Credit for the photos: Coffee to Gratisography and Hotdogs to Aimee Seavey
Jennie Kermode from Eye for Film titled the movie Almost Holy and specifically its leading character Gennadiy Mokhnenko as “A portrait of a nation fighting for its future” which is partially truth because in this case it is obviously the Ukrainian nation. Gennadiy mentions that a normal Ukrainian person aspires to the European values but the problem is that many people have a fairytale image of the West which, first of all, does not reflect the reality and, second of all, does not allow to reach it; especially if the country, or rather, its nation, is not ready to enter it. “Piece of [the] West. Coffee and hot dog. Life is good.” – this is the image: opportunities, good life, no worries, Hakuna Matata. I agree that we still live through the vestiges’ influence of the USSR and its system. Sometimes they can be pretty embarrassing but sometimes warm to the heart of many of those who were born until late 90s of the XX century. Gennadiy believes that the main reason of his activities is USSR with its founders: “Lenin [is] in the head” of many people, – “What is happening is his result. We need changing”.
He says that “normal Ukrainian people [live by the] European values”. But what are those European values? How would one define them, what is the standard which should be followed? Culture or unification and mix of cultures, tolerance, respect, equality, freedom of choice, action and expression, set of rules which if were followed could lead to the perfect life, no corruption, unfailing governmental systems, social justice, clean streets, absence of druggies, alcoholics, homeless or domestic abuse, world where all diseases could be cured, where machines help humans and they do not have work so hard, is it an abstract sort of happiness? Is there such a perfect utopian place on Earth where its members are ready to sacrifice own interests and principles for the common brotherhood/ sisterhood well-being without nationalism, competition and war? The Ukrainians might aspire to those values but are they ready though to accept, compromise and follow them, physically as well as mentally?
Next section is based on the opinions of people who currently live in Ukraine or Europe and who preferred to remain anonymous. I must admit as for someone who does not live in Ukraine for quite a while that with every trip home the image becomes harsher and ‘pink glasses’ (Rus/ Ukr expression meaning naive perception) slowly fall down and crush into the small unfixable pieces.
Ukrainians have an excellent sense of humour and optimism which is of course exaggeration however it would not appear if it was not partially truth. Victory! -Ukraine took the place in the worldwide rating of corruption. -1st place by the level of poverty in Europe. -1st place in Europe by the speed of inflation. -1st place in Europe by the speed of price growth. -1st place by the level of devaluation of the national currency in Europe. -1st place in the rating of the lowest European salaries. -1st place in the quantity of millionairs e-declarants among government officials, judges, deputies and the President. We can do it if we want! Source: Типова Україна
For the day being, people of Ukraine do not feel that here is reliability or protection; a low standard of living forces to care only about ones’s own limited problems, being concerned about how to survive, buy something else apart from potatoes and pay next month bills, to not get robbed late at night etc. There is no decent social security, thus the quantity and the quality of values are narrowing down.
Before the revolution of 2013 average salary was about 3500 to 5000 hryvnias which, with the course of approximately 8 hrn per 1 euro, was 440 to 625 euro per month which was roughly enough for an average life. General prices in the shop were tolerable to the salary level, however the average pension was about 2000 hrn. Today’s inflation hit mercilessly, all prices have grown minimum in 3 times higher yet salaries and pensions stayed without a change. For 22.04.17 1 euro costs 28.6050 hrn which turns salary of 3500 hrn, which was before 440 euro, into 123.039 euro. The combination of European prices and the old salaries makes millions of people live on savings if they had such; otherwise they limit themselves, in the best case in the amount of ‘treats’, in the worst – in expensive food, such as meat or sea products, sweets. Along with that the quality of the products has dropped.
The bills for water, electricity etc. jumped (gradually though) almost 3 times higher and still continue growing. People are already disappointed in European tariffs on the communal services, consequently they do not want to accept European values. They are left face-to-face to live their own lives of survival, limited, primitive but very real, distanced from the hope that someday things would change.
One of my friends said Funny thing! The is crisis in the country but apartments and penthouses in the new built districts are all sold out and people buy expensive cars (even those ones which do not fit for the road quality) from abroad almost everyday! This is the country of the contrasts, the middle class slowly dissolves into the very rich or the very poor ones.
