It was the summer of 1995 when I went back to Ukraine after spending 9 months in the States.
I was elated to be back home and to spend time with my friends. There were four of us girls that day. We were in downtown Kyiv at a festival celebrating Ukraine’s 4th Independence Day. Growing up in the Soviet Union meant that we have never learned how to truly love our country. We were taught to love and to be proud of the Soviet Union as a whole. Loving Ukraine in particular was considered nationalistic and almost criminal.
But that was in the past. Ukraine was finally free. Things were changing and we were celebrating our newly found freedom.
August 24th, 1995.
We’re in a rowdy crowd. People are talking and laughing all around us. It’s a great feeling. We feel certain kinship with everyone there regardless of who they are.
A melody starts and the crowd quiets down attentively listening to the music. Oksana Bilozir is singing her famous song ‘Україночка‘ (Ukrainian girl).
‘More than a few khans enslaved me
I was beaten, killed, and forced to leave my country,
But I’ve never given in,
I was reborn from tears
Because I was born a Ukrainian’
All of a sudden all four of us start singing in unison,
‘People say I’m like a flower,
My words flow like a river,
My soul sings like the flute,
But I’m just a Ukrainian girl,
Just a Ukrainian girl!’
At that moment I’m filled with pride. I feel strong, indestructible, special… I feel connected to all the Ukrainian women who came before me. Women who had to survive multiple wars, enslavement, diseases, and losses for me to be here.
I feel proud to be Ukrainian.
True love for my heritage sprouted that day. From that point on I kept on reading and discovering the true history of my people. Not the BS taught to us in schools by the Communists. It was mind-blowing to find out that the enemies of the State were the true patriots fighting for freedom and the celebrated ‘heroes’ were the real oppressors…
My country is still fighting for freedom and it’s true history is still largely unknown to the outside world. There’s still a lot of misinformation and outright lies. But I have hope for my people. They never give up and I expect that one day they’ll finally be free.