Letters from Ukraine: Trampled Dignity

Letters From Attacked Ukraine.

by Halyna Pastushuk

Dear friends,

Here’s my next installment, finally… You may have been wondering about the long pauses after the letters sent as far back as  the eve of the assassination of Kremlin critic and activist Boris Niemtsov… There are many reasons behind these pauses, and yet the main one is  banal: I was just very, very tired after Easter and, in a way, relieved that the intensity of military escalation dropped down at least for a time. You might be thinking that the crisis in Ukraine is fading away. This is not true, at least as I see it from here. My friend Misha told me five of his closest combat friends died within three weeks of Easter. Russian troops and pro-Russian combatants “continue to train and try their artillery and military skills using the Ukrainian soldiers as live targets… probably planning a future attack. Since April, according to official data, 6200 Ukrainian people (military, volunteers, civilians) have died in the contested zone. The figure grows daily. How many more are missing, lost, captive, or blown to bits by shelling leaving nothing enough to indicate their identity?


Shortly before the Ukrainian Easter, I finished translating a book dedicated to Maidan events. It was the process of this translation that gave me another opportunity to ponder the issue of dignity–human dignity–especially the place and role of human dignity in contemporary Ukraine. The book, The Stones of Maidan, was published in a form of a photo-and-sermon collection. The visual aspect presents some of the best pictures taken during 2013-0214 winter in Kyiv and the verbal aspect is compiled of sermons preached to common people in Ukrainian churches Ukraine. These  messages are accompanied with quotations from the Bible. The book has a deep personal dimension, because it is written by a priest and illustrated by his own daughter, both of whom took active roles in the events. Among hundreds of pictures, the one that appeals to me most of all shows a soldier’s boot stepping in a puddle of human blood (during the phase of Maidan events when civilians were beaten by the Berkut.) The photograph is a micro-image of human dignity in Ukraine as I see it now, in both synchronic and diachronic dimensions.

The two most painful things for me are the lies constructed by the Russian propaganda machine and the humiliation suffered by average Ukrainians who are often not even aware. For example, one day I dropped into a photo shop to make some copies and the clerk was embarrassed when I addressed her by Pani, (which means “miss” of “madam”.)  She told me the title was too “high” for someone of her status, and that she preferred to be called “woman” or “lady”–a very Soviet way of treating someone. I tried to convince her that each person, regardless of age, sex, social position or origin, bears an inborn human dignity …, and … nobody can deprive us of our fundamental worth…. She smiled back to me and said the unbearable, “Well, I don’t know…” Upset by this reluctance to accept her own value, I recall the words of one of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church leaders, Cardinal Lubomyr Huzar, who said in early 1990’s that after  70 years of Soviet rule, only half of the problem was that the people in Ukraine had lost their faith in God. The other half of the problem was that they had been deprived of their basic humanity. How right he was…

As I look through the various analyses of world  media, I cannot help but be saddened by the imbalance of indignation expressed on the occasion of, let’s say, the terrorist act of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris compared to the program of terrorist acts taking place in the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine. It feels like the dead Ukrainians are not as precious as dead French journalists on the scales of justice that serve the international community. It also feels like the world community thinks radical Islamists present a more serious threat to world peace than Putin’s regime. We shall see. We shall see. I emphasize this not because I am Ukrainian myself, but because I have observed this tendency before– in the years before the war. Ukrainains are considerably less “noticed” in Europe, despite the size of their country and the number of population. Of course, size and numbers are not everything… I have been analyzing this and I will share some bits of this analysis.

In this message I want to say a few words about Mykola Leontovych (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mykola_Leontovych), a Ukrainian composer. Many Westerners will be familiar with his 1904 composition Shchedryk or The Carol of The Bells.