Though the laws are written well, they cannot prevent the jump of the level of criminality, because some people started stealing, literally as well as through the ‘advantageous’ offers. Again people do not feel protected, they stop to be interested in the world outside their bubble, they live with one day being afraid to plan and look into the future. Gennadiy states that “in well-developed countries there are special governmental forces which deal with that kind of problems” (kind that he deals with especially), but in Ukraine and, I would presume in Russia as well, the only reliable way appears to be the self-appointed right to deal with those problems. One of the boys whohad run away from Piligrim Republic said: “A tramping lifestyle means freedom”, – “What is freedom?”, – “It is when no one violates you, does not take anywhere, does not beat”. “Does the police somehow do something?”, – “They will interrogate a bit, beat you and let go, they will write it down and that’s it.” Obviously, it is a harsh generalization but sometimes police indeed appears to be dysfunctional.
Sources: ZN,UA, Bigmir.net, Сьогодні, Жизнь, VIP President, 1kr.ua
The next thing which contrasts Ukraine to the European standards is attitudes to the gay parades. Ukraine is the country which allows a huge range of different churches, sects, and was one of the first countries of post USSR space which opened a church of Satan, however on the bigger scale it is considered to be the Christian country, which is why in the basis of its moral, gay parades are unacceptable. In Ukrainian society gay person is thought to be a pathology, many people pity members of LGBT society in general. On the simple human communication level people try to be patient to gay people and to not pay much of extraordinary attention, but in fact many are irritated by them. The last year parade was moved from the bigger streets to the lesser ones, the parade itself was protected by the shield of the police, but even this did not prevent the beating of its members. The event was held in the way the less people know, the less blood is shed. It seems like people understood that they do not want to show off with the support of LGBT anymore. Again, these are opinions of average Ukrainians: the society is not ready to accept and be tolerant.
The next point is concerned with the freedom of speech which has been subtly violated. It is known that the press and media which expresses opinions disagreeable to the main ideology of the country is not welcomed and sometimes is even forbidden. If one looks through the Ukrainian national websites, listens to the National radio or watches National news or TV channels one would not read, hear or see anything contradictory to the Ukrainian patriotism or proukrainian beliefs.
I mentioned that the European values include the high-spirit culture. Unfortunately one cannot talk about high culture in the context of the song Putin Huilo Lalala. YouTube provides one with the 8350 results of the versions of its performance. It is almost like a 2nd anthem of Ukraine!, said my friend once. For me personally, it is embarrassing that a good amount of foreigners are coming up to me with the question: Do you know this funny Ukrainian song about Putin?
Just put Путин Хуйло in the Google search
I question myself Why don’t you ask me Do you know this beautiful Ukrainian national blouse? (vyshyvanka) or Do you know this great poetess Lesya Ukrainka? Why the first thing you know and associate with Ukraine is the song which consists out of 3 words, where the 1st word is the name of someone else’s President, the 2nd one is a swear word (dickhead), and the 3rd one is not even a word? What kind of culture are we talking about here? What kind of picture is drawn onto the Ukrainian culture? How do those words reflect the Ukrainian nation? It is understandable that the feelings must be expressed and the right of the freedom of the speech much be used, but emotions can be expressed in so many different cultural ways. Decades ago the great Ukrainian poets, writers and compositors managed to find such ways. I mean, there is a karaoke-hit version of this song. I mean, those words are used for adverts of drinks, radio and other products just to make better selling rates, the words are written on billboards, children in school sing it and people consider it prestigious to travel in a t-shirt where these words are written. Those words can bring up the spirit of people but what kind of quality is this spirit then? Going back to Lenin’s influence, one can see its consequences in the lack of cultural education and background.
They took down Lenin’s memorials but unfortunately they did not manage to take him out their minds yet. Anyways, it is a part of our history, it cannot be changed, unless we want to live as in Orwell’s 1984 and where one “[who] controls the past controls the future. [One who] controls the present controls the past.”
Another case which raised dozens of comments only in vk.com about the provocative opinion of Oleg Skrypka, the famous and respected singer from the band BB, whose exacts words in translations are:
“People who cannot learn Ukrainian language have low IQ level, they have to receive the diagnosis of imbecile (idiot). They must be separated, because they are socially dangerous, we need to create ghetto for them”. The percentage is there, and if one scrolls down to see the comments, many people support his opinion, which is understandable when one considers the conditions under which the country finds itself. What about freedom of choice? Freedom of expression? What about different skill sets and language perceptions? It seems like it is okay when people do not know English, yet they want to be in the EU. On the other hand, if people do not know Ukrainian they are retards. If Ukraine aspires to become a European country, people have to accept compromise. Because if we become part of the EU we will transform into a borderless nation, in constant contact with other cultures. Question: if we cannot accept different cultures now, how can we do it later? We are giving up the same European values we are fighting for on our quest to joining the EU.
