The memorial to the Heroes of Heavenly Hundred who were killed by the pro-Russian authorities during The Revolution of Dignity in 2014 and the Ukrainian heroes who died during the Russian invasion of Donbas. It has become both a victim of the Kherson’s occupation by the Russian forces and a symbol of resistance the city demonstrates every day while waiting for liberation.
The Revolution of Dignity of the winter of 2013/2014 was a significant event in the recent history of Ukraine. It has proved that the Ukrainian people are the chief power in Ukraine. With this stunning civil disobedience against the ruling regime, the Ukrainians stated their pro-European choice to the whole world. This choice was warmly welcomed by democratic countries and categorically rejected by Russia. In 2014, the Russian Federation invaded the East of Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The long and exhausting years of Ukraine’s military and diplomatic struggle for its territorial integrity began. And eight years later, in February 2022, Russia eventually went into a full-fledged war and commenced an attempt at a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The Revolution of Dignity and the events of 2022 have revealed new Ukrainian heroes, those who are ready to fight for freedom and independence as well as for the bright future of their country, even at the cost of their own lives. The Heavenly Hundred were 107 brave people who went to Independence Square and were killed by the pro-Russian authorities led by Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Ukrainians honour the Heavenly Hundred, as well as hundreds of heroes who have died during the Russian invasion of Donbas in the next 8 years, in every city and village.
Kherson was no exception, and the ‘Glory to Ukraine’ memorial was installed in the city centre in 2016. Portraits of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred and Ukrainian heroes who died in the Donbas were displayed on its panels. The photos were ornamented with embroidery patterns and state symbols of Ukraine.
Therefore, after their invasion of Kherson in 2022, the Russians, who apparently deemed the city pro-Russian and expected a welcoming stance from the locals, were disillusioned. No one waited for the Russian army here, and the people resisted the Russian occupation with hatred and fury.
After the capture of Kherson, hundreds of citizens began to regularly attend the protests against the Russian occupation. Even though the Russian forces intimidated civilians and used weapons against them, the Kherson citizens boldly declared again and again that Kherson was Ukraine. Therefore, the Russian military began to kidnap community leaders, journalists and bloggers, activists and volunteers. As reported by eyewitnesses, torture chambers were arranged in the Kherson region, where the Russians tortured illegally detained people.
Since March 2, Kherson has been under full occupation. It has been suffering more and more from the Russians’violence and is gradually turning day by day into a city from the distant Soviet past. The Russian occupation authorities returned Lenin monuments to their pedestals and hung Soviet red flags with a hammer and sickle while mercilessly destroying Ukrainian symbols and cultural heritage. The Russians destroyed thousand-year-old Scythian burial mounds and Ukrainian history books. The Russian forces also mutilated the ‘Glory to Ukraine’ memorial, desecrating the Ukrainian heroes’ memory. The Russians wrecked the panels with their photos and removed the Ukrainian state symbols and the European Union’s flag.
Since May 30, Kherson has been isolated from other Ukrainian territories. The city has been constantly experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe: people lack access to vital medicines and funds to buy food. The Russian occupation authorities seize businesses from Ukrainian entrepreneurs, illegally move their own families into abandoned apartments and houses, and steal and expropriate agricultural machinery and grain harvest.
However, the people of Kherson do not give up despite the total terror. Volunteers find and deliver vital medicines while risking their lives, and civilians have organised the Resistance Movement. Patriotic graffiti, yellow and blue ribbons, and leaflets with an unambiguous reminder to the Russians of the Armed Forces of Ukraine being nearby appear almost everywhere in the region.
Residents of the occupied Kherson region are waiting for liberation with hope. For the day when they will proudly raise the Ukrainian flag again and restore the ‘Glory to Ukraine’ memorial with the names and portraits of the Ukrainian heroes. New heroes, the people who fight for freedom every day, will walk down the streets. They are ready to do everything to cherish the people’s memories of their glorious past so that they will never become a memory.