Open letter of Ukrainian Jews to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

Originally posted on Voices of Ukraine:

To the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

Mr. President!

We are Jewish citizens of Ukraine: businessmen, managers, public figures, scientists and scholars, artists and musicians. We are addressing you on behalf of the multi-national people of Ukraine, Ukraine’s national minorities, and on behalf of the Jewish community.

You have stated that Russia wants to protect the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens of the Crimea and all of Ukraine and that these rights have been trampled by the current Ukrainian government. Historically, Ukrainian Jews are also mostly Russian-speaking. Thus, our opinion on what is happening carries no less weight than the opinion of those who advise and inform you.

We are convinced that you are not easily fooled. This means that you must be consciously picking and choosing lies and slander from the entire body of information on Ukraine. And you know very well that Victor Yanukovich’s statement…

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Helping Ukraine requires remedy for Cold War rhetorical hangover

 

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Monuments to dead Ukrainian heroes like this dot the landscape in Ukrainian cities. This one commemorates a 1941 bombing. Here’s hoping they don’t have to erect more

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Two weeks ago now, I got this message from a friend in L’viv, Ukraine: “They are shooting the protesters on Independence Square. I don’t know what to do!” As the death toll in Kyiv rose, as Putin postures, the political opposition to ousted Yanukovych stands resolute. Ukrainians are reaching out to the West by taking to FaceBook, Twitter, e-mail—all available media platforms. The West is slowly responding.

At my house, when we see images of violence in Ukraine, we do not see generic protesters in a far away land; rather, we see our friends on fire. They are friends we made during my 2011-2012 Fulbright in L’viv, a gem of a city located an overnight train-ride west of Kyiv. My son’s friend Vlad was in Kyiv’s Independence Square. So were families in whose homes we celebrated Christmas and Easter. They are professors and students; authors and booksellers; musicians and reporters; parents and children. Our friends speak of a country unable to move forward and unwilling to move back.

The name “Ukraine” means “borderland.” The region has been overrun by waves of invaders for much of its recorded history, starting with the Vikings. I first visited in 1998, when stores were open but empty of merchandise, people trembled as they walked by the police (until independence, the KGB), and meeting foreigners on the street was rare. What a change in 2011! Stores were bustling, streets full of families and lovers, and the country busy preparing to host foreigners for the 2012 European soccer championship.  Yanukovych had even agreed to negotiate membership in the European Union. But at the last minute, he succumbed to Putin’s economic threats, and sold Ukraine to Russia.

The hopeful Ukrainian public, however, proved neither as fickle as Yanukovych, nor as feeble as he would have liked. Taking to social media, people organized massive protests in the public squares or maydens around the country. They called their movement “Euromayden” and paired the blue-and-yellow flag Ukraine yellow-on-blue flag of the European Union. The patchwork coalition of Yanukovych’s opponents represents the far right, the far left and just plain folks in between. They populated Kyiv’s mayden through snow and ice since November. After spending New Year’s Eve there with her family, one friend called it the most exhilarating time of her life—she felt the kind of hope she believed would carry Ukraine closer to Europe and to intellectual and economic freedom. But with this week’s violence comes the desperate fear that hope is lost.

Western governments have called for dialogue– first between Yanukovych and his opposition, and now between Ukraine and Russia– but dialogue is impossible without committed Western support. True dialogue can occur only when the two parties command equal power, and respect each other. The power difference between bullying Russia and the bullied Ukrainian government can equalize only if the West stands behind Ukraine. Then the equal-power requirement for dialogue may be met.

Still, the requirement for respect remains elusive. Part of that problem lies with the way we talk about the parties in conflict. It’s about the choices we make when we use names. Whether we admit it or not, English-speakers suffer from a Cold War hangover. Evidence appears daily that North Americans still think of Eastern Europe in terms of the Cold War. For example, since this crisis began in November, I have heard television and radio reporters in both the U.S. and Canada refer to Ukraine as “The Ukraine.” I heard it on NPR on Sunday. Yesterday, when I appeared on Time Warner Cable’s News14Carolina, the anchor who introduced the piece referred to Ukraine the same way. I’ve got news for them: The Ukraine was a Soviet republic; Ukraine is a European country east of Poland. Similarly, newspaper style guides that dictate spelling in the news we read continue to use the Russian version of Kiev rather than the Ukrainian, Kyiv. The Soviet Union influences our thinking, even from the grave.

During Soviet times, some Soviets referred to Ukraine as “Little Russia,” and many pro-Soviet Russians still do–including Putin. The terminology rhetorically links the histories and identities of the two countries in a way that helps Putin justify his complaints about Western “meddling” in the independent Ukraine, as if his interest in Ukrainian state affairs were an extension of his work in Big Russia.

