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Lina Kostenko i översättning av Halyna Michalyk

Category: guests, poetry, ukraina
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Idag är det är det 83 år sedan den ukrainska poeten Lina Kostenko föddes. Vi uppmärksammar det med ytterligare en översättning av Halyna Michalyk.

Lina Kostenko

Skrämmande ord – de ord som skapar tystnad,
är ord som plötsligt lägger undan sig,
du är osäker hur man börjar prata ut om dem,
då varje ord av några andra redan uttalats – var för sig.
Man grät med ord, har utstått, eller lidit,
med ord man skulle börja å fullborda skulle man med samma ord.
Miljarder människor använt miljarder glosor,
och du få säga dem för första gången och få göra dem till dina egna ord!
Allt gick omgångar: skönhet omväxlad till fulhet.
Allt ägde rum: *asfalten byttes mot de sköna trampörtsängar.
Endast i poesin blir allt oförlikneligt
liksom en oförglömlig beröring vid våra själar.

(*det hårda livet skulle plötsligt mjukna upp)
LINA KOSTENKO

svensk översättning av Halyna Michalyk

———————–
Страшні слова, коли вони мовчать,
коли вони зненацька причаїлись,
коли не знаєш, з чого їх почать,
бо всі слова були уже чиїмись.
Хтось ними плакав, мучивсь, болів,
із них почав і ними ж і завершив.
Людей мільярди і мільярди слів,
а ти їх маєш вимовити вперше!
Все повторялось: і краса, й потворність.
Усе було: асфальти й спориші.
Поезія – це завжди неповторність,
якийсь безсмертний дотик до душі.
ЛІНА КОСТЕНКО

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Pavlo Tytjyna, Oksana Zabuzjko och Yanina Ignatenko i översättning av Halyna Michalyk

Category: guests, poetry
Tags: , , , ,

Nedan kan ni ta del av några dikter av Pavlo Tytjyna, Oksana Zabuzjko samt Yanina Ignatenko i översättning av Halyna Michalyk. För mer information om Halyna Michalyks översättningar och övriga arbete besök hennes hemsida Eurolang

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Pavlo Tytjyna
Översättning till svenska av Halyna Michalyk

еn PLOG
en Vind
Nej inte vinden – en storm!
… Som sönderkrossar, bryter, drar ur marken…
(Det blixtar! Åskar!),
med hjälp av det som gömdes bakom svarta moln,
av miljon miljoner muskulösa armar
som sträcker genom svarta moln …

Rullar på och över. Skruvar sig In i jorden
(så som i städer, som på vägar eller ängar),
går ner i jorden denna plog.
På jorden finns det människor och djur, och gårdar,
på jorden tempel finns och gudar:
infinn dig, infinn dig ovan oss,
Fördöm oss!

Så fanns det folk som gav sig ut på flykten.
Mot grottor, sjöar, skogar.
— Och vilka krafter fanns bakom makten? —
man undrade.
ingen som framförde sång och glädje,
av dem åskådare som vittnade om en
Eldhäst som blåstes bort av vinden—
eldhästen—
en natt —)
Och många  vidöppna döda ögon som blev kvar
avspeglade skönheten av den nya dagen!
Ögon.
(1919)

ПЛУГ
Вітер.
Не вітер — буря!
… Трощить, ламає, з землі вириває…
За чорними хмарами
(з блисками! ударами!),
за чорними хмарами мільйон мільйонів мускулястих рук…

Котить. У землю врізає
(чи то місто, дорога, чи луг),
у землю плуг.
А на землі люди, звірі й сади,
а на землі боги і храми:
о пройди, пройди над нами,
розсуди!

Й були такі, що тікали.
В печери, озера, ліси.
— Що ти за сило єси? —
питали.
І ніхто з них не радів, не співав.
(Огняного коня вітер гнав —
огняного коня —
в ночі —)
І тільки їх мертві, розплющені очі
відбили всю красу нового дня!
Очі.
(1919)

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Oksana Zabuzjko
Översättning till svenska av Halyna Michalyk

Oksana Zabuzjko

Oksana Zabuzjko

Finns det fortfarande människor
som läser dikter ?-
frågade en poet. –
Dikter är inte mer än endast pappershanddukar,
som jag använder att torka mina tårar .
Människor, som tar upp
blöta pappershanddukar, –
det är dem som stannar kvar med den skadade,
medan ambulansen är på väg,
det är dem, som kan giva blommor till
en främmande ensam kvinna –
och gå i väg utan att säga sitt namn,
det är dem, som alltid finner tid för
människor som vandrat vilse,
och för de gamla.
Finns det verkligen sådana människor? –
frågade en poet. –
Då är jag inte en av dem…….