Dudaryk or The Little Drummer Boy was composed around the same time:


The melodies he composed are familiar and loved all over the world, yet his story is almost unknown outside Ukraine, like the stories of many prominent and talented Ukrainians. You can read a full story of his life elsewhere, but here is the story of his death:

During the conquest of Kiev on August 31, 1919, the Denikin Army persecuted the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Because of this, Leontovych returned to the city of Tulchyn with his family. There he started the city’s first music school, because the college where he had worked had been closed down by the Bolsheviks. He also began work on his first major symphonic work, the opera Na Rusalchyn Velykden‘ (On the water nymph’s Easter).

During the night of January 22–23, 1921, Leontovych was staying at the home of his parents for the Christmas season when he was  murdered by Soviet state security agent Afanasy Grishchenko. Grishchenko, undercover, had asked to shared a room with Leontovych. At dawn, he shot the composer in his sleep. He also robbed the family.

Several facts point to a political motive behind the assassination such as Leontovych’s participation in the independence movement,  commissioning the capella of the Ukrainian Republic, aimed at promoting Ukraine as an independent state, earned him many enemies…

To round out this passage on human dignity, I invite you to view pictures of average Ukrainian families. This is part of the project “My Ukraine” initiated by Daisy Sindelard, a journalist from Radio Liberty. http://docs.rferl.org/infographics/2014/2014_11/my-ukraine-uk/

http://www.rferl.mobi/a/26819853.html (in English)

Here you can listen to her telling about the project:


And, finally, here is a story of a man tortured for showing elementary Ukrainian patriotism: http://www.rferl.org/content/eastern-ukraine-torture-weapon/25387572.html


More follows,


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From a friend in Ukraine: Video about Russia’s prisoner or war

Dear friends of Ukraine!
I could not help providing you with a link to this 19 minute video which very briefly and clearly explains what’s going on with Nadiya and in general in Ukraine.
You can give this link to anyone who has questions and has not got much time to dive into the news.
Thank you for being there!

Halyna Pastushuk

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A friend in Ukraine remembers Maidan sniper victims of Feb. 20, 2014

I know that I have promised to devote one of my next letters to the topic of human dignity, especially in the light of current situation in my country. I am working on fulfilling this promise and at times it feels like I have to write a book…so much is there to say. This present message, however, I want to dedicate to those Ukrainians who were persecuted, beaten, tortured and shot dead during the Revolution of Dignity. I know they died not only for “a new Ukraine” but for “a new Europe”. For me, as a Christian, they died for the right to defend their God-given dignity. Some of them died even without realizing what awaited them on that day in Maidan but the majority died because they were ready to. My opinion, though, can be easily smashed by thousands of contrary views.

I come across many foreign articles depicting Ukrainian activists of Maidan as nationalists and fascists, as the ones who organized a coup in Ukraine, who used weapon against the police and turned a peaceful revolution into an armed uprising. Perhaps foreign journalists know better what had been happening in my country before the Maidan, they know better what was the essence of Maidan, and perhaps the Moscow perspective of the last winter events is much better perceived in the West and perhaps it is more psychologically convenient for an average westerner to think that Maidan was just a local showdown between east and west. Perhaps the Ukrainians who died in the last days of the Revolution were dying for money paid by the nationalists from the Ukrainian western regions or, by the USA. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps…why not? Everything is relative in this world, things are so complicated…so unclear….It is so difficult to get to the truth, let’s be satisfied with half-truths, quarter-truths just to avoid uncomfortable waking up.

            I will not say much this time. I’d better be quite with my biting irony. Here is a 26-minute English language video with comment telling about the last days of the Revolution of Dignity. On February 20, 2014 around 100 people were shot dead by snipers and our present president Petro Poroshenko established this day as the day of Heavenly Hundred commemorating the one-year-ago events.


Watch this when you have time. I watched it a couple of times to remind myself of what happened. It has impact on my daily decisions… It is a tribute to the “Heavenly Hundred” – the first victims of terror signaling of the forthcoming war against the political dignity of Ukraine’s statehood. Share it with others. Today these events are skillfully wrapped in ridiculous interpretations but I appeal to your common sense.


