Dr. Vladimir Melamed. We care about Ukraine

We Jews cannot forget millennium-long atrocities and persecutions and we shall never forget about the Holocaust. But we also remember our struggle for freedom and independence. Zionism is a Jewish national movement or Jewish nationalism that proved to have been capable of reviving the Jewish national state on its biblical land. In the time of trials not many states and politicians favored our national idea, although almost alone we fought for our future, our children and our freedom and we had succeeded. Support of a few nations in the War of Independence in 1948 was utmost important. The post-Holocaust Jewish nation enduring enormous difficulties prevailed. The State of Israel is an everlasting proof of the implementation of a national idea.

Nowadays, Ukraine is in flames. Its capital Kyiv resembles a war-zone. Ukrainian people rose up on November 21, 2013, being deceived by its own government. This government was to sign an Agreement of Association with the European Union. A week before the Eurointegration summit in Vilnius, the government withdrew from the agreement. Political analysts regard this decision to have been a dictate from President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. Instead of Eurointegration, an association with the Russian-led Custom Union came up as an alternative plan. Ukraine is an important factor in Russia’s geopolitical games of reviving the empire. Without Ukraine, Russia, in political terms, is reduced to an Asian power. For President Putin, an image of Ukraine as a member of European Union equates with a geostrategic failure of retaining the former Soviet borders intact. Ukrainian President Yanukovych accepted the Russian monetary credit in the amount of 15 billion dollars that per se has negated a prospective Eurointegration.

A new generation of Ukrainians gathered at the Independence Square (popular known as Maidan) in Kyiv in the peaceful protest against betrayal of their dreams to become part of Europe and no longer be politically and economically subordinated to the Russian Federation. In the duration of peaceful protests at the Euromaidan (Independence Square in Kyiv), the riot police several times brutally attacked and dispersed young people, using inadequate force. Many were severely beaten and ended up in hospitals. The violent application of the force by the authorities only caused a rising resistance. Tens of thousands kept gathering at the Maidan since then. It was now called Euromaidan.

Peaceful protesters ultimately lost patience on January 16, 2014, when the Government enacted the laws resembling the martial law. These laws were adopted with all possible violations of parliamentary procedures and regulations and by its very nature are unconstitutional. Next day, people took the protests in the streets. They began building barricade in the government quarter and the open clashes with the riot police and the military interior forces commenced. Since then there have been at least five dead and many wounded on the protestor side.

Ukrainian people in the regions followed the suit and started taken over the governmental administrative building, forcing the governors of the ruling political party (the Party of Regions) resign. The Government answered with unleashing the war-like police and internal military forces actions.

For the world public opinion it important to realize: it is not Ukrainian nationalist or Ukrainian radicals who initiated the conflict. It is not them who are seeking the power. It is true, they are in the first rows, confronting the riot police and internal military forces. However thousands of ordinary Ukrainians from all over the country are on the front-lines as well. They are fighting for a free and democratic country, they are against the corrupt and pro-Russian government they want to build a nation and an independent state. They want a secure future for their children.

The time has come to get over the old Soviet propaganda myths about the Ukrainian nationalists and Ukraine in general. Ukrainians like Jews want to live in the country of their own where they can freely speak Ukrainian language, where they can make a European choice and ultimately in the country that will no longer be under the Russian dictate.

We, the Jews care about Ukrainian independence and Ukraine people. We can say, in the time of trials the Jews are on the side of free and democratic Ukraine.

Dr. Vladimir Melamed is Director of Archive, Library and Historical Curatorship at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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