Ukraine: we should learn to love it

Author : Serhiy Zhadan

Source : 112 Ukraine

Serhiy Zhadan, Ukraine's most famous counterculture writer, shared his thoughts on 25 years of Ukrainian independence
14:05, 19 August 2016

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We have finished the school together; it was twenty-five years ago. Our parents were Communists. We were 16-17 years old. Accordingly, communism caused us to distrust, like everything connected with parents.

In other words, the national liberation movement has started on time. Blue and yellow badges, "Braty Hadyukiny" band, samizdat… all these things that could be opposed to the boring school curriculum were of our interest.

Our literature teacher who with an emphasized malevolence read out loud a passage about the massacre committed by Petliurists. And we had no counter arguments; non of us had read Babel at that time. We had read the "History of Ukraine" textbook, but we did not believe it.

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He talked about politics like everyone else did, he used to argue with the teachers. He hated everything connected with the adult world, breaking its shaky and unreliable bridges.

After all, the bridges have collapsed together with the parent’s communism, or rather with something that they called communism. The national liberation movement have also ended. You could read whatever you wanted. However, we had no money for the books.

In 1991, I entered the Philology faculty, and he went to the army. He served in Kharkiv. We have met for several times, he was in a faded uniform; I was in some old rags. This is how the steel was tempered.

We did not talk about our parents or politics. The parents were far away, the politics caused nausea, and the country was degrading.

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I have visited him in his military unit, and witnessed this hungry soldier's life. I just could not imagine how this army should defend the country. Would it be able to fight? What should they defend? And how did they feel themselves?

They were surrounded with a big city, where the plants and factories were dying like internal organs. We lived in a country that has just made a serious choice, selecting independence, and now it was like trying to understand the consequences.

Bullying and racketeering were the consequence. While serving in the country, my friend was pressed. He was hospitalized. Then somehow he was let to go home quietly.

For several years, we had not seen each other. Once we have accidentally met at the bus stop. I could barely recognize him; he resembled his father, the same fury in his eyes, the same determination in relation to reality, the same dissatisfaction, which, however, miraculously was combined with serenity and optimism. He had several children. From several wives. Had had some troubles with the law. And he was not going to give up. We had no common themes for conversation.

After that time I have heard about him some remote facts: wife, children, law. He became an adult. His parents died. This is a very sad experience, when your friends tell you about the death of their parents. But it was not surprisingly; the time when we went to school has passed, and a new generation has grown up. Accordingly, the older generation had to go away.

And it was passing during all this time. Just before our eyes. They reminded us the country in which they were grown and in which they were rooted. They have remained in this country. The new generation had to define with its past, which in our area has always been overestimated, and its future, which did not differ from the past.

The time has stopped, but the death that did not notice it.


Two years ago, in 2014, after the August events, he volunteered. He left all his wives and children. And all his friends were surprised.


He surprised everyone, as thousands of other citizens of this strange country do surprise their relatives and friends. This country somehow managed to survive without a system of protection and development plans, which was led by the traitors, hated by those who elected them.

The question of the existence (or rather - non-existence) of the country became essential, thousands of citizens suddenly remembered about their nationality. They remembered about the need to defend themselves, the need to save this country.

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I think that he was no interested in politics before the war. I doubt that he even voted at the elections. He would not be called Ukrainian; his language was a mix of Russian and Ukrainian. But this was not the main point.

Politics and elections are not crucial. Something else is essential. Patriotism arises from something else.

There are thousands of people who “woke up” two years ago, who suddenly started looking for answers for some questions, which remained unimportant for them for some 25 years. Those who suddenly felt that the border is not just a line on a map. You have to take responsibility on the border lines and their absence.


After all, why are we surprised? Nobody taught us to love our country. We were taught something completely different.

Overall, the most  useful thing we could learn at school was the multiplication table. At least, we could apply it in reality. The other knowledge about the world, space, and homeland we had to get from our life.

What he could conclude from Ukrainian-nineties? Or the Ukrainian 2000s. Frustration, fatigue, anger. Homeland could not evoke warm feelings with its public-official expression. Actually, he did not go to fight for his public expression or presidential administration.

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The only problem is to distinguish the image of the political talk show from the scenery from outside the window. And to correlate your homeland with the scenery, not with the talk shows.

It is difficult to love that Ukraine, which is show on TV. Actually, we do not even see it in our TV sets. It might appear in the form of political news or criminal records, which are often the same.


It is difficult to love the system, which is regulated for stealing, misinforming. It is difficult to convince yourself that the country in which you live might become different. It is possible though.

You cannot learn to love your homeland, but you can try to feel it. Then many things would be much evident.


What is usually mentioned during public holidays and anniversaries? The successes, achievements, outstanding events, and stunning victories. Something that we could be proud of.

Instead, I would rise some other issues. What happened to all of us, those who witnessed proclaiming independence, remember how the country changed. What have been all these people, who walked the streets for 25 ears, feeling? This is their life, a large part of it; something they remember with nostalgia and something with a disgust. It would be good to see how they all relate to their country, with love or indifference?

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What would he do after turning back from the war? Would he go into politics, become a public activist? Or would he just bring up his children? Would he tell them about the war? How did it start? Would he tell his children about the country which he remembered from his very birth?

The children should do not hate their parents for the received indifference. And when they grow up, it might be too late to learn to love, to love your country and its history.

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