We Still Have Hope
While in the east of Ukraine many people are ready to accept lies and suffer for Putin’s stability, in the country’s centre and south, people think differently.
When I watch Russian media and listen to the messages that are being generated by Russian politicians I get goose bumps just thinking about what could happen to my hometown –the beautiful Odessa, located in the south of Ukraine. I don’t even want to think that one day eastern Ukraine, and soon after southern Ukraine, will turn into another province of the aggressor-state and only one historical narrative will be accepted. The question remains why do my own people want this so much? And here I don’t only mean the ringleaders of this turmoil or those who impatiently wait for Russians to replace today’s Ukrainian elites – even though these people are also big in numbers.
In the east people are simply tired. They are tired of corruption, poverty and lack of hope. They are tired of not being able to decide on their own future. People are driven by fear, lies and despair. However, while people on the Maidan were ready to stand for months, people in the east are only ready to fight for a better future.
In recent months, Russian media have done everything they could to put the so-called separatists in eastern districts of Ukraine on par with the Maidan. This has brought effects – many journalists earlier neutral in regards to the conflict or even those who shared the ideals of the Maidan have taken this bait. At the same time, in the east there are people who are angry. They are angry with their own apathy which has been depriving them of the power to act. They are angry with poverty but – above all – they are angry with having been backed into a corner from which they cannot find a way out.
Experts closed in their ivory towers thought that the Maidan will enable radicals to take over power and were even making comparisons with 1917 when radicals brought down moderate forces in power. The events, however, took a different course – radical groups did, indeed, emerge, but somewhere else – in the east of the country.
That is why, in the east instead of three months of occupation in urban centres, we can see a storm on state buildings and beatings of opponents. Instead of baseball bats and the so-called “trauma” pistols, they have semi-automatics and grenade launchers. Instead of the idea of Ukrainian statehood, we see flags of a country which is the attacker. Instead of the will to build a state of laws, we witness takeovers and calls for aid from a foreign army.
Every day, Russian media inform Ukrainians in the east about the Nazis in the Ukrainian government or about the president who has no legitimacy and the war crimes of the Bandera groups. Russian media portray Vladimir Putin as someone who helps modernise villages, flies with cranes and fights corruption. The media also brainwashes them with information that the events in Kyiv were a plot prepared by American intelligence agencies. They report on the economic crisis in Europe and point to positive role that Russia plays in the world.
Hence, the Ukrainians in the east have taken up arms in order to defend their families from Bandera devotees in the Right Sector. They do it without realising how far their understanding is from reality. They do not travel, nor want to travel, to western Ukraine, nor to Europe – places, as they believe, overrun with married gay couples and American spies.
So when the Russian provocateurs began their work, the ground was already prepared. It simply turned out that what these terrified, cheated and distraught people need is a little bit of stability. As Russian poet, Ilya Kormiltsev, wrote in the last days of perestroika: “the poorest pray – they pray so that nobody takes their poverty away”.
Putin is not Russia, nor is he the Soviet Union. Putinism is petroleum-based stability offered in exchange for the readiness to accept lies, suffer and conform. People in the east of Ukraine are ready to accept these terms, but in the centre or south of the country not many are willing to agree to such a compromise.
And this is what gives me hope.
Translated by Iwona Reichardt
Mikhail Shtekel is a Ukrainian journalist with espresso.tv