The Olympics have ended and with the world’s eyes no longer focused on the pomp, energy and emotion of the Games, the Paralympics notwithstanding, there is now greater attention on the news of the day, including the ongoing unrest in Ukraine.
Unrest is a rather bland word to use in capturing the collapse of a country’s political system, the threat of invasion, and the percolating risk of civil war between East and West Ukraine.
Perhaps turmoil, confusion, or even mayhem would be better to describe the dark clouds hovering over a country I have never visited but lay claim to thanks to my father.
These days, I have stopped feeling confused about the situation in Ukraine and moved onto profound sadness and wondering if this is the new normal for a country that only gained its independence 23 years ago in 1991.
Twenty-three years: if Ukraine was a person, they could vote, drink, be finished college or university, starting their first or second job, be married, perhaps have a family.
It’s not really a lot of time for a country learning how to govern when its primary focus for so many years was hanging onto its culture and identity in the face of the constant threat of Russification.
Only recently I heard about a news reporter whose Ukrainian translator was utterly confused about the language he was hearing from the East Ukrainians.
It finally dawned on him that it wasn’t even a regional dialect he was hearing but Russian with a few Ukrainian sounding words. It really does illustrate why so many, Russian President Vladimir Putin included, do not think Ukraine is a country.
It speaks volumes when I think about my friends in Toronto who went to Ukrainian school every Saturday morning and who attended Ukrainian dance and music classes, all designed to maintain their connection to the art, culture and language of their parents’ homeland, even as they built new lives in Canada.
Even today, with the now daily coverage and analysis available online, theories abound with respect to Ukraine’s future and Putin’s plans for the country as a whole, not just the East and Crimea.
That uncertainty colours every interaction.
Though I have often spoken of political issues, usually American concerns, with my Ukrainian cousins, rarely have we looked at Ukraine.
Last week, it was the key focus of our conversations.
I am heartened by the attention people are paying to the issue.
Like other countries, such as Syria, Sudan and Egypt, under siege in the last decade, Ukraine is seeing death and destruction even as it faces the possibility of invasion from the East and annexation from the West.
And I am struck by an image that keeps recurring in my news feeds of a Ukrainian priest, shield in one hand, crucifix in the other, while grey smoke and rubble form the contrast to his meticulously embroidered gold stole and black chasuble.
More than anything, it is the symbol of a new Ukraine, where all hands are needed on deck to rebel openly against the new political oppression represented by government forces, alternately corrupt or Russian.
Martha Muzychka is a writer
and communications consultant.