В темні часи видно світлих людей… Лише у лютій боротьбі із всепожираючою пітьмою ми прокинулись і засяяли на весь світ. Та так сильно, що пісні і молитви набули сенсу, так сильно, що ми врешті змогли побачити одне одного. Дякую, що ви є!
Христос Рождається! pic.twitter.com/Xq5EIkaEdj
— NEIVANMADE (@neivanmade) December 24, 2022
The tweet machine translates as:
n dark times, you can see bright people… Only in a fierce struggle with the all-consuming darkness did we wake up and shine on the whole world. But so much so that the songs and prayers gained meaning, so much so that we were finally able to see each other. Thank you for being you! Christ is born!
Santa is flying over Ukraine now! pic.twitter.com/m4WNCR2vMr
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) December 24, 2022
Eventually every war, unless it is a very short, quick war, includes at least one Christmas. Also, someone almost always says: “the war’ll be over by Christmas.” Which is true, but usually not the next one on the calendar. In the case of the 100 Years War that guy was right. He was also dead of old age by the time he was right.
Ukrainians war to defend their homes, their culture, their society, and their lives has now reached this sad milestone. Though, more accurately, given that Russia started this war in 2014 and only significantly escalated it in February of this year, this is the eight Christmas to come and go while Ukrainians are at war to defend themselves from Russian aggression. And because some Ukrainians are Western rite and some Eastern Rite, I supposed it would be most technically correct to write this is now the fifteenth Christmas since Russia invaded back in the late Spring of 2014. The sixteenth will be in a few weeks when Eastern rite Ukrainians celebrate Christmas.
I’m sure everyone has places to be, friends and/or family to visit or talk to, so I’m just going to focus on President Zelenskyy’s address, some excerpts from First Lady Zelenska’s interview with FT, a couple of other items, and, of course, Patron!
Here is President Zelenskyy’s address from earlier today. Video below, English transcript after the jump:
Christmas greetings of the President of Ukraine to Western Rite Orthodox Christians
These days, millions of people in Ukraine and the world celebrate Christmas. The appearance of the Son of God gave people hope for salvation, faith in the victory of goodness and mercy.
Unfortunately, all the holidays have a bitter aftertaste for us this year. And we can feel the traditional Spirit of Christmas differently. Dinner at the family table cannot be so tasty and warm. There may be empty chairs around it. And our houses and streets can’t be so bright. And Christmas bells can ring not so loudly and inspiringly. Through air raid sirens, or even worse – gunshots and explosions. And all this together can pose a bigger threat. It is a disappointment. Of the higher forces and their power, of goodness and justice in the world. Loss of hope. Loss of love. Loss of myself…
But isn’t this what evil and darkness, which have taken up arms against us, want in their essence?
We have been resisting them for more than three hundred days and eight years. And will we allow them to achieve what they want?
In this battle, we have another powerful and effective weapon. The hammer and sword of our spirit and consciousness. The wisdom of God. Courage and bravery. Virtues that incline us to do good and overcome evil.
The main act of courage is endurance and completion of one’s work to the end, despite everything. The truth illuminates our path. We know it. We defend it. Our truth is a struggle for freedom. Freedom comes at a high price. But slavery has an even higher price.
Our path is illuminated by faith and patience. Patience and faith. These are twin forces. As it was said, “he who rules and controls his own spirit, is better than he who captures a city.” To endure does not mean to accept the circumstances. Patience is watching to make sure that we don’t let any doubt or fear into our minds. It is faith in one’s own strength.
Evil has no weapon stronger than the armor given to us by God. Evil smashes against this armor like a stone wall. We have seen this more than once. We endured at the beginning of the war. We endured attacks, threats, nuclear blackmail, terror, missile strikes. Let’s endure this winter because we know what we are fighting for.
We go forward through the thorns to the stars, knowing what awaits us at the end of the road. God is a just Judge who rewards good and punishes evil. Which side we are on is obvious. Who is who in this battle is obvious. There are at least seven proofs of this – they are known – “A proud look, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, Feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren.” We oppose all this. Being a role model for others. The faithful, that is, those who really believe, must be a light to the rest of the world. For more than three hundred days, Ukrainians have been striving for this, proving it, serving as an example to others. We are not righteous, not holy, but we are definitely fighting for good and fighting for the light, with faith in Bible prophecy:
“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. The people who walk in darkness will see a bright light. The light will shine on those who live in the land of death’s shadow. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given!”
We believe that tears will be replaced by joy, hope will come after despair, and death will be defeated by life.
