I get accused of hating my roots nearly as much as I get accused of being a nationalistic Ukrainian. It’s like walking a tight-rope while balancing a stack of Wedgwood plates on my head.
Consider, for example, the extent of anti-Jewish sentiment in Ukraine. There are members of my extended family who are Jewish, and living in Kyiv, so the issue is personally important. Sometimes, I am tempted to say that Ukraine is being unfairly labelled as a cesspool of hate. Other times, I have to stop and scratch my head at just how ingeniously Ukrainians themselves will contribute to that label.
You can’t make everyone happy, but I make no-one happy.
Talking about my life is anecdotal, not scientific, it points to lived experience. Lived experience is intensely subjective and, because of its immediacy, it also paints a vibrant picture. It helps to remember, however that this subjectivity means that I don’t speak for anyone else.
Personally, I deplore Ukrainian nationalism. Nationalism, or an unconscious version thereof, is the major reason as to why I have reservations about coming home. I would not want my living partner stabbed in the street because he looks like a typical Arab. Stabbing is an extreme scenario, but consider just how many nationalists believe women “belong” to the state. An autonomous woman who chose an evil foreigner for a husband is “selling herself.” She is a “traitor.” All your reproductive organs are belong to us.
These sentiments have been expressed to my face. They have been expressed to me in hate-mail. They are brought up on news websites, blogs, forums, and chat servers.
They are not limited to the Ukrainian-speaking population of Ukraine or to Western Ukraine (these people are demonized, trotted out as the “typical” racists). Plenty of people who speak Russian and/or consider themselves ethnically Russian think this way too. The hate-mail I got, for example, was written in Russian.
I couldn’t give you a numeric estimate of just how many Ukrainians think this way. But I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that this has affected my life and my plans. Continue reading “Pride, Prejudice and Ukraine, the Beloved Country”