Shifting Viewpoints

When I came to Ukraine in 1996, I know that my grandparents were extremely wary of me going to a former Soviet state to live for a year and a half. I never really understood the Cold War as clearly as when I saw their concern and felt their apprehension toward all things Eastern Bloc. They never made blatant criticism, and I know my grandpa was fascinated with my travels and proud of my decision to serve a mission, but still, the palpable distrust and even hate for communism was ever present.

Indeed, when I lived here in the midst of the terrible economic situation in the mid-90s, I was confronted every minute with vestiges of a corrupt social, economic and political system that had given way to an even more corrupt system that was calling itself freedom. I was perplexed by people's fatalistic acceptance of things as they are and an unwillingness to strive for change in the face of injustice.

Most of all, I was amazed when I talked with people who actually wanted communism back. At least then, people would tell me, we had bread on our table. And sometimes, for brief moments, I would wonder if they didn't have a valid point. But more often I just found myself loathing a political regime that had systematically destroyed individuality, economic freedom, rule of law, and people's trust in themselves and their government.

There have been many changes in the last ten years in Ukraine. Not all for the better. The governing body which started with such promise a few years ago has squandered all of its good will and is now a joke among other nations and even among its own people - a circus of childlike jealousy and competition, infighting and even literal fistfights. And in the meantime, the economy is sliding dangerously, many important issues go unaddressed while vast, unabashed corruption in business and politics is the norm.

But one small thing that has changed are the protests and demonstrations. More people are speaking out. Sometimes it's sad how little it changes, but just the fact that people will say what they think and believe is a step in a positive direction as far as I'm concerned.

One day a couple of months ago, we were walking on the main street and plaza of Kiev (Khrashatek) and noticed a demonstration starting up on the other side of the street. David had heard about a Fascist demonstration that day, but it was supposed to be starting at another part of town and shouldn't have been on the square where we were right then.

That's when we realized that this demonstration on the square was actually a group of Communists waiting for the Fascists to come - it was a counter demonstration!

The sign they were holding up said, "Fascism doesn't go!" (That's a rough translation - you get the idea.) David chuckled to himself and when I looked at him, he said, "Never thought I'd agree with the Communists about something."

The Fascists indeed did not go all the way to the square that day to meet up with the Communists - they picked a fight with the police on their route first and it ended in somewhat of a beat-down and dispersed before reaching Khreshatek.

What struck me, though, is how sometimes even Communism - in the name of which some of the most horrendous atrocities of human history have been committed - is not always a love or hate, wrong or right ideology. There are so many shades of red.


Christine said...

Right there with you! I think as Americans we think that our way is THE WAY. It may be THE WAY for us, but it doesn't always mean its THE WAY for everyone.

Anonymous said...

That's really fascinating to read about, especially just after watching the Presidential Inauguration here in the US. The contrast makes me feel overwhelmingly grateful for the system of government we have here. It's not perfect, but it is fantastic all the same.

NOBODY said...

I agree with Camille. And I love when Yellow writes about Red. It's very interesting. Loved David's remark too.

There are so many shades to everything. Interesting light on one thing in which you wouldn't think that.

I like your style.

My Diary said...

Communism would be great if it could really work, and we were not humans.