"Don’t take your freedom and the possibilities you have for granted," — speech at the Danish Youth Council (DUF) General Assembly
First of all, thank you for having me here today. I'm very grateful for your attention and your effort. In Ukraine, we're very thankful for your support!
I was told that it's usually an older and more experienced person who used to have a speech at this point, but we're breaking some rules today (as you know, some other guys are breaking some international rules also), so I hope you will forgive me.
I think all of you know the current situation in Ukraine. You read it in the news and you observe it on social media. But unfortunately, you cannot fully perceive it because you are not present in Ukraine. Let me give you the perspective of a person who lives in Ukraine:
Our God is the Armed Forces of Ukraine, our will is to be free, and our goal is to be among the European Union society.
Ukraine is the only country where people actually died under the European Union flag. It happened during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. And right now, we continue to fight for European values — democracy, equality, and freedom.
My main idea is that you shouldn’t take everything for granted when it comes to democracy.
At first, it may seem like just loud words to you, but, the same as you, I never believed that a war in Ukraine was possible. I used to live a regular life, building plans for the future. In 2014, when we started the Revolution of Dignity, everyone in Ukraine believed it was just about democratic values, but the Russian government took it personally as an existential threat to them because they are very different from us. And democracy is poison for the regime. That is why Russia invaded Ukraine and started the war.
You never know when history will turn upside down when your neighbor wants the pat of your territory. I'll use the example which is more perceivable for you — Bornholm. It's closer to Sweden than to Denmark, geographically. What if one day, in Sweden, we'll get a politician in power who will call for the revision of national borders and start to claim that Bornholm actually belongs to them? Will you agree with this statement? I suppose not. You will argue that we live in the 21st century, and the borders shouldn’t be questioned, since we have more important issues to solve.
But this is actually what is happening right now in Ukraine. Our neighbor is trying to change the internationally recognized borders by force just because they think something is unfair historically, and Ukraine belongs to Russia.
No Ukrainian will ever agree with this statement. We're building democracy in our country. As a person, you would feel wrong to be told by another person what to do with your life, the same way we feel wrong to be told what to do with our Ukrainian way of thinking from our northern neighbor.
We're getting bombed only because we disagree. We disagree to live under somebody's rule. We want to decide what we want for our own future.
A lot of young people in Ukraine had to flee to European countries because it's hard to live with the thought that you can die at any moment. As I know, you have planned tests of the alarm raid sirens in Denmark every year in spring. Those nasty loud sounds. *sound of siren* We have them several times a week. It's in the capital, Kyiv. And it's even hard for me to imagine what people close to the frontline are going through every day. When you have an air alarm, you have to go to the concrete shelter prepared for a direct rocket missile hit.
Starting October 10 (it's actually my birthday), I woke up from the explosion. Russia started bombing our critical infrastructure. We don’t have electricity for more than 4-5 hours a day. It's quite hard, to be honest. It's hard to work, hard to cook food, hard to even have a shower. But, despite anything, in our society even for a second, we didn’t have a thought to surrender. With every shelling, with every rocket, with every hour without electricity, Ukrainians are just getting angrier, our will to fight is just getting stronger.
From the start of the full-scale invasion, young people have opened a lot of NGOs to help people in need. For example, during the summer, we had “Rebuilding parties”. Imagine 200 young people cleaning the place hit by a rocket, and at the same time, a DJ is playing music in the center of the room. It is important to be creative, and important to be together. Now, as never, you need to support each other.
Every day we learn something new by ourselves because it's very hard to have a classical education these days. Imagine being a displaced person from a frontline region. Education is not the first thing you will look for in a new place. There are also a lot of destroyed universities because they were hit by a rocket. So you should know that war takes from young people not only a good sleep but also the opportunity to study. And that is a very important thing for personal development. (I just realized that education is actually also taking a good sleep from you, so here we didn’t lose a lot at this point).
But despite everything, young Ukrainians are very optimistic about our future because we know that we will win. But tens of thousands of people died and became wounded starting from 2014. This is the price we pay for our choice to be a democratic country.
So I ask you, once again, don’t take your freedom and the possibilities you have for granted.
Democracy is very vulnerable, and it's not something that will always be with you despite anything. Fight for it, help other young people to access opportunities, and support each other. And, of course, stand with Ukraine.