Contrary to our mothers’ counsel that names will never hurt us, names do hurt us. Names can assign power, for example, giving power to some and taking power away from others. The way it works can be as obvious as the way verbal abuse builds up the power of abuser while tearing down the power of the abused, and as subtle as the creation of an attitude that encourages one country to come to the aid of another–or invade it. When we identify a country as a “former Soviet republic,” we perpetuate the attitude that Moscow still dominates it. We do the same by preferring the Russian-language spelling conventions for Ukrainian names. This Cold War attitude encourages us to interpret the crisis in Ukraine as a domestic dispute over in the Russia house, and so it plays into Putin’s plan for EurAsian domination and his seeming denial that Russia has lost any geopolitical power since 1991.

While names can hurt, they can also help. Using specific terms that demonstrate we care about the power of naming can help Ukraine shed its problematic past associations. When we abandon the outdated attitudes about the opposition between Western and Eastern Europe that we still reveal in our language, then we encourage the kind of attitude that encourages our governments to respect Ukraine as an independent nation and behave accordingly. It will allow Western governments to provide the support the Ukrainian opposition needs to participate in true dialogue with the government to achieve the dignity and freedom citizens of an independent country deserve.

 

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Bishops appeal for a “stop to bloodshed and anarchy”

Statement by the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Europe on the political crisis in Ukraine

It is with great interest and hope that Ukrainians in Western Europe follow the events of the last two months in Ukraine: they follow and participate in them. Millions of our citizens in Ukraine have expressed their civic position peacefully, even festively, making their way like pilgrims on the sometimes daunting road towards God-given dignity. Your dignity has become a celebration of our dignity. Therefore, it is with anxiety and anguish that we observe, along with the rest of the world, the events which have recently taken place.

The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Europe fully support the head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, all the bishops, priests, religious and laity of our Church in Ukraine, which was suddenly once again threatened by the state.

The Church is not a political body. However, the Church is called to serve society and to be a rightful part of it. Its mission is to be with the people, especially with those who suffer. Our church wants to be responsible for its faithful, for all men of good will, and for the future of Ukraine. We are guided by the words of Pope Francis who said that “the shepherd must feel the smell of his sheep.” With Pope Francis, we prefer a wounded Church, perhaps even somewhat covered by the dust of the road and the sweat of labour, a Church that is with the people, rather than an abstract and detached Church.

With representatives of all churches and religious organizations, the Bishops of the UGCC in Europe strongly condemn murder and torture: anyone who commits such acts is responsible before God. We appeal to put a stop to bloodshed and anarchy.

We also encourage all parties to engage in dialogue. This dialogue is indeed difficult and requires patience, but in the present circumstances, any other alternative is unthinkable. Effective dialogue requires openness and sincerity, and cannot consist of a series of monologues, and even less so of blackmail by the stronger party which is moreover armed. Dialogue involves compromise, but not at the cost of truth and justice. We call on all parties to enter into a real and effective dialogue: the government, the opposition, the business community and the citizens of Kyiv and of various other Ukrainian cities, negotiating at various levels and in various formats.

We appeal to the Ukrainian leadership: you are responsible before God and men for the power which has been entrusted to you; exercise it for the good of the people, and not for their destruction. Follow the law, but never forget that if the law is unjust, it is justice itself that must prevail.

Political and social leaders must preserve the confidence of the people, their peace and their lives. The dignity and the interests of the Ukrainian people must be your reference point and the basis of all of your decisions and actions.

To the millions of those who are fighting for their dignity throughout Ukraine, we speak to you with the words of Christ himself: “Do not be afraid!” Recall the recent history of the Ukrainian nation and how it was preserved, the victorious testimonies of our martyrs and our confessors, and the history of salvation of each of us. This paschal conviction – the conviction that the cross leads to Resurrection, and that the Passion brings forth new life – can be a source of inspiration for us at this critical time which sometimes may seem frightening. The Lord has repeatedly brought us out of the house of bondage, and our pilgrimage to the “promised land” continues. We may trust that God will never abandon us.

We appeal to European citizens, states and institutions. We urge you to move to a deeper understanding of the events in Ukraine and to a more active involvement. Remember that ignorance and inaction in times of crisis can cause disasters. In the twentieth century, blood flowed in Ukraine mainly due to outside interference, but also due to external inaction, when the world was not able to hear and respond to the Ukrainian voice crying in the wilderness. The situation in Ukraine cannot be resolved without active mediation and international support. Ukrainians rely today on the effective solidarity of the international community.

Above all we encourage moral support and prayer.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the legalisation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and freedom for all faiths in Ukraine, the peaceful development of an independent state over 22 years, despite the many historical traumas and painful memories of past injustices – all this was given to us by the Lord. Is it not really a wonder, this peaceful solidarity that has blossomed for two months in Kyiv and other maidans (public squares) in Ukraine and the world? It is not political slogans that are heard there, but the voice of God-given dignity.

