The ceremony presenting The Light of Justice Award was held at Ukrainian Catholic University. The honorees were Ukrainian volunteers Taras Chmut, military analyst and head of the Come Back Alive charitable fund, and Mariya Berlinska, civic activist and founder of the Aerial Reconnaissance Support Center.
The Light of Justice award ceremony was held at the UCU Sheptytsky Center on 10 February. The award was established in 2010 to turn attention to values-based leadership in Ukraine, to the importance of moral principles and for the popularization of examples of such leadership in Ukrainian society.
According to the organizers, this year, in the time of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the territory of Ukraine, honorees were chosen from among volunteers who by their tireless work bring Ukraine closer to victory in the war with Russia and are examples of daily dedication.
A member of the Light of Justice chapter, UCU Vice-Rector Myroslav Marynovych, stated that an award for moral leadership should be presented to the whole Ukrainian nation. “If one looks more closely, two groups are supporting Ukraine the most: our soldiers and our volunteers. For this year’s award, the chapter chose volunteers. Their acts have the highest evangelical motivation: ‘I was on the front and you came to me.’ A step like this has the greatest value. A number of volunteers gave their lives for this witness,” the human rights defender is convinced.
Presenting the winners of the award, UCU President and Metropolitan of the UGCC Philadelphia Archeparchy in the USA Archbishop Borys Gudziak stated: “Anastasia Shkilnyk, who honored her father in creating this award, wanted to turn attention to those who, by God’s commandment, give – they give deeply, much, generously, freely. For a true gift is not forced. It is the movement of a heart in which God’s spirit and will are present. Coming from unbelievable bad times, genocidal movements, tearing apart our land and spirit, we have such a need to see those among us who live with God. Our honorees are volunteers who act with depth. Their acts are not one impulse or emotional element, not from fear. This is something given by God, and it gives life. Today we honor Maria Berlinska and Taras Chhmut.”
During the ceremony, Maria Berlinska, civic activist and founder of the Aerial Reconnaissance Support Center, stated: “I am sincerely grateful to the UCU community, professors, students, everyone who builds this community. I have the honor to accept this award, but I don’t consider it mine. This is an award for a team and the whole volunteer movement. It is important to do what you believe in. If ambition is not behind your faith, fear, duplicity, or envy, but rather love for people, then bravely continue. The wars described in the Bible happened with spears and swords. The wars of the future will happen with robots. And so every day I train people and equip the army. Daily I live with numbers. And daily I remind myself that my people, torn to pieces by heavy shells, are right now suffering terrible pains. Their strength is leaving them – somewhere under the Donbas sky they are saying ‘goodbye’ to this world and going to eternity…
“The best thing that I can do for myself is prepare myself for death, so that I have something to bring with me to God. The mindfulness of death reminds me why I’m here. It removes my fear and gives me spiritual courage. War is a good time to learn not to be afraid, when death is close and takes thousands.”
Taras Chmut, a military analyst and head of the Come Back Alive charitable fund, added that for him and the fund’s whole team, it’s a great honor to receive the Light of Justice award: “The ninth year of war has passed. No one knows how much longer it will continue. But justice will triumph, sooner or later. Ukraine is fighting for the justice of the whole world and the whole system. We will take ours and justice will take its own!”
During the Light of Justice awards ceremony, an UCU student is traditionally honored for his or her active civic position. This year’s honoree was Yevhen Brashko, a 1st-year student in the Master’s Program for Non-Profit Management. He lives in the city of Myrnohrad, Donetsk Region, head of the organization Shtuka (“Item”) and communications manager of the Veterans Build project.
Information about the honorees:
Mariya BERLINSKA is a Ukrainian military and civic activist, founder of the Aerial Reconnaissance Support Center, which is involved with specialized preparation of specialists in aerial reconnaissance for the front. She is also initiator and head of the human rights advocacy project Unseen Battalion. With the expansion of the war in eastern Ukraine, Berlinska volunteered for the Aydar battalion, as part of which she took part in military actions where she was responsible for aerial reconnaissance. Her goal was to develop this area and provide modern aerial reconnaissance skills to Ukrainian soldiers on the front. When taking drone control courses, she understood that the government is not providing either specialists or drones. So she found some like-minded people and created the Aerial Reconnaissance Support Center, which has functioned since January 2015.
Taras CHMUT is director of the Come Back Alive fund (since 2020), for competent help for the army. He is a military analyst, a sergeant of the Marine Corps Reserve of the Navy, a volunteer, and a participant in the Russia-Ukraine war. He is founder of the Ukrainian Military Center.
With the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the territory of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the fund headed by Chmut significantly increased acquisition of humanitarian aid intended for the needs of Ukraine’s army and communities of territorial aid. Under his leadership, the fund was the first charitable organization to receive permission to buy lethal weapons. In May 2022, Come Back Alive was contracted, and in June it had received a drone complex, Bayraktar TB2, worth $16,5 million.
In June 2022, Chmut was at the top of Forbes Magazine’s 30 to 30 rating, young Ukrainians who will rebuild the country.
We add that, in the 13 years since the award’s founding, the chapter has honored 11 people, including: a political prisoner of the Soviet regime, publicist Yevhen Svertsyuk; Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement; civic activist Larysa Zalyvna; journalist and investigator of corruption schemes Natalya Sedletska; chief editor of Spirit and Letter Press Leonid Finberg; head of the organization Forest Initiatives and Society, Dmytro Karabchuk; and eco-activist Yuliya Melnyk-Pashkovska. During the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, two physicians were honored: head of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Central Municipal Hospital of the city of Rubizhne, Olha Martynenko, and family doctor-therapist Ivan Venzhynovych from the city of Pochaiv (posthumously). The honoree in 2021 was Gennadiy Mokhnenko, civic activist, pastor of the Church of Good Changes, and father of 38 children.