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Alina Mykhaylova and Kateryna Prokopenko Become Mirror of Justice Laureates

The ceremony presenting the Light of Justice award was held at Ukrainian Catholic University. The laureates were: Alina Mykhaylova, an officer of Ukraine’s army, volunteer, and founder and head of the ULF medical service of the Wolves of DaVinci battalion; and Kateryna Prokopenko, civic activist and volunteer, head of the Association of Families of the Azovstal Defenders.

The ceremony happened on 19 January at UCU’s Sheptytsky Center. According to the organizers, this year, in the time of the full-scale invasion, the chapter of the award focused attention on those who demonstrated sacrifice and heroism, defending and saving the lives of others.

Myroslav Marynovych during the presentation of the Light of Justice award

You can see the awards ceremony HERE

In his speech, UCU President and Metropolitan of the Philadelphia Archeparchy of the UGCC in the USA Archbishop Borys Gudziak emphasized that today in Ukraine a titanic battle for life is going on: “The number of heroes who have given their lives in defense of the lives of others is known only to the Lord… This year, the Light of Justice award is turning attention to those who, through their attitude, action, and sacrifice, do not allow death to overcome life. When death is lurking, when it is a great danger for a person, it is so important to have someone ready to rescue you, who supports the divine intention that the person live.”

Metropolitan Borys Gudziak

According to UCU Vice-Rector Myroslav Marynovych, this year the chapter decided to honor those Ukrainians included in the category of rescuers. “Their activities have the highest evangelical legitimacy. And to explain this I will allow myself to paraphrase a line from the Gospel of Matthew: ‘I was in captivity/lay wounded on the field of battle, and you came to me.’ A step like this has the greatest moral value.”

Myroslav Marynovych emphasized that the members of the chapter were unable to honor all rescuers; fortunately, there are many in Ukraine. So the laureates became people who symbolically represent many organizations and those involved in rescuing others. “Unfortunately, in Ukraine the number of those who need to be rescued is increasing. There are those who cannot now be rescued, as they have paid with their lives for their civil witness,” added the human-rights defender. Later, those present honored the memory of all slain in the war with a moment of silence.

Presenting laureate Alina Mykhaylova, Archbishop Borys thanked her for her service and example: “Because in your life, knowing the most painful losses, you don’t throw up your hands but, with your hands, you save others.”

Alina Mykhaylova, an officer of Ukraine’s army, volunteer, and founder and head of the ULF medical service of the Wolves of DaVinci battalion, UCU student

Alina Mykhaylova confessed that for her it’s a great honor to receive an award within the walls of her alma mater, where she plans to return as a student after victory. “In my life, there are many responsibilities – before people who in their time trusted me, before people whom I promised to rescue, before the soldiers of my battalion. I’m often asked what keeps me going. Above all, it’s people who have given their lives for their country; also, the values represented by this award. As Stepan Bandera said, ‘our struggle is a necessity.’ I hope that each of us will achieve victory: the internal battle and our common effort.”

Presenting laureate Kateryna Prokopenko, Myroslav Marynovych stated that, among the prisoners whom she worked to free was his relative Arseniy Fedosyuk from the 12th regiment of the special force Azov. “Honoring Kateryna, at the same time we honor all her colleagues, because they are worthy of the gratitude of our people,” emphasized the human-rights defender.

Kateryna Prokopenko during the ceremony stated that she considers this an award for all women fighting for the return of their husbands from captivity.

