Zhadan: Occupied territories residents should be treated as hostages, not traitors

Author : Olesia Batsman

Respondent : Serhiy Zhadan

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan on Donbas issues, Ukrainian elections 2019, Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation, and Sentsov
09:00, 5 September 2018

Open source

Ukrainian politicians have done a lot for Ukrainians to remember that the East and West are different from the historical point of view, of the vision of history, church, and traditions. I know that you have a project that brings east and west closer.

I would not say call it a project. Rather, this is what we do with my friends. We have created a small foundation - "Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation." We are trying to somehow work with Donbas. In particular, now we will do the project "The Traveler from the East." We have met with the guys from a small rural school in Donbas and decided to arrange a trip around Ukraine. That is, the children expressed such a desire. They admitted that they have not traveled that much, so they wanted to see our homeland, Ukraine. We thought that this was a very good idea, actually. According to official statistics, 80-90% of residents of Luhansk and Donetsk regions have not traveled outside their region. This is just a fatal number, a fateful situation, and we need to do something with this situation. I understand that our initiative is just a drop in the ocean, but it seems to me that this is the right drop.

Do you know how to return Donbas?

I do not think that the Donbas has gone somewhere away from us. Do you mean turning Donbas mentally or territorially?

Let's discuss these two ways.

I have never seen the isolation of Donbas. This is one of the stereotypes that Donbas live its own life. Donbas should not be assessed by Donetsk and Luhansk political milieu. There are people who speak on behalf of Donbas, and there is Donbas that lives its real life. I do not think that this real life is behind some kind of iron curtain, behind some kind of wall. They face the same problems, the same experiences as the inhabitants of Poltava, Kharkiv, and Sumy regions.

Are the residents of the occupied territories waiting for turning back to Ukraine or not?

As far as I know, as far as I understand, there is a large number of people who are undoubtedly waiting for the return of the Ukrainian authorities. And they continue to live, feeling themselves part of Ukraine.

Related: Ukrainian poet Zhadan was detained in Minsk

How to return Donbas, if we talk about the occupied territories?

You should ask politicians this question, I think. I realize how people from this side of the front should behave toward people who are on the other side of the front line. That is, treat them not as the traitors, but rather as the hostages. If we are already talking about separatists as terrorists – I am inclined to say so, - it should be understood that civilians under the rule of terrorists are hostages. These are people who do not necessarily voluntarily end up there and do not necessarily support the actions of people with weaponsю

What is the biggest problem of Ukraine today?

I do not know. Perhaps our attitude toward Ukraine as such. Many of us do not quite feel our country. Many of us live in some virtual world and do not really feel the Ukrainian tonality.

Related: Ukrainian writer won the prestigious Polish award Angelus

Why does it happen?

Because we really have a specific political and social, and informational situation. Secondly, we have a rather difficult history - 27 years of independence, when it is not entirely clear whether this independence really was or was not. How real and effective was it? When we the events in Crimea and Donbas in 2014 have just started, it suddenly turned out that there were practically no signs of independence. There was no army, no ships, no police, and no border guards - nothing. There is some kind of phantom Ukraine. In fact, apart from the Ukrainians themselves, there is nothing in this shell. Society just started to storm the country. On the one hand, this process is complex, painful, and on the other, it is quite encouraging and optimistic. Because it is clear that this country is needed, first of all, by the citizens themselves.

You mean that for you, the real independence does not begin in 1991?

In 2014, when the citizens of Ukraine suddenly started to protect this country. Suddenly they realized that this was their country. Suddenly they realized that there was a great danger of losing it. In fact, these are very important things. Not so much the Maidan events but the events of the spring of 2014, when Ukrainians, who were not interested in politics, did not support the revolution, did not support the European integration as such, suddenly realized that this is their country, borders. And suddenly some people with weapons that have nothing to do with this country appear, and they want to deprive us of this country.

Related: Life without Lenin - Ukraine is parting with its Soviet heritage

What will happen to Russia after Putin?

I have no idea. And I do not really care about it, I am more interested in what will happen to Ukraine. What will happen to us all? This is our space, our territory, and it is much more important to focus on building what concerns us.

Will the war continue, until Putin goes away? Or are there other options?

Probably, there are possible options, yes. It is difficult to predict what will happen in terms of war, how it will develop further, how long it will last.

In the last elections, you voted for Poroshenko. Will vote for Poroshenko again?

I will not tell you now. But if in the second round there will be Poroshenko and a representative of Oppositional Bloc (former Yanukovych’s Party of Regions – ed.), it is obvious that I will not vote for the Oppositional Bloc representative.

Related: Internally displaced persons cannot vote at local elections, - Ukraine’s Supreme court

Do you like everything that the Ukrainian government is doing now?

I do not like many things. Our Ukrainian tradition is to blame the authorities for everything. For all abuse, the authorities and say that the government does nothing... I cannot say that the government does nothing for the country. It is objective: just travel through Donbas and see that many things have been restored. Starting from roads and ending with schools and kindergartens. Another thing is that this should not be treated as something unusual. The authorities are simply obliged to do this.

Is corruption one of Ukraine’s problems?

I think this is one of the most central problems. Corruption is a terrible problem, which hinders the country.

Related: Pro-Russian militants cancel autumn “election”, - mass media

You were one of those who immediately responded to the request of "Gordon" media to congratulate Oleg Sentsov with his birthday. What is the most important thing for him now?

I think the most important thing is to get him out of there. That is, to return him to his back, as well as all the other political prisoners. We see how the president of FIFA praises President Putin, saying how the world's attitude towards Russia is changing, and on the other hand, we understand that at the same time there are several dozen Ukrainian citizens who are hostages of the Putin regime. And it all happens in our time, in our world. Major football events go away, and Ukrainians are dying in the east, Ukrainians are imprisoned in Russia. And many perceive it as the norm… I can just imagine how a person in another country feels, receiving a sentence of 10-20 years of imprisonment and understanding that little depends on him.

Related: Sentsov will be back home, - Victor Medvedchuk

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