Independence Month: Switzerland, Pakistan, and Ukraine Celebrating Together

6 min read

Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.

George Washington

The word freedom spelling is deceptive. Freedom never comes for free. People always pay a high price for this beautiful dream: sometimes it can be time and hard work, sometimes — tears, blood, and countless lives. Three of GMS’ core countries — Switzerland, Pakistan, and Ukraine — celebrate their Independence Days this month. Our team from all over the world is devoted to the values of free will and responsibility. That is why we would like to express the most sincere wishes to our Swiss, Pakistani, and Ukrainian employees.

But what really matters is what they themselves feel about the coming high days. Want to find out? Just scroll down to discover more.

Interviewees GMS

Ivan Lishchuk — GMS Content Writer: Can you tell a bit about the history of your country’s Independence Day?

Maja: Since 1891, August 1 has been celebrated as a national holiday in Switzerland. This date is derived from one of the first treaties — the Federal Charter of 1291 — between the three cantons: Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. They formed the core of what is now my motherland. Men from these cantons sealed a perpetual covenant — Rütlischwurs — in which they pledged mutual aid and support.

Sumathi: My home country, Singapore, celebrates its National Day on August 9. It commemorates Singapore’s independence from our neighbour, Malaysia, in 1965. Switzerland, which I am lucky to call my second home, has its National Day on August 1 to commemorate the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291. Interestingly, although the founding of the Swiss Confederacy was first celebrated on this date in 1891 and annually since 1899, it wasn’t until 1994 that August 1 was declared a national holiday.

Ali: Until the middle of the 20th century, the area now known as Pakistan was a British colony. Our national poet Allama Iqbal conceived the idea of Pakistan as a sovereign country by proposing to unite the Western provinces of South Asia to form a new nation. Intriguingly, the name is an acronym for Punjab, Afghan Province, and Kashmir. Also, in Urdu and Persian, “pak” literally means “pure.”

Ain: Pakistan came into being on 14th August 1947. Back at the time, Muslims of the subcontinent were a minority suppressed by the Hindus and the British rule — harsh times for generations of my ancestors. There was only one solution — to get a separate homeland where they could freely practice their beliefs. United under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, the Pakistani people gained independence, having made the cherished dream come true.

Iryna: This year we celebrate only the 31st year of Ukraine’s independence. But digging deeper into history, we understand that our nation is not that young, and our story started centuries ago. For around twelve centuries, Ukrainians have experienced both good and bad times, which formed our nation’s brave spirit. August 24th, 1991, marks the day when Ukrainians dared to protest against the communist regime and unite as one sovereign nation aiming to live freely. A new period in the development of Ukraine started on this day, which generations of Ukrainians could only dream about.

Viktor: The Declaration of Independence of Ukraine is an event of paramount importance for its formation as a state. Unanimity in the referendum vote proved that we were ready to finally gain our sovereignty. But all these years, our independence, the thirst for development and European integration have driven our eastern neighbour crazy. Almost six months ago, my free country faced the need to fight for its existence, unfortunately, again in blood and tears.

Zurich city orchestra traditional costumes Swiss National Day parade Switzerland
Zurich city orchestra in traditional costumes opening the Swiss National Day parade

Ivan: What about Independence Day celebration traditions? How do you plan to meet the high day this year?

Maja: Oh, that’s a very warm family holiday for the Swiss. Public and private buildings are decorated with national, cantonal, and municipal flags. We also decorate our balcony with lanterns and Swiss cantons’ coats of arms. Children carry lanterns or sparklers around. On this day, you can often see bonfires across the mountains and fireworks in the sky.

1st August is a nosh-up holiday. Breakfast starts with the 1.-August-Wegge and continues with cervelats on the grill during the day. In the evening, we have a delicious raclette dinner on the balcony and enjoy the lights of the lanterns.

Click here to download the recipe of delicious 1.-August-Wegge from Maja!

Ain: As a Pakistani, I celebrate Independence Day by unfurling our National Flag in my apartment. We also decorate our homes with lights and arrange special ceremonies to commemorate this special date. Different activities are performed on the state level, where we give tributes to our national heroes, honouring their sacrifices for our nation. Many people wear Pakistani traditional clothing — green and white shalwar qameez.

Iryna: Usually, a military parade would be held in Kyiv on Independence Day, and people would come wearing national clothes to watch and support the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Hopefully, we will be able to celebrate in a close family circle this year, and I will for sure make donations for our Army. I invite every Ukrainian to commemorate this date in the same way.

Children perform tableau Independence Day celebration Pakistan
Children perform tableau during the Independence Day celebration held at Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi

Ivan: Why is this Day special particularly for you?

Sumathi: Since both Singapore’s and Switzerland’s National Days take place in early August, it’s double the celebration for me.

In Switzerland, National Day is celebrated with community events, local music, and food. Many farms open their barns and stables to host a special first of Aug 1 brunch, serving food made from fresh regional produce. This year I plan to attend a local music concert organised by our town.

On the Singapore side, I volunteer with Temasek Club Switzerland, which is a community for Singaporeans. Together with the Singapore Permanent Mission in Geneva, we are organising a celebratory lunch event at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Zurich. National Day brings back a lot of good memories of my childhood in Singapore.

Ali: The creation of Pakistan and India resulted in one of the most extensive mass migrations in history. It was a time of anarchy that took the lives of numerous migrants. My grandmother was in her 20s at the time, and she, unfortunately, lost her father during that chaos. She used to remember him dearly even when she was in her 80s. Such stories make us realise that freedom isn’t free, and we should honour the generation which paid for it on our behalf.

Viktor: My sweetheart was born on 24th August, and she is very proud of that. Since both my beloved person and my beloved country were born that day, it’s twice as important to me.

Officer in military dress uniform and family in national clothes, Ukrainian embroidered shirts the Independence Day of Ukraine
Ukrainian officer with his family during Independence Day of Ukraine military parade

Ivan: What would you wish your fellow citizens on this Day?

Maja: Well, stand up for your customs, don’t hesitate to wear traditional costumes and appreciate folk music. We can be proud of our country — not everything has to be neutral.

Sumathi: I hope that we continue to respect and value our diversity while moving forward as one to achieve greater progress as a nation!

Ain: This Day reminds us of our ancestors’ struggles to get this homeland for ourselves. Thanks to them, we have a country where every Muslim can freely profess Islam without oppression. I wish every Pakistani to carry their own weight in making our country an even better place to live.

Ali: I have a dog-standard but universal answer to this question: I wish everyone a happy Independence Day!

Iryna: All we aspire for is victory in the Russo-Ukrainian war and a peaceful sky above our heads. May this Day be the inspiration for us to keep working and bring our greatest wish of freedom closer and closer. It has been quite a complicated 30th year of our independence with the war that shook the world. But we genuinely believe that our next Independence Day will be celebrated in a peaceful and safe country where we will be able to welcome all the people helping us these days. Let us also honour all the heroes who fought and are fighting for our country. Slava Ukraini!

Viktor: Take care of the people around you — help in word and deed, in every way you can. Our country is not an abstract idea; the country is its society. People and people alone are the soul and essence of every state on earth.

Add Your Heading Text Here