Kateryna Prokopenko, civic activist and volunteer, head of the Association of Families of the Azovstal Defenders

“Before the full-scale invasion, thanks to our defenders on the frontline, we all had the opportunity to work on personal development, to find ourselves. With the full-scale invasion, life changed. I encountered the media. I am embarrassed to speak, but I must. Now, more than 1.5 thousand defenders of Mariupol are in Russian captivity. They suffer terrible tortures. International organizations seem inactive. We see no reactions to evidence of torture, to the terrorism in Olenivka. One thing remains – our relatives can fight for our men. Every week, together with relatives of the army prisoners of the Mariupol garrison we organize demonstrations all over Ukraine. If you have the opportunity, organize your own and help us. When soldiers are freed and see how much we’ve done together, it’s very important for them to see, since the Russians have imprisoned them, that they are necessary here in Ukraine. The living must fight for the fallen, the healthy for the wounded, and the free for the captives. Freedom for all defenders of Ukraine who are imprisoned, freedom for all the defenders of Azovstal and Mariupol!” So said Kateryna Prokopenko.  

Oleksandr Yabchanka is a pediatrician and professor at UCU’s Public Administration School. With the start of the full-scale invasion, he went to serve in the Honor division. 

The Light of Justice award was established in 2010 by a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, Anastasia Shkilnyk, who passed away in 2014, and Archbishop Borys Gudziak in honor of Anastasia’s father, Dr. Michael Shkilnyk, a lawyer and civic and political activist during the liberation movement in Ukraine in 1917-1920.

In 2011, Anastasia Shkilnyk also established a scholarship for UCU students for an active civic position. This year’s laureate is Roman Dmytriv, a student of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. He organized camps for youth and IDP children from vulnerable families in the role of leader and co-chaplain from the UGCC Student Chaplaincy Center. He also volunteered in de-occupied territories of the Kyiv area.

UCU student and seminarian of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv Roman Dmytriv receives the Light of Justice scholarship

“We know that you will carry on your fights not because of the award, and we will be glad of that, because we know that the awards have found worthy laureates,” summed up Myroslav Marynovych.

The organizor of the Light of Justice awards ceremony was the UCU Institute of Leadership and Management.

Ivanka Chervinska gave a musical performance


Kateryna Prokopenko is a Ukrainian illustrator, civic activist, and volunteer. She is head of the Association of Families of the Azovstal Defenders and the Foundation to Support Families of the Azovstal Defenders. Her husband is Denys Prokopenko, codename “Radish.”

On 1 May 2022, Kateryna Prokopenko and Yuliya Fedosyuk met at the Vatican with Pope Francis and asked him to help save the Ukrainian defenders at Azovstal in Mariupol, Donetsk Region. After this, when in May 2022 Ukrainian soldiers were taken captive, Kateryna and other Azov families made every effort to return them home. On 21 September 2022, Denys Prokopenko was freed from captivity. On 23 March 2023, Mrs. Prokopenko on the website of the president of Ukraine registered a petition with the request to start in Ukraine a day to honor the defenders of Mariupol on 20 May. As of 7 June, the petition had collected 27 thousand signatures. On 22 October 2023, Kateryna was noted in the ratings for leaders of Ukraine today of Ukrainska Pravda “UP-100.”

Alina Mykhaylova is a deputy of the Kyiv City Council, a volunteer and paramedic. In 2019, she began master’s-degree studies at the Kyiv School of Economics on the scholarship program. In 2021, she transferred to the second year of the master’s program in public administration at Ukrainian Catholic University, where she is still studying. She is a graduate of the Ukrainian School of Political Studies (2021 program). She is head of the ULF medical service of the 1st separate assault battalion Wolves of DaVinci /Dmytro Kostyubaylo. In 2022, she was listed on the Forbes list “30 to 30: Faces of the future.” In 2023, she received an award from UP-100, for noted modern leaders in the category “Defenders.” Alina became a prototype for a LEGO figure dedicated to Ukrainian defenders. 

A participant in the Revolution of Dignity, in May 2014 she was a volunteer of Army SOS, which took care of provisions for the Ukrainian Army, National Guard, and volunteer battalions. She coordinated the work of the headquarters, did fundraising, contacted benefactors, and was involved with purchases and deliveries of aid for soldiers.

More information about the award is available here and at the joint project of the UCU Institute of Leadership and Management and Local History