The subject of real heroes in the post-colonial Ukrainian society always causes a huge resonance and stirs the public opinion. The Ukrainian political elites love to play the medal and order game. Some of them enjoy the process of "gracious" giving, playing the role of an omnipotent monarch. Others get honorary titles by pleading.
How to Become Hero of Ukraine
The state award "Hero of Ukraine" appeared in 1998 by the decree of Leonid Kuchma - the President of that time. In March 2000, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine "About the State Awards of Ukraine", which provided that the State Award of Ukraine - the highest honourable distinction in Ukraine - was the title of Hero of Ukraine. By its purpose, and even by its external design, is resembles the Soviet equivalent - Hero of the USSR (an order in the form of a star as a reward for some heroic act). The latter was given for personal or collective services to the Soviet state, connected with some heroic deed. And the Ukrainian award is given to citizens of Ukraine for an outstanding heroic act or outstanding labour achievements.
The initiative of conferring the status of Hero of Ukraine belongs to the bodies of state authorities at various levels, as well as to the State Award and Heraldry Commission under the President of Ukraine. They send to the President of Ukraine a recommendation about conferring the title of Hero of Ukraine and an award list. It contains information about the person's merits. As a rule, it is about the person's outstanding labour achievements or conscientious work. Nomination of candidates for the title of Hero of Ukraine is made publicly according to the person's working place.
In any case, the decisive word in giving the title belongs to the President of Ukraine. His likes or dislikes are the factors that determine the fate of the awards.
Who Are the Heroes of Ukraine
Manipulations with heroism have long neutralized the principles and the significance of the fact of receiving the award. In the cohort of 254 heroes of Ukraine there are people of different activities and public importance. And many of them are very far from committing acts that can be interpreted as something of epochal importance for Ukraine. Moreover, many of the heroes have hardly ever experienced patriotic feelings for Ukraine.
The majority (145 persons) received the award working as managers, i.e. directors of various levels. And they have never been noticed committing any heroic deeds, let alone sacrificing their own lives for the sake of the freedom of Ukraine. Among other order-bearers, there are 32 representatives of the working class, 29 cultural figures, 15 people who have committed a heroic deed, 8 athletes, 7 military men, 6 government officials and 12 citizens belonging to other categories.
One cannot say these people have not done anything. But are the activities of all the order-bearers really enough to claim the highest national award? Mass distribution of titles leads to them losing their value. By the way, among Heroes of Ukraine, there are many odious and highly controversial figures. Among them, the most famous are Volodymyr Lytvyn, Ivan Plushch, Leonid Kravchuk, former mayor of Kyiv Oleksandr Omelchenko, Governor of Volyn Anatoliy Frantsuz, railroad man George Kirpa, People's Deputy from the Party of Regions Yefim Zviagilskiy, Tatyana Zasukha, Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, President of Nord Group, Party of Regions Deputy Leonid Landik, Minister of Education Ivan Vakarchuk, Chairman of the Accounting Chamber Valentyn Symonenko. Interesting that poet Taras Shevchenko for some reason was not honoured to become Hero of Ukraine, but his namesake, also Taras Hryhorovich, CEO of Joint-Stock Company Alchevsk Metallurgical Industrial Complex, received the award from the hands of Viktor Yushchenko.
What Are the Benefits of the Title of Hero of Ukraine for Its Bearers?
In part, the popularity of Hero of Ukraine among non-heroes can be explained by financial interests. Although among the current order-bearers there are almost no poor people, everyone would like to live at the expense of the taxpayers. Meanwhile, the award allows to avoid paying for the public utilities. And this is an important moment in the era of the total growth of rates.
One also cannot ignore the fact that many of today's heroes like living in large areas of many square meters. If the fact of their "heroism" had not been recognized, they would have to pay for this pleasure. And here, the received order serves as a reliable protection against financial expenses.
If a living Hero of Ukraine manages to survive until the retirement age, another gift is awaiting him there: an uplift in the the modest retirement pension of $ 10 thousand hryvnias. Would it be comfortable for someone like Bandera to live in this environment of "heroes"?
Note that there are some exceptions among the mercenary-minded and selfish persons. For example, Yuriy Shukhevych, son of Roman Shukhevych - Chief of the Ukrainian Rebel Army known as UPA - rejected this uplift in the pension, as he considered it dishonest that some people received 10 thousand hryvnias and others - just a few hryvnias of increase in their pension.
And in 2002, the last commander of UPA Vasyl Kuk rejected the title of Hero. He told Leonid Kuchma that he could not bear this honourable title before his counterparts were recognized combatants for the Ukrainian independence at the state level.
Does Bandera Need the Official Title of Hero of Ukraine?
Any reward loses its value if it is received undeservedly. Then real heroes blend among mediocre personalities. And sometimes among anti-heroes. Ukrainian reality often resembles a matrix dominated by false values. It is doubtful that Bandera was fighting for the kind of Ukraine we see today.
Is it ethic to accept an award from the hands of corrupt officials, criminals, pseudo-elite? Can, for example, Volodymyr Lytvyn be brought into line with Stepan Bandera? If the Court of Donetsk is so fair and impartial, then what about its refusal to cancel the title of Hero for other non-citizens of Ukraine?
Heroism can not be assigned by a decree. Neither can it be taken away by an authoritative or judicial decision. Either a person has heroism or does not have. The most accurate indicator of a person's heroism is people's memory. Bandera evokes so much emotion, the historical greatness of his personality is so significant that a whole people was named after him. The scale of this figure against the background of some of the current "heroes" only confirms the high level of his popularity. A figure that can cause love and hatred of millions, is beyond the scope of his time and rises above the entire epochs.
Unlike some persons who will go into oblivion, Bandera is and will remain a hero for all patriots of Ukraine. And sooner or later he will become Hero at the official level.
(Translated from Ukrainian by Nadia Nykolaichuk)