of the world from hunger, sow and reap a harvest despite the mines in the fields. I will uphold the reputation of the state in the diplomatic arena, ensure support for Ukraine, and the commitment of our international partners to our struggle. I will protect people's minds, eyes and ears from lies, disinformation, and panic. I will protect the truth. I will protect the state's capabilities, communications, infrastructure, deliver critical cargo, evacuate people, rescue people. I will protect the lives and health of Ukrainians both on the frontline and in civilian life. I will protect the future, education, knowledge, children, and teach lessons against all odds. Protect culture, faith, and each other. These are all those who stay here, in their places, all those who say to themselves every day: I can do more, I can help more. I can contribute more!

Dear Ukrainians!

Tough times have made us strong. And the strong bring victorious times closer. Step by step. Today, tomorrow, every day, every minute. No one should and no one will manage to "switch off" our resilience, endurance, grit and courage on either scheduled or emergency basis. They have no "expiration date", "end date", or final point after which we would stop resisting and fighting, except for one - our victory. As we bring it closer every day, we say: "We will fight for as long as it takes!" 

We were doing it in the first minutes of February 24, we have been doing it for all these 585 days, and we will keep doing it. We stopped the invasion of a large enemy army, withstood and did not give up Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Sumy and hundreds of other cities and villages. We are driving out the occupiers. And we will continue to do so. We became stronger, hardened, better equipped and armed. And we will continue to do so. We came through a difficult winter, we endure missile attacks and terror. And we will continue to do so.

Being a defender means taking action every day. Being a defender of Ukraine means being with Ukraine every day. In Ukraine. For Ukraine.

Behind us is our history. Ahead is our victory. And a free country. Which we defended, defend and will defend.

It is important who we were. 

It is important who we have become and who we are now. 

It is important who we will become.

What we will ask ourselves in the first minute of victory. What we will recall and say to ourselves. And when we achieve our goal, it will be the Day of our defenders and victors.

We celebrate this day on the feast of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos. A people's holiday that has become a state holiday. The Day of Defenders of Ukraine. A state holiday that has become a people's holiday. And when the state and the people are together, they are always victorious.

Glory to all those who are fighting and defending the homeland! 

Glory to our defenders! 

Glory to the Ukrainian people!

Glory to Ukraine!