The First National Holiday

Ukraine celebrates Constitution Day on June 28.

This year, it was Tuesday.

However, no one remembered it was “Tuesday” because that date was marked on the calendar as the 125th day of the all-out war. Back in the day, it was everyone’s day off.

Article 27. Every person has the inalienable right to life.

Back in the day, on a weekend or a holiday, you asked your friends out for coffee and went shopping. You had a two-in-one pleasant pastime.

This year, in Poltava region, Constitution Day was a day of mourning. The whole nation commemorated the civilians killed in the missile strike on the shopping mall in Kremenchuk. The Russian attack killed at least twenty-nine people and injured another sixty-six. Thirty people were reported missing.

Article 33. Everyone who is legally present on the territory of Ukraine is guaranteed freedom of movement, free choice of place of residence, and the right to freely leave the territory of Ukraine, with the exception of restrictions established by law.

Back in the day, the Kherson region, with its access to Black and Azov Seas, was a national holiday destination. People from across the country put fruit and vegetables into their shopping carts just because they were labeled: “From Kherson.”

This year, the Russian troops have been blocking the region since the early days of the full-scale invasion. People cannot leave or evacuate. The farmers in the Kherson region who grow and sell vegetables have no days off. Especially in summer, during the harvest time.

They grow cucumbers or cabbage in long greenhouses in their backyards. People have to work hard all through spring and summer to make enough money to survive winter. Summer days are intense.

“Today, we threw away 1,200 kilograms of cucumbers,” a friend of mine texted me.

You can no longer sell cucumbers in the Kherson region. They cost a trifle — some five or seven hryvnias per kilo — because Russian troops have blocked this area, cutting it off from the rest of the country.

The farmers’ hard work is, in fact, useless. But this year, as always, they get no days off.

This year, in Poltava region, Constitution Day was a day of mourning. The whole nation commemorated the civilians killed in the missile strike on the shopping mall in Kremenchuk. The Russian attack killed at least twenty-nine people and injured another sixty-six. Thirty people were reported missing.

Article 30. Everyone is guaranteed the inviolability of his or her dwelling place.

Back in the day, the citizens of Ukraine had the right to fall asleep and wake up in their apartment blocks.

This year, their homes in the occupied territories are surrounded by Russian military equipment. In the context of war, it is called a human shield.

“Will you shell us?” the locals wonder.

“No. It is your army that will shell you,” Russian soldiers say.

Russian soldiers know that this territory will be liberated from them.

Since February, people in our country have had no holidays. All regions work hard to make Russia remember one particular historical fact: since 1996, Ukraine has been living by its own Constitution. It is just that now its articles are written in blood.

Article 2. The territory of Ukraine within its present border is indivisible and inviolable.

The first day after the war is sure to be a day off in Ukraine. And a national holiday too.

Author — Svitlana Stretovych, essayist, program director of Litosvita

Translator — Hanna Leliv

Illustrator — Victoria Boyko

Editor — Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors — Julia Ovcharenko, Demyan Om

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