If you are Ukrainian, now is not the time to catch COVID-19. Putin might attack while you’re in bed with a fever, preventing you from reaching for your rifle as the occupiers march past chanting “Katyusha” and other wartime classics.
This would be particularly unpleasant for me because I constantly receive requests from all over Europe. Every day there are more: orders for a Spanish magazine, an Italian newspaper, a Romanian agency, a French outfit, a Norwegian radio…
Yuri Andrukhovych is a Ukrainian writer, poet, essayist and translator whose works have been translated and published in many countries
Nobody was interested in Ukraine for eight years. It was if the country did not exist. And suddenly, everyone is contacting each other at the same time: “Answer this series of questions. “Contact us by phone!” “Write an essay on the historical roots of the current conflict!” “Contrary to Putin! “Convince the Germans!” “Attract the Austrians’ attention!” “Remind the Croats!” “Explain yourself to the Montenegrins! »
Wow! What is the deadline? “Today, of course! Tomorrow at the latest!”
If I write in English, it will take longer. “No problem! Write in your native language! We can also translate from Russian.”
Unified German Indifference
It’s frustrating, just like eight years ago when protesters were gunned down in Maidan Square in Kyiv. People were calling me and saying, “Write an op-ed on the nationalists! Nationalist gangs have taken control of Maidan. Tell us more about it!
You might be shaking all over, and at the same time people wanted you to give them a cold analysis presenting “both sides” as precisely as possible, explaining what exactly is going on. So you were composing something in English, which meant looking up words in dictionaries, finding phrases, and formulating responses to almost anyone who had been in contact.
You sent it and that was it: everyone disappeared—nobody replied, not even an acknowledgment of receipt. There were no words of thanks, no words of support, neither for me personally nor for my country. Next time, then.
Everything is calmer eight years later. No one is (yet) shot in the streets. I know where my relatives are. But, when a Spanish magazine asks me what Ukrainian writers are doing to smooth things over with the Russian people, it touches me.
Some fear that President Vladimir Putin wants to build a new Russian empire
When I read that the vast majority of Germans oppose the supply of weapons to Ukraine, it is frustrating. According to a January 27 poll, most supporters of the Left Party (71%), Alternative for Germany nationalists (67%), center-left Social Democrats (61%), Christian Democrats of centre-right (56%), the Greens (55%) and the neoliberal Liberal Democrats (54%) share this view.
The Germans are finally unified – in their opinion, unarmed Ukrainians can be killed if they do not agree to annexation by the “nation of Putin”. After all, quitting resisting would be easier and more comfortable.
“People have become dumber”
Let me quote a letter from an editor of one of the best German newspapers. “I think most Germans still don’t realize that Putin wants to build a new Russian empire,” the editor wrote. “If you could hear what people are saying here, even in educated circles: ‘He is just interested in his legitimate sphere of influence’, ‘Ukraine has always belonged to Russia’, ‘He just wants the respect”, etc. did not learn from 2014 – they got dumber.”
For me, this is a very sad, even tragic, assessment of the past 30 years. I never refused the German media and was happy to be in contact. At the request of publishers, I put my novels and poems on hold to write other texts or to give interviews to influential national newspapers, but also local ones, simply to everyone. I also did live and recorded radio and television, which had millions of audiences. I thought I was understood. At least I thought I was beginning to be understood.
But now? Three decades later, three decades of effort, of hundreds of what I thought were good conversations, it’s like I’m back to the beginning: in Munich in 1992, when people asked me if Ukrainian was a language — and not just a dialect of Russian. I am sure that this question will be asked to me more than once in 2022. Nothing has changed in German consciousness when it comes to the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian culture and Ukraine itself.
How could he? For the Germans, the top priority is respect for spheres of influence – in particular Putin’s sphere of influence. It is sacred and must not be violated.
This article has been translated from German.