February 20 is officially designated as the Day of the Heavenly Hundred, in memory of the participants in the Revolution of Dignity killed by the Yanukovych regime as events reached their climax between February 18-20, 2014.
Among those whose memory we honor during this period, the Foundation recalls with sadness one of the many Ukrainians with whom we've had the pleasure to work with over the years - Yakiv Yakovych Zayko. After serving a term as a deputy to the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), Mr. Zayko worked for four years as publications editor for the Foundation's ground-breaking, USAID-funded Parliamentary Reform Program, a long-term initiative implemented by the Foundation through its Ukrainian partner organization, the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, in conjunction with Indiana University.
Mr. Zayko died on February 18 following the ferocious confrontation with riot police and government-hired thugs near the parliament, where demonstrators were demanding a return to the version of the Constitution before its revision by the Yanukovych regime. He was the oldest victim of the violence.
A work in progress, the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity offers fitting testimony to the sobering events that continue to reverberate and to the individuals that died so that their compatriots could live in dignity:
Below are the President of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, Nadia McConnell's, remarks in commemoration of the Heavenly Hundred:
"Thank you for the privilege of taking part in Commemorating the Heavenly Hundred.
We must never forget these Heavenly Hundred and the ultimate price they paid defending Ukraine’s independence, Sovereignty and European choice to build a free and democratic country.
But let us also be cognizant that each of these Heavenly Hundred was an individual, not just a number, a statistic.
Each sacrifice was made not just by the individual but their family, friends, and colleagues. Each life lost during those days had an individual history of accomplishments and/or a promise of what they would have still contributed to, family, community profession and to Ukraine’s ongoing development.
With sadness, one such individual we honor was one of the many Ukrainians with which we had the pleasure of working with as a member of the USUF family - Yakiv Zayko.
Yakiv was the oldest victim of the violence of Yanukovych’s regime.
He was a member of the Rada, at the time of the vote for Sovereignty, and then in August 1991 the Declaration of Independence.
After this term, he joined the USUF's partner organization POID to implement the Foundation’s ground-breaking USAID-funded Parliamentary Development Program.
A strategic initiative to help Ukraine develop a system of government, based on the rule of law and to include separation of powers.
He died on February 18th following the ferocious confrontation with riot police and government-hired thugs near the parliament where demonstrators were demanding a return to the version of the Constitution before its revision by Yanukovych’s regime.
It is quite poignant that he should have died near the institution to which he had dedicated his life work.
He left behind children and grandchildren.
As we commemorate these Heavenly Hundred today, let us be mindful that they are mourned by many in their circle not just today but on many days throughout the year.
Let us also be mindful that our mourning the Heavenly Hundred cannot be just recalling the history of the massacre by the Yanukovych government.
That was just the first Heavenly Hundred.
Today we also honor the additional 1,300 heavenly hundreds who continue to fight against Putin in defense of Ukraine's sovereignty and the independence of the people of Ukraine.
The fight and sacrifice for the European choice of a democratic country based on the rule of law – a Ukraine for which Yakiv gave so much of his life and for which he made the ultimate sacrifice.