People seek stable relationships in every context: interpersonal, family, social, civic, religious, national and international. This requires the grace of God, God’s will and the will of the people – in Ukraine, in Europe and worldwide. Real relationships, true human dignity and the respect for human rights require freedom, work, sacrifice and responsibility of each of us.

Otherwise, this country which gained its independence peacefully and is learning the painful lessons of democracy could become a hellish place of conflict, a field of blood. Today, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past, our common task is to keep Ukraine united and peaceful, to preserve people from death and violence, and to help restore truth and justice.

We, the Ukrainian bishops of Europe, assure you of our support and our solidarity. We promise to do everything we can to ensure that the voice of Ukrainians resonate more strongly in the countries that have been entrusted to our pastoral care. The European Greek Catholics unite with all Ukrainian churches in prayer and fasting for peace and unity in Ukraine.

Dignity and God-given truth are inalienable: dignity and God-given truth will prevail!

Munich, London, Paris, Rome, 24 January 2014

Bishop Petro (Kryk)
Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainians in Germany and Scandinavia

Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna)
Diocese of the Holy Family in London for Ukrainians in the UK
Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainians in Ireland

Archbishop Borys (Gudziak)
Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris for Ukrainians in France, Benelux and Switzerland

Bishop Dionysius (Lyakhovych)
Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainians in Italy and Spain
Новини

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Special plea from Ukrainian Catholic University, L’viv

This morning, as Ukraine debates invoking state of emergency, I received this appeal from a dear friend at Ukrainian Catholic University.

“With apologies to Winston Churchill, rarely before in the history of the world could so few, doing so little, achieve so much for so many.”
Greg Satell, Forbes

Dear partners and friends,

Allow me to repeat the Ukrainian Catholic University’s appeal to you for the assistance in spreading information about events in Ukraine. We would be grateful to you if you could approach you colleagues, partners, representatives of your government and convince them to pay attention to what is going on in our country.

It is not easy to get an adequate impression of the events – the media usually share pictures that are the most colourful and violent. The reality is much more complex. Many of our friends and colleagues are spending their days in Kyiv, and their impressions are striking: although the historical moment is tense and tragic, Maydan (Independence Square) is the friendliest, cleanest, best coordinated and safest place in the whole country! It remains entrenched for the freedom and the dignity of the Ukrainian people. We cannot turn back – there is nowhere to go back to. It is as simple as that.

The Ukrainian people know that no one else can take up our own cause. No one can take our places in this struggle. The struggle for the future of Ukraine means everything for all of us. God help us.

But our struggle is your struggle, too. Our struggle will influence the future of the Europe.

Dear friends, we are counting on your support.

Do what you can to help us deliver the information, share our point of view and create more precise and accurate picture of events.

Here are the links with information in English, and some video materials. You can also use the information about events on our webpage /.

Texts:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/369214/bloodlands-george-weigel

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/why-canada-should-support-ukraines-democratic-protesters/article16507240/

http://ukraineanalysis.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/a-voice-from-the-field-of-battle-and-governmental-duplicity/

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-12-13-shekhovtsov-en.html

Videos:

Here is the memorial song dedicated to first three victims of the regime, written by the UCU international student Jessica Pacheco:

Be careful – this video is violent:

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Crisis in Ukraine: Notes from the front

Jan. 24, 2014

PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS…
From my friend in Lviv:

The situation is serious. It’s getting increasingly tense and volatile, now not only in Kyiv. Maidan activists are being kidnapped, tortured and also killed. There are no definite numbers of how many are missing. I suspect that the authorities don’t want the world to see dead bodies, so many people will remain simply unaccounted for. Yuriy Andrukhovych, a well-known writer and public figure has made an appeal to the international community, and his address has been translated into English.

PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS among as many people as possible, so at least those who would like to know what is going on in Ukraine right now learn it from people on the ground.  Every other night we go to where the riot police and some army units are stationed to picket them and not allow them to go to Kyiv. I can’t sleep. It’s getting scarier by the day.

Here’s the text by Andrukhovych:

Dear friends, especially foreign journalists and editors,
These days I am receiving lots of requests to describe the situation in Kyiv and overall in Ukraine, express my opinion, and formulate my vision of at least the nearest future. I have prepared this brief statement which each of you can use in accordance with your needs.

The most important things I must tell you are as follows:
During the less than four years of its rule, Mr. Yanukovych’s regime has brought the country and the society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a no-exit situation where it must hold on to power forever—by any means necessary. Otherwise, it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped exceeds all imagination of what human avarice is capable.

The only answer this regime has been proposing in the face of peaceful protests, now in their third month, is violence–violence that escalates and is “hybrid” in its nature: special forces’ attacks at the Maidan are combined with individual harassment and persecution of opposition activists and ordinary participants in protest actions (surveillance, beatings, torching of cars and houses, storming of residences, searches, arrests, rubber-stamp court proceedings).