– Невже ще існують люди,
котрі читають вірші? –
спитав поет. –
Бо ж вірші – то тільки паперові серветки,
що слугують мені до промокання сліз.
Люди, котрі підбирають
мокрі паперові серветки, –
це ті самі, що лишаються з потерпілим,
доки не приїде карета «швидкої»,
ті, що можуть подарувати квіти
незнайомій самотній жінці –
і піти собі, так і не назвавшись,
ті, хто завжди має час для заблуканих перехожих
і для старих людей.
Невже ще є такі люди? –
спитав поет. –
Бо я до них не належу

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Yanina Ignatenko
Översättning till svenska av Halyna Michalyk

Utan namn
Din kropp har lämnat skrynkligt spår
Efter en smutsig natt på min obäddade säng
Så som du glömde det du önskat
Du minns enbart…. Du saknar ensamhet…

Du klättrar över en sopphög
Som hindrar dig ifrån den nya dagen
Du sluter dina trötta ögon i förväg
Innan du hinner vara blind av solen
Du få dig kvävas
när du känner lukten från vardagliga ansikten,
Så att du även glömmer vem du är…
Och väntar, otåligt väntar att få tillbaka natten.
Själv slängas ner
Och hjärta ditt i mörkret krossa
Du känner törst men istället drunknar
av dagens sedeslösa vin,
För att du är din egen fiende….
Du räddar dig inte undan
när du rusar ifrån dig själ
Du skrattar bakom din rygg
Som om du vore ditt eget öde
Du sliter dig i bitar för begären timmar långa
Och för kärlekar….. minuter korta

Без назви
Залишаєш зім”ятий слід свого тіла
На постелі неприбраній брудної ночі
Забуваєш, що ти чогось хотіла
Пам”ятаєш, що ти нікого не хочеш…
Переступиш сміття на порозі деннім
Сонні очі зліпиш, щоб не сліпнути з сонця
задихнешся сморідом лиць буденних
Забуваючи – хто ти…

І чекаєш, не можеш діждати ночі,
Щоб упасти, і розбити серце об морок,
Захлинаєшся, спрагла, в вині пороку,
Бо сама собі ворог…
Не тікаєш, коли біжиш від себе
І смієшся у слід собі, мов причинна
Розриваєш себе на годинні потреби
Й на кохання.. хвилинні

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‘But Do You have Enough Eggs’? – About gender stereotypes and solidarity amongst women in Ukraine

Category: by Tilia Maas Geesteranus, gender, guests, ukraine
Tags: ,

A couple of women is busy raking up the dry grass. The sun shines mercilessly. A few men lie under a nearby tree and observe the women. One of the men, a young guy still, gets up and suggests his comrades to help the women. “No”, say the other men, “let’s not waste our energy. Because, in case there will be war tomorrow we should be fit. Let the women do the daily work”.

This Ukrainian anecdote already exists a bit longer, but is nowadays still topical. The general conception assumes women to be good (house)wives, men are involved in public life and earn the family’s living. In this article it will be discussed which consequence such conservative stereotypes could have on mutual man-woman relationships and how potential negative consequences could be investigated. The importance, therefore, of solidarity amongst women will get extra attention.

Within Ukraine, many traditional role patterns that strongly define the daily interaction between human beings are anchored. Some stereotypes (see frame) are conservative by nature and deal with man-woman relationships (gender, see frame). These stereotypes are not only vivid amongst people in cities and villages, but also within official institutions and in legislation and regulations. For instance, single fathers – unlike single mothers – do not get holiday subsidy for their children and women get less salary than their male colleagues for the same job. These stereotypes result in the fact that gender relationships within Ukraine are unequal. This is an unhealthy situation through which the freedom of movement and the potentials of women and men are being limited. This situation, for instance, often leads to violence against women and to women in leading positions. This is unacceptable from the human rights point of view and hinders economic and political development.

