Ukraine, Poland, and the “Battle for Europe”

As The Day has already reported, the week before last another page was inscribed in the history of relations between this newspaper and the National University of Ostrih Academy. On the eve of the official opening of the Year of Ukraine in Warsaw, a debate was held on Wars and Peace , the third book in the The Day Library series, which is devoted to the complex history of Ukrainian-Polish relations. Among the participants was Prof. Volodymyr Panchenko, vice-president of the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and one of the book’s authors. Rules were also announced for a new competition for Ostrih Academy students competing for a scholarship offered by The Day’s editor-in-chief. Yana Kutko, a past winner, organized a photo exhibition portraying the cooperation that has been established between The Day and Ostrih, one of Eastern Europe’s oldest universities. This intellectual banquet was topped off by a recital given by kobza-player Taras Kompanychenko, who was invited to Ostrih by our newspaper. For almost 90 minutes he sang 16th-18th-century “hits” in old Ukrainian and Polish. The book Wars and Peace , published six months ago, was being presented at the Ostrih Academy in a very auspicious setting. One of the reasons for this was, as Larysa Ivshyna put it, “a precise perception of time.” Besides, the practice of a continuous dialogue between the Ostrih academic community and The Day has borne fruit both at the university and on the pages of this newspaper. The well-known historian Prof. Volodymyr Trofymovych has given high praise to the book Wars and Peace: “This book has garnered colossal admiration. Students say that without this book it is impossible to understand the history of Ukrainian- Polish relations or the life of Ukrainians and Poles, who suffered so much, fought one another so often, and are looking forward to being friends.” Incidentally, Prof. Trofymovych also expressed the hope that the day might come when Ms. Ivshyna starts her working day not in the offices of The Day but at Ostrih Academy as a professor. A contributor of ours, Ostrih Professor Petro Kraliuk noted that when Ukraina Incognita, the first book in the The Day Library series, came out, he suspected this would be the end of it. “I never thought there would be a second or a third book, but now I believe that there will be a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth one, and so on.” Ms. Ivshyna in turn expressed the hope that there will be more Ostrih contributors to the next books published by The Day.

A student’s “simple” question, “What does it mean to be a journalist?” touched off a heated debate (this topic will be covered in one of our upcoming issues). In summary, this gathering only strengthened everyone’s confidence in further effective cooperation between The Day and Ostrih.

Below we offer some fragments of the latest “Ostrih readings.”


Larysa IVSHYNA, editor-in-chief, The Day:

“I have always noticed that Ostrih Academy is prepared to embrace new ideas and conduct daring experiments. I think that, owing to The Day’s efforts to popularize Ostrih Academy, other universities have even developed what may be called an envy syndrome. In any case, they have often telephoned, asking me to visit or write about them. I usually say in such cases: look, we are not a promotional team. We just want more higher educational institutions to utilize the experience of your university and set themselves equally high standards, to treat their students the way you do, to encourage their professors the way you do, and to create a breath of fresh air the way you do. I want to praise Ostrih Academy again and confirm my favorable attitude to it. I consider it very symbolic that it is based in Ostrih, where, as we have written, the Polish and Ukrainian worlds encountered one another, where the two cultures penetrated each other, where there were conflicts and fights as well as peace and harmony. It is also the place where we are launching Wars and Peace, The Day’s book on Ukrainian-Polish relations. I also think we are presenting it to a very interested audience.

“I would also like to stress that I am very pleased that a large number of new Ostrih students, with whom I am not yet acquainted, willingly participated in The Day’s latest survey. I hope this is the first bid for the scholarship funded by The Day’s editor-in-chief for the academic year 2005-2006. I think you will use every chance to be read by the Ukrainian public and to become better known. The example of the first Den scholarship winners — Pavlo Bulhak, Yana Kutko, and Larysa Antoshchuk (who also contributed to the book project) — proves that you must grasp your destiny with your own hands. So take up challenges and opportunities! The newspaper The Day is a place where you will always find support.”

