Since late 2013, Ukraine started to appear in media and since then, its presence was increased when a man was shot and killed by a riot policeman. That was what we saw objectively in the newspaper, but what AUBGers, who are directly involved, think about it is even more relevant. They are our neighbors, and friends, and this crisis is right in their backyards.
“For too long, great German people have, apparently defenseless, been delivered shameless ill-treatment and expos of treats. I am speaking of Czechoslovakia”
started Adolf Hitler during his speech in 1939 before restoring order in Czecholovakia. “The conditions in this nation are unbearable, as are generally known. Politically more than 3,500,000 Germans were robbed in the name of the right of self-determination”.
“There will be a lot of ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and Russia who will always defend their interests through law and other means” said Vladimir Putin during his speech in March 2014. Exactly 75 years later. “Crimea will be welcome back to Mother Russia”.
The crisis in Ukraine started in late 2013 when protesters demonstrated in the square in Kiev, the Maiden, for their position against the government because it refused to sign a treaty with the European Union. However, your point of view would change, depending on on the person, because for others, the crisis started when Yanukovych changed the Constitution to ensure his continued position of power. “Everything depends on what events are telling the story” POS professor Spina said during the Ukranian Crisis Round Table which was held in AUBG a few weeks ago. “Everything is about legitimacy” others said. History has different versions, and that is a really important issue to build a future and that’s why we should care about who is telling the story.
Kateryna Kostiuchenko is a Ukrainian Sophomore student from AUBG and she is from Korosten, a city two hours away from Kiev. She prefers to be called Kate so it would be a pleasure to do so. Her mother is a school teacher and her father is a businessman. Kate defines her father as a model Ukrainian, because he always spoke to his children in Ukrainian rather than Russian as most of the people did at that time. Also, it was he who took her to the “Maidan”, the square where the protests were taking place.
“I was so proud when the protests started. I thought: yes, finally they understand what is happening in their society, and they are not afraid to raise their voice anymore”.
The square was full of people no matter their age nor genre; they were there just trying to find a common language in order to solve their problems.
But then the police riot “Berkut” shot a protester and violence ensued (See video). That incident changed everything and hostility began. The International Community opened its eyes, “but probably at that time it was already too late” Kate said. Russia began worrying about the uncontrolled situation and allegedly increased its military presence in the Crimean Peninsula. (Ukraine conflict explained in 60 seconds Check out more ) “Looking like a protester outside of the square is dangerous. Some of my friends have been discriminated by police officers, they can arrest you if they see you come from there” Kate warns.
Historically, Russia and Ukraine have been linked intrinsically for centuries: during the 18th century, Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. Afterwards, in the 20th century, both were USSR states funders. During all this time, it is easy to see the influence and control that Russia has had over Ukraine. Some would even say that Ukraine is Russia’s pantry and mode of gas transportation. In that case, unlinking both countries becomes something difficult. (Ukrainian- Russian relations background explained by maps Check out more )
In 1997, after USSR was over, Ukraine and Russia signed a bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, which formally allowed Russia to keep its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, in Crimea. This area was given as a gift to Ukraine in 1954 by Russia. Although Crimea has the largest Russian population in Ukraine, it reaffirmed with 54 percent of the voters, after USSR collapse that they prefered to belong to Ukraine.
PHOTO: Iryna Bedovska
Iryna Bedovska is a freshman student at AUBG and she is from Sevastopol, a quite autonomous city in the Crimean Peninsula. She is a Russian speaker, and she considers herself Russian since her father works in Russia’s Navy, in the Black Sea Fleet. During the round table, the president of the AUBG Politics Club went to the last topic they would touch in that Round Table: Crimea.
At that moment, Iryna raised her hand nervously.
“We don’t want to belong to Ukraine anymore” she said proudly.
When she had gone back to Sevastopol, Russian troops were asking for documents to get into the city. Furthermore, Russian and Ukrainian currencies were both working. “Everything was quite chaotic” she said. She also noted that the presence of the army was necessary because there were providing safety; they weren’t striking nor shooting anyone. “If so, it wouldn’t be the same for us” she added. However, what Kate has to say about this “legal invasion” was way stronger, “this might sound huge, but there is a point in saying that he is acting like the second Hitler. At the time Hitler invaded a part of Czechoslovakia [the Sudetes], and he claimed that German-speaking people were in danger. Isn’t it what is happening right now?” she said.
In her school, Iryna mostly studied in Russian (except for Ukrainian Literature and History). Her friends always speak in Russian and her family too. “Actually— she said— I don’t know anybody around me who speaks Ukrainian as a mother tongue”. She didn’t say that one would be discriminated if he were to speak Ukrainian in Eastern Ukraine but what is sure is that everybody would turn around if they heard it.
On the other hand, let’s not forget Kate’s father as a model of patriotism because he spoke Ukrainian rather than Russian. Also people in Western Ukraine find the Ukrainian a trending language in the young population as a protest and proclamation of their nationalism in front of Russian speakers.
It seems everything is in some way related with the language they speak, with misunderstandings and miscommunications. They are not able to find a common language to speak and solve the gap between these two nations which are sharing a country.
I cannot know how actually related language is to culture and nationalism. It is pretty obvious that Ukraine is divided into two pieces. But how much of that divide is a result of the language split? Those two pieces are each pulling a rope in different directions: Western Europe or Russia.
However, in this storm there is one thing that is sure- these two girls far from home want the best for themselves, their families, their people and their country. “It is very difficult to be abroad nowadays” they said in unison.