Yuri Gorzy’s war diary (29): more and more people are learning Ukrainian – awesome! – culture

May 4, 2022
I don’t get it I’m a bit embarrassed that this friendly old German man who came to read me in Gelsenkirchen is making an obvious effort to say something to me–but what he’s saying seems unfamiliar to me.

Only when he repeats it does he realize: Sdrawstwuite! He greeted me in Russian! Show. Say hello to Russian, I’m a Ukrainian who’s been living in Germany for 27 years, during the third month of Russia’s war against Ukraine reading from a book on Jewish music – he seems to think it’s a good idea. Not completely agree.

Sometimes I feel ashamed of my mother tongue, Russian

In the past two months, I’ve been thinking a lot about language. I still see on social media that there is a demand for interpreters and translators of the Ukrainian language. Because, of course, the absolute majority of refugees who come here do not speak German.

I can remember very well how I felt in 1996, my first few months in Germany were very difficult. I can speak English, but in Potsdam, where I landed, no one spoke it but myself – at least that was my impression. How well I know this mixture of despondency, despair, and shame when you cannot express yourself!

It is wonderful that my German comrades realize how necessary it is to give Ukrainians the opportunity to acquire important information in the Ukrainian language. The fact that every Ukrainian speaks Russian is an outdated concept, and its strongest proponent is Vladimir Putin, and if that were the case, all Ukrainians would speak nothing but Russian. To achieve exactly that, he invests billions of dollars and thousands of soldiers live in the war he is fighting in Ukraine today that he cannot win.

Russian is my native language, but I have often noticed over the past few years that the Ukrainian and Russian versions are becoming increasingly different. The Russian language is spoken differently in Ukraine, after the collapse of the Soviet Union it developed differently from the neighboring country, reacting to events and processes in society, some of which did not happen in Russia.

In Ukraine, for example, linguistic equality of the sexes is now common and taken for granted, while citizens of Russia find it mostly stupid. I remember how an acquaintance, a music critic from Moscow, was upset about this on Facebook. Several of his friends showed the same reaction in the comments. It must be in 2019, I was quite surprised.

[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten zum Krieg in der Ukraine live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]

When I listen to Ukrainians, I notice how the past two months have changed their language. (I want to write the word “enriched” first, but who wants that kind of “enrichment”?!) There are now dozens of synonyms for names like “bomb,” “missile,” “basement,” “death,” or “enemy.” Sometimes I feel ashamed of my native language, Russian. I do not want to be associated with people who are currently in vain trying to discredit my country, I want to engage with them as much as possible.

I am fascinated by people who are starting to learn the Ukrainian language, and there are more and more of them in my circle of friends. The day before yesterday, Anthony Coleman, a New York musician that I’ve admired since the ’90s, wrote to me. We didn’t know each other before, but he called me last week after reading his Facebook appeal. She collected music tracks for the compilation “Jewish Voices Condemning Russia’s War against Ukraine”.

Anthony sent me a piece with phrases in Ukrainian. I wondered and asked him who was reciting it and was surprised to read that it was his voice. He takes Ukrainian language lessons twice a week.

“Spasibo, do swidanja!” A guest who reads at Gelsenkirchen would like to tell me at the end of my event. “thank you and good bye!” – “Death to our enemies!” In Ukrainian I would have found the most suitable anyway.

Read more parts of the diary here:

Leave a Comment