Jüri Ratas: February 24 shall not be a day of terror and fear for Estonians
On February 24 last year - Estonia's Independence Day - Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. While the meaning of day has changed forever, we will not surrender Estonia's most important holiday to evil, President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas said, marking the 105th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.
My fellow countrymen, friends of Estonia, our welcome guests,
I am addressing not only everyone here, but also those who are somewhere else right now, whether nearer or further afield, but still see Estonia as their home or part of their destiny.
When we hoisted the flag on top of the Pikk Hermann Tower in honor of the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia one year ago, Russia had just attacked its neighbor Ukraine a few hours before – Putin had launched a full-scale war of conquest, the like of which had not yet been seen on the 21st century. That day crushed our hopes that big wars have eternally become a thing of the past in Europe.
This is a moment of truth for us all: if Ukraine should fall, the same fate could be in store again for many European nations.
Ukraine is not fighting only for the survival of its independence, nationality, and culture – Ukraine is fighting for the existence of us all. Today our message is as clear as can be – Estonia, and our allies, will continue to support Ukraine until it has won the war.
On visits to Ukraine, I have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the willingness of the Ukrainians to defend, their tenacity, their determination, and, of course, their gratitude for what Estonia and the Estonian people have given to Ukraine.
We are also well aware of the importance of having friends and allies. On February 24, 105 years ago, we established our country and secured its independence in the War of Independence thanks to the efforts, sacrifices, and support of the Estonian people and our friends.
Indeed, February 24 has forever changed its meaning for us as well. But I refuse to yield the most important day in the calendar of the Republic of Estonia to evil. February 24 shall not be a day of terror and fear. It shall be a day of goodness, when despite the acts of destruction and will to conquer, it was the kindness and generosity of people that won. It shall be a day of courage because on February 24, the overpowering enemy was countered with fearlessness and disregard for personal safety. It shall be a day of unity because it united everyone who valued freedom, humanity, and the right to life and peace. It shall be a day of justice because those who unleashed the evil will be punished.
This is what our national anniversary – February 24 – is and shall be for us and the future generations around the world. With this in our minds, we will stand firm as long as needed. 24 February has symbolized and will symbolize freedom!
People of Estonia, ladies and gentlemen,
Our beloved Estonia is celebrating its 105th anniversary today. We have reached the league of welfare states, although we still see a lot of social and regional inequality in our country. We need to make determined efforts to ensure that our people can cope with many crises going on at the same time.
However, we would do all the living and already departed generations an injustice if we refused to see how inspiring our Estonia has become. I cannot help but quote the final anthem-like lines of Hando Runnel's poem Beautiful Land: 'Beautiful, beautiful is the land. Beautiful is the land I love.'
May there be enough love for all of us. May we have the fortitude to overcome obstacles and difficulties. May we have the perseverance and patience to see the triumph of freedom and the coming of peace. May we be inspired by the courage of the Ukrainians and our ancestors. May we work together enthusiastically for the benefit of our future.
May we all have a beautiful and proud day of celebration!
Long live Estonia! Glory to Ukraine! Freedom forever!
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Editor: Helen Wright