Heroes’ Day in Ukraine Date in the current year: May 23, 2022

Heroes’ Day in Ukraine Heroes’ Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated in Ukraine on May 23; it is mostly popular in the western part of the country. It is dedicated to all Ukrainians who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of their homeland throughout the entirety of its history, from Kievan Rus to the present-day War in Donbass.

Heroes’ Day was inaugurated in 1941 by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a radical far-right ultranationalist political organization that fought for the creation, preservation and development of an independent, unified Ukrainian state. The date of the holiday, May 23, was chosen during the second Great Gathering of the OUN-B that took place in April 1941 in Krakow.

Such a date was chosen to honor the memory of the OUN’s first leader Yevhen Konovalets, who was assassinated in Rotterdam on May 23, 1938 by Pavel Sudoplatov, an NKVD agent who had infiltrated the OUN. Sudoplatov gave Konovalets a box of chocolates that contained a bomb, acting on personal orders from Joseph Stalin.

In addition, two more leaders of the Ukrainian nationalist movement died in May: Mykola Mikhnovsky, the first ideologue of Ukrainian nationalism, was found hanged in Kyiv on May 3, 1924, and Symon Petliura, the ex-chairman of the Directorate of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, was assassinated in Paris on May 25, 1926. This is why May was considered the most appropriate month for celebrating Heroes’ Day.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence, Heroes’ Day was celebrated in the nationalist underground and the Ukrainian diaspora. Since 1992, however, it has been gaining popularity in the Ukrainian society. A large-scale surge of interest in Heroes’ Day occurred in 2014, following the events of Euromaidan and the Russian military intervention. Local governments have begun to hold events in memory of the fallen Ukrainian heroes, even though Heroes’ Day isn’t a public holiday.

Today, Ukrainian Heroes’ Day is most widely celebrated in the western regions of the country, where nationalist sentiments have historically been stronger than in central and eastern Ukraine. Nationalist organizations have been campaigning for the recognition of Heroes’ Day as a national holiday, but with little success.

Although Heroes’ Days is primarily associated with the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), it is dedicated to all Ukrainians who fought for the independence and freedom of their country. This includes the retinues of Grand Prince Sviatoslav and King Daniel of Galicia, Cossack regiments of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Ivan Mazepa and Ivan Vyhovsky, Myron Tarkavsky’s Ukrainian Galician Army, Dmytro Vitovsky’s Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, Symon Petliura’s Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Euromaidan activists (including the Heavenly Hundred Heroes), and others.

Heroes’ Day in Ukraine is marked with rallies, parades, solemn remembrance ceremonies and other events that aim to honor the memory of the fallen Ukrainian heroes.

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Category

Anniversaries and Memorial Days, Unofficial Holidays

Country

Ukraine

Tags

Heroes’ Day in Ukraine, holidays in Ukraine, observances in Ukraine, unofficial holidays, remembrance day