On August 24, Ukraine kicked off its celebration of the 30th anniversary of the country’s renewed independence with all of the official pomp and pageantry one might expect.
Representatives of all 30 NATO member countries were in attendance and watched as members of the Armed Forces and other elements of Ukraine’s auxiliary units marched along Khreshchatyk Street. Soldiers from Britain, Georgia, Estonia, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the U.S. and the Czech Republic followed.
Ukrainian naval ships sailed in the Black Sea near Odesa, while, back in Kyiv, military and transport aircraft, including helicopters, fighter jets and the world’s biggest plane – the AN-225 Mriya transport equipped with six turbine engines – all made ceremonial passes over the parade route. U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets flown by Polish pilots buzzed overhead. British Typhoon jets expelled a stream of blue-and-yellow smoke as they flew over the capital. Ukraine’s newest tank, the Kharkiv-made Oplot, rolled down the street, state-of-the-art Turkish-made Bayraktar battle drones were displayed atop armored vehicles, and U.S.-provided Hummers towed unmanned weaponry. It was a traditional and perhaps very necessary – considering the looming threat of further Russian aggression – display of military might.
But the celebration included another more notable and arguably more important element relevant to Ukraine’s goal of becoming, as the Ukrainian president said, a “strong” nation among other democratic, freedom-loving countries of the world. This year’s celebration included a poignant and moving 13-minute film screened during the main parade. It followed a young Ukrainian girl holding a bouquet of flowers as she seemed to search for someone while moving past seminal moments and people in the country’s history. It was the narration of the video that caught our attention.
If Ukraine is to throw off its Soviet past and rid itself of a mindset that so deeply embedded itself in many Ukrainians, it cannot simply ask people to discard that legacy without giving them something else on which to focus their collective historical memory.
As the film took its viewers on a tour that began with the Kyivan Rus era, the narration noted the many instances in which Ukraine’s forebears shaped the values, ideals and direction of democratic culture throughout the world. The Soviet apparatus spent decades trying to destroy our collective memory of those contributions. Thankfully, and with the help of such tributes, Ukrainians are beginning to remember again.
The film concluded with the young girl, now in real time, running down the main parade route along Khreshchatyk Street in Kyiv until she finally finds her father, a soldier in Ukraine’s Armed Forces, who was marching in the parade. The two embraced and the daughter handed her father the bouquet of flowers. The Ukrainian president could be seen wiping tears from his eyes. We assume he wasn’t the only one.