A Few Facts
In gender statistics Ukraine scores badly: it ranks 63 on the Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM), measured from 75 countries. That means that awareness and development of women empowerment (the ability to participate in social and economic development) can be much improved. Also the UN committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) in its recommendations for Ukraine criticizes the fact that traditional gender stereotypes are still strongly present within the family and society, education, media and towards vulnerable groups in society. These stereotypes are the main cause that women continue to be in a disadvantaged position, amongst others in politics and at the labour market. The NGO (non-governmental organisation) Women’s Consortium from Kyiv, in cooperation with 22 other NGOs, shows that Ukraine invested much in gender legislation and regulations (for instance since 2006 there exists a law with regard to gender equality), but undertakes too little to implement those. The NGO Women’s Perspectives in L’viv, too, criticizes the stubborn existence of stereotypes. “Women should be seen as human beings with character and possibilities, not as women only”, says Director Luba Maksimovych.

Between City and Village and East and West
So, a lot of attention is being given to institutions such as government, media and education, but relatively little to changes needed in companies and the church. But even the NGOs that critically report on such issues are not able to reach out to all layers of society (such as women of minority groups). Amongst others because they themselves come from a certain, mostly academic, layer of society. Researcher Alisa Tolstokorova states that women and gender NGOs should at least disseminate a clearer message to counteract the question posed: what is harmful of conservative gender stereotypes? But first of all focus should be on mechanisms of social processes that cause conservative stereotypes or strengthen them. And when doing so, is there a difference between city and countryside and East and West Ukraine?

According to research conducted by Women’s Consortium amongst Ukrainian inhabitants, 81.8% of the respondents acknowledged to experience a constant or regular expression of stereotypes. Herewith it is not being said that this is considered by the respondents as problematic, but do people know enough about what gender stereotypes are? Within cities, information and knowledge is probably much better available than in the countryside, due to media coverage, access to internet and tourism. And, “within villages social control is stronger than in urban areas”, says Gender coordinator Olena Suslova. “Do you have guests, what will you prepare for them, do you have enough eggs? are frequently heard questions. A woman driving the tractor, who goes running or carries heavy things (except the shopping bag) is rather unusual. A man changing nappies as well. But eventually the same stereotypes can be found in urban areas and the countryside. Both men and women maintain them.

“Not only the difference between urban areas and countryside, but also the differences between geographic East and West Ukraine bring along different gender perspectives”, asserts Alisa. Due to its history (only since 1944 joining the Soviet Union whereas the East joined already at the end of the 18th century) the West has experienced a stronger (Catholic) religious development. This counts less for the East and if so, most of the population is orthodox. Contemporary Western Ukraine for instance knows a strong religious movement in which unequal gender relationships are predominantly present. On the other hand, though, many women from the western part of Ukraine who work in the EU bring home other gender ideas. The eastern part of Ukraine instead seems to hold on to more liberal interpretations of gender relationships. However, according to Olena “We have to wait and see what happens now that Yanukovych is in at the helm”. He is associated with the (Russian) orthodox church which also holds on to conservative interpretations of gender relationships. Director Maria Alekseyenko from Women’s Consortium agrees: “The orthodox church does not recognise problems that occur as a consequence of unequal gender relationships”.

Together We Stand Strong?
In order to achieve equal gender roles it is for instance required that women show solidarity amongst themselves. People should be able to let go traditional images and feel strengthened in a yet abstract and collective ideology. “Solidarity is to support each other in word and deed in case of difficulties and ideas”, says Luba. So far it seems that various forms of solidarity amongst women in Ukraine mainly add to keep conservative stereotypes in place instead of dismantling them. That is because women help each other with typical women’s issues and frown when something unusual is being done. A few arguments can be given that help to explain that.

Firstly, amongst inhabitants from cities and countryside there is a lack of clear understanding of gender stereotypes and the potential negative consequences of those. Education, church, government, NGOs and other institutions still have to take a great step forward in discussing existing conservative stereotypes and that they have a negative impact on society. Gender problems are being seen as women’s problems and thus women’s emancipation is being seen as its solution. That is a good first step forward, but mainly emphasizes the differences. Women and men should jointly take a step forward.

Secondly, the problem lies partially at a higher level: the lack of a shared national identity. “An ideological vacuum”, as Alisa calls it, causes that there is a lack of proper gender role models. She firstly sees a responsibility for scientists to develop such role models and give direction to the discussion.