The keyword here is intimidation. And since it is ineffective, and people are protesting on an increasingly massive scale, the powers-that-be make these repressive actions even harsher.

The “legal base” for them was created on January 16, when the Members of Parliament fully dependent on the President, in a crude violation of all rules of procedure and voting, indeed of the Constitution itself, in the course of just a couple of minutes (!) with a simple show of hands (!) voted in a whole series of legal changes which effectively introduced dictatorial rule and a state of emergency in the country without formally declaring them. For instance, by writing and disseminating this, I am subject to several new criminal code articles for “defamation,” “inflaming tensions,” etc. Briefly put, if these “laws” are recognized, one should conclude: in Ukraine, everything that is not expressly permitted by the powers-that-be is forbidden. And the only thing permitted by those in power is to yield to them.

Not agreeing to these “laws,” on January 19 the Ukrainian society rose up, yet again, to defend its future. Today in television newsreels coming from Kyiv you can see protesters in various kinds of helmets and masks on their faces, sometimes with wooden sticks in their hands.

Do not believe that these are “extremists,” “provocateurs,” or “right-wing radicals.” My friends and I also now go out protesting dressed this way. In this sense my wife, my daughter, our friends, and I are also “extremists.” We have no other option: we have to protect our life and health, as well as the life and health of those near and dear to us. Special forces units shoot at us, their snipers kill our friends. The number of protesters killed just on one block in the city’s government quarter is, according to different reports, either 5 or 7. Additionally, dozens of people in Kyiv are missing. We cannot halt the protests, for this would mean that we agree to live in a country that has been turned into a lifelong prison.

The younger generation of Ukrainians, which grew up and matured in the post-Soviet years, organically rejects all forms of dictatorship. If the dictatorship wins, Europe must take into account the prospect of a North Korea at its eastern border and, according to various estimates, between 5 and 10 million refugees.

I do not want to frighten you.

We now have a revolution of the young. Those in power wage their war first and foremost against them. When darkness falls on Kyiv, unidentified groups of “people in civilian clothes” roam the city, hunting for the young people, especially those who wear the symbols of the Maidan or the European Union. They kidnap them, take them out into forests, where they are stripped and tortured in fiercely cold weather. For some strange reason the victims of such actions are overwhelmingly young artists—actors, painters, poets. One feels that some strange “death squadrons” have been released in the country with an assignment to wipe out all that is best in it.

One more characteristic detail: in Kyiv hospitals the police force entraps the wounded protesters; they are kidnapped and (I repeat, we are talking about wounded persons) taken out for interrogation at undisclosed locations. It has become dangerous to turn to a hospital even for random passersby who were grazed by a shard of a police plastic grenade. The medics only gesture helplessly and release the patients to the so-called “law enforcement.”

To conclude: in Ukraine full-scale crimes against humanity are now being committed, and it is the present government that is responsible for them. If there are any extremists present in this situation, it is the country’s highest leadership that deserves to be labeled as such.

And now turning to the two questions which are traditionally the most difficult for me to answer: I don’t know what will happen next, just as I don’t know what you could now do for us.

However, you can disseminate, to the extent your contacts and possibilities allow, this appeal.

Also, empathize with us. Think about us.

We shall overcome all the same, no matter how hard they rage. The Ukrainian people, without exaggeration, now defend the European values of a free and just society with their own blood.

 I very much hope that you will appreciate this.
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Anniversary of near-death experience approaches

It’s hard to believe it has been one year that my sister suffered a burst aneurysm–and lived! She spent almost four months in hospital, and moved into an assisted care facility just in time for a lonely Christmas. Since then she has improved remarkably and is making jewelry, from which I have benefited, as well as taking up art, for which she has and unadmitted talent.

A certain person who shall remain nameless (because she would get embarrassed, but people think she is my sister, and she lives in Ottawa’s Lower Town near the Korean embassy) has been trying to get all the ducks in a row to move Leslie from her trendy digs in Vancouver’s Yaletown to assisted living in Ottawa, nearer the rest of her immediate family. The paperwork is time-consuming and done! Things are going smoothly for now. Who knows where my sister will spend next Christmas!

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Family first

My sister, Leslie, has suffered a health crisis that is going to affect her life from now on.  She lives thousands of miles away from both me and my brother; nevertheless, I want to ensure I am active involved with her care. Further, I want to ensure my cousins (who live nearby) don’t feel responsible for her.

My dilemma is: How do I balance the needs of my husband and two teenagers with the needs of my sister?

I climbed upon the horns of this dilemma when my sister suffered her stroke in September, and have found myself tightrope walking between those horns since I came back to NC after almost two weeks in BC.  I am thinking of taking one of the kids to BC for a short visit at the end of the month. But I still feel queasy.

And I have to get back to work.

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