40 days are a symbolic period in my culture. 40 days after death the spirit of the deceased leaves the Earth. Today is the turn of a hundred brave souls who gave their lives defending Ukraine’s freedom. It all began with a relatively small student protest after our former President refused to sign a long-anticipated agreement that would allow to cement Ukraine’s European direction of development. And by European I mean living by the standards that Europe champions - democracy, rule of law, human rights, freedom from corruption, and so on. Well in response to this peaceful expression of their right to freedom of speech, special forces used brutality to disperse the protest.
The next day half a million people took to the streets to tell former President Yanukovych by these actions he’d worn out his mandate.
In response, laws were passed that would have made Ukraine into a state resembling the Soviet Union circa 1937 – arrests in the middle of the night and all.
So a million people took to the streets.
And the violence against the peaceful protesters began escalating.
Eventually the authorities brought out live bullets.
That’s when the people put their foot down.
And the government got scared of the voice of its citizens. The despots ran away. And our country changed.
It was a spectacular triumph of the human will and spirit that is going to unite and inspire Ukrainians for generations to come. And not only Ukrainians.
Our country came from a difficult place. 23 years of economic and political transition after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There were 14 other countries there with us. And the triumph of the Euromaidan protests showed them all that the people are in charge. Despots won’t overcome the people. So the despots got scared. And tried to punish Ukraine for standing up to despotism. You all know of the unprovoked aggression being carried out against Ukraine right now. But we are not scared. At the very beginning of these events in December, the Pope said a prayer for Ukraine on St. Peter’s square in the Vatican and released two white doves. The doves were both almost immediately attacked. One by a raucous seagull. And one by a black crow. Both managed to free themselves from the clutches of the predators. Ladies and gentlemen, today we are facing our crow. But we are not afraid. We will overcome. Because the Heavenly Hundred showed us that we can.
Their ages ranged from 17 to 83 years old. There were Ukrainians from both, the west and the east. Georgians. A Belorussian. A Russian. Students, pensioners, farmers, workers, intelligentsia, athletes, artists, businessmen, journalists, bureaucrats, even politicians.
They represent all of Ukraine. When our country started taking a turn for despotism, they were the ones to shield our people from the bullets with their bodies.
Ladies and Gentlemen. I am sad to stand before you today at such an occasion. Mourning the loss of a hundred brave men and women. I am sad but I am proud because those were not 100 extraordinary Ukrainians – it’s Ukrainians – all! – who are extraordinary. We proved it to ourselves during the Euromaidan. And the world has yet to see what our country has to offer.
Today – in honor of the fallen Professor Jaya Suprana and the Jaya Suprana School of Performing Arts will perform the Gugur Bunga requiem by the renowned Indonesian composer Ismail Marzuki.
I thank the Indonesian side – for this heartfelt gesture in support of the democratic aspirations of a country so far away. The wish to live in a democratic society, free from corruption and menace – is something that unites the Ukrainian people and the Indonesian people.
Thank you all for coming to pay respects to Ukraine’s brave defenders. Now more than ever this moral support means a lot.
Please enjoy the show.