The worst thing about this tragedy is not that the city mayor allowed the cutting of the trees so as to build a hotel and an entertainment complex. Nor is it that the Presidential Administration and the ProsecutorGeneral’s Office are keeping silent… For, in reality, it is not [the acting mayor] Kernes or the environment minister who are cutting the trees, and it is not Yanukovych or the prosecutorgeneral who are beating people in parks.
It is ordinary people who readily obey the command to cut down trees in Kharkiv; it is ordinary people, perhaps your neighbors, who carry out orders to beat up the people who show courage and protect nature. But for these “people with saws,” the Gorky Park would be still standing; but for them there would be no such “parks” in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Khortytsia, the Carpathians, or many other preserves in Ukraine. These nameless people with truncheons are in fact the “hands” of the current government. They are the “cannon fodder,” without which any city mayor or head of state will lose power. It is they who are “cutting down souls,” as the protest placards read. By analogy, I recall a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in which a character indignantly scourges the “cogs” of the system, who will readily shoot – at their superiors’ command – thousands of men, women, and even children. “But for you, there would be no deaths, no prison camps, and no Gulags. For it is you, not Stalin, who shoots!”
What is the relationship? It is quite direct. The trees are being cut down by the sons and grandsons of those who used to shoot, spy on, and betray people. People were brought to the giddy limit, when surviving at any price was the bottom line. Thus it was 70 years ago, and it is the same today. So what do they have to teach us? Nothing new! People are guided only by one instinct – survival.
However, by placing survival above everything, humans lose their dignity. There is such thing as a point of no return. Environmentalists were protesting against the government with a brilliant slogan: “Today it is a tree, tomorrow it will be you!” Only the other way round: “you” is the thing that is dead. “You” is the attitude of your fathers and forefathers. “You” is the values that your parents instilled in you. And if surviving at any cost is the only value, then you go on destroying yourself. But this case is worse. Last Saturday, June 19, there was a public hearing in Kharkiv. Environmentalists say that “public sector employees – teachers and doctors – were brought in.” They voted the way the authorities wanted them to. I believe this. I have close relatives in Kharkiv and I know that each of them is desperate to keep their job and fears for their children; I know they discuss things in their kitchens only (it is not Kyiv, where you can feel freer – so far). Here we go: teachers and doctors are now on par with those who cut trees. What can the teachers teach after this? How can the doctors heal?
Nothing can be achieved as long as the population sides with the authorities. “Out solidarity must show that the authorities are not omnipotent and the public must be listened to,” Hanna Hopko wrote in The Day on this subject. Yes, the authorities are omnipotent because they have such minions, tree fellers and publicsector employees… All we have to do now is plant flowers at the Gorky Park – “a living symbol of support,” as the initiators say, or, frankly, lay flowers at the grave of a 130hectare urban park.