The politics of Ukrainian history: good memory is our weapon – culture

We have a system. At nine in the morning my mother said to me, “It’s quiet here.” (It’s ten in the morning in Ukraine.) This means that the weather is calm in Zaporizhia. Or: At 7 in the morning, my mother told me: “It’s all right here.” (It’s eight in the morning in Ukraine).

This means that now I open messages on my phone and see: “Russian forces launched a missile attack on Zaporizhia. Later details.” This means that a Russian missile fell in Zaporizhia, killing people. They cannot reveal any details until evening, otherwise they will help the Russians to correct their line of fire.

A few years ago, my mother promised not to write words about her. But that’s all I can say about Mother’s Day today. This – and that I wish May 8th only made that sense.

rewrite history

May 9, Victory Day, was not celebrated in Ukraine for several years. Instead, on May 8th, we have Memorial Day. What is the reason for the celebration? Eight million Ukrainians died in this war. The memorial day slogan is “Never Again”.

This new image at the end of World War II had a surreal flavor from the start. In fact, “again” has already happened. In 2014, Russia occupied Ukrainian territory. And even if you could pretend for a while that there was no war at home—while listening to Russian music, watching Russian influencers make the occasional trips to Crimea, where they made the Ukrainian language unsuitable, to write about quantum physics—at some point the war would wake you up. As it happened on February 24th.

Pushkins case

From time to time, the Germans try to speak to me in Russian. They say “I learned it in school”. “We did it for five years… I wasn’t a good student.”

I have two ways to answer that. One of them is longer – I told my peers that I took Russian lessons only in my school for six months, in the seventh grade. But then we had Russian literature lessons for four years (one semester discussing the meaning of yellow flowers in The Master and Margarita – easy!) The second answer is shorter. I say funny how they are trying to colonize every country in their own language. This is also my answer to a question about what I think of Russian art today. Ukrainians, like all other countries of the former Soviet Union, know Russian colonial practices well.

are you interested? Here’s a quick guide on how to colonize your neighbors: First tell them you’re brothers. Then you call yourself “older”. Then you force them to learn the language you speak. And they call their mother tongue a primitive language. How do you say “cat”? haha funny. stop doing that! (Applause to Bulgakov) Then you kill everyone who disagrees. And you make the survivors forget what happened.

No wonder we are now witnessing a second wave of monument demolitions in Ukrainian cities. In 2014, Lenin and his friends were destroyed. Now it’s Pushkin’s turn. After all, culture can be a weapon as effective as a gun. It is important not to forget those whose culture has killed their people for centuries.

About the issue of memory

In 2015 I discovered a new part of my patriarchal family. In Lviv, of all places. The great-grandfather of these people was my father’s brother. complicated i know. These two brothers and their families were Ukrainians living in Polish lands. Until 1946 they lived in a small village in Ulhiwok. Then the Soviet army came and put them in cattle carts and sent them to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Part of the family ended up in Lviv. Another in Zaporizhia. Today we call it forced resettlement.

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They tried to shape their new life. And they succeeded. They began to speak Russian. They thought it was not safe to text each other (there was no travel question). Then they forgot.

When we met in Lviv in 2015, Natalka, my new sister, told me that her father once traveled to Ulhiwok. It was a purely Polish village with the Polish name Ulhowek. The only thing Ukrainian was the crosses in the forgotten cemetery.

Fantasy walk without sirens

The chestnut trees are in full bloom in Berlin and I think how much I miss Kyiv. The symbol of Kyiv is the chestnut leaf, and there are many chestnut trees on the main street of Khrushchatyk.

Now is the best time to be there. Walk down Prorisna Street to the Golden Gates monument, take a deep breath and turn right into Sofia Cathedral. Take a little walk in the sun and look at the statue of Bohdan Khmenitsky. And then Andriyivskyy descent – he stumbled over the pebbles.

[Anastasiia Kosodii ist Bühnenautorin und Leiterin des Theatre of Playwrights in Kiew. Derzeit lebt sie in Berlin. Ihren Text hat Nadine Lange aus dem Englischen übersetzt.]

Before you reach the Bodel Theater, go up the stairs on your left. After six to seven minutes of stumbling and gasping, you’ll find yourself atop Zamkova Hora, one of Kyiv’s charming hills. The whole city is under you. Just sit down and have a glass of wine. Hear birds and teenagers chatting nearby.

My sister Natalka misses Lviv. She has been in Poland with her baby for nearly two months. She wrote to me: “I found a job here, everything is fine.” “But I want to go back. But I will probably wait until after May 9th to do it.”

I understand why you might too.

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