I will never forget the first three months of 2014. Never in my life have I been so proud of my Ukrainian roots, and never before have I cherished the human rights and freedom that I enjoy every day as a Canadian citizen. The events of the Euromaidan revolution, ongoing since November 2013, are history in the making. I’ve been moved to tears almost each and every day on reading and hearing stories of the brave people of my ancestral homeland who have been peacefully protesting for months now, their futures unknown, yet full of hope.
One particular group of protesters have come to be known as The Heaven’s Hundred (Nebesna Sotnya*, or “Heavenly Brigade”). These participants of Euromaidan are the first confirmed victims of the conflicts in Kyiv between the months of January – February 2014. Beaten, shot by snipers, crushed in clashes or while protecting others, kidnapped from hospital, tortured and left to die, they were the first to give their lives for their country. Many visited the Maidan for the first time on the day they were killed. The youngest was only 17.
All over the world, these men and women are being honoured for giving the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Here in Toronto, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Toronto Branch put forth an initiative within the community to honour them with memorials at various locations throughout the city. I had the privilege of working with St.Vladimir Institute on their tribute, a two-sided window installation visible from both the street and front lobby of The Institute.
Although I knew none of them, the faces and stories of the Nebesna Sotnya are all imprinted in my mind, now and forever. They are brothers, fathers, sons, mothers, grandparents and friends, from towns and villages all over Ukraine and its neighbouring countries.
Quite possibly the most emotional project I will ever complete, it was my honour to be able to preserve their legacies and share their stories with the rest of Toronto. May they live forever in our memories – Вічна їм пам’ять.
* Sotnya is a Ukrainian military term meaning “company”, or group of 100 soldiers. At the time of this posting, there were approximately 104 confirmed victims.