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Ukrainians Oksana Zabuzhko, Oleg Sentsov awarded French Legion of Honor order

by The Kyiv Independent news desk July 14, 2023 10:55 PM 2 min read
Étienne de Poncins, the French ambassador to Ukraine, gives the Legion of Honor order of merit to Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko and filmmaker-turned-soldier Oleg Sentsov on July 14. 
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The French Embassy in Ukraine presented the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of merit, to Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko and filmmaker-turned-soldier Oleg Sentsov at a ceremony in Kyiv on July 14.

“You are fighting for your freedom and our freedom,” said French Ambassador Etienne de Poncins as he was presenting the order to Sentsov, who came from the front line to receive the award and said he was heading back the next day.

Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker and writer, was one of the most high-profile political prisoners of Russia. He was arrested in Crimea in 2014 by the Russian authorities occupying the peninsula, and later sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges. He was released in 2019 during a prisoner swap.

Sentsov, who had been injured and suffered a light concussion at the front line on July 8, thanked France for the support of Ukraine and added that he hoped the support continues until the victory, “which won’t come easy or cheaply.”

“This award isn’t for me,” Sentsov said during the ceremony that took place in the garden of the St. Sophia Cathedral in central Kyiv. “It’s for everyone who left their life and families and joined the military. It’s for those in the hospitals, for those who are recovering and those who won’t ever recover. It’s for those in captivity, tortured by Russians, waiting to be liberated. It’s for those who gave their lives.”

Zabuzhko, the second Ukrainian who received the order, gave a passionate speech evoking connections between Ukrainian and French culture, and compared the killings of Ukrainian writers and artists by Russian troops during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine to the repressions of Ukrainian writers by the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, known in Ukraine as the “Executed Renaissance.”

“There are more and more writers, artists, and actors who will never write, paint or act anything anymore,” Zabuzhko said.

The latest such victim was Ukrainian writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina, who was fatally injured in the June 27 strike on Kramatorsk.

Zabuzhko is a Ukrainian novelist, poet and essayist focused on the topics of national identity and gender. Her works have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Her most famous works include Fieldwork in Ukrainian sex and Notre Dame d'Ukraine: A Ukrainian Woman in the Conflict of Mythologies.

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