However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
Last week The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna visited Lutsk with the annual photo exhibition for the 7th time. Besides the opening ceremony of the exhibition The Day 2013, a sound discussion about the Ukrainian identity, new challenges, and personal responsibility of each of us took place between Ivshyna and students, faculty of the Lesia Ukrainka East European University, journalists, and the newspaper’s readers. We present the most interesting parts of the dialog.
“The Day’s Library was one of my dreams as means of preparing Ukrainians for trials. A nation that does not know its history well or did not learn its lessons, good ones as well as bad ones, will keep on having problems infinitely. Despite the difficulties, the territory of the mind must spread and strengthen. And this is the only thing that will really be a solid foundation for the development of our beautiful country, which has its current problems only because a lot of things were not done in due time.
“Can one do without The Day’s books? Yes, sure. But we must understand the consequences of not reading. We often compare ourselves to Poland (especially Volhynia). The reason of our dramatic lagging behind the Polish society, especially in terms of political cycles, is that we did not do several crucially important things when they had to be done. Poles had their splits and losses as well. They drew very sound conclusions out of them. When Giedroyc created his Kultura in Paris, a periodical that provoked an intellectual revolution in the minds of the Poles, a small circle of intellectuals has been working very hard for the conservative Polish community, especially the farmers, to embrace the ideas created by the elite. They have been working tirelessly on that society. And when the time was ripe, the society was able to support the intellectuals in the fight for the new Poland.
“Yes, you can do without The Day’s books, you can live without reading The Day, but the consequences will be the following: darkness will spread. And all those people who feel responsible for sentiments in their cities and schools have to determine what they can do to create smart, intellectual environment.
“It has been more than 10 years since the presentation of the ‘grandmother’ of our Library, the book Ukraine Incognita. There are such articles in it as ‘Roman Peace in South Ukraine,’ articles by outstanding philosopher Serhii Krymsky about Sophia of Kyiv, and the article ‘Sevastopol, the City of Whose Glory?’ And now we understand how important it would be if everyone re-read their history in the context of the current events in Crimea. Every article in the book still remains extremely relevant.”
L.I.: “We live in the time when nobody has ready answers to all the questions. The books we have been preparing for our readers for all these years were meant for the people who understood that the crisis would come to Ukraine once. And according to Kipling, we must be prepared. Prepared for the trials that obviously had to happen, because when Ukraine gained independence in 1991, itwas very diverse and complex. The general dominating sentiment was worded by our author James Mace: ‘The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic gained independence.’ For the most part, that was what happened. The mechanic flowing of everything that filled people’s heads, their habits, non-reinterpreted history. And then negative tendencies were added. Business in our country did not shift to the market model. Our whole society shifted to it, which is absolutely wrong. The country has not been re-founded, even though it had to make the framework for the future Ukraine in the 1990s. Then the system of oligarchic clans was created. Basically, starting from 1994, people with Soviet type of thinking came back. And having perpetuated the system, they started getting their hands on the post-Soviet property. This fascinating pastime still continues today, but in different forms. What about creation? Who was responsible for creation? Of course, there were fragmented pieces of the new: in people’s minds, or among historians. By the way, I always said there is a truly patriotic party in Ukraine – the party of Ukrainian historians. They created the new history. They wrote it in those universities which had the potential for leadership. Certainly, business was a pioneer in many areas, no matter what it was like in our circumstances. But unfortunately, it was not done systematically. That is why my impression of what we have now is the following: the Party of Regions simply turned out to be a dead end of the oligarchic clan system. Everything has gone to the dogs during its rule, and the understanding of Ukraine’s new future was born in that chaos. Was the country ready to accept this future in a new way? I am afraid, no. But there was new youth, there were the best of many people who could not stay at home, and who saw that chance. In any case, I wanted very much for the country to be able to develop in an evolutionary way, to choose the most decent one in the elections. It is easy to dream about such things, but it is hard to implement them. The great battle is going on now, and it is not going to get easy in the future. The correlation of this new Ukraine that is growing and the one that has already accustomed to the rules, understood them, and wants to remaster them, even though it is called a new political wave, will be hard to change.”
