A Hryts Historical Lesson

This past Sunday, it being Ukrainian Independence Day, I called my cousin Hryts in Pidkamin, Lviv region, to convey my best wishes on this important and historic Ukrainian holiday. I knew that Hryts is a stickler for traditions and figured that he would be celebrating this in some appropriate manner.
As I had discovered early on in our relationship, Hryts was a virtual encyclopedia of Ukrainian history and did not hesitate in pointing out my gross deficiencies in this sphere of my learning. As he once said, “My cow Nyura understands Ukrainian history better than you do!” That did not particularly surprise me, as Hryts was known to talk constantly to his livestock, so I guess some of his knowledge was bound to rub off on them. I am sure that Hryts has the smartest farm animals in all of Pidkamin, if not all of Ukraine.
In any case, on this occasion I passed on some appropriate greetings on this festive occasion, expecting some reciprocal response. Instead, all I got was an impatient grunt.
“Why Hrytsiu,” I exclaimed, somewhat perplexed, “Are you not celebrating this important national holiday?”
He paused, and then replied, somewhat wistfully, “Let me ask you, what exactly is this day supposed to represent?”
“Why the day that Ukraine declared its independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union!” I replied with some degree of knowledgeable smugness.
“Just as I thought.” He muttered. “You are as thick as my wife Yevdokia’s borshcht! If you look up the facts, you will note that the Verkhovna Rada actually passed the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine on July 16, 1990 shortly after the first somewhat democratic elections at the tail end of the Glasnost era. This was subsequently followed by the Declaration of Independence on August 24, 1991 after the aborted coup against Mikhail Gorbachov, but that declaration was not ratified until the national referendum held on December 1, 1991. So you could make a case that July 16 and December 1 could also be legitimately considered as good dates to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day.”
“Well, uh…” I muttered, but was not able to say more, as Hryts was obviously on a roll and he continued onward.
“But those are just the most recent declarations of independence. If you go back to the period just after the Bolshevik revolution, the First Universal of the All-Ukrainian Military Council declared Ukraine to be autonomous from Russia on June 23, 1917 and the Ukrainian National Republic was first officially proclaimed. In the following year, on January 22, 1918, the Central Rada of Ukraine, through the Fourth Universal, declared Ukraine to be a sovereign state. More than twenty years then passed until the next declaration of Ukrainian statehood by Yaroslav Stetsko on a balcony in Lviv’s central square on June 30, 1941 after the Germans invaded Ukraine.”
“But…” I tried to interject. However Hryts was not yet done.
“But why just look at recent history. We could go back to Bohdan Khmelnitsky’s time when he freed most of Ukraine from Polish servitude and formed a Kozak Hetman state. Or even further yet to the time of Volodymyr the Great or Yaroslav the Wise who created the powerful Kyivan Rus kingdom! We have a veritable cornucopia of dates that we could choose to celebrate Ukraine’s national holiday.”
By this time, my head was spinning.
“Hrytsiu,” I pleaded, “what should we do? Which date should we pick?”
“Why all of them, of course, you beethead!” he intoned. “It’s just like the church calendar. Almost every day is some saint’s day. They are all worthy of reverence. Same goes for national holidays. We should celebrate every historical victory. Each one brings us closer to the ideal state. They are all worth celebrating.”
Of course, Hryts was right as usual.