Mykola ANTOSHCHUK, fourth-year student, Liberal Arts School:

“Do you picture Ukraine as a new regional leader? What role has Poland played in this process?”

“I think Poland has often encouraged us with its own example in the past few years. But I’ve always very much disliked the fact that Ukrainians, including journalists, often repeat the Polish claim that Poland is our advocate. It may be fair for the Poles to say that they are advocates of the Ukrainians. But a Ukrainian who has a sense of personal dignity should say, ‘But why should I have advocates? I can be grateful for support, take some friendly advice, be a very appreciative partner, but are we unable to stand on our own two feet?’ We are stronger in many respects and are not supposed to blubber all the time and lean on the friendly Polish shoulder. Of course, the Poles succeeded in taking advantage of the political situation and were courageous enough to take certain steps. The left-winger Kwasniewski became the premier Polish patriot and resolutely led his country into NATO and the European Union. But we, on the other hand, mollycoddle our left-wingers like fools. If you want a life based on European standards, you must naturally elect people to parliament who are able to provide you with this kind of life by means of laws. We have learned nothing from Poland in this respect, although their persistence can serve as an example. All we have been doing in the past few years is rattling on about whether we should go to Europe.

“Another detail: there was a wide-scale debate in Ukraine on whether we should go to Iraq. I am still convinced that this debate was foisted on us by notorious armchair strategists. The result is that, while the Ukrainians are coming back home, the Poles are diverting their Iraq force to Afghanistan. I once heard the opinion that this is the reason why they used to conquer us in certain periods. A nation must be passionate and strive for something. Reiterating that we are non-aligned, neutral, and so on is nothing but a defeatist position. If you know the history of the Ukrainian National Republic well and the quandary it was in over the army, you will agree that the present-day situation is also fraught with numerous menaces and dangers because the world is never too ‘dovish.’ We must learn from the Poles the way they have been trying to attain their goals — in a clear-cut and persistent manner. As for the Orange Revolution, let us recall the end of the Cinderella tale: you can’t automatically make a heart kind and a foot small. We must still set ourselves and attain ambitious goals and find the people who are able to do this. If you think that we are the regional leader, this means our team — political, economic, and humanitarian — should be stronger than those of our Polish and Hungarian neighbors. But if you travel in those countries and see their attitude toward wise and learned people and everything that forms the very subtle aura of society, you will agree that we are still, pardon me, loutish. The Orange Revolution could not possibly change human nature and get people straightened out overnight. So there will be a lot of disappointments, but I am sure it is the younger generation that will guarantee our irreversible movement toward Europe. If we manage to win ‘the Battle of Europe’ within this country, we will be a regional leader. But we have not yet managed to do so.”

Svitlana SOKIL, second-year student, School of Economics:

“It is no secret that Polish politicians are actively defending the interests of Ukraine and its aspirations for European integration. Do you think this is the result of a special attitude on the part of Polish politicians and statesmen toward our country or by the Poles’ national interests?”

“You have in fact answered your question. In reality, any sane person will make sure that he does not live next door to a hobo or a weirdo. I can, of course, say, ‘You know, I am awfully concerned about your interests and I just want to have you beside me.’ But, at the same time, this means that I’ll do my utmost to keep you from lying drunk as a lord near my fence. We must learn to analyze the essence of things by the words we hear. The essence of things is as follows: we will only have excellent relations with our neighbors if we are a decent country. Then we won’t have to be protected and patronized. The Poles are saying to us very politely and touchingly, ‘Yes, we want you to be in the European Union.’ But, translated into plain Ukrainian, this means ‘You don’t have a minute to spare. Roll up your sleeves and do something right now, because if you just indulge in revolutionary reverie, you’ll oversleep and establish such a new regime that nobody will ever help you.’ This is the way I ‘translate’ the Polish stand.”

