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LJ Idol IX – 13. Open Topic (~850 words)

The tale of one of the crowd

I was 12 when the Soviet Union was torn apart into "independent" States. After that, the official approach to history changed, and a lot of that which had been painted white started to be painted black and vice versa. My reaction to this was to hide from the torrent of hypocrisy and become deaf to the media and apolitical to the level of often not knowing who the Prime Minister was and what the Government declared they were doing. My knowledge is therefore based mostly on hearsay, conversations with other ordinary people, printed word, and some inescapable level of exposure to the Russian mass media.

For years after 1993, the knowledge that Ukraine was now a separate independent State was on the level of background noise and a minor inconvenience when crossing the semi-transparent border to spend a summer at one of the children's camps in Crimea or several days visiting friends who lived there or in the other parts of the country. The train stopped twice, first at the Russian border and then at the Ukrainian one, men in uniforms passed through it checking everyone's IDs and randomly looking over luggage, and gave out and collected simple customs forms that served as a permit for a short stay (was it up to six months? certainly less than a year) in either country and had to be given back upon returning home.

Political events in Ukraine, such as government instability, the "Orange" revolution, laws ensuring the dominance of the Ukrainian language, and the growing tension between the Western, "Ukrainian", and Eastern, "Russian" parts of the country were reported in an off-hand manner as something not very critical that was eventually (and soon) going to blow over. Or so at least it seemed to those like myself with no strong ties to the other country.

I have several memories from these years.

- Summer camp in Crimea 18 years ago, an all-Russian-speaking environment. The Ukrainian language was used once as a mock-foreign tongue in a comical dramatization of a children's book. The audience laughed heartily, because both was it still understandable, and the languages being so close, the differences make Ukrainian sound funny to our ears. That using local, Ukrainian, words was considered uneducated village parlance also did not help.

- A colleague mentioning their acquaintance in Ukraine being hired to translate textbooks in our field from Russian into Ukrainian and having to essentially invent all the terminology, because there was none in the sphere (as there was none in many others). It was a joke: my friend has made up a language, is it not droll?

- A friend telling the story of their college years in the Russian-speaking part of the country, how they had to choose between studying in Russian and studying in Ukrainian and decided in favour of the latter because was only proper to know the official language of their country. And then the horrible panic the Russian language students in their year experienced when a law was passed a couple of months before the end of the school year declaring that everyone in the country now had to submit their final paper in Ukrainian.

- Visiting the same friend some 4 years ago and gawking at the all-Ukrainian billboards around her all-Russian-speaking town: it was twice cheaper to advertise in the "official" language.

- Being stonewalled by a single person during that visit, someone from out of town at a crafts fair who only spoke Ukrainian in a nice unassuming way. We understood each other perfectly nevertheless.

It was "all fine" in a slightly bewildering "what is the political fuss about two separate countries all about" way.

And then last fall demonstrations in the centre of Kiev started again like they did during the relatively peaceful "Orange" revolution of years ago. Personally, I did not even try to understand what it was about at first, just waiting for it to blow over again.

And then.

And then in November a friend's friend, a Ukrainian who'd moved to Russia, had to go back home to renew some papers and was late doing so by a week (which had never been a problem before). She was removed from the bus at the border, taken to a customs outpost in the middle of nowhere and forbidden entry to Russia for 5 years. Apparently, stricter border control had just been enacted.

And then.

A Ukrainian nurse another colleague hires for her elderly mother went back home to renew the same document (thankfully on time), and an arms contraband was discovered at the border in her very own train compartment (and she'd wondered why both young men in the lower bunks refused to cede their places to her, when normally it is not a problem if someone on the upper level is middle-aged).

And then there was first blood.

And then there is civil war.

I intended to write something coherent about it, but I can't, because what's there to say? It is horrible, shameful, bewildering, sudden, senseless (over what?!) There is no right side, and the consequences are for decades and generations.

Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
kehlen_crow
Jun. 26th, 2014 09:41 pm (UTC)
No ConCrit except for typos this week, please.

Thank you.
dmousey
Jun. 27th, 2014 12:50 am (UTC)
Your love of Country shows. May there be peace. <3
itsjustc
Jun. 28th, 2014 01:48 pm (UTC)
I agree.



kehlen_crow
Jun. 28th, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
kehlen_crow
Jun. 28th, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
Yes. As soon as possible.