Rendering through the YouTube, I found these videos wich are obviously made with either comic or exaggerating overgeneralising intention but the fact is there: not all people who were there had this level of knowledge, but some of them indeed had the misunderstanding or significant lack of information. I have to apologise that only Ukrainian and Russian speakers would be able to understand it.
Lack of the educational system could be quite essential. These videos demonstrate that when there was opened the question about Ukraine signing for the Association with the EU, some people from the peaceful demonstration in the centre of Kiev did not really know why they were standing there or their idea was different from the initial purpose of demonstration, being carried away by the combination of the Ukrainian idea and a Heavenly image of Europe which they draw in their minds. For example, in the 1st video the man does not know that visa would not have been rejected for Ukrainians, because it was not a part of the document about the Association with the EU; some of the people were getting surprised that the Association would not have automatically made Ukraine a member of the EU and that the EU would not invest money in it. In the 2nd video people believe that Europe is better just because it is Europe, and things must be better there, streets are cleaner and corruption is a myth; that Ukraine would be less dependent on Russia while it would be more dependent on the EU. Funny, exaggerated, but contains the raw facts which create part of the general image.
Since we are talking about the vestiges’ of the USSR and Lenin, not many people knew that the plot of the film Leviathan of 2014 by Andrey Zvyagintsev is based on the real story of an American welder, Marvin Heemeyer, who went through the rough times in the fight with the government, consequently committing suicide. Zvyagintsev initially planned to do a film in the United States on these events, but being introduced to the novel by Michael Kohlhaas understood that this case is not an exceptional which pushed him to move filming process to modern Russia. After the release many Russian people complained that they are sick of directors trying to portray Russian nation in the way, as if all Russians are constantly drunk, poor and depressed, so all foreigners think that everyone lives there lives this way. Obviously, the generalization would be inappropriate but one cannot deny that somewhere in the world, people live in those conditions, with corruption, alcoholism and helplessness, this happens around the world. In fact this plot line is not original or rather is not tied down to the spaces of post USSR area.
“This is real Ukraine. Not Kiev. Not industrial cities.” I must say that I do not agree with that statement because if we talk about problems Kiev has enough of similar and own special ones, such as every capital has: when people from non-capital cities come and to try to find not any job but a good one, or a scholarshiped place in the leading state Universities etc. Moreover, it is not surprising that foreigners who had never been to Ukraine but eventually saw this film, would consider the whole country like this, – ugly, poor and troubled. No doubt that Mariupol’s landscape does not look attractive and still it can be appealing for the lovers of urban paysage. Ukraine is beautiful and rich for natural resources country, having almost all types of natural landscapes, from field to mountains. Additionally, there are places with incredible architecture, such as Lviv, Chernivtsi, old center of Kiev etc.
Fog over the fields of Ukraine. Source: Интересные Факты
Terykony. Donetsk region. Photo by Анатолий Спица
Kyiv. Photo by heliclub.ua
Yaremche. Photo by Nikita Sulenko
The Catholic Church of St. Antoniy Paduanskiy, 1889, village Losyach, Ternopil region. Photo by Оля Кузьмич
Village Zarichya, Irshavskiy region. "Almost all villagers grow 'early cabbage'. This [agri]culture is the basis for the local economy and occupies two thirds of the land in the area". Photo by Сергій Гудак
Gorganski spaces. Photo by Леонід Морозов
Carpathians. Photo by © tyoma_atsone
Hredyls' Palace. Skole, Lviv region. Photo by Yuriy Buriak
Chalk Quarry. Chernihiv region. Photo by Николай Турчин
The Wooden Catholic Church of St. Anne (1771), Kovel. Photo by МАХХХ
The Waterfall Probiy. Yaremche. Photo by Nata Kabliuk
There is happiness, even in current difficult time; it is in small moments, in drinking tea with your friend, in going to secondhand bookshops, in drinking cider on the bank of the river or to play guitar with your old music band. People get through with their dreams. Gennadiy has the dream himself that every family has children own or adapted ones, a house, a little green house next to it, a little house for chicken. This is another one demonstration of the Ukrainian dream. But it is true though that one should “dream about good time but must prepare for the bad time”, which is also a reflection of the Slavic mentality.
“How everything in life is confused.”