For those interested to continue a master class from Belial I fished out another propaganda video on a whole propaganda site. A clear Russian-accent voice trying to imitate American English is applying a typical method of belying reality with the help of facts. Those who have ears, listen, those who have common sense, analyze:



Finally, I would like to apologize for my exaggerated news about the physical state of Nadiya Savchenko in my last message on Feb 10. I fell prey to a bit populist publication of Yulia Tymoshenko’s party. Nadiya is indeed in critical state but the injections keep her going. Here is Savchenko’s speech in the Basmanny court (Moscow) on that same day. As you can see, she did not only stand and walk, she could even smile and defend her position:


Pictures from the court:



Thank you for reading this message. You do not have to agree with me but I beg you: BE AWAKE, THINK, ANALYZE AND SEEK THE TRUTH. The war in Ukraine is not somewhere far away, it is in your heart and your mind. It makes difference whether you are on the side of the good or on the side of the evil. There is no buffer zone to hide by appealing to the fact that the military location is far away from you, in the Ukrainian region of Donbass.

Halyna Pastushuk

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Nadiya Shevchenko’s Russian imprisonment

From a friend in Ukraine:

Today is the 60th day of NADIYA (HOPE) Savchenko’s hunger strike.
Please support her in your thoughts. Even if she dies she needs our spiritual support in the last hours of her life. She weighs only 50 kg as for today. The analysis of her blood is very bad: the formula is changing. She refuses to stop her hunger strike and says: “I am ready to die in the name of justice”. The fact that she is not guilty is 100% proven during the trial. She has 100% alibi. All the facts are there. She is Putin’s top hostage. I am sure that every hour of her hunger strike gives an immense damage to Putin’s regime and his empire of evil, all this is happening in the invisible spiritual world and will add to its end, drop by drop, very slowly but irreversibly. So far, Putin is sadistically enjoying her suffering and watching how the world is turning around his will, paying attention to him, begging him to set her free. Nadiya is one of his aces to play. By what is happening to her he is terrifying Russians to sit still and bear his regime. Soldiers and their families are signing special papers in which they promise not to promulgate their participation in the military actions on the territory of Ukraine to keep the war in secret. 

Today in the morning Nadiya was brought to the court. They want to prolong the trial till the middle of May 2015. Her lawyers brought an appeal to the EU court yesterday. 

Nadiya cannot walk or stand and she can barely speak but her spirit is very strong. Neither her lawyer, nor her sister and mother could coax her to stop the starvation. This is what she said:

“I took part in two wars and I am ready to die in the name of justice. Your prime-minister Medvedev said that if they cut off the SWIFT system, then Russia is ready to all kinds of measures. I am also ready for all kinds of measures. I survive barely by the power of my will. I shall go to the end.



Her exhausted and suffering body is extremely sensitive to every positive thought, to a prayer, to one day of hunger-strike in your life in her support. Another 5 members of the EU parliament joined a hunger-strike to support Nadiya.

I believe that everything happening in this world is very tightly connected. Do not fall prey to thinking that you cannot do anything. It’s up to you how you can help her. Just do something good today in her name…and may the Lord bless you.

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From the Russian Front 2015

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we  don’t hear about everything that’s going on in the world from our news outlets.  Let’s face it, Paris is the home of Agence-France-Presse and a number of foreign news bureaus. So what happens in Paris — or New York or London — makes headlines.The new and unexpected also makes the headlines.  (The very definition of “news.”) But let us look a bit beyond the headlines to what is happening away from international attention, what is still happening and has been going on for a year–the Russian attacks on Eastern Ukraine.  Here is a note from from the Russian front…the Ukrainian Russian front.

Letters from Attacked Ukraine. Letter 5: JE SUIS CHARLIE = JE SUIS VOLNOVAKHA
Halyna Pastushuk <kniazivna@gmail.com>

January 15, 2015


Dear friends,

I have to bother your peaceful and busy pace of life with another message and address you with a bunch of sad news. This message was supposed to be posted a day before but daily cares and constant ‘living in the news’ hampered me from doing this. Today is announced a day of deep mourning all over Ukraine. We’ve got our “Charlie” three days after the French tragedy. On Jan 13 Russian terrorists attacked from GRAD a civil bus as if aiming at the Ukrainian check-point near the town of Volnovakha in Donetsk region. Their target, unfortunately, just like in case with the Malasian airplane in July last year, turned out to be also a bus with civilians. First the Russians boasted with a successful hit and 11 killed. After the sad discovery the news immediately disappeared from the internet and now the separatists refuse to accept the responsibility. 10 people dead at once, two died later in hospital, 18 severely injured.