Thank you.
captivebird
Jun. 28th, 2014 10:32 am (UTC)
It is all very confusing, and interesting to me to hear your thoughts on the matter. Nearer to my home, a potentially similar situation is looming as I worry about what may happen should Scotland vote 'Yes' to separation from the UK this autumn. As a Scot living in England I have no vote – no say in the matter at all. My heart, in a crazy patriotic way, longs for Scotland to assert itself once again as an independent unconquered nation. But my head knows full well that division is not the way forward in the modern world. If Scotland votes 'Yes' and then rUK (the rest of the UK) votes to leave the EU the following year, which is quite possible, we could be utterly isolated here in England. Idiotic!
kehlen_crow
Jun. 28th, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
I'd wanted to say that I doubted it was going to happen both because Scotland and England have been united for so-many-hundred years, and much longer than Russia and Ukraine, at that and because I think it would be very economically impractical for Scotland to stand on its own (unromantic but true)... and then I went and looked up the Ukraine-Russia and Scotland-England merger dates, and was mildly shocked to find out that both happened within the same century, whether it should be counted from 1603 or 1707 for England, because Russia and Ukraine did it in 1654.

Still, I do not think it will happen to you, because Ukraine was just one of many parts that split off at once from the USSR, and that is always easier than to be the one to do it. (On the other hand, that there is a referendum at all is sort of ominous.)

---

Why do you have no vote? Is it true for all Scots who permanently reside elsewhere?

captivebird
Jun. 28th, 2014 04:15 pm (UTC)
Only those actually resident in Scotland can register to vote in the referendum. I think some ex-pats who still maintain a 'home' in Scotland are eligible, but they are the minority exception. I'm actually quite glad that I can't vote, because my heart and my head are utterly divided on the subject. My immediate family are all pro-union, but I have friends both anti and pro independence, so it's a very divisive issue. :-/
majesticarky
Jun. 28th, 2014 12:08 pm (UTC)
I liked this. A very personal account relating to what's going on in Ukraine. Everyone is hoping the situation will stabilize there. My dad went to summer camp in Crimea too. He called it "the poor man's Hawaii" heh. My main association with Crimea at the moment is wondering what the Russian forces will do with their new "squadron" of war dolphins. Probably nothing, but one of my favorite video games series, Red Alert, features war dolphins... though they're controlled by the Americans and not the Soviets, hah. Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals, I'm surprised they haven't been used more in Navies around the world.
kehlen_crow
Jun. 28th, 2014 03:50 pm (UTC)
I know nothing of war dolphins, haha.

As for Crimea, oh boy, is this another can of worms.
From what I gather, before the true civil war began in the rest of Ukraine, opinions about the re-entry of Crimea were more or less split between the younger and the older generations. They younger people (those in my circle at least) were wary of the idea. We did not get why it was such a good thing to "re-unite" with a region that was never Russian in the first place (meaning post-USSR Russia).

The elder people (my parents among them) were elated. They celebrated the referendum and its results, and there were even fireworks when it happened. And I think more people were happy than not, because it was a feeling in the air for some time after it all happened.


Now today, whether we think it was a good thing or not is irrelevant. They are safer with us, whether they realized what country they were joining when they did or not.
itsjustc
Jun. 28th, 2014 01:46 pm (UTC)
A really really interesting piece of writing. I've enjoyed reading it. x



kehlen_crow
Jun. 28th, 2014 03:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

I have wanted to say something about what is going on for a long while, but it is very difficult to find any words in this situation.

Edited at 2014-06-28 03:10 pm (UTC)
emo_snal
Jun. 28th, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC)
For us in the States its such a far away issue; you've probably seen the graphics illustrating how most Americans can't even find it on a map -- so its interesting to hear about it from the perspective of someone whom it personally effects.
kehlen_crow
Jun. 29th, 2014 01:21 pm (UTC)
Something happening in South America would also seem far away for us. Even something happening in Europe often does. Like the events in Yogoslavia 15 years ago. Well, no the same is happening so close to home you can't ignore it >.<

Thank you.
emo_snal
Jun. 29th, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah its weird how news becomes so much more real when its closer. Like... right now I'm apparently in the middle of an epic ebola outbreak! O:
roina_arwen
Jun. 28th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
I can only imagine that it must be terribly hard to be stuck in that sort of situation! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it.
kehlen_crow
Jun. 29th, 2014 01:00 pm (UTC)
It's hard to feel helpless in it.

