On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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Do not look away from the war


Ask any Ukrainian about volia, and they will know the meaning of it – and its significance too. However, there is hardly one comprehensive definition for the term. “Volia” (воля) can be translated as “will” or “freedom”, but neither fully convey the essence of Ukrainian life philosophy.

Volia is the internal driving power to overcome all obstacles. 

“In three days, Russia will take over Kyiv” – those were the predictions before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. More than 500 days later, the blue and yellow flag still proudly flies over the Ukrainian capital. Against many odds and the overwhelming Russian forces, Ukrainians withstood and found this power within to keep fighting against the aggressor. 

People took arms, volunteered, collected aid, protested, and stopped tanks with their bare hands. Ukrainians know what it takes and are ready to give it all. Volia is the source of our resilience.

Volia is longing for freedom, and the deliberate choice to be free.

From cossacks to philosophers, from politicians to scientists, from farmers to poets, no Ukrainian throughout history had taken freedom for granted. It has always been a choice, and a loaded one.

The national flag was brought to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) on the day
the Act on Independence of Ukraine was adopted. August 24, 1991.
Photo: Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

Volia, as longing for freedom – freedom of thoughts, beliefs, and acts – is what helped to form and preserve the Ukrainian nation. The choice to leave for the uncharted steppe and build a new community there. The choice to speak, write, and express themselves in Ukrainian despite all the Russian imperial restrictions. The choice to become an independent state that was made by more than 90% of Ukrainians in 1991. 

Volia is the courage to act and take matters into your own hands. 

People have the ability to change themselves and the world for the better, and volia is the push from within to actually do it. 

In the Kyiv region, people planted vegetables around a burnt-out Russian tank in their garden.
Photo: Efrem Lukatsky / AP Photo (left), Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters (right)

In the last 20 years, Ukrainians have had two revolutions: one to protest the rigged elections and one to choose the European path for the future. Powered by nothing but their will, beliefs, and desire for justice, Ukrainian people rise up against any attempts to restrain our volia.

Volia is the determination to stay true to values and beliefs, no matter how hard it may be.

It is a choice, but it is also not: with the internal understanding of the path, that is right for your heart, you simply cannot go the other way. 

Anastasiia Tykha tries to get disabled dogs she sheltered in Irpin, the Kyiv region, to a safer place. March 10, 2022.
Photo: Christopher Occhicone

It may seem irrational to sew blue and yellow flags in occupied Kherson, but Ukrainians did it. It may seem irrational to evacuate with a dozen disabled dogs amidst the rapid Russian advance, but a Ukrainian did it. It may seem irrational to tell the Russian flagship to go fuck itself, but, well, a Ukrainian did it.

Volia is the ability to unite in a common pursuit.

In the face of the existential threat, Ukrainians do not stay aside but unite to protect what we cherish above all. Thus, the volia of each Ukrainian protects the freedom, dignity, and values of all. 

Volia is the superpower and the life philosophy of Ukrainians. With more than 1,000 years of history, we had to carry it through generations to help us withstand occupations, forced assimilation, and persecution. The volia of Ukrainian people brought us to an independent and free Ukraine.

Ukraine’s glory and volia have not yet perished,
Still upon us, young brothers, fate shall smile.
Our enemies shall vanish, like dew in the sun.
We too shall rule, brothers, in our country.

National anthem of Ukraine, created in 1862-1863

Today, volia gives Ukrainians strength to fight against Russia’s invasion. To value each life, to protect freedom, and to stand up for justice. 

Ukrainian flags in Balakliia, the Kharkiv region. The town was liberated from Russian occupation in September 2022.
Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak

And we believe it is a gift and a philosophy worth sharing. While volia is cherished by Ukrainians, everyone can find and feel this power within. Everyone who shares those life values and the Ukrainian undeniable desire for freedom can use volia to keep going and overcome many of life’s challenges while staying true to themselves.

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