Editor's note: This story was published on Aug. 24, 2022, Ukraine's 31st Independence Day.
Ukraine’s 31st Independence Day on Aug. 24 also marks exactly six months of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
This year, there will be no celebrations, only a heightened alert for Russian attacks on a symbolic date. Ahead of the holiday, the government has banned mass gatherings in the capital city Kyiv.
Instead of the usual Ukrainian military parade followed by a concert, Kyiv’s central street is lined with damaged and burned Russian military vehicles lost in combat with Ukrainian forces.
But for those abroad, there are still ways to honor Ukraine, its history, culture, and ongoing fight for freedom on Aug. 24. Here are three ways you can honor Ukraine on this day, no matter where you are.
Many Ukrainians spend summer holidays outdoors or at their dachas, gathering with friends and relatives to enjoy long festive meals.
While it is widely believed that a Ukrainian meal cannot go without borshch and varenyky, it is actually rarely the case for celebrations, especially in summertime. Instead, Ukrainians often grill meat and vegetables, taste multiple appetizers, and eat plentry of fresh ripe berries and fruit such as watermelon.
But often, even on a special occasion, Ukrainians cook their beloved ordinary food. We asked dozens of locals about their favorite summertine dishes, and rounded out the list with a few that are hits across different regions.
Consider starting a meal with one of Ukraine's most delectable creations: halushky, similar to dumplings.
The dish is especially popular in central Poltava Oblast. There is even a monument of a bowl of halushky with a giant spoon in the regional capital, the city of Poltava. Halushky can be made just of flour and water with added vegetables, eggs, cottage cheese, mushrooms, meat, berries, or basically any flavor of choice.
Tip: Leftover halushky are delicious fried in butter or bacon fat.
Holubtsi (Stuffed cabbage rolls)
Just like dumplings, there is no single canonical recipe for cabbage rolls, though they are usually stuffed with a mix of meat and rice. The most common rolls are baked in tomato sauce and served with sour cream. For a healthier option, holubtsi could be served with yogurt instead. You can come up with a variety of fillings, experiment with species, and cook them on an open fire, in the oven, or in a pan.
Kabachky (zuccini) fritters
Many Ukrainian agree it's hard to imagine a summer evening without these stunning veggies. "Zucchini pancakes are a classic dish that brings back childhood memories," says Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko.
While they most often are served with a dollop of mayonnaise, you can make this dish healthier by adding yogurt sauce, mixed with mint and garlic.
Roasted in the oven or grilled, eggplant is a common in Ukraine healthy snack.
Roasted eggplant could also be diced and turned into a dip or spread, also known as the so-called eggplant “caviar.”
On the Ukrainian holiday table, there are often multiple plates with appetizers such as various types of cheese, sausages, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, pickled vegetables, and fish, which are well suited for snacking on alcohol.
Lviv syrnyk (cheesecake)
To end a meal on a sweet note, try cooking this traditional for the west of Ukraine simple cake made of cottage cheese. Flavored with citrus fruit, raisins, and a touch of vanilla, this desert is light and irresistibly delicious. A thin layer of chocolate glaze could be a finishing touch to it.
An excellent way to continue a Ukrainian-themed evening is to educate yourself about the country’s history and culture through its cinematography.
Over the recent years, Ukraine's most talented directors and storytellers have been exploring and reflecting on the trauma that followed Russia's invasions of Crimea and the Donbas, a region in the east of Ukraine that comprises Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Some of the most acclaimed pictures include dramas “Atlantis” and “Homeward.”
As for what is available on Netflix, the Ukrainian options are the “Servant of the People” political satire series starring Zelensky, and the “Winter on Fire” documentary about the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.
Many other Ukrainian films with English subtitles can be watched on the Takflix platform, the most extensive Ukrainian online cinema library that donates 50% of its revenue to local filmmakers.
Here are some more suggestions for a Ukrainian evening watch.
Directed and written by Kateryna Gornostai, “Stop-Zemlia” is a coming-of-age drama that depicts how Ukrainian teenagers exploring themselves and muddling through the process of becoming adults.
“Stop-Zemlia” is the name of the game the characters play that's a cross between tag and Marco Polo, and it represents that the film is a rather innocent than a scandalous portrait of youth.
The main character, Masha, is an introverted high-school girl who sees herself as an outsider unless she hangs around with Yana and Senia, who share her non-conformist status. While she is trying to navigate through an intense time of the pre-graduation year, Masha falls in love, which forces her to step out of her comfort zone.
A comedy drama directed by Antonio Lukich was well received by critics and has won the Special Jury Prize at the 54th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
The dramedy tells the story of Vadym, a 22-year-old sound engineer who gets a simple yet important task: to record the voices of Transcarpathian animals. Completing the job could be his only chance to permanently leave the "uncomfortable" Ukraine and go to attractive Canada. However, things get complicated as his mother follows him on a road trip.
Iryna Tsilyk's meta-documentary “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange” won the Directing Award in the "World Cinema Documentary” category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
The film follows a family living in a small town in the hot zone of Russia’s war in the Donbas. The 2014-2015 years were difficult for the family as they had to sleep in the cellar of their house every night, hiding from shelling. The house of their closest neighbors was destroyed by a mine, as well as their children's school.
However, despite all the challenges, the protagonists remain positive and even try to shoot films about the war themselves. "The war in Ukraine still goes on, but so does life," characters say.
Another way to honor Ukraine on its 31st Independence Day is to donate directly to causes that support the Ukrainian army as it literally defends the country’s independence, and the Ukrainian population, as it has been facing tremendous challenges.
Here's the list of organizations and charity funds that the Kyiv Independent responsibly recommends to those who want to support Ukraine in its darkest hour.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has launched platform UNITED24 as the one-stop shop for donating to Ukraine. The raised money are transferred to the official accounts of the National Bank and spent to cover the most pressing needs.
You can choose to donate to the military, to provide medical aid, or the future reconstruction of the Ukrainian settlements and infrastructure, damaged or destroyed by Russian shells and missiles.
Come Back Alive (Povernys Zhyvym) is the largest foundation for the Ukrainian military. It was born following the Russian invasion of the Donbas and the illegal occupation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Over the years, this organization, headquartered in Kyiv, has proven to be trustworthy and among the most effective charities.
The fund provides frontline fighters with auxiliary equipment, various vehicles, thermal imaging equipment, specialized software, drones, personal body protection, as well as training.
Hospitallers is a volunteer medical battalion that has participated in the war in Donbas since 2014, providing first aid, medical care, and evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers from the front lines.
Tabletochki is the most prominent Ukrainian charity that helps children with cancer. The organization funds medicines for children, arranges treatment overseas if unavailable in Ukraine, and helps pediatric oncology units by purchasing medical equipment and reagents for hospitals. Russia’s invasion made it more difficult for Ukrainians with cancer to access treatment, especially in the occupied territories, where there is practically no access to essential medicines.
Prykhystok is a non-profit communication platform that connects people who offer free housing and Ukrainians fleeing war in search of it. The website lists options of various housing either in Ukraine or abroad. In addition to participating in the project by offering your housing to refugees, you can also donate in crypto or regular currency to help cover their operations.
ZooPatrol is a volunteer organization saving cats and dogs abandoned during the war. Volunteers feed animals on the streets and and bring them to vet clinics if they need treatment. The organization reports about its activity on Facebook and Instagram.