Ukraine: an Interview

The sea of information boiling online about Ukraine these days can be, admittedly, confusing. In this context, I’d like to share one of the best interviews on the country I’ve seen to date. Though it’s about a year old at this point, I find it very applicable to today’s upheavals.

Tackling the typical Ukrainian stereotypes, writer Serhiy Zhadan (whose work forms a sizable part of my dissertation) calls for attention to each other, for flexibility of thought, and for patience of the heart. People who think this way are essential for the country – especially right now.

The original version in Ukrainian: Сергій Жадан – “Єдині, але не однакові“.

Or view through the unpolished lens of Google Translate: in English or in Russian. One can use these links to switch Google to other languages as well. The automatic English translation is, unfortunately, particularly crude. I may try to convert a few paragraphs “by hand” in the coming days.

*

Update:

Zhadan thumbnailQ: During meetings with your readers you repeatedly emphasized that you support a united country and reject separatism. On what principles should we all get along?

A: Our dialogue needs to exclude ultimatums. There will be no mutual understanding while the East erects monuments to Stalin and the West to Shukhevych. Our discussions always assume a destructive stance. Promotion of the Ukrainian language gets reduced to a battle against the Russian language, and vice versa. Instead of addressing these problems constructively, we play along with the authorities, political populism and manipulation. It is obvious that we should discuss these issues rather than trample one idea with another. Mutual understanding and unity instead of ignoring the opponents’ opinion — this is how problems get solved.

Q: So you think everyone should abandon ultimatums?

A: Yes. I think it is best to reject this approach and do without it; it is best to find a common language. I think we need to accept the simple idea that we’re all different. Though we live in one country, we differ from each other. We’re one, but we’re not the same. There are objective reasons for this – history, above all. Here, for instance, the Soviet rule arrived in 1917; in Galicia it happened only in 1939. Ignoring this fact will lead us nowhere. We must constantly look for things that unite us. Like shared economic and social problems. Like the problem of oligarchs, who simply use all of us for their own economic and political purposes. But for some reason Ukrainians don’t tend to pay attention to this, and authorities – both current and previous – know how to use that. That’s why they love raising the topic of which language you speak, which church you pray at, who are your national heroes, what’s your historical past… Ukrainians are fighting over languages instead of improving their lives, their country; instead of fixing it up and bettering its social fabric in general.

[…]

I am generally against dividing the citizens of Ukraine into two worlds, two classes; into good Ukrainians and bad ones; into better and worse ones. I stand against separatism. We need to practice understanding each other. We’re hardly ever ready to tolerate one other’s position. We refuse even to listen…

 

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