More on this here:

and here:

This is a horrifying video of the bus after the mortar attack: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f00_1421226990

In three days of Islamic terror the French lost 17 citizens. In a very similar way, for the same absurd reasons, in a war caused by Russian terror, we lost 12 in one day…and how many more…how much more??? I express my solidarity with the French who are mourning their victims of terror. I hope this is a mutual feeling. It is very hard to realize, though, that unlike Alkaida and similar structures, LNR and DNR (two fake republics in the east of Ukraine) are not yet recognized as terrorist organizations, even after the crash of the Malasian boeing. This indefiniteness, this unclarity and obscurity, this fear to call things with their proper names is very hurting. The evil forces like when things are blurred and triple covered with fear and political correctness.Our president Mr Poroshenko is going to press the international community with this issue.

Oleg Liashko, the leader of the Radical Party of Ukraine, is calling all Ukrainians to organize a protest action this forthcoming weekend to show solidarity to the world, to show  that there is not civil war in Ukraine and we are united against our enemy.

In my previous message I promised you to give links to petitions about saving Nadiya Savchenko from fake imprisonment. In her last letter of Jan 12, delivered from prison by her lawyer, she says she promised herself that the last day of her hunger strike can be either the day of freedom and traveling back to Ukraine or … death. She believes she will endure the physical exhaustion with the strength of her spirit. She says: “if one person thinks of me in supportive way it adds to my strength, if someone thinks of me bad (s)he only adds to my perseverance and anger”. PLEASE HELP NADIYA BY SIGNING A PETITION

Here is the latest information about her in English: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11337627/Nadia-Savchenko-The-most-controversial-prisoner-of-the-war-in-Ukraine.html

Here are links to petitions with I personally beg you to sign. One of our politicians launched a petition in White House site. Please, please, please find time to save our HOPE. Nadiya has starved for 33 days already. She lives on glucose injections and hot water because hunger strike is the only way she can protest:


And here is one more piece of news. A German journalist, having applied the laws of human logic and investigative perseverance, plus some pictures from space, discovered a 4 square km military base from which Russia dislocates its forces into the territory of Ukraine. In October 2014 there were no signs of infrastructure at all. In October 2014 buildings and roads, together with heavy military transport units appeared.

No comment…


In one of my previous messages I told you that I had been struck with reactions of some people to developments in Ukraine. I continue talking to people, explaining, asking questions, giving answers, analyzing. Two ladies from Vienna asked my Ukrainian friend a very interesting question: “How can you live in the discourse of war? Why don’t you let them [Russians] take what they want and leave you in peace?” I find this question quite symptomatic and I suspect this is one of the reasons why many foreigners cannot just believe the war is on. I hear them spelling the war with the euphemism “Ukrainian crisis”. To say “war” is too harsh. I remember myself at the point when we had mysterious “green uniform guys” in Crimea in March last year. I thought to myself then: whatever, come what may, but not war! No, no, if they want to separate from us and go to Russia, let them go! I do not want blood to be shed, I do not want deaths. Hundreds of deaths after Maidan seemed too much because we all lived in the discourse of peace, just like you now. But this is exactly what Putin expected: they are all too innocent and peaceful to wake up and switch into the war mode before I really snatch a piece of land. I remember that Putin waited, he moved very slowly, like a vulture watching its prey: first two tanks on a road with the Russian flag, then unidentified green aliens on the peninsula, then talks about referendum, then guys with weapons threatening Ukrainian officers. Putin was teaching us a principle: I will go just as far as you let me. He was checking how far we all (Ukraine and the international community) could let him go. We were all deep asleep in the discourse of peace and negotiations, warnings, indignations, protests, etc.etc.etc. while Putin was in the discourse of bliz krieg. It is a fatal mistake to thing that we can pay off with a region or two from Putin. It is also a fatal mistake to think that Europe can pay off from war at the cost of Ukraine. History is repeating itself. We have buried almost all WWII veterans. There are few survivals, I guess, but did not it all start from the similar compromises? Was not Europe blind to Hitler’s challenge at the cost of the Chech Republic? And remember, Hitler was ‘respecting the free will of each state to decide its destiny’! And remember the Chechs had had just too much blood shedding before WWII to be ready for more. They gave in to avoid war. Did it stop Hitler? It is wrong to give in to the evil when it is very little. It is wrong to give in to the evil even if it seems innocent and not threatening. Evil has a quality to make its nest in the best of goodness, lay eggs there and then…when the dragons are hatched they grow very quickly and are almost impossible to overcome. I think in case of Putin the nest was that Europe was conducting a hypocritical policy with Russia, as if pretending not to see its real face in oil wars, in economic harassment, in home policy turning the state into a one-person regime. Everybody was enchanted with Putin’s smile and speeches. Oh, yesss. I took time to listen to the whole 3.5 hour international press conference he gave on December 18, 2015 in Kremlin:


