Saturday, April 4, 2015

My reflections on a man who understands what is happening in Ukraine

"I remember a Ukraine that . . . was not the vassal of the Russian empire begging for membership in Europe but the beating heart of the continent." 

Who do you think made this comment? Maybe a politician standing on the Maidan in Kyiv? An idealistic young Ukrainian activist? Well, no. And no. These remarks, in fact, were made by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy in a recent article. He has emerged as a strong supporter of the Ukrainian people

I put off writing about people who don't understand what is happening in Ukraine for quite some time because Yulia and I don't want this to be a blog about what we don't like. We feel like it's too easy to disagree with things, too easy to put others down, and that it's too easy to be cynical. In the end, writing about what doesn't work won't provide the framework for the kind of world we want to see. 

But after reading Levy's piece, "Remembering the Maidan," I jumped at the opportunity to share it here. His article was heartening and uplifting. He sees Europe--and the whole world, for that matter--as interconnected. In the comment above he shows that he understands that what is happening in Ukraine affects him as a Frenchman and European. He continues, addressing the two countries' shared roots and intertwined future:
"European, indeed, were the Ukrainians because they were the children of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and the great Taras Shevchenko, and—soon enough—because in the Maidan, for the first time in history, young people would die clutching the starry flag of Europe."
He doesn't think of the Ukrainian revolution as something that only concerns Ukrainians. And when he was at the Maidan, he saw that the revolution was not about Ukrainian superiority:

"I remember the emotion that suffused me when, as I spoke, I spotted among the many Ukrainian flags several blue, star-studded flags of Europe and even a tiny red, white and blue flag of France almost indiscernible in the huge crowd.
I recall my surprise when I realized that before me stood a mixed crowd of Tatars and Poles, Cossacks and Jews, the grandchildren of the survivors of the Holodomor and of Babi Yar, sharing the same European and revolutionary zeal."
Personally, Yulia and I feel that being Ukrainian patriots also means being responsible European and world citizens. 

Interestingly enough, we don't think it makes us parochial. Our concerns are worldwide in scope, and we do not like the idea of creating boundaries between groups of people. We think improving the world begins with us, then grows to include our families, village, country, and world. 

On our blog, for example, we try to include posts that are about cultures other than our own (like this recent entry about a new TV show made by and about the Cherokee Indians). As Levy says, "I remember the moment in my own life when I realized that I had made your cause my own." Like Levy, we don't view the people of the world as broken up into groups, with each group only being interested in its own cause. We strive to create connections, not deepen divisions. 

We are saddened by a world that does not allow some people to travel freely. Ukrainian citizens, for example, cannot travel to the neighboring European Union without a visa. Why treat Ukrainians this way? How, by being born in one country and not another, are they different from people born elsewhere? Why does that make them less worthy? 

We are sometimes overwhelmed by negativity caused by problems like this, and that is why Levy's article was so important for us to hear. "I had made your cause my own." We'll remember this--especially the next time we begin to feel alone as world citizens. Other people are fighting for us--and with us. We'll be there fighting for them.

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