Traditionally, on this day, Ukrainians honor those who defended their homeland, the Kozaks, the Ukrainian Sich and today, though as yet unrecognized by the Ukrainian state, the UPA. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, (Ukrainska povstanska armiia) which is known by its Ukrainian acronym, UPA, was the only military formation to actually fight for Ukraine during the Second World War.
Petro Sodol writes in his introduction to his overview of the history of UPA in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine:
Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainska povstanska armiia [UPA]). A Ukrainian military formation which fought from 1942 to 1949, mostly in Western Ukraine,
against the German and Soviet occupational regimes. Its immediate purpose was to protect the Ukrainian population from German and Soviet repression and
exploitation; its ultimate goal was an independent and unified Ukrainian state...
UPA was demonized by the Soviets and continues to be subjected to defamation and abuse by by anti-Ukrainian political forces. As a result, a large percentage of Ukrainians themselves misunderstand what UPA was and what it means to us today. As Prof. James Mace, the late, eminent Holodomor scholar once noted, "Without UPA and its parent, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Ukraine today would be one, huge Byelorus." Nonetheless, to date, Ukraine does not officially recognize its heros, but in fact, allows those few who have survived Siberia, torture and the rest, to continue to be violated.
Yushchenko has spoken about "reconciliation" between Red Army veterans and UPA veterans. leading to official recognition of the rights of the "UPisty." It seems odd that veterans of a foreign army, as the Soviet army in fact was, would dicate the decision regarding recognition of the only army that fought for Ukraine during WWII. It is explained only by the failure of the governments of the last 14 years to educate and counter the anti-Ukrainian propaganda which has indoctrinated the population and has lead to what can simply be called "national self-loathing."
Yet Ukraine must go about the business of consolitating itself as a state, as a nation. And that probably does mean that some form of reconciliation must be achieved. The US, immediatlty after the Civil War, understood that it needed to unify, it needed to rebuild. The blood of soldiers, both Confederate and Union was still fresh in 1868, yet US national interests demanded reconciliation. And Memorial Day was proclaimed, honoring both the Blues and the Greys.
According to usmemorialday.org:
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
World War II is fifty years past. Today, Ukraine needs to recognize those heroes who fought for Her, against all odds, against both of the Twentieth Century's most vicious war machines. Alone, without aid, without support and still today, without recognition.
And with recognition, then perhaps, we can have our own Memorial Day. One that recognizes all the pain, all the suffering, all of our losses. And when that is done, we can go forward and build a Ukraine, free from foreign oppressors, free to decide its own fate.
And BTW, if you happen to see one of those veterans of UPA today, give him or her some flowers and say "Thank you."