…I’ve never seen my late grandfather. My late father did not remember his father. That’s because my grandfather, Andrii Olefirov, died fighting Nazis in 1943. His burial place is unknown. Grandfather Andrii was one of millions of Ukrainians who died in the WWII.
I was brought up by my grandmother. She was from Donbas, she was illiterate and spoke only Ukrainian. She told many stories about my grandfather, a coal miner from Donbas. She told me a lot of tragic stories from our homeland’s history too: Holodomor (forced famine) of 1932-1933 and 1946-1947, when her eldest son, my uncle was lucky to escape prison for taking some ears of wheat from a Collective farm’s field.
It was not the last tragic story in our family. In 1970s when my father brought to Kyiv Doctor Zhivago book from Germany working as an interpreter, he was lucky not to be put in jail but not that lucky to escape from being forcefully put into a psychiatric hospital instead.
I witnessed my personal tragedy in Kyiv when the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant disaster took place in 1986. Despite the attempts of the Soviet leadership to hide the facts from its people and scale down consequences of the disaster the massive cover-up of the situation could not be kept a secret. Ukrainian people faced the worst man made tragedy of its kind with 2293 settlements being instantly polluted by radioactive fall-out.
Chornobyl will continue to be a grim reminder of a cost of human error and subsequent technology fault. It is more of an acute problem for Ukraine especially these days when we face Russian aggression in occupied Crimea where Russia restores Soviet Army nuclear facilities and on the East of Ukraine where pro-Russian guerrillas flooded thousands of coal mines threatening to provoke a real environmental disaster…
2014 brought another tragedy: my kids’ generation became generation of war after Russian Federation flagrantly violated international law and principles of territorial integrity of a sovereign state, enshrined, in particular, in the UN Charter and Helsinki Final Act, and illegally occupied the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and initiated conflict in Donbas.
I remind these tragic stories from Ukraine’s distant past and present days on the eve of the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation and the Day of Victory in World War II with the main purpose: we have to remember the past but not the past promulgated by Soviet and Russian propaganda. The tendency to ignore lessons of the past must be stopped before it is too late.
In fact, last May, for the first time, the people of Ukraine joined the European tradition to commemorate the WWII victims. Ukrainians made an invaluable contribution to the victory over Nazism with their heroism in a struggle for the liberation of Europe. It is extremely important that Ukraine refuses from obsolete Soviet traditions.
The flames of World War Two brought devastation across the globe, affecting 62 countries. Even now, the death toll from this war has not yet been defined. In Ukraine alone, the number of victims has been estimated at 8 million lives, with Ukrainian victims representing 40% of all those who perished in the Soviet Union.
Today, Ukraine and Ukrainians are an outpost of the European civilization in a struggle for freedom, democracy and European values, the values of the Euromaidan, where people have chosen their own path to think and speak freely and fought for the core European values.
Nobody has the right to monopolize Victory over Nazism and use it for its imperial policy. The victory of 1945 is a joint achievement of all progressive humanity, Anti-Hitler coalition and nations of the former Soviet Union.
What the WWII have taught us is that we can solve all the challenges only together. I do believe that it’ll work also for settling the situation in my grandfather’s native Donbas and with Crimea. We have to stop Russian aggression. Otherwise we will be subjected to bitter consequences not only for Ukraine but for broader European region and globally.
Ambassador of Ukraine to Finland