These are eerie sights for us indeed.
But we feel distant from the invasion. Unlike Euromaidan, not much is happening in western Ukraine. The currency is devaluing, of course, but it was devaluing before the invasion. During the past three months we had a very good feel for what was happening in Ukraine. We live here and completely understand the protesters. We were the protesters on many occasions. But what Putin and the Russian government are thinking is now totally beyond us. We certainly don't have the same kind of feel of the situation. Unlike Euromaidan, this is being imposed on Ukraine.
Some people may point to the residents in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and say that they are for being a part of Russia, but this is suspect. It seems that many pro-Russia protesters are actually just Russian citizens visiting Ukraine. For example, the man who put the Russian flag up on the regional government building in Kharkiv was from Moscow.
Man from Moscow install the flag of Russia in Kharkiv, there is no people in #Ukraine who want to do it pic.twitter.com/dqhNPG2Aig
— Euromaidan PR (@EuromaidanPR) March 1, 2014
No doubt there are some pro-Russian Ukrainians. But their numbers are distorted by Russians pretending to be Ukrainians.
There is a massive disinformation campaign being waged. Timothy Snyder does a good job addressing it in his article titled, "Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda." If you have not read it yet, please do. Snyder accomplishes many things in one article. He summarizes the situation, giving a comprehensive overview of the events in Ukraine. He talks about the wide diversity of people involved in Euromaidan and the new government. A Ukrainian of Afghani descent first called for people to take to the streets in November, starting Euromaidan. The first protester killed was Armenian. The second was Belorussian. Not everybody's ethnic Ukrainian and Christian, but they are all for Ukrainian democracy. He addresses the propaganda being disseminated by the Kremlin and former president Viktor Yanukovych, and takes on American and Western misperceptions of Ukraine:
The Russian press presented the protest as part of a larger gay conspiracy. The Ukrainian regime instructed its riot police that the opposition was led by a larger Jewish conspiracy. Meanwhile, both regimes informed the outside world that the protestors were Nazis. Almost nobody in the West seemed to notice this contradiction.Yulia and I moved to Ukraine from the United States, and we know about the sheer ignorance related to anything Ukrainian. When we were buying seeds in California last year, the cashier asked where we were going to be planting our garden. We said Ukraine. She said, "So, a South American climate?"
Yulia had to live with this more than I had to, of course. In America I am just another white guy. Yulia has told me stories how people insist that Ukraine has no cities. It is a country made up entirely of villages they tell her. A coworker once told my father in law that the Soviet Union was just like the United States. Ukraine was just another state like Virginia or Arizona. It does not have a separate identity, language, religion, or culture.
My family is from Ukraine and no one in my lineage has ever lived under Russian domination. My grandparents left before western Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. When they lived here this was part of Poland, and before World War One this was part of Austria for 300 years. My grandparents are all from Ukraine, but none of them spoke Russian.
During World War Two the Poles asked if anyone in Yulia's grandparents' village spoke Russian. They needed a translator. Someone told Yulia's great grandfather that Russian is the same as Ukrainian. Since he spoke Ukrainian, he said he could translate Russian. When the time came for him to translate, he had no idea what the Russians were saying.
Yulia's grandmother is from Cherkasy (which is pretty far east of here), and she never spoke Russian before the Soviet Union.
For us personally, ties with Russia are new and tenuous. Any ties are due to what we consider to be the Soviet occupation of Ukraine. Please keep this in mind when you hear people say that Ukraine and Russia have deep connections with each other or are the same nation. In some cases this is true, but in other ways it is not.
Either way, what is happening now has the distinct feel of a foreign invasion. We're not cool with it, and we do not welcome the Russian army.