For a democratic and free Ukraine

Image: Gabriela Hengeveld

February 26, 2024

At the event for Ukraine on 24 February 2024 on Dam Square, PAX director Rolien Sasse had also been asked to give a speech. You can read the speech below.

Thank you to the Ukrainians in The Netherlands for organizing this event and for inviting PAX to speak. The sheer numbers of people here at Dam Square is heartening. Thank you for showing up!  It shows that solidarity with Ukraine is alive and strong. We will continue to stand with you and not give up! 

While it heartens me to see us gathered once more, it also fills me with sorrow, because the occasion that brings us together is a tragedy. Today marks two years since Russia commenced its full-scale invasion. Already two long years. And, it marks 10 years of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Sadly, with no end in sight yet. 

It is Ukrainians who bear the brunt of this conflict. Ukrainians here. Who find themselves displaced, seeking refuge in The Netherlands. Wondering for how long.  Ukrainians at home.  

Who try to live as normal as possible, while living in abnormal conditions. And Ukrainians who have to fight to protect their country. So many of whom have paid this with their lives. They fight not merely for territory, but for Ukraine’s very right to exist as an independent, democratic nation. And for their children to live and have a future. That makes me sad. It makes me angry.  

Only 5 months ago I visited Ukraine. To learn about the country and connect with some of the people PAX works with. In Chernihiv, we participated in an emotional opening of an exhibition. It showcased the stories and images of the months that the city had been under siege. People were hugging each other in tears, as they people were looking at the images and sharing their own stories.  Just days before, a rocket had hit the city center in broad daylight, only a few hundred meters away from where we stood. It had killed 7 people, including a little girl of 6 years old. We could see the flowers on the place where she was killed. The rocket came out of nowhere and in a second, disaster struck. Yet amidst this grieve, life persisted for most people. Bars reopened the next day, their windows shattered. People went shopping and families enjoyed the sunny park. And also, the exhibition opening went on. 

That is the resilience of Ukraine. Where each day lived in freedom and dignity represents a little victory. 

Ukraine needs support from the international community to be able to defend itself against the aggression of Russia. Ukraine needs military support to defend itself. 

Otherwise, there will be no Ukraine anymore. 

Ukraine also needs political and diplomatic support to pressure Russia to stop its aggression, through economic sanctions, global institutions, court cases, by any means Only when the Russian army returns home, will there be peace. Not just for Ukraine, also Europe as aggression should never be rewarded.

Third we need to support Ukraine to survive and get through this period of war. Within the Netherlands, Ukraine can count on massive support. PAX calls on all politicians present here to prioritize strengthening the global coalition in support of Ukraine.  First to secure peace.  Next to pursue justice, accountability, and healing. 

Let us never forget about Ukraine.  Let us never give up hope.  

But let us stand together here and do whatever we can, whatever you can, no matter where you are for a democratic and free Ukraine. 

Rolien Sasse, 24/02/2024

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