Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, Okean Elzy frontman, composer and social activist, in Novoye Vremya
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Today I was awarded the Order of Liberty. The Order was presented by the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Taking advantage of the occasion, I addressed him with these words:
Dear Mr. President!
Thank you for this award. It’s an honor for me to receive this award from the State, which I always have and always will hold as the nearest and dearest in the world. Yes, awarding people is good. But unfortunately, awards alone will not solve the problems facing us. On January 28, we commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Kruty. What do the Ukrainian Kruty defenders have in common with those who defend our country in the eastern regions today? Both these and others are heroes. Heroes, in that they knowingly sacrificed the most important thing that they had – their lives. Why did the enemy’s aggression choke and stall? Because these young boys and older men were willing to die for their country. They were perfectly aware of the choice they were making. None of them analyzed or calculated it – they simply laid down their lives. And that is why they are Heroes.
The enemy that erodes Ukraine from within – corruption, total injustice, ignorance, the low standards of the so-called elites – is much more insidious and dangerous than any external enemy. To defeat this internal enemy, we also need heroes – heroes in Ukrainian politics and government. Unfortunately, to date, we don’t see such heroes yet. We see logical goings-on. We see the desire to sit on two or three stools at once. We see fear: fear of losing one’s position, fear of losing one’s wealth, one’s political influence, of jeopardizing oneself or one’s family. We see clever people, but, more often, sly and cynical people, who always find a logical explanation for the crisis in Ukraine – the war is at fault, or the oil prices, the political opponents, the previous government. We hear and see this every day. But we do not see great deeds. We do not see real sacrifices. We do not need ordinary people as politicians. Remember the defenders of the Donetsk airport – the cyborgs? We need cyborgs in politics! Today, the country will only be saved by those who will be immortalized as monuments after their death, not those who construct gold monuments to themselves while living. Why do our political leaders put their personal interests before the interests of the state, and buy the peace and security of their own future at the price of political compromises? Where are jail sentences for the criminals? Where is any real change to the rules of the game? In general – where are there changes in the country?
I would really like to conclude by saying that the country is waiting for changes, but the truth is, the country isn’t waiting for anything from the government, not anymore. People do not trust the government. Not because it is bad; but because [people in] the government are the same as all the rest. And today, we need people who are capable of great feats, we need supermen. I understand that today I’ve ruined someone’s mood at this award ceremony. But I say these things not because I wish to throw mud at someone, or to receive any political dividends. Neither power nor political battles interest me. I am telling you this because I care! I care about your reputation, I care about the reputation of the country, and about its future. This is my country, and I live here. Mr. President, regard my words seriously – they are not directed against you personally, they are not an attempt to tarnish you as an individual. These words are directed to all in the Ukrainian government. And it’s not just my individual voice – it is, literally, the voice of the people of Ukraine. And pay attention to them today, because tomorrow may be too late.
This Order of Liberty will remind me that every day, one must do more to ensure that one’s country is free. I will remember that I myself have not yet done enough to finally make our country better.
Source: Novoye Vremya
Vakarchuk in an interview after the award ceremony (in Ukrainian):
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