Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ukrainians are not the Ukrainian government

Things have taken a turn for the worse in Ukraine's parliament over the past couple of days. Yesterday, parliament created a new law that would ban freedoms in Ukraine severely. For example, the law forbids people to wear helmets during protests, a step many protesters took after police beatings. Many people are calling it a slide into dictatorship.

The law was not voted for by deputies. Opposition politicians created enough of a disruption that traditional electronic voting could not be completed. So Party of Regions, Communist Party, and independent politicians voted by a show of hands. The "vote" took only a few seconds, but the man with the microphone claims to have counted 235 hands in those few seconds. Analysis of photographs prove that only 119 hands were raised (please see our Twitter feed for the photo).

The president signed the law today, showing that he wants Ukraine to be a dictatorship, not a democracy.

This is odd for me to write because the Ukraine that I see on an everyday basis does not reflect the horrific slide into authoritarianism that we see on the news. I'll never forget the time I came home in tears from the bazaar just after Yulia and I moved to this country. A granny at the market told me not to rush and helped me pack my bag with veggies at her produce stand. I was so tense from people's horror stories of con artists on every corner that I had forgotten that human beings, in fact, do inhabit this country. That anybody would label her a thief is just plain mean and untrue.

I just got back home from the city. While I was in the city I bought a load of spruce boards for making repairs to our house. I also had to find a driver to help me take the lumber home. I found the seller and driver through newspaper ads ( I called them myself, which is a big deal for me. Yulia's parents have graciously done the talking for me in the past. No one commented on my 1930s diaspora accent. No one hiked up the price on me because they thought I was a rich foreigner. I did not get stood up when we were supposed to meet. They treated me with respect, and I got a good deal on lumber and a drive home in turn. My anxiety, which you can be sure I had, was unnecessary.

This is the Ukraine I know, so if you are reading this and are unfamiliar with Ukraine, please remember that Ukrainians are not the same as our government. The government is making a really bad name for the country right now. When I see government representatives interviewed on my favorite outlet for news--they are red faced and shout loudly in Russian. I don't speak Russian, which makes them seem even more foreign to me among the Ukrainian speaking journalists and guests. I do not think these people will be in power long. Their tirades on camera show to me that they realize they are going down, and they know it. People are outraged, and the harder the government pushes, the harder the people will push back.

Yulia and I came to Ukraine with a focus on changing the country for the better starting with ourselves and our family. We are even more confident that we are doing the right thing, and we will continue with even more zeal now.

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