Thirdly, it is due to the heritage of decades-long collectivism. Within these times people used to live in terms of community, but everyone with a certain caution, and to distinguish from the existing role patterns was suspicious. It is therefore difficult in contemporary Ukraine to feel solidarity with strangers only on the basis of a shared situation or position with regard to women’s rights or unequal gender roles. And even though a first step towards women’s emancipation has been made, empowerment still has to start.

Fourthly, the difficulty to join institutions such as networks and organisations. This idea is confirmed by a friend in L’viv: she knows quite some women that combine a (starting) career with taking care for their families, but an institutional network in which such women support each other is hardly existing. It still depends on the individual search for options and resist critical remarks. Also women that return home after some years of migrant labour experience difficulties – “alienation from the family, difficulties to implement renewed gender ideas”, says Alisa. However, according to Luba there lies great potency with returning women as so-called change agents. “They are in the position to stimulate that more women take positions in companies and at leading political posts”. However, this might too easily skip the fact that these women also strongly compete with each other on the tight labour market (talking about sisterhood is too farfetched, according to Alisa) and fall back in unchanged social structures of family and society. And, in what sense do Ukrainian women that have married a foreign man really have the opportunity to strive for equal gender relationships? The existing image is that men choose a woman in depending position, which is different from the often self-conscious Western women who no longer accept stereotypical gender roles.

Also in Ukraine, the road to break through conservative gender stereotypes and to reach equal gender relationships is still a long one. The basis for change is recognising the problem of conservative gender stereotypes and the required solidarity amongst women in need of change. Not with the intention to emphasize the differences between men and women even more, but to achieve solidarity with people that aim to live a life that is pleasant for them and does not unnecessarily harm others. Standard views on how others have to live and behave will have to be challenged strongly.

•••••

With thanks to Caecilia J. van Peski, Maria Alekseyenko, Luba Maksimovych, Alisa Tolstokorova, Olena Suslova and Olenka Grencheshen.
PS: a critical note with regard to the formation of this article is that I have talked with various persons, men and women, about gender relationships. These are persons that I meet in daily life. On the other hand I have interviewed a few persons that are involved with gender issues from a professional point of view. Not entirely coincidentally these are only women. A next article will profit when adding more active statements of both men and women.
PS: about the author: Tilia lives in Ukraine since July 2009, near L’viv. She helps a centre for disabled children in L’viv, Dzherelo, with issues of management and communication. Her partner is an organic farmer. Within the Netherlands Tilia worked for Cordaid (one of the large development cooperation organisations) as a project manager on themes of women and minority issues in India and Afghanistan.

Cadre – Conservative Stereotypes
Stereotypes are predefined images or characteristics. We need positive stereotypes as role models, conservative stereotypes are undesirable. Conservative stereotypes with regard to women in Ukraine are for instance as wives, mother, attractive, caring house woman, social networker, doubtful. Men as generating income, manager, intelligent and decision-making. Women as thorough, rational persons and as a manager are images that not frequently are associated with women. And if so, then on a second place (2008 Women’s Consortium).
The same counts for men: caring, sensitive or doubting are no conventional character images. Such stereotypes continue to exist due to the contemporary education system, few gender specific legislation and regulations and an instable political and economic situation (it is then generally more likely to rely on existing social patterns) (2008 Women’s Consortium).

Cadre – Gender
Gender can be seen as “…How women and men are perceived and expected to think and act in a particular political and cultural context” (Angrita 2000 in Makkonen 2002:3). Gender is a collective concept of expectations, roles, patterns, etc. and the consequences that concept might have for the interaction between men and women.

Sources
Makkonen, T., 2002. Multiple, compound and intersectional discrimination: bringing the experiences of the most marginalised to the fore. Institute For Human Rights, Åbo Akademi University, Turku.
Marth, D. and A. Priebe, 2010. Mühen der Ebene « contra » Glamour-Feminismus. Die gegenwärtige Debatte um Frauenbilder und Geschlechtergerechtigkeit. Ukraine Analyse no.77, 20100622.

Tolstokorova, A., 2010. Where have all the mothers gone? The gendered effect of labour migration and transnationalism on the institution of parenthood in Ukraine. Anthropology of East Europe Review. Vol. 28(1) Spring 2010.

