Ukraine from one Ukrainian American’s Perspective: What’s next?

First, I must apologize for my month- long hiatus from the Crow Forest Farm Blog. My return from Ukraine was a whirlwind, and great transitions are underfoot at Crow Forest for the coming Spring (More to come soon). My silence should not be taken as apathy. Rather, there is something to be said for taking time to digest information and reflect, especially when observing events from afar.  While the focus of this blog is permaculture, many people have also been following it due to their interest in learning more about Ukrainian culture.  I will therefore add a little reflection on current events.

Yesterday, a Lebanese mycologist friend visited CFF (Yes, he will be running a workshop, inshallah!) He asked me why it is that we learn about the Holocaust in school (RIP Alice Herz-Sommer), but that we never hear about the Artificial Famine/Genocide aka “Holodomyr” imposed by Stalin in 1930-32 that killed over 6 million Ukrainians. In Ukrainian, we have a saying: “Yak otchi ne bachut, todi sertse ne bolyt.” This means, “If the eyes don’t see it, then the heart doesn’t hurt.” The Nazis were very thorough in documenting their atrocities, while the Russians were very thorough with keeping theirs undocumented. While a few important films have been made about the Holodomyr, there is very little media representation of this atrocity. He asked me if that didn’t upset me.
I told him that, while it’s important to learn from history, it is also important to let things go as “water under the bridge.” Growing up in the Ukrainian diaspora of New York, there was great (understandable) animosity towards the Soviet government, and by extension, Russian people. When I was in Ukraine, I asked protesters what I thought was an awkward question: “Do ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians get along?” They looked at me like I had two heads. Many people I met were of mixed heritage. Many people had fathers who were ethnically Russian who had been stationed in Ukraine, and had married Ukrainians. They self-identified as both Russian and Ukrainian. The protesters assured me that EVERYBODY was protesting at the Euromaidan, Russians and Ukrainians alike. Everybody agrees that Yanukovitch needs to be removed, and that Ukraine needs a better, brighter future. For EVERYONE. (And yes, that means teaming up with the EU.)
This is why the media hype of a “West-East Divide” seems extremely outrageous to me. I wonder what outside interests (ahem-Putin) would benefit from a Ukraine split?  Russia wants to maintain its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine’s Warm Water ports, as well as have access to Ukraine’s other natural resources and markets.  But shouldn’t Ukrainians decide what the future of Ukraine would look like.  Indeed, in Soviet times, the Soviet government shipped in and stationed Russian soldiers within Ukraine’s borders in order to make it more “Russian.”  The children of these people are still living here.   The Ukrainian culture has a right to survive, and not be absorbed simply because of an artificially imposed “Russification” and occupation of the culture 20 years ago.  I’d imagine it’s analogous Palestinians in the West Bank: and I’d of course, prefer to see a single state where the rights of all people are protected under law.

One thing is for certain:  for a sustainable Ukrainian future, we must recognize Ukrainians in all forms- those who embrace it as a traditional homeland and the reality of the ethnic Russians living there.  Ukraine’s traditional borders, stretching from the Carpathian mountains from the West and the Eural mountains to the East, must be maintained.  Solutions must be developed that meet the needs of all Ukrainians without Ukraine losing her beautiful cultural identity, or sacrificing her territories to outside nations.  I would mourn a Ukraine that was half-swallowed by Russia.  I’d also mourn a Ukraine that does to Russians what the Russians did to them.  Rather, I’d like to see a Ukraine that embraces both East and West: a more sustainable and vibrant future.  Let the water pass under the bridge we are building towards our future together.

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