Because I was born on the same day as Ukrainian Independence, there were always fireworks on my birthday. Until I was eight, I thought these rockets were in my honor. I even asked my mother to bring a bag so that I could catch a “firework” and it would keep shining for me all night long.
In addition to fireworks, there were concerts and cotton candy, and the fountain on the main square would be transformed from ordinary to multi-colored. It was like the Fourth of July in America, only on August 24 in Ukraine.
But my childhood is over, I’ve become an adult and this year after eighteen months of Russia’s full-scale war, I’m not expecting fireworks. I’m hoping there won’t be Russian rockets or Iranian drones either. War forces us to adjust. Independence is no longer something that can be celebrated once a year. It’s something that must be fought for every day.
Almost no one came to my birthday party last year. It was difficult even to find an open café to have breakfast with my friends. Everyone was afraid of the Independence Day nuke that Putin had threatened. Given how much the Russians love to mark symbolic dates, almost everyone preferred to be in the countryside — or better yet, in the refuge of Ukraine’s Carpathian mountains.
The day before, my most fearless friends and I were sitting in a café, drinking wine and discussing whether we would be nuked. I felt like we were in All Quiet on the Western Front. We agreed that even if there was a nuke, at least we wouldn’t care anymore.
But on the eve of this birthday and this Independence Day, I’m in a completely different mood. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have cheekily suggested that there could be drone strikes on Moscow. Now I feel like this is also in my honor. Steps toward victory are much better than fireworks. And also, almost all my friends are in the city, and they have no plans to leave.
I was dreading this day last year. This year, I have high hopes for it. There’s a completely different vibe all around us: we’re not scared anymore.