UN CEDAW. 2010. Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Ukraine. 20100205

Women’s Consortium. 2008. Alternative report. On the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in Ukraine. Women’s Consortium, Kyiv.

www.gendermatters.se Augustus 2010

Email contact with NGO Women’s Consortium (Kyiv). 20100613

Personal communication with NGO Women’s Perspectives (L’viv). 20100803

Telephone conversation with Olena Suslova, Chair of the Women’s Information Consultative Centre, (Kyiv). 20100806

Telephone conversation with Alisa Tolstokorova, independent Gender Expert, (Kyiv). 20100806

•••••••

Tilia Maas Geesteranus (Essay and Photos) lives in Ukraine since July 2009, near L’viv. She helps the organisation Dzherelo in L’viv (a rehab centre for children with disabilities) with management, communication and Montessori project. Her boyfriend is an organic farmer south from L’viv, growing potatoes, grains and buckwheat. They live on the countryside and enjoy coffee on the balcony, strolling through the fields and along the river and practicing their Ukrainian with the neigbours. She occasionally tours tourists through L’viv or to the countryside.

Tilia holds a Master in International Developmentstudies (2007, Wageningen University) and in Advanced Developmentstudies (2008, CIDIN, Radboud University Nijmegen). At Cordaid (development organisation in The Hague) she worked as a Project Officer on theme’s of women and minority groups, in India and Afghanistan, and on domestic violence within the Netherlands. Since living in Ukraine she tries to continue being involved with women and gender issues.

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EU and UK visa policy towards Ukrainians – ‘go back to Russia!’ (?)

Category: by Jonathan Hibberd, EU, guests, ukraine
Tags: , , ,

The shameful treatment of Ukrainians by the Schengen and UK visa systems continues to hit new heights, with at least two more atrocious stories emerging this week.

The UK’s Independent highlighted the rejections of visas for Ukrainian children who were due to spend a month away from the vicinity of Chernobyl. Whether these trips are healthwise still strictly necessary is open to question, but the point is that these summer trips have gone on for years without any problems. In just one example, only 7 out of 17 children due to spend part of the summer on the Isle of Wight were permitted to travel and, to make matters worse, they were in some cases informed only the night before travelling, with suitcases packed, that they would not be making the trip. The UK Border Agency tried to blame it on unsuitable host families in the UK, but the claims seem to be spurious.

Chernobyl/Pripyat Exclusion Zone (083.8244)
Photo from Chernobyl by Pedro Moura Pinheiro.

Another case highlighted this week was of two PhD students bound for Italy who had their student visas rejected. There is an exhaustive list of similar cases, including the Ukrainian dance troupe which protested against their UK visa rejections by performing outside the British Embassy in Kiev. A folk festival in Bellingham had been deprived of the same pleasure. A recent article in the Kyiv Post highlighted an unfortunate Ukrainian student’s extended stay in the departure lounge of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport due to the Icelandic volcano. The fact that he had friends in nearby Paris and was on a US student visa cut no ice with the French authorities despite clear evidence in favour of the applicant. Another case brought to my attention by my father was a group of Ukrainian steam train operators which was prevented from attending a gathering of railway preservationist organisations in Hungary. The gathering was part of the process of trying to bring Ukrainians round to creating the kind of railway preservation projects which have grown tourism in myriad places across the continent. Such developments are fairly alien in somewhere like Ukraine, but these are good examples of how visa rejections will serve to reinforce the status quo.

One not to be ignored result of this policy is the stress that it has caused to EU citizens in each case. With cases of a more personal nature this stress is amplified. In such cases the inviting party is treated as irrelevant to the matter in hand or even worse, de facto made out to be liars. These rejections are damaging business, cultural, educational, family and personal contacts of EU citizens. Don’t we have rights too?

With the common thread here seeming to be the apparently arbitrary nature of many visa rejections, does it smack of conspiracy theories to begin to question whether there is a more sinister motive at work here? Are the EU and UK in fact telling Ukrainians in fairly blunt terms to ‘go back to Russia’? The line has been drawn and, sorry, you’re on the Moscow side. If this is not the message they wish to give out, they’re not doing a very good job!

This was previously published at Chicken in Kiev.

Jonathan Hibberd recently completed post-graduate studies at Sussex European Institute, University of Sussex in the UK and has carried out research into questions of Ukraine’s European integration and the country’s relationship with NATO. He currently works with the British Council in Kiev.