Tamara IVASHCHYK, third-year History major, School of Liberal Arts:

“Ms. Ivshyna, do you share the current government’s claim that Ukraine is prepared for joining the European organizations? Do you think Ukraine should make use of the Polish experience or go its own way to Europe?”

“In my view, the Polish experience means: first NATO, then the European Union. Almost every country has done this, and we shouldn’t be a nuisance to one another. But if we say that we will first go to the EU and then we’ll see, this will be a long and winding road to nowhere. The world may be feeling as strong a desire as possible to see us vigorous and able to seize the second chance of the great popular upsurge, but we must know how to do this. I fully share the new government’s intentions in this field, but I am still a bit cautious about certain aspects. Naturally, I’d like these doubts to be dispelled. Take Turkey, for example. This is a country that has been getting ready for EU membership in a civilized manner for decades under the umbrella of NATO. NATO not only provides military security but, above all, offers a broad guarantee of democratic societal development. The Europeans do not need partners with unpredictable behavior. By offering an action plan, they want to make sure there will be no recurrence of such behavior, while our task is to decide what we want, to make a choice at last. The common perception is that we have achieved everything by the very fact of the Orange Revolution and can now sit with our arms folded. But this is wrong. Moreover, our task is more difficult now: the original charm of Independence Square, Ukraine, and the new government is going to fade. Time is producing new challenges. I am very saddened by talk that NATO is heading for a breakup. It won’t break up. We must quickly pick up strength and move on.”

Andriy BARDETSKY, third-year History major, School of Liberal Arts:

“Ms. Ivshyna, you said a nation must have the spirit of passionarity. But what is your attitude to the view that the Ukrainian ethnos is rather old and even if we try to be passionate, we will be unable to touch off an explosion of passionarity? Maybe, we are not passionate enough to outdo the European countries in this respect?”

“This is a very interesting philosophical question. I can only express my own, absolutely subjective, vision. Indeed, we are a very ancient civilization and nation but a very young state, and I am convinced that this must spur us to mobilize the best strata of our society. We are in a special situation where we have to tackle several difficult problems simultaneously, including awareness of our identity. I think this process has speeded up in the past year, and more Ukrainians have begun to feel themselves Ukrainian. We must establish the mainstays of a nation state as well as get to know the surrounding world and the challenges that it faces. This requires a very profound ability to synthesize. This means that governmental appointments at all levels should be made on the basis of efficiency rather than revolutionary expediency. I think the latter is now our greatest danger. The Ukrainian project of the 2004 presidential elections won the competition against the pro-Russian project of Ukraine. But this victory may be put at risk if the new administration, lulled into complacence by its success, staffs its central and regional offices with incompetent people chosen according to the principle of political opportunism and political loyalty. Now the destiny of the victorious Ukrainian project depends on the professionalism of those who make up the new team. This is the main field of competition, which boils down to the ability to seize the available opportunity. Yes, once again the world is well disposed toward us. But the passionarity that we are talking about is not only hot-headed public speeches; it is a clear understanding that we are European, that we are ready to learn and build an image that is European in all senses. In my opinion, this is the underlying meaning of passionarity: readiness to take our place in history. Otherwise, great history will be made without us. A change of generations does not automatically guarantee renewal. The older generation, too, has strong-willed, knowledgeable, and passionate people. We must learn to spot brilliant, skillful, clever, and interesting people in all age groups. There must be something that will attract the wise people of this country. This is our chance. Otherwise, I am afraid we will be groping in the dark for a long time.”

Ihor SHMYNDRUK, first-year Political Science major, School of Liberal Arts:

“It was Jacek Kuron of blessed memory whose mediation helped to resolve the historical conflict between Poland and Ukraine. Who do you think will be the Jacek Kuron of Ukrainian-Russian relations?”