Dear Ukrainian people!
Today and all future winter holidays we meet in difficult circumstances. Someone will see the first star in the sky over Bakhmut, Rubizhne, and Kreminna today. Along thousands of kilometers of the front line. Someone is on the road, on the way – from the Ukrainian-Polish border to Kherson region or Zaporizhzhia. Someone will see it through the bullet holes of his or her own home. Someone will celebrate the holiday in other people’s homes, but strange people’s homes – homes of Ukrainians who gave shelter to Ukrainians. In Zakarpattia, Bukovyna, Lviv region, Ivano-Frankivsk region and many other regions. Someone will hear Shchedryk in another language – in Warsaw, Berlin, London, New York, Toronto and many other cities and countries. And someone will meet this Christmas in captivity, but let them remember that we are also coming for our people, we will return freedom to all Ukrainian men and women.
Wherever we are, we will be together today. And together we will look at the evening sky. And together we will remember the morning of February 24. Let’s remember how much we have passed. Let’s remember Azovstal, Irpin, Bucha, Kramatorsk, Snake Island, Chornobayivka, Izium, Kherson. We make a wish. One for all. And we will feel joy. One for all. And we will understand the truth. One for all. About the fact that no kamikaze drones are capable of extinguishing the Christmas Dawn. We will see its glow even underground in a bomb shelter. We will fill our hearts with warmth and light. No Kinzhal missile can hurt them. They will break against our steel spirit. And our struggle will continue without stopping. It is not threatened by planned or emergency blackouts. And we will never feel a shortage of courage and indomitability.
We have experienced a lot of bitter news and will deservedly receive good news. We will sing Christmas carols – cheerier than ever – louder than the sound of a generator. We will hear the voices and greetings of relatives – in our hearts – even if communication service and the Internet are down. And even in total darkness – we will find each other – to hug each other tightly. And if there is no heat, we will give a big hug to warm each other.
We will celebrate our holidays! As always. We will smile and be happy. As always. The difference is one. We will not wait for a miracle. After all, we create it ourselves.
Christ is born! Let’s praise Him!
The Russians, of course, are not taking the day off:
This is not sensitive content – it's the real life of 🇺🇦.
Kherson. On the eve of Christmas, in the central part of the city. It's terror, it's killing for the sake of intimidation and pleasure.
The world must see what absolute evil we are fighting against. #russiaisateroriststate pic.twitter.com/ll1KAjHRom
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 24, 2022
A video from the centre of Kherson was posted by the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration.
As of now, 8 dead and 58 wounded are known. 18 of them are seriously injured. pic.twitter.com/yoUHrTmjLz
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) December 24, 2022
Here is former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s latest assessments of the situations in Kremenna and Bakhmut:
KREMENNA AXIS /0030 UTC 24 DEC/ A Russian probe directed at Yampolivka was engaged and repulsed north of the O-130501 road. This followed a previously failed RU attack on Chervonopopivka, also broken up. RU continues to shell villages along the line of contact. pic.twitter.com/qet5ccjXEm
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) December 24, 2022
BAKHMUT AXIS /1445 UTC 24 DEC/ Developing, reliable information indicates that RU troops have been pushed back from the suburbs of Ivangrad and Opytne. Fighting continues. The UKR General staff confirmed UKR air defense had downed nine Russian UAVs across all axes of contact pic.twitter.com/hQffJcxTfC
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) December 24, 2022
Here’s a bit from The Financial Times interview with First Lady Zelenska:
Two soldiers armed with military rifles step into the canteen. They survey the people lunching on borshch, dumplings and sausage rolls before locking in on me and assessing whether I might be a threat to my guest, the first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska. A quick evaluation seems enough to convince them that I pose no danger. Their approval is sealed with a couple of fist bumps.
A moment later, Zelenska strolls in with two young assistants, one armed with a hair brush, the other a lint roller. They remove her shawl to reveal the first lady in a crisp blue pantsuit over a brown sweater.
One of the assistants gives her hair a quick brush to make sure it is neatly coiffed and Zelenska tucks a strand of it behind her ear, revealing a gold hoop earring. I notice that she is trembling. “It’s so cold outside,” she says, offering her hand. I shake it gently and feel that it is almost frozen to the touch. “Winter is coming,” she mutters.
We are inside the presidential office’s canteen on a Monday afternoon. The place is a fortress, with metal detectors, sandbags piled in front of the windows, and snipers’ perches. It’s dark except for a few scattered lanterns placed on the floor.
