It was a country where the late actor Bogdan Stupka could move audiences by playing Tevye the Dairyman—in Ukrainian. In 2004, during the Orange Revolution—triggered by protests against a fraudulent election “won” by Viktor Yanukovych—my Ukrainian friends demonstrated alongside Boris Naumovich, an octogenarian veteran of the Red Army with whom I practiced speaking Yiddish. Now, a decade later, an equally diverse coalition has turned out for the past three months again to protest Yanukovych, who over the weekend was ousted from the presidency he took over in 2010, and who appears to have fled to the Crimea.
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It takes as much or more time to compile quotations and reference as it may to reflect and speak, so for this scraping post, I may say very little: Ukraine has come to the new dawn riven with internal conflicts about being Ukrainian with but one exception: being modern.
In the modern ethos, and would that I would have influence in it, those five bulwarks to the left-and-top count: Compassion • Empathy • Humility • Inclusion • Integrity.
Notably, if quite accidentally, my web surf took me first to “Ukraine, revolution, anti-Semitism” and then to “Ukraine, revolution, Jewish”, which somehow brought up another how-did-I-ever-miss-this encounter with a proper noun: “Viktor Pinchuk”.
Never heard of him.
(Quick: name Putin’s top ten oligarchs)!
I didn’t think so (but am nonetheless prepared to be surprised by the odd persnickety personality).
Pinchuk and the Jewish community of about 200,000 in Ukraine are not “Ukraine”, but they are certainly a fine and legitimate part of it, and Ukraine, rather like Hungary, hasn’t a soul more pure than any other of the world’s states, but then too, it has its language and languages are distinct and matched to culture, so whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim, capitalist or communist, far left or far right or somewhere between, Ukrainians have a common investment in land and language, a true meta-ethnicity adorned by differences.
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On the one hand, one of the three long-ago gates of Kiev was known as Judaic. On the other hand, there was Khmelnitsky.
He is the Ukrainian national hero, who led the Cossacks to power and whose massacres of the Jews were some of the bloodiest in our history.
Among the events reporte, Rabbi Margolin lists: a fire bomb thrown at a synagogue in Zhprozha, a message telling the rabbi of Krivoy Rog that he must leave the city within 72 hours, a graffito on the home of the rabbi of Blitzkorov saying “we are already near you,” another graffito near a Jewish building in Kiev saying “you are next,” and other anti-Semitic graffiti.
Protest coverage focused on the call for European integration and the struggle against the Yanukovich regime has largely glossed over the rise in nationalist rhetoric, often chauvinist, that has led to violence not just against police, but also against left-wing activists.
“Germans, Kikes and other scum” want to “take away our Ukrainian state”.
He called upon his supporters saying: “[You are the ones] that the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine fears most.”
It was an apparent reference to a Moscow-leaning political leadership, and the strong presence of ethnic Jewish billionaires in Ukraine’s business elite.
Tyahnybok: Nationalist, fearful of Russia, favors NATO – 10/29/2008.
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A number of young Jews are involved in the protests, which have drawn together a diverse coalition of liberal youth and opposition party leaders, including members of the ultranationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has freely trafficked anti-Semitic stereotypes.
“If the nationalists are in favor of a regime change in the country, and I am also, then they won’t prevent me from going out into the Maidan with everyone and expressing my opinions,” Evgenia Talinovskaya told JTA. “The EuroMaidan movement is primarily identified with the educated youth. And Jewish youth in Ukraine primarily fall under that description.”
He has spent the years since the Orange Revolution working to build a profile as a philanthropist. He recently pledged half his fortune, estimated by Forbes at $3.8 billion, to charity and has underwritten large-scale AIDS campaigns, opened up a free museum of contemporary art in central Kiev, and teamed up with Steven Spielberg to produce a documentary about the Holocaust in Ukraine. As pro-European reforms have stalled, Pinchuk has emerged as his country’s top advocate in the West, using his annual Yalta summits to push for Ukraine’s closer integration with the European Union.
In Ukraine, a Jewish Oligarch Is a Bridge to the West – Tablet Magazine – on Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk – 12/13/2013.
KYIV, UKRAINE FEB 18, 2014
Statement of Victor Pinchuk
Victor Pinchuk said: “A peaceful solution must be found, it is imperative to refrain from the use of force and find a compromise. Ukraine since its independence has avoided bloodshed. We must return to this tradition immediately. From this minute, this is the responsibility of everyone – those in power, the opposition, civil society, business. It is time for all sides to take courageous steps towards compromise that they may not yet have been ready to take even this morning. For each of us, love for Ukraine must be immeasurably more important than any other feelings and interests.”
The Victor Pinchuk Foundation
Victor Pinchuk Foundation – Facebook – 2/18/2014
The first respondent on the organization’s Facebook post: “Put your money where your mouth is.”
From the looks of his foundation, plus the company he keeps — Branson and Gates, for starters — Pinchuk has been putting his money behind his words.
We never had in our newest history even one drop of blood on the streets, but today we already have four or five people who were killed. I’ve never been so worried about my country, about the future of my country. I don’t want to bring politics in here but I want to ask you to share …here are hundreds of people from more than 50 countries from 5 continents, I want to ask you to share silence for 60 seconds in which we send our thoughts to Ukrainian people and we pray for peace, reason, compromise and reconciliation.
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