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Cops on Fire: The True Story

Category: by sasha pas, guests, music, russia, theatre
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Cops on Fire-story started more than a year ago. One evening I met my friend Sasha Kholenko (DZA) in the 16tonns cafe in Moscow, the club where DZA together with how2make-crew made concerts and gigs during the time. He told me about one of his projects, a radio play based on a detective story about cops and killers. The play included more than 30 hip-hop tracks, each track was a short episode in the play. DZA made all the beats and loops for that project called “Cops On Fire”. He asked if I want to meet the other guys in the project, and make this on stage and not only on radio.

So, why did he ask me? At that moment I was working with the theatre group  “Le Cirque de Sharles La Tannes”. In 2005 we staged The Crystal World, a short story by Victor Pelevin. The interesting thing was that all the music for The Crystal World was composed by another member of how2make-crew, the talanted electronic musician Roma Litvinov (Mujuice). It felt like a good chance to make another experiment with how2make-crew on stage. But now with hip-hop.

So we started to work…

We had however no budget. So by the time we had the idea of how it could be on stage, we started search for sponsor. We thought we needed more or less 8000$ for the whole production. (Finally it costed more than 10000$). But we failed to find any sponsor. Probably we didn’t try hard enough. Everyone was eager to start the production and rehearsals as soon as possible, and to search for sponsors are a rather boring work. So we, me and my partner, Jury Kvyatkovsky (the director of “Cops On Fire”) invested our own money. But many helped. One of our friends proposed us a studio for the rehearsals, another found some costumes, another made the decorations on credit. And in September last year we had a call from S:t Petersburg and they invited us to the Sergey Kuryokhin Festival. We agreed and had only two months to finish everything.

The premiere in St.Petersburg was very sucessful. Even though we didn’t like the technical result – the place was a cinema but we prefer a theatre. The audience loved it though. Directly after that we started to work with the Moscow premiere and tried to make it in the best possible way. After several months of working it seemed as everyone finally started to believe in what they were doing. The premiere in Moscow got only one negative comment and that was that we used to much slang and bad language in the play, and we have now cut some of those.

However, the most interesting thing with our project is that we, subconsciously, have made a very social and actual project. In Russia there were several scandals connected to the police last year. There where for instance a shooting at a supermarket by a Major Evsukov and a video message for Medvedev. Our story is opposed to real life with the most fair cop. He is a true social order keeper. He spares no effort to put his vision of what’s right and what’s wrong into practice. Still there are very few comments from theatre audience about this connection.

“Cops on Fire” gives two shows every month in Moscow at the theatre centre “Na Strastnom”. In June it will be the 10th show in Moscow. Each time the house is full. About 3000 people have seen the show so far. In May “Cops On Fire” gave a live show on “TransMusicales” festival, and in September we will take part in international theatre festival GOGOLFEST in Kiev, Ukraine. And we have also started a film project….

…to be continued…

Cops on fire at facebook

Sasha Pas is art-director of Le Cirque de Sharles La Tannes – an independent creative group of actors, directors, musicians and artisits, based in Moscow, Russia. In past recent years – editor and founder of 55 pdf magazine. Now works as a creative producer of Cops On Fire project.

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A Western Coalition? – Western Ukraine needs a new strategy

Category: by Jonathan Hibberd, guests, ukraine
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Where is Western Ukraine in the new political order? You could be forgiven for thinking it had disappeared from the map altogether. The new President has put a Russian in charge of the country, and set out on a course coherent with restoring Ukraine’s place to that of the ‘little Russia’ which had for the past 19 years existed only the minds of out-of-touch, chauvinistic Muscovites. Western Ukraine is now a marginalised and, some would argue, despised frontier province with nothing to offer the new order. It may even now, some might suppose, become the ‘enemy’ on which the need for ‘stability’ (meaning authoritarianism) is sold to the people, in the way that Russia scapegoats the clearly terrifying Estonia and Georgia (and up until now Ukraine) as reasons to stick to ‘strong government’. Egg-throwing and rostrum-blocking in parliament does little to dispel these insinuations.