I begin our conversation with a question that many Ukrainians have come to loathe since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of their country in February, brutalising and killing them and destroying their cities. But I ask it because I am curious how she will answer.
“How are you?”
“Well,” Zelenska sighs in English before switching to Ukrainian to better express herself. “On the one hand, it’s a simple question. But on the other hand this is the kind of question I don’t exactly know how to answer. We are all living in a period in which it is hard to assess whether we are OK or we are not.”
Zelenska and I are meeting three days after Ukrainian forces liberated the south-central provincial capital of Kherson following almost eight months of Russian occupation. It’s one of Ukraine’s biggest military triumphs since the invasion began.
“We feel something close to euphoria because this is a great victory for us,” Zelenska says, adding that she spent much of the weekend watching videos of Ukrainian troops entering Kherson and the emotional reunions between families and friends.
“But I would say that we should also be very cautious. When the people met our troops in Kherson, of course they were very happy,” she says. “But as for the people in Kyiv who I know, they are a bit afraid to be too joyful, because we don’t want to put a jinx on this luck we are having.”
“So, shall we get some lunch?” the first lady asks in slightly accented English. Three women in white hats and striped aprons greet her, and ask what she’d like from the buffet of traditional Ukrainian dishes. She opts for a cabbage salad with corn and parsley doused in sunflower oil and a fish cutlet.
I ask for the same but with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Zelenska orders black tea and I get a black coffee and a muddy-looking glass of uzvar, my favourite Ukrainian drink, made with dried and smoked fruits and spices. The first lady begins to bring out her wallet to pay before I stop her and insist on picking up the tab — 171 Ukrainian hryvnia, or less than £4.
We don’t know it yet but we are meeting less than 24 hours before Russia will fire 96 missiles at targets across Ukraine — the biggest aerial attack since the invasion began — temporarily knocking out power and water to much of the country.
“We are, I would say, more worried about our enemy because of his losses, because of his defeats,” says Zelenska. She is talking about Vladimir Putin without mentioning his name. It’s something Ukrainians have begun doing regularly, along with using a lower-case r when writing the name of his country.
“We know that he will launch another missile attack against our cities. So our happiness has limits, because we know that these victories are not the end of the war and we’ve got lots of things to do still.”
And, she adds: “After each de-occupation of a city, unfortunately, we find awful things.”
Zelenskyy announced his candidacy for Ukraine’s top political office on New Year’s Eve, as the clock struck midnight on December 31 2018, in a highly coveted television spot traditionally reserved for the current president. To call it a coup would be an understatement. What’s more, he hadn’t told Zelenska he was planning it.
“What was your first reaction to your husband’s announcement?” I ask.
“I was angry. He could have told me. When I heard it, I think my facial expression was the same as it was in the breakfast comment meme,” she says wryly, referring to a screenshot taken from a joint interview the couple gave to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, which went viral on Ukrainian social media. In response to a question from Amanpour, Zelenskyy lamented that, since the invasion began, nobody makes him breakfast any more. As he grinned, Zelenska flashed him a glare that led to countless online jokes.
When I ask about her husband’s comment, Zelenska rolls her eyes. “First of all, he lives in the presidential office. So his breakfast is brought to him by the same people who bring him lunch and dinner,” she says. “But I think he just wanted to emphasise that he misses this normal element of family life, since we used to have breakfast together every morning. And actually, he liked to cook breakfast himself.”
“Is he a good cook?” I inquire.
“Yeah! He makes perfect fried eggs. And often he made them for me,” she says. “I wouldn’t say that he would be totally successful making borshch.”
Zelenska tells me she longs for those “normal” days. “We lack normality in everything now,” she says, explaining that their time together is always fleeting. “Anytime we talk, we think about how little time we have and when we need to part.”
Much, much, much more at the link!
Our stamps became world famous this difficult war year. So we wanted to close it in style and in spirit of holidays. Today on Sofievska Square in Kyiv @ukrposhta launched our “Carol of the Bells” stamp, dedicated to 100 years since its first performance in New York. @OlKubrakov pic.twitter.com/IJ4IKtlgYQ
— Igor Smelyansky (@smelyansky_igor) December 23, 2022
The about description for the video machine translates as:
Three carols of Ukrainian insurgents – which sound so relevant today… Well, what are the times – such are the songs. Warm holidays to you despite everything!
Your daily Patron!
A new video from Patron’s official TikTok:
The caption machine translates as:
Briefly about how I love my new pillow🤭 #PatrontheDog #PatronDSNS
For those of you celebrating, a very Merry Christmas to you all!