Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine speaking in the "Special Address by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine" session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. Congress Hall World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger

The Ukrainian President also said that it is impossible to avoid the wars in the past but that Ukraine must do everything it can to prevent it in the future. 

Ukraine celebrated the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation and the Day of Victory over Nazism on the weekend. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Luhansk region, where he gave several speeches. He wanted to let everyone know that the defeat of Nazi Germany would have been impossible without the sacrifice of the Ukrainian people and that it should always be remembered. 

“What is victory over Nazism for us? It is gratitude. Which has no boundaries, statutes of limitations, or geographical division,” Zelensky said in a speech on Sunday, according to Unian, “This is memory. About its horrible price. About the fact that more than eight million Ukrainians died in World War II. That every fifth Ukrainian did not return home. In total, the war claimed at least 50 million lives… This is at least seven million Ukrainians, without whom victory would be impossible.”

According to the history site Britannica, between five to seven million in today’s Ukrainian territory died during the Second World War. The total number of deaths in the Soviet Union is said to have been around 26 million people, according to some sources, while others estimate the number to be smaller. 

“And for us, the victory over Nazism is a treasure gained through suffering, not another reason to go for barbecues. These are not stickers on cars, but flowers on the grave of ancestors. This is not a carnival, not a costume party, and certainly not a photoshoot of politicians in the uniform of an army to which they had nothing to do, with a machine gun that they do not know how to hold in their hands…This is involvement in a great cause for humanity,” Zelensky said in a speech Sunday. 

Read Zelinsky’s speech on Saturday

The Ukrainian President also held a speech on Saturday, where he tried to unite the Ukrainian people in an address to the nation. You can read it below in English. 

Fellow citizens!

We live in a world where there are more than seven thousand different languages. But there is a special one that unites many nations of the world every year on May 8, the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. When we cry in one language. When we are silent in one language. It is a language of boundless honor and respect for the memory of the millions of people who died in World War II.

Today we bow to all those who defended the native Ukrainian land from Nazism, defended the world, to all those who died during the Second World War. Veterans who opposed Nazis, underground fighters, prisoners of war, Ostarbeiters, concentration camp prisoners, children of war, civilians, and everyone who suffered from the Nazi occupation.

In 1945, on the night of May 8-9, the planet met the first minute of peace. Mankind waited six years for one minute. Or almost 3 million 160 thousand minutes of World War II. When in each of these minutes dozens of people were killed on the planet.

At least 20 people were killed every minute. 

And that’s why this moment was so important. It was the fall of a regime that stood in the way of humanity to further physical existence as such. It was the capitulation of a regime that blocked humanity’s path to a world free of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, and intolerance. Our ancestors paid more than eight million for a ticket to this world. More than eight million lives. More than eight million Ukrainians died. More than the population of Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Lviv, and Dnipro combined.

Six years of war. 2194 days of the war. Explosions, shots, trenches, wounds, famine, bombing, blockades, mass shootings, punitive operations, occupation, concentration camps, gas chambers, yellow stars, ghettos, Babyn Yar, captivity, forced labor. They died for us to know what these concepts mean from books, not from our own experience. See it in the movies, not with our own eyes. They died for a ticket to the future for us, for their children and grandchildren. And today, children and grandchildren need to know that. Remember that. Appreciate that. Be thankful for that. Today. Tomorrow. And all their life.

That is why every year we recall the worst catastrophe in human history. Every year we talk about its terrible consequences. Every year, together with the whole civilized world, we say: never again. 

If we imagine the impossible for a moment and assume that humanity has been given the opportunity to change its history once, to get rid of one period, I am sure that all people on Earth would choose the only option: to avoid and prevent World War II. Unfortunately, we can’t do that. We cannot avoid war in the past. But we can and must do everything we can to prevent a new war in the future.

Today, the whole world and all world leaders must show that humanity has learned the lesson of 1939-1945 forever. That it is aware of the consequences of war and will never allow this to happen again. Isn’t it time to put an end to this issue? Isn’t it time to prove the devotion to the slogan “Never again” in practical terms?

Isn’t it time for humanity to change its wording and say not “World War II” but “The Second and LAST World War”? To give no chance and probability of a new war, even on a verbal level. To fill millions of school textbooks on history, research works, millions of novels, and films with the mantra of the impossibility of repeating the war in the future. The world must say: “In 1939-1945, the LAST World War took place”.

Fellow Ukrainians! Today, our courageous men and women defend the Ukrainian state, our sovereignty, and territorial integrity. For the sake of peace and prosperity of independent Ukraine. For the sake of future generations.

For the same reason that 76 years ago our grandparents from every corner of Ukraine defended their native land, fought Nazism, and won. Today, as last year, I am in the Luhansk region, in the Milove district, near the village of Pivnivka, where in December of 1942 the expulsion of Hitler’s invaders from the Ukrainian land began. The Bell of Remembrance appeared in this place today.

Each of its strikes means that we will never forget what our ancestors did so that the next generations of Ukrainians could live freely on their land, in their state in peace and harmony. May the memory of all those who died during the Second and, I believe, the last World War live forever.