If the new order is to persist, it poses questions to the west of the country that have never before been so prescient. Independent Ukraine was born of what one might call an unholy alliance between the communists of the east and the nationalists of the west. For many years this grand bargain carried benefits as well as disadvantages for both sides. Whilst an eastern-based business mafia held sway over the country’s industry and economy, a kind of ‘cultural mafia’ advanced a linguistic and cultural agenda that more favoured the west of the country. This grand bargain is now breaking up. Some would say this breaking up was started in the Yushchenko era. Others might contend that it is now, under Yanukovych, that one side of the country feels most disenfranchised. What is clear is that nothing is now being done with the aim of enhancing national unity. Instead of an over-arching, inclusive, reform-minded government under a prime minister such as Tigipko which the most optimistic might have hoped for, the new President has opted for a Russo-centric position. It is difficult to see how divisive appointments such as Tabachnyk can be considered necessary pragmatism. The idea that in the country that suffered the Holodomor children might in the very near future be opening textbooks that state that Stalin was a ‘strong leader who made tough decisions for Russia’ is going to be most sickening to those in the west.


Oleskiy Palace. Photo by Em and Ernie

Part of Western Ukraine’s problem is that the figures they have backed in the past have in fact served the region’s wider interests very poorly. Although large numbers turned out in the presidential second round to support Tymoshenko, there seemed little to recommend her, apart from that she wasn’t Yanukovych. The orange politicians who wrap themselves in Ukrainian patriotism in fact have interests much closer to the centre. At the other extreme, Ukrainian nationalist or patriotic parties can be seen as somewhat eccentric, perhaps extremist, in any case for many people not truly electable. Western Ukraine is clearly different to the rest of the country, culturally and linguistically and in its aspirations. These differences are only being exacerbated in the current circumstances. Western Ukrainians themselves need to start thinking about how to empower themselves against the current unenviable odds. A lot will depend on what sort of system emerges over the next couple of years.

If the current semi-parliamentary system persists, the west might look at its options modelled on regional/cultural political blocks in other European countries. In Italy, the Northern League sheds any illusions that it is a party of national consensus, and seeks to represent its regional interest within the country, where it feels under-represented. In Romania and Slovakia, the Hungarian minority is represented by Hungarian coalition parties. These coalition parties host within them a diverse set of views, from moderates to nationalists, but who manage to agree on over-arching concerns, and lobby for concessions in these areas, frequently as kingmakers in coalitions. Strong patriots might feel a need to prioritise issues such as UPA recognition, but in reality, forsaking the bigger issues over such matters does little to help the next generation. Even the People’s Self Defence block, which is an attempt at coalition party building, does not have a broad enough appeal. As the Conservatives in the UK who are learning coalition politics from scratch now realise, one has to look at the big picture. The over-arching issues for Western Ukrainians are obvious: education and language, relations with Europe and the need for a credible economic development policy for the region. So a kind of ‘Western Coalition’ could be the answer.


Lviv. Photo by Lyncis

However, we face the real prospect that the 2012 parliamentary elections may mean very little. Even if they are free and fair, including access of all political groupings to the media, the acquisition of ‘tushki’ might allow the powers that be to ‘tidy up’ any slightly messy outcome to the vote. Or who is to say at the moment that these elections won’t go the way of the currently delayed local elections? If this election finishes with the west of the country having no voice, thoughts will inevitably turn to the idea of secession. A strategy for independence would then need some serious thought. If there is a clear sentiment in favour of the idea, unofficial polls might be conducted, perhaps modelled on the unofficial pro-independence referendums that have been taking place across Catalonia.

Independence would have many advantages. Patriotic Western Ukraine would have the over-arching unity of purpose that has benefited the likes of Hungary and Poland. The overseas diaspora would be able to assist in the kinds of ways they were in Estonia, for example. Also, with suggestions that Moldova might just sneak into the EU because ‘it’s small’ (a lame criteria perhaps, but it is how many in Brussels seem to think) perhaps the EU will be able to stomach a bite-size Ukraine of, say, 7-10 million people rather than 46 million, a good chunk of whom it can be argued don’t even want to be there. A small ship is easier to turn. Observe how previously backsliding Slovakia leapfrogged its neighbours to join the Euro.

This may all of course be pie in the sky. Secession is difficult to achieve from any country. However, if aggravations produce policy concessions rather than independence, this may in itself be valuable enough, and would be preferable to marginalisation. Against this however there is the question of the west-looking centre of Ukraine. They might be the next to be marginalised.

