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“I would not be so optimistic about Maidan’s victory and would not identify it with the victory of democracy,” said at a conference devoted to the analogies between the Maidan in Ukraine and the movement of Solidarność in Poland one of the leaders of this movement in Silesia Pawel Kilarski. His colleague Wojciech Mihaljevic was much more specific. He came to the meeting in a T-shirt with the inscription “We remember Volyn” in Polish. This had to point to the certainty with which some Poles perceive the East (as they call Ukraine): the struggle for democracy is good, but the historical problems are constantly in mind. It is difficult to understand, but the Poles look at Kyiv conventionally “flying” over the Western Ukraine, which is associated with the Ukrainian radical nationalism. While the Maidan and the Nebesna Sotnya for us symbolize the revolution of dignity and heroic sacrifice, many Poles see behind all that the red and black flags (“people under these flags massacred Poles in Volyn!”), portraits of Stepan Bandera and the Right Sector.
It should be noted that this situation plays in the hand of some Polish politicians, public figures and media. While Ukraine mourned the first victims of the Maidan, the correspondent of the national newspaper Rzeczpospolita Jędrzej Bielecki tried to contact a representative of the Right Sector. However, he did not discuss with the deputy chairman of Trident organization Andriy Tarasenko, whom described as a “spokesman” for the Right Sector not the victims of the Maidan. The subject of conversation was the attitude of the Right Sector to the problem of Volyn (“Bandera’s responsibility for the genocide in Volyn is a nonsense”), and to the possible revision of borders (“we claim to Przemysl and several nearby counties”).
The controversial and provocative interview was reprinted in different interpretations on many web-sites and in dozens of Polish newspapers. Commenting on the purpose of the publication, Bielecki said: “If Poles care about these things, why should not I ask about it?” One of activist of Polish minority in Ukraine Natalya Oladko addressed Bielecki asking him not publish false statements about Ukrainian Maidan. “The fact that the there are many people with different opinions and political sympathies in the Maidan, does not make it supportive of Bandera’s ideology or the far-right,” she wrote to the author of the controversial interview on in his Facebook page. There was no answer, and now the journalist gives interviews about self-perfection of the Right Sector.
Some things which at least for the part of Ukrainian society are a matter of pride, do not inspire awe outside Ukraine. Take the term “nationalism” – in Ukraine it is customary that after the persecution of the Ukrainian ides by the Communist Empire the nationalists were those who spoke Ukrainian or even “proper” Ukrainian. But in places where this term has remained in use only in its historical connotation, associated with the years before and during the World War II, stretching it to light now, and even more – applying it to modern Ukrainians (even if they really want it) does not contribute to the perception of the new Ukraine. We cannot convince the whole world that the term, which is everywhere treated with disgust, has a positive connotation in our area. As Ukrainian lecturer Lyudmyla Siryk noted during the discussion on the situation in modern Ukraine held late March at the Centre for Eastern European Studies at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin “using the term “nationalists” at the time when we are developing in the direction of democracy and intercultural dialogue is dangerous for Ukraine and its society. I would suggest Ukrainian politicians to get rid of Ukrainian jingoistic demagoguery and evaluate events tangibly. Among the challenges – inform the international community not about the desire to build a Ukrainian state, but primarily about the desire to build a democratic state”.
Poles themselves often joke that they put too much emphasis on history and in some way even depend on it. Instead, when they get together, they start emphasizing how little of historical things they say, and that the enemies will not be able to cover such issues with a cap. At the same time they forget that neighboring nations do not necessarily have to be in the same historical tone as they are.
And here on cannot help but ask a question: are the people teaching Ukrainians to be democratic and liberal, always doing it out of their own conviction? Are they also rewarded – at the moment when the Polish reason coincides with the Kremlin’s? Poland realized that Russia finances many commentators under articles (in Polish) which popularize certain points of view. Social networks distribute leaflets and instructions on catching Russian bots and experts warn against the influence of propaganda from the Internet. But then you come across the alleged “negligence” of editors of TV channels, when Polish audience sees the pictures of the inevitability of the collapse of Ukraine: “Russia (not Zhirinovsky but Russia) suggests Poland to divide Ukraine”; “Ukraine is about to collapse”; on the linguistic map of Ukraine we see that level of speaking / non-speaking Ukrainian in Balta or Kotovsk and Kerch is the same, it turns out that people in the Transcarpathia speak “karpatorusynska”, Hungarian – and no other languages. These are the examples from cable Polish TV channel TVN Biznes i Świat.
And here is the public opinion of the Professor at the University of Białystok Antoni Mironowicz. He said Russia’s geopolitical interests were the post-Soviet territory, and one cannot ignore them, because Russia is a major partner for the EU (but not the US, as one might think), and that one cannot easily cross out the common heritage of Kyiv and Moscow, i.e. the “Slavic–Orthodox values”. The professor shares such opinion in interviews and publications. Even though such points of view are “in opposition” to the predominant Polish unconditional support for Ukraine, they once again confirm that Ukrainian authorities have finally to make positive steps to counter the information war that Russia conducts outside Ukraine – at least in the neighboring Poland.Printable version