The Ukrainian people have endured intense battles, brutal airstrikes and unimaginable loss during the past 6 months, but tomorrow many Ukrainians will still attempt to celebrate one of their most important days of the year, Ukrainian Independence Day.

Traditionally August 24 is one of the most celebrated days in Ukraine, but ironically this year it also marks exactly six months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine – the start of a brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine’s state sovereignty.

A look back to August 24, 1991

Ukraine’s Independence Day is celebrated on August 24 and marks Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the USSR in 1991. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, on July 16, 1990 the Ukrainian government declared state sovereignty. But the following year in August 1991, there was an attempted coup to restore the communist government. Even though the coup failed, the people became increasingly concerned that Soviet rule would eventually return; as a result, on August 24, 1991, the people’s deputies brought the Ukrainian flag into the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament of Ukraine.) It was on that day that the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence of Ukraine and the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag, an important symbol of Ukrainian independence, was hoisted on the building of the Verkhovna Rada. The flag first became the national flag of the Ukrainian People’s Republic between 1917 and 1920, and was a symbol of the Ukrainian independence movement at the time. But the flag was soon banned under the Soviet regime until it was again raised up on the Parliamentary building on August 24, 1991.

When the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence, there was one condition associated with the declaration, which stated that a national referendum should take place on December 1, 1991. The declaration of independence would be put to a vote. At the time, there was great concern that the country might split into east and west, but the results of the national vote were overwhelmingly in favor of Ukraine’s independence. Voter turnout was estimated at over 80% and over 92% of the electorate voted in favor of Ukraine’s independence.

Ukrainian traditions on Independence Day

Ukrainian Independence Day is one of the most popular days of the year for Ukrainians and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. It is a time for Ukrainians to demonstrate their affection for Ukraine and to Ukraine’s past heroes who have battled for Ukraine’s independence.

There are several official events that traditionally take place in Kyiv on Ukrainian Independence Day. The Ukrainian President gives a speech to commemorate the day and state leaders lay flowers at the monuments of famous Ukrainians. State leaders also join together for a prayer ceremony at St. Sophia’s Church in Kyiv, along with members of all the Christian Churches.

Celebrating in the shadow of war

Tomorrow should be a day of universal celebration for Ukrainians, but instead millions of Ukrainians are now displaced in Ukraine or living as refugees in another country, while hundreds of thousands more are fighting for freedom on the front lines. Their lives changed forever.

Although it may not feel like the time for celebations, that’s exactly what Ukrainians – and people all over the world – need to do. We need to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people on this Independence Day, along with the heroes past and present who have fought and continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence. Despite the horrors that Ukrainians have faced and continue to endure, Ukrainians remain united and stronger than ever. They will never give up in the fight for freedom.

Razom For Ukraine has put together information on how you can Celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day. Read here:

Слава Україні – Glory to Ukraine!