I can tell it’s a hypocrisy master-class. Putin is extremely smart, charismatic and he uses even the most uncomfortable questions to his benefit. Tackled by the question about the presence of Russian soldiers in the east of Ukraine he says they “come there by the call of their heart” to help Ukrainians fight against fascists and nationalists. He has a talent to publicly wash his hands off with eloquence of his tongue. My Romanian friend, who is also a translator, once shared with me that she had been invited to translate at the top level during an official meeting in Bucharest where Putin was present. She confessed to me, to her sadness, that as a man he is very charming and has something that draws people around into a psychological whirlpool created by his personality.

Well, the eggs are being hatched now, and the dragons are awaiting us in future if we continue to avoid the ‘discourse of war’ and persevere stubbornly in the ‘discourse of peace’.

So much for this gloomy letter….please don’t forget about Nadiya Savchenko!

Again, thank you for reading it and sorry for the sad news.
Halyna Pastushuk
Christ is among us


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Before the national election, a visit to Kharkiv

From a former student in the Borderland:

Kharkiv is worth a visit for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in the East… In the words of my friend, it’s something like Coke Light.

There’s a full set of striped ribbons (a Soviet symbol) on the walls, and the Ukrainian flags painted on the pylons of the bridge are marred with big Xs. A small guard surrounds the statue of Lenin. The metal rails for carriages and handrails have been removed; grates and fencing use little metal. … I asked a friend: “Why do you have so much room between the for hand-holds for climbing the steps? This is inconvenient! She said, “They removed the rails so no one could use them to beat each other.” The city lives its own life. Pretty quiet (it turns out, we were on the middle of ta rally we have not even noticed), and sometimes a little strange.

But, if you talk to people, they make things clear: “We don’t believe the Russian media, nor Ukrainian, either.”

“So who do you believe?”

“If three acquaintances confirm information independently then we believ that information.”

The same applies to the situation in Donbass. “There is a system alert,” one grandmother said. “Information is passed from hand to hand.”

In Kramatorsk, they get the information from the radio. “Mother’s Radio–Radio which is exclusively Russian. And the TV channels, too,” said my companion. Although, according to him, people have become calmer with regard to their reactions to gunfire outside, even the older generation.

The most important thing is that I brought from there is that reliable and good people from the East simply want their voices to be heard. But all they hear is scary talk. The reason: lack of independent media. The army is not held in high esteem because they over-react, like “militias” as they prefer to be called. “Recently in the cemetery we buried 20 local guys. Local guys, not terrorists, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were shot at a roadblock. And no one takes the responsibility for such acts,” says my companion. “The referendum brought out many people, even those who are afraid before. They thought ought everything would be fair and square,” he said.

We all want the elections to be fair, but we do not exclude the possibility of election fraud.

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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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