Ten years ago, on October 14, 2007, Ukraine marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as an official holiday.
President Viktor Yushchenko on October 12 issued a presidential decree authorizing local governments to plan events to commemorate the UPA’s founding, provide benefits and awards to veterans, and support educational campaigns about the UPA. It was the first time Ukraine had officially marked the UPA anniversary.
During the celebrations in Kyiv, which coincided with the Feast Day of the Protection of the Mother of God, more than 3,500 UPA veterans and supporters gathered for an evening concert at the Ukrayina National Arts Palace.
Prior to the concert, UPA veterans huddled on the steps of the concert hall and sang UPA songs. During the concert, Mr. Yushchenko posthumously bestowed the honor of “Hero of Ukraine” on UPA Commander-in-Chief Roman Shukhevych. The audience responded with shouts of “Slava” (Glory) and later chants of “Yush-chen-ko.” Yurii Shukhevych, the blind son of the UPA commander, accepted the award on behalf of his father.
Mr. Yushchenko added that the UPA is among the 20th century’s most tragic armies, but its soldiers are victors because of their faith in the future nation triumphed above all. “It’s necessary to clearly and lucidly name the two enemies that UPA took up arms against – Nazism and the Communist terror,” Mr. Yushchenko said. “In this struggle, the UPA united people of different nationalities and political views. This fact is principally important in understanding the liberation character of the insurgents’ struggle.”
Mr. Shukhevych said that the UPA and all freedom fighters must be recognized by the Parliament of Ukraine, and expressed hope that October 14 would one day become National Armed Forces Day in Ukraine.
Mr. Yushchenko and Presidential Secretariat Chair Viktor Baloha awarded government honors, including the orders of Yaroslav Mudryi and Princess Olha to UPA veterans.
Messrs. Yushchenko and Shukhevych called on scholars to continue their work in setting the record straight about the UPA.
This commemoration was noted as not being held on the Khreshchatyk or Independence Square, as permission was denied by the Kyiv city government for the second year in a row to avoid confrontation with detractors.
At Taras Shevchenko Park, nearly 10,000 Ukrainians gathered for an event led by parliamentarian Oleh Tiahnybok. The gathering marched down Volodymyrska Street to St. Sophia Square for a noontime outdoor concert. By the time the crowd had reached St. Sophia Square, the throng had swelled to 15,000 people.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of UPA, the 70th anniversary of Ackja Wisla (the forced deportation of Lemko Ukrainians to Poland), and the 70th anniversary of UPA’s Great Raid. Commemorative events have been planned throughout the year in Ukraine and the diaspora.
Source: “65th anniversary of UPA’s founding marked as national holiday in Ukraine,” by Zenon Zawada, The Ukrainian Weekly, October 21, 2007.