BRAMA, Dec 16, 2004, 11:00 am ET|
Saving a 'Cursed' Ukraine
By Yuri Andrukhovych
(Translated by Michael M. Naydan)
[ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF AN INVITED SPEECH DELIVERED BY YURI ANDRUKHOVYCH TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 15, 2004 IN STRASBOURG]
I first and foremost venture to bring to your attention an entirely personal vision. The hero of one of my novels, Stanislav Perfetsky, when he delivers a lecture before a no less worthy audience than the one here, roughly says the following: "My task is not one of the easiest, and not without grounds I am abundantly fearful that I will be unable to manage to deal with it as one should. And the fact of the matter isn't that I don't have anything to say. It's quite the opposite-I have so much to say about everything, that the allotted time for listening to me today wouldn't even be enough, and not even would, I venture to assure you, the remaining days and nights allotted by Providence for the human race." But all the same, in following the hero of my novel, I will try at least to outline something for you.
The drama that is occurring today in Ukraine in no way fits into any of the political science models prepared beforehand for it. The situation is not a clash of Ukrainian-language Ukrainians against Russian-language ones; even more so not the opposition of the "pro-European" West of our country vs. a "pro-Russian" East; and not the settling of scores of certain financial groups or clans with others. To be fair, I should note that all these conflicts are partially present, they are, what they call, "in play," but it is not they that define the essential makeup of what is happening.
First and foremost, a universal historical drama is taking place. It is a clash between a society, which, in considerable and its additionally most active, most conscious, most enlightened part, wants democracy, prosperity, and a nation of laws, against a power that with all its strength is trying to save an authoritarian, neo-totalitarian form of government, so successfully and so cynically embodied in reality by all the successor Soviet Communist regimes in all of the post-Soviet territories (with the exception of the Baltic countries).
Thus the question can be posed as the following bottom line: is democracy possible at all? Thus if you try to distill this problem to its most profound essence: is it possible to break this vicious circle? Is it possible to save a "cursed land?" Is the embodiment of human expectations possible? Is the victory of good over evil possible?
Everything else--that, which is on the surface, but less essential--comprises the political machinations, the play on the linguistic, religious differences and the differences in mentality in Ukrainian society, the "hand of Moscow," the Russian geopolitical "Yanukovych" project, the essence of which in its alternative, openly formulated by the highest state officials of our large Northeastern neighbor is: "Either a split, or civil war." Despite the elegance of the formulation I believe in the fact that we will not give the authors of this project either the former or the latter satisfaction.
There is so much dysinformation (in less parliamentary talk we can call it lies), so many scare tactics, physical threats, moral torture, as well as other dioxins, so much has been dropped on Ukrainian society before and during this election campaign--this is an unprecedented dramatic experience, that is worthy of a separate Book of Memory tens of thousands of pages long, in which forever there will be fixed each citizen's actions, each gesture invisible to the world of countless "little Ukrainians," who, similar to the "little Hungarians" in 1956, the "little Czechs" of 1968, or the "little Poles" of 1980 rose up in defense of their own dignity. In 2004 a miracle occurred in Ukraine: its society, which over the course of an entire decade seemed to be feeble, passive and disunited, suddenly mustered up a collective, non-violent and wonderful feat. The "little" Ukrainians turned out to be considerably bigger than their--and not just their--authorities thought they were. They counterposed their creative poetics against banal geopolitics.
The orange poetics is a quite dynamic argument against the "zone of grayness," into which for over a decade Ukraine's incompetent and dislikable leaders have striven to drag Ukraine. For them it has been about a dreary country, deprived of its own face, invisible to the world. They "constructed" it as a figure, in conformity with their own gray faces and secret needs. In his aesthetic validations it is not for nothing that Mr. Kuchma admits that he doesn't like the color orange, because it is "not Ukrainian." Orange became the color of the breakthrough of all imaginable blockades. The color of human ignition in people. Over the course of 16 days of active resistance on Independence Square in Kyiv it turned out to be the victory of the people over all the technical means at the disposal of the authorities.
This is also the victory of Europe as an ethical system of value. My Polish friend Andrzej Stasiuk writes about it in a marvelous essay as follows: "Great things are happening in the East. Ukraine has lifted itself up from its knees. In these last, cold and snowy days of November the heart of Europe is beating right there, in Kyiv, on the Square of--appropriately called--Independence. It is right there in Kyiv that the battle for basic European values is being honed, that in the West those values are understood as something, comprehensible in and of themselves, something granted once and for always." Andrzej Stasiuk entitled his essay "Europe, You Have Become Bigger."
Europe has become bigger by the sum of the Ukrainian regions where Victor Yushchenko won. After the 26th of December--and I really truly believe this--it will become bigger by all of Ukraine. Those Ukrainians who vote for Yushchenko are really voting for freedom, a country of laws and tolerance, without thinking in the least about the fact that these values are European--it is enough for them that these are their values and for the sake of them they are prepared to stand not only days and nights in the December cold or to walk with flowers in their hands up to the special forces units armed with loaded weapons. It is in these people that I see what one can underscore as the European future of Ukraine. And that future has already begun.
But since that meaningful word the "future" has resounded, what can we expect right now? To say it more simply: what can "we" expect from "you"? First and foremost, honored ladies and gentlemen, the distinct refutation of what for an entire decade the propaganda machine of Mr. Kuchma has been drilling into us: that no one is waiting for us in Europe. A refutation of what Mr. Yanukovych has built his entire campaign on: that in Europe no one likes us and scorns us, that we are alien to Europe. Honored ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that Kuchma and Yanukovych have been telling us a lie. I--just a writer--have my own particular hopes. I want to distinctly hear from Europe that Kuchma, Yanukovych and their spinmasters are wrong, that Europe is waiting for us, that it can not endure without us, that Europe will not continue to be in all its fullness without Ukraine.
My fantasies, honored European parliamentarians, have no boundaries. I have a thousand projects for cultural partnership and a thousand friends throughout all of Europe, with whom we can realize these projects. We will make--I expect, with your help--countless steps toward mutual rapprochement, to denounce that "quarantine line" that divides one Europe from the other.
My Europe--that is the title of Andrzej Stasiuk's and my joint poetographic book. In conclusion allow me one more poetographic metaphor. It floats out right away when you look over geographic maps. The maps all demonstrate one and the same thing to us: in Ukraine there is not a single drop of water that does not belong to the Atlantic basin. This means that with all its arteries and capillaries it is stitched right to Europe.
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