Thank you.

Edit: your icons sums it up perfectly.

Edited at 2014-06-29 01:00 pm (UTC)
mallorys_camera
Jun. 29th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
This is so-o interesting to me. Thanks for writing it.
kehlen_crow
Jun. 29th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.
eternal_ot
Jun. 30th, 2014 06:53 am (UTC)
This was interesting to know about...hope things sort out soon..thanks for sharing and getting it out of your system.*hugs*
kehlen_crow
Jun. 30th, 2014 09:56 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
jem0000000
Jul. 2nd, 2014 06:13 am (UTC)
*hugs*
kehlen_crow
Jul. 2nd, 2014 12:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
jem0000000
Jul. 4th, 2014 07:02 am (UTC)
You're welcome.
favoritebean
Jul. 2nd, 2014 08:55 am (UTC)
The news we hear about the situation is generally unclear. Your piece brings details to the surface that we outsiders never hear about. I hope things settle down soon.

Thank you for sharing your memories and your explanation of the events leading up to the conflict.
kehlen_crow
Jul. 2nd, 2014 12:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your comment as well.

It was part of my intention, sharing an "ordinary" point of view on the situation. All the little fact I have written up appeared quaint, or silly, or not really important when they happened, but after I wrote them down like that, in more or less chronological order, they showed themselves in a rather more sinister light we just did not want to see at the time.
tatdatcm
Jul. 2nd, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
It's disconcerting how removed issues seem until they're right at our back door, so to speak.

I love your closing paragraph, it speaks so true.
kehlen_crow
Jul. 2nd, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
It is, is it not? Thank you.
kajel
Jul. 2nd, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
Nicely done.
kehlen_crow
Jul. 2nd, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
binaryorchid
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:12 am (UTC)
I hear and watch the news and really hope there will be peace soon!
kehlen_crow
Jul. 3rd, 2014 12:25 pm (UTC)
So do we all. Thank you.
bleodswean
Jul. 3rd, 2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this.
kehlen_crow
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.
hosticle_fifer
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:40 pm (UTC)
This is a fascinating and close-in look at a history, the splitting of the Soviet Union, that I only knew from am arms-length distance - mostly from Social Studies class in middle school. And then of course a visceral ground-floor perspective on the current political situation, which I've been following closely but which I can only know from news commentary. I wish for the best as always, and hope it doesn't have any serious implications on your life!

Going back to your summer camp, I guess that Ukrainian would sort of be like what a southern drawl is to the United States - similar language, different/unique terminology, and common bigotry makes the speaker out to be a yokel?
kehlen_crow
Jul. 4th, 2014 12:39 pm (UTC)
similar language, different/unique terminology, and common bigotry makes the speaker out to be a yokel?
Yes to all of that, and also words and a grammar structure or two that are now obsolete/seldom used in Russia. Add to that that the Ukrainian language had no need to (and was not allowed to develop properly) for centuries, so it was of course looked down upon.

No, other than in that it affects my friends in the Ukraine, and scares me (as all "close" wars do), the situation does not affect me personally (we do not have close family there), but I fervently hope that at least the bloodshed stops soon.
halfshellvenus
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:47 pm (UTC)
I really liked seeing this situation from the inside, over the surreal history of the shift in being an SSR to an independent country and then the changes that have followed since.

I can understand, though, why a country whose culture was supplanted for so long by another would want so strongly to get it back. Someone mentioned Scotland below, and my ancestors are from Wales, where there is much the same issue.
kehlen_crow
Jul. 4th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
I can understand, though, why a country whose culture was supplanted for so long by another would want so strongly to get it back.

True. And unfortunately, as we see here, such process involves gross readjustments of history, a lot of outright lies and marginalizing the perceived aggressor. (I did not mention it, but the translations were not limited to textbooks. They have translated one of the great XIX century writers, Gogol, into Urkainian a while ago, and it would be logical to assume they now teach in schools from the translation pretending it's not a translation. Such hypocrisy. He might've been Ukrainian by birth, he might have written part of his work about Urkaine, but that was all in Russian.)

That's happened so many times before in history, but history does not teach you what it feels like when it repeats itself in things that concern you. :/
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )

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