Speech by Prime Minister Rutte at presentation International Four Freedoms Award

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands held this speech in Middelburg at the presentation of the International Four Freedoms Award to Save Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the best-known people in Dutch history is Anne Frank.
Just an ordinary Jewish girl.
No doubt you’re familiar with her.

Or rather: you’re familiar with her diary, in which she described her life in hiding with her family during the Second World War.
Many millions of copies have been sold worldwide.
And the reason is that Anne’s story is not simply about the horrors of war. Above all, it’s a story of hope.
It’s about seeing light in the darkness.
Or, as Anne herself put it: “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

Those words have lost none of their wisdom in the years since they were written.
Because today, in our time, there is still darkness in many places around the world.
The reason I’m here today, is to shine a light on 1 of the places it is needed most: Ukraine.

Since Russia’s brutal invasion, over 2 years ago now, thousands of Ukrainian children have been abducted and taken to Russia, or to areas occupied by Russia.
Thousands of children, ripped away not only from their parents, but from everything that made them who they are.
Their language.
Their country.
Their identity.

With their abduction, their identities have been erased.
Or made invisible.
After all, the victims are still alive.
Physically, at least.

It’s 1 of the worst war crimes we can imagine.
Targeting the most vulnerable people: children and their parents.
And in this dark reality, Save Ukraine is a candle defying the darkness.

In 2014, when Russia began its aggression against Ukraine, Mykola Kuleba decided that he would not stand idly by.
He would not just wait and see what happened.
He would do all he could, to fight back.
He would give everything he had.
With anyone who would join him.

And as so often happens with people who stand up to evil, he was soon joined by others willing to help.
To bring kidnapped children back home.
To evacuate vulnerable people from the most dangerous areas.

And so, that one flickering candle grew into what it is now:
A blazing beacon of hope for Ukrainian parents.
A rescuer of vulnerable people on the frontlines of the war.

Already, over 100,000 vulnerable people have been evacuated from combat zones.
Thanks to Save Ukraine, 282 children have been safely returned to their homeland.
And together with their parents, they can find respite in 1 of the organisation’s 7 Hope and Healing Centers.
There, they can heal from their psychological wounds.
Or at least, they can start to heal.

But we can all draw hope from these acts of resistance, big and small

Of course, more needs to be done.
Unfortunately, the end of this terrible war is not yet in sight.
But we can all draw hope from these acts of resistance, big and small.
Every child saved, is living proof of Putin’s war crimes.
And he knows that.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Where do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.”
Save Ukraine demonstrates the truth of those words.
By taking a stand when human rights are violated.
By turning despair into hope.
But above all, by showing in practice that everyone can be human rights defenders.
Even when peace and justice seem a long way away.
Especially then.

Mykola and James: the importance of defending human rights is a strong thread running through your lives and your families.
So let me now ask you both to come to the stage, so that James can present Mykola with the International Four Freedoms Award for Save Ukraine.