Perhaps a separatist approach is not the best way forward at a time when a united opposition is most crucial, but nonetheless Western Ukraine needs to think very carefully before persisting with politicians who talk the talk, but in fact have little interest in the region. There is a grave danger of Western Ukrainians continuing to throw away their votes to minigarchs, thugs and tushki, and it is perhaps time that, as a united front, the region acts for itself. In any case, if the coming years prove to be difficult, a distinction may develop between those who understand and defend their civil and democratic rights, and those who are prepared to allow their freedoms to be compromised for the ‘greater good’.

Of course, the best scenario is not independence for Western Ukraine but for the entire country to be anchored into the EU accession process which helps to foster civil rights, democracy and economic reform for the country as a whole, and which would put pay to many of the worries that currently exist. It is only in the complete absence of a membership perspective for Ukraine that worries about where Ukraine is drifting have become all too real, and hence the need to possibly take a look at some radical alternative scenarios. The alternative of wait and see could be very costly.

To take the analogy of Belgium, another European country that is frequently described as divided, a few decades ago the French-speaking south dominated industrially and culturally, whilst the Dutch-speaking north was poorer. A few years on it is now the north that is in the ascendency with its new industries, with the once proud south a decaying rustbelt. Steel and coalmining are yesterday’s industries, light manufacturing, services and tourism are tomorrow’s, and it is Western Ukraine that is best placed to grasp this opportunity, if it is allowed to.

This has previously been published at Chicken in Kiev (or) Kiev Rus

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Civic Campaign: Make Ukraine better!

Category: by Dmytro Yatsyuk, guests, ukraine
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Ukraine is now living a very particular situation. End of one historical circle (period of European dream born with Orange Revolution) and beginning of some entirely new and perhaps shadow time, marked by political decision of a new government to abandonee European and Euro Atlantic choice for Ukraine.

In that situation, Ukrainian young generation feel that they must do something (anything at all), to make his own position about situation living by contemporary Ukraine.

In this actual environment, every political, social or cultural organization or part of civic society uses its own “weapons” of choice. Ukrainian feminist organization FEMEN, received the recent visit of Medvedev with his own performance called “Scratched by bear”.


Photo by FEMEN at Flickr


Other group of youngsters from Kyiv, start at May 11, 2010, a civic campaign “Make Ukraine better!”, intended to unite young generation of Ukrainians around of Ukrainian national idea, in way to remind all those who gave their lives for the country.

The bilingual manifesto of campaign (in Ukrainian and Russian) said:

In remembrance of those who fought for Ukraine and to together future – our initiative:

Belt for Belt (from famous UPA lyrics Lenta Za Lentoyu”):

We have different political views. We speak different languages. But Ukraine is unique for us. Do not be afraid to say that. Do not be ashamed. Do not forget.

Put the flag on your apartment. Add the ribbon to your clothes – to the day-to-day one and to festive one and to any one.

You want to make life better in Ukraine? Do it. Anything. And think about more.

Do you want to do more than just putting the ribbon to your clothes? You’re not alone : )

There are all sorts of issues needing to resolution, and actions that can and should be done. For example, today’s issues to be solved by civil society:

1) demand for joint vision of history – as the basis for understanding in the society;
2) actions for organization of civil society;
3) action against state corruption and the filth of personal responsibility of state representatives and politicians (yes, they also must live with respect for the law and must behave decently);
3) support to culture (not for kitsch);
4) support poor and disadvantaged parcels of society;
5) etc, etc, etc …

You can propose your own actions; you also can support actions of others. For more information, visit the online community Make Ukraine better! There discussions are made, there activities are organized. Why not?

You also can help to our action as follows:

1) Place one of the proposed banners on your blog / site: lentaua.org.ua
2) Send to us your beautiful photos with the ribbons, organize a section of photographs, involve famous people, finally, our action allows your personal PR : )
3) Create the design of the original ribbons, banners or other promotional materials.
4) To popularize and disseminate our initiative in the press, in the Internet, in blogosphere, etc …
5) Share with us your ideas. Write to us, don’t be ashamed in@lentaua.org.ua or join the community http://community.livejournal.com/lenta_ua or visit the campaign website lentaua.org.ua

Information about this initiative in Portuguese:
ucrania-mozambique.blogspot.com

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