Independent Ukraine: Reflecting on our freedom

Photo courtesy of Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

By Danya Pankiw

The freedom of Ukraine has left a mark on Ukrainians worldwide. A nation of much-persecuted people that have faced inimitable tragedy has now built an independent nation of three decades. 

It has been almost three weeks since Ukraine celebrated 30 years of independence. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine became a sovereign state, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and began its journey as a democratic and independent nation. Now, we mark 30 years of a modern Ukraine. This achievement has come with, and continues, to be tied up in tumultuous political unrest, unreliable rule of law and two revolutions in the past two decades. These revolutions include the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan Revolution of Dignity which began in 2013. 

As a second-generation Ukrainian-Canadian, I have spent some time over the past few weeks reflecting on what this celebration means to me. This is an exhilarating time, one where I am proud to be Ukrainian, and one filled with many emotions. The restoration of Ukraine’s independence was fought for and dreamed of by our ancestors, many of whom are not here with us today to celebrate. The journey to independence is one of inspiration. Our freedom has been built from the blood of countless Ukrainians. Reflecting on our nation’s independence, I feel both a sense of anguish yet appreciation. Anguish because of ongoing Russian aggression, political turmoil and continuous threats to Ukraine’s independence. Appreciation because Ukraine is able to continuously fight for the restoration of their independence, for the blossoming of a young country that holds a thousand-year history. 

What can we do as Ukrainian-Canadian students?

As Daniel Bilak said at a session on the Future of Ukraine at SUSK’s 67th National Congress, “As Ukrainian-Canadian students, it is important to think about how you can build Ukraine’s brand.” I want to challenge everyone reading this, whether you are a student at a Ukrainian Student Organization (USO) or not, to think about how you can take steps in your life to build Ukraine’s brand. How can SUSK help you with this task? At SUSK’s Congress, we also learned from Eugene Roman that Ukraine is booming in the technology industry, holding a strong presence on the world stage. 

This year SUSK will continue to promote its mandate in educating others, advocating for prosperity, and supporting Ukrainian culture and language. I encourage each of you to explore how you can contribute and support our ever-evolving Ukrainian community. Anything from joining your USO on campus to planning a trip to Ukraine to learn about the culture from your own perspective goes a long way. In lieu of Ukraine’s 30th year of independence, now is the time for us to proclaim our pride for our culture and continue to lay strong roots for our proceeding generations so that they have the ability to celebrate more years of independence. Слава Україні! Героям Слава!