“Our Destination is Free Victorious Ukraine” – New Year Speech of Marta Barandiy 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome! Thank you for coming and honouring my team and celebrating together with Promote Ukraine. For many years I have been asked what Promote Ukraine is. There are so many different definitions but recently I was offered one that fits today’s situation best. It was offered by our volunteer who is not a Ukrainian himself. He said: “Promote Ukraine is a hub for the representatives of the collective intelligence of Ukrainian nation in Brussels”. I would add: “Civil society’s driving force of the European integration of Ukraine in the heart of the European Union”. The European integration of Ukraine is a journey and our activism here is not an accident but our duty on this journey. Imagine, we are on a plane, and we are having Ukraine attached to that plane. There are passengers, there is a crew and there is a captain. Passengers have their own wishes, and generally, they observe and describe what they see. The crew are those who shape the experience of the flight and transmit information to the captain so that the captain can navigate. And it is very unfortunate a captain is someone with blurred vision or even worse – the passengers become the ones guided by a complete lack of vision. They may not be ready for the destination we are heading to – Ukraine’s victory and Russia’s defeat. The collective captain – the NATO and EU leaders wrongly perceive that Ukraine may defeat Russia by only defending itself. And they doubt that it is time for Ukraine to be a full member of the plane. There is a glass between Ukraine and the plane: a glass of misunderstanding, misinformation, and misinterpretation. The crew can see the glass but the captain can’t. So, Ukraine needs the crew to communicate, to channel the spirit of the Ukrainian nation and to remind that Ukrainians are knocking on this glass with their blood. Many are falling in this struggle. But falling is not failing. Every fallen Ukrainian son and daughter bring Ukraine closer to our European dream. And it is our duty to make sure we do not fail them. Ukraine’s symbol is a trident. It means volya. And the VOLYA in Ukrainian has two meanings: freedom and the will: the will to freedom. In pursuit of the volya Ukraine got attached to this plane in 1994 when Ukraine signed its first Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU. I boarded the plane in 2000 when I chose to study European law. I studied treaties, and I learned the EU Constitution of 2004 by heart. I was excited by the idea of the welfare state, the world of human rights and rule of law that for me, a 16 y. o. the girl looked so romantic. In 2013 Putin paid Yanukovych 3 billion dollars to stop the European integration of Ukraine and to steal the European dream from me and my entire generation. And I am proud of this generation because it is the one that decided to change the course of history and fight for our European dream: of the welfare state, human rights, and rule of law. One thing Putin and Yanukovych did not understand then and many do not understand today: there can be no negotiations on the way to VOLYA. As Golda Meir, when she was still an activist, once said – “our spirit is not for sale”. In 2022 I found myself to be on the crew that tried to open the door to the collective captain, to clear his blurred vision and show him that our final destination is free victorious Ukraine, a proud member of the European Union and NATO. We are in 2023, and there is no way back. My entire team is on that crew with me. Everyone who helps Ukraine and Ukrainians to reach their destination is on this crew with us. I believe that together we will change the navigation. God be with us! Happy New Year and Slava Ukraini!

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