President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and First Lady Olena Zelenska took part in a special ceremony awarding prominent Ukrainians with the National Legend of Ukraine award of the Head of State. Below is a full statement from the President’s Office.

Congratulating the laureates, Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that it was an honor for him today to meet each of those present – representatives of the heroic Ukrainian people.

“This award, launched a year ago, despite its short history, has an important meaning and purpose. This is a proper tribute by the state to its talents, geniuses and heroes. Those who are among us, and we should notice them. Those who, unfortunately, are no longer with us, but we must remember them,” the President emphasized.

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“For the second year in a row, we award wonderful, talented and heroic citizens of our state with this award. But this year, its meaning has changed somewhat – we award not only legendary representatives of Ukraine in music, theater, and sports. The Russian Federation has changed the meaning of our lives, so today we award all those who every day, both inside the state and outside, protect our independence and sovereignty with their talent and their work – different, but extremely important,” he noted.

This year, for outstanding personal merits in the establishment of independent Ukraine and strengthening of its statehood, protection of the Motherland and service to the Ukrainian people, significant contribution to the development of national education, art, sports, health care, many years of fruitful public activity, the President’s award “National Legend of Ukraine” was awarded to nine Ukrainians, posthumously to three of them.

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In particular, People’s Artist of Ukraine Maria Prymachenko was posthumously honored. The award was received by Ihor Kozhan, general director of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv, where the artist’s works are currently being exhibited.

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“Her name is included in the World Encyclopedia of Art. UNESCO declared 2009 the year of Maria Prymachenko. And on May 5 of this year, her painting “The Flowers Grew Around the Fourth Block” was sold at a charity auction for almost 15 million hryvnias, which were donated to the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. That is, even today, a quarter of a century after her death, Maria Prymachenko lives and actually continues to help Ukraine. And today, Ukraine finally says “thank you” to her and pays tribute to her in accordance with her contribution and merits, officially and forever recognizes that she is our great Ukrainian artist. A great Ukrainian woman. Maria Oksentiivna Prymachenko is a national legend of Ukrainian painting,” said the President.

The award from the hands of Volodymyr Zelenskyy was received by chief of the guard of the fire and rescue unit of the Main Department of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Mykolaiv region, lieutenant of the civil protection service Ihor Ivasykov. Thanks to his actions, 17 people were rescued from the rubble of the State Administration building in Mykolaiv.

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“17 lives saved. At least 17 reasons to be here today,” the Head of State emphasized.

The “National Legend of Ukraine” award was also handed over to two doctors – neurosurgeon of the department of the Institute of Neurosurgery named after academician Romodanov of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine Andriy Svyst and pediatrician of the Children’s Medical Center “Dobrobut” Olha Svyst.

“A family of doctors who ended up in Bucha almost by accident at the beginning of the war. Unable to leave the city, they called friends and asked them to adopt their children – aged five and two – if they did not return. For two weeks under constant shelling, without proper equipment, they performed extremely complex operations, rescuing seriously wounded children,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The President’s award was also presented to Anatoliy Babichev, conductor of the passenger car of the Kyiv-Passenger station of JSC “Ukrainian Railway”.

“For nine days non-stop, his train has been evacuating people from Kostyantynivka, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Lyman. His wife Natalya worked in the same train, in another car. On the night of March 12-13, she died during the shelling of the train. Despite the personal tragedy, Anatoliy did not break down, he returned to service, to saving people,” the President said.

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Hanna But, a teacher at the Melitopol Vocational Agrarian Lyceum, also became a laureate of the award.

“Despite the occupation, she raises her students to be patriots and is not afraid to tell them the truth, organized pro-Ukrainian rallies under the occupation, despite the threats and violent actions of the invaders. The video, where she, wrapped in the flag of Ukraine, demands more decisive actions from the international community, got into almost all the world’s media and social networks. Millions of people on the planet have heard: Melitopol is Ukraine,” the Head of State emphasized.

Public figure, volunteer Tata Kepler was also honored.

“Just like thousands of volunteers, she has been helping our army for eight years in a row. And it is impossible to calculate for sure how much important things for the lives of our soldiers, powerful people, were found and delivered during this time – first-aid kits, medical backpacks, tourniquets, body armor and other equipment. I want to thank all the volunteers of Ukraine in her person. Thank you very much,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The award was also given to the best football player in Europe in 2004, the head coach of the Ukrainian national football team in 2016-2021, Hero of Ukraine Andriy Shevchenko .

“Legend of Dynamo Kyiv and the national team of Ukraine. Champions League winner and Golden Ball winner. His name is included in the list of the hundred best football players in history. These and many other titles made him famous throughout the world. And now they are helping him rally the whole world to support and help Ukraine. Ambassador of the UNITED24 platform, our great athlete, great champion, our legend Andriy Shevchenko,” said the President.

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Anatoliy Solovyanenko, a leading stage master of the National Opera of Ukraine in 1963-1992, a national artist and Hero of Ukraine, was posthumously awarded the title of “National Legend of Ukraine” for his significant creative work and strengthening of the country’s cultural glory. The artist’s wife Svitlana Dmytrivna and son Anatoliy received the award.

The head of the flight safety service – senior inspector-pilot of the Command of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Hero of Ukraine Colonel Ihor Bedzai was posthumously awarded as well. The wife of the fallen defender Yulia Viktorivna and daughter Maria received the award.

“Military pilot of the top class. Hero of Ukraine. Behind these titles is a whole life devoted to service for the benefit of the state. Impressive qualities and deeds. His experience is dozens of important combat missions. His students are 15 crews. His courage is ten units of aviation equipment, which he took to Mykolaiv from the blocked airfield in Saki in 2014 under extremely high risk conditions. His example is 217 warriors from Crimea who, following him, remained loyal to the oath and to Ukraine,” the Head of State said.

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According to the President, on May 7, 2022, during a search and rescue operation, Ihor Bedzai’s Mi-14 was hit by a missile from an enemy aircraft, as a result of which the colonel, defending his native land, remained in the sky forever.

Those present at the ceremony honored the memory of those who gave their lives for Ukraine with a moment of silence.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that all those honored are the treasure of our state, and emphasized the importance of preserving their achievements, because after the victory over the enemy, talents must be passed from one generation to another.

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