Anton BOHACHUK, political science student: “I would like to ask you as the paper’s editor-in-chief. Almost all Russian mass media openly lie about the situation in Ukraine. What is your attitude towards those who report untruthful information about the current situation, be it because of financial reasons or under pressure?”
L.I.: “This question relates not only to Russian press only. It can be said about Ukrainian press as well, which has not been pressurized, and yet for many years produced low-quality, primitive content instead of something positive. This is our problem as well. We should start with acknowledging the fact that Ukrainian journalistic environment is guilty before the Ukrainian society.
“If we felt that we are in a normal well-established country with a decent army, a different attitude would have been present. We as a newspaper were propagating the idea that Ukraine must become a NATO member. Ukraine was half a step away from becoming a NATO member. And if we ask political analysts now in which conditions Ukraine did not become a NATO member, this dialog could be very interesting as well, I think. Who knows why Ukraine did not receive the NATO Membership Action Plan? I am wondering about the domestic as well as international aspects.”
A.B.: “The main domestic reason why Ukraine did not join NATO was in Russia’s territorial claims that the Black Sea Fleet had to stay in Crimea.”
L.I.: “Perhaps, this was partially present as well, but it was not the main reason. By the way, The Day’s issue published on March 6 contains an article by Mykola Siruk, summarizing the history of this matter.” (See Den’s issue No. 41, “Reinterpretation of NATO’s Role.”)
A.B.: “There were three reasons for the refusal: 1) huge pressure exercised by the Kremlin and President Putin on the European Union; 2) president Yushchenko was not resolute and revolutionary enough in this sense; 3) NATO was afraid of accepting Ukraine, which had a lot of internal and external problems: there was no unanimity.”
L.I.: “This is the second part. The first was different, I know it very well, because all these events unfolded literally in my plain view. I remember when the Military Doctrine was adopted, which indicated joining NATO as its final point. Yevhen Marchuk was the secretary of the Security Council back then, he even took this law through the parliament, with its Party of Regions which voted for it. It was unique. And Kuchma was president back then. And some time later, Kuchma asked Marchuk: ‘What did you adopt there?’ And that is what happened: during one of the meetings at the Black Sea coast, Kuchma and Putin dropped out of the press’ view for a few days. And when they reappeared, it was decided to remove the final point of joining NATO. Viktor Medvedchuk was the head of the Presidential Administration back then. All political analysts need to know this. I as a witness of this say that it was this way. After that, Marchuk was removed from the post of the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. He became defense minister for a while and created the White Book, a strategy bulletin, but it did not last for long.
“Ukraine’s society was in the state of anabiosis. We have plenty of things to read to put ourselves to sleep. And in order to think and see warning signs, people must be more alert. Everyone missed that and it is considered that this reaction started with Yanukovych only. No. We were being consumed and digested as a rabbit by a boa for all these years. There was an outbreak in 2004, but as you all understand, it fell to an unprepared team, in a political sense, which was also torn apart by antagonism.
“The immaturity of the Ukrainian society is a problem and a trump for those who want to use everything, including the lies, against Ukraine, for example, the Russian mass media. Unfortunately, today they are using all the tools of the cold war propaganda. There are all shades of anti-Ukrainianism there. Their agenda is clear. We have to create one for ourselves. We knew that we have a serious neighbor nearby, who never gave up encroachment. Moreover, Putin openly told everyone: ‘I do not consider you to be a state.’ We had to think about the reasons for such attitudes and what we had to do to minimize the risks. Unfortunately, almost nothing was done in this respect, in the sphere of security as well. What is the point of accusing Russian journalists? We disarmed ourselves, and not only in the nuclear sense, we let foreigners rule our security agencies, we let two heads of security service to go abroad, and many other things. The society has to think about it, and journalism has to do its best to provide food for thought. And then we will not have to blame others that they do their evil thing. We will be strong, we will not be so much afraid of their poisonous tricks.”
The Day expresses gratitude to the Lesia Ukrainka East European University and its library staff, and also to Ihor Palytsia’s New Lutsk Charity Foundation for cooperation and support.