“When we were discussing the book Dvi Rusi in this very room (a year before the presidential elections), I said the time had come when we must help Russia through our aspiration to be a European country. In 2004 Kyiv’s Independence Square made a wonderful attempt to present us in this light. Lots of people came running to see an incredible people rise from what they thought was a strange country stricken with paralysis. We knew that this people existed when we were publishing Ukraina Incognita and making tours of the country. You can’t see this people on television, but TV footage is not the reason why we should cast doubt on ourselves. As for further developments, Russia saw no challenge in what had happened in Ukraine. Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would develop on the basis of law and order, not revolutions. Naturally, Russia will have its own traditions of power transfer. I don’t think we have the right or the possibilities to meddle, but we can, of course, help them in humanitarian terms. I’ve been thinking about who might be a mediator. In my view, none of the Russian ‘business-class’ politicians fit this role. The 1960s dissidents have already accomplished their mission: they are now part of history. Frankly speaking, I just don’t know. Can you imagine? In fact, there is no communication on a high intellectual level as there used to be. Besides, I think the Russians made many mistakes, unfortunately, when they were choosing partners in Ukraine — in the political and other fields.”

Kateryna OLISHKEVYCH, second-year student, School of Liberal Arts:

“You mentioned the original fascination, i.e., the impression that the Orange Revolution made on the public. Should Ukraine hurry up, while this impression can still help us achieve our goals?”

“Before our neighbors have ‘married’ someone else?”

Yes, more or less.

“The only point is they are very experienced ‘wooers.’ While we often indulge in stargazing, these ‘wooers’ prefer marriage contracts that describe in exact detail what the country should do to be eligible for something. Only highly skilled people can do this. To be frank, I don’t like all these post-revolutionary shakeups. Can we possibly raise an elite if, as soon as something has grown up, we ‘plow it under?’ Besides, newcomers are not always the best choice. When there was a debate on lustration, also among journalists, somebody suggested that we should spike stories about Yanukovych’s supporters in newspapers and television. I think the question should be put differently. If an individual did shameful things — whether ‘for Yushchenko’ or ‘for Yanukovych,’ — elementary ethics require that s/he at least be morally condemned. But if the entire country begins to claim that an individual had no right to vote for somebody, this is, frankly, the wrong thing to do. This can cut short the careers and destroy the lives of many efficient people: I’ve seen a lot of examples in the regions. We laughed heartily when [Vice-Premier] Roman Bezsmertny, who was asked why the Kirovohrad governor doesn’t have a higher education, answered that the civil service law does not stipulate that a governor should have a higher education. I can only add that the civil service law does not stipulate that you must brush your teeth and wash your ears every day.

“The late James Mace, our great American Ukrainian, once spoke some rather bitter but very just and true words about us. He said that Ukrainians are a post-genocidal society. The younger generation is not yet aware of this, but many people, who have been crippled by the system and manmade famines, suffer primarily from weakened willpower. So we must value every strong individual. We should not let any revolutionary changes crush even one talented and brilliant professional. We should not care about who voted for whom: those who cherish justice don’t do things like that.”


The Ostrih Academy also looked forward to meeting Prof. Volodymyr Panchenko: he is well known in these parts as a scholar and man of letters, as the vice-president of the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, and, of course, as a contributor to The Day. Ostrih Rector Ihor Pasichnyk and the faculty gratefully recalled that Kyiv Mohyla Academy once helped Ostrih to stand on its two feet and said they still want the two universities to maintain all-round ties. Incidentally, Prof. Panchenko has met many Ostrih students and some professors “by proxy,” via The Day.

Professor Volodymyr PANCHENKO; Doctor of Philology; Vice-president, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy; member, Union of Ukrainian Writers:

“Dear colleagues, seniors and juniors alike. Although this is my first time at Ostrih Academy, I always knew I would visit this place. I am not only a contributor but also a reader of The Day and know about the ‘love affair’ between this newspaper and Ostrih Academy. Thanks to this newspaper, I’ve learned many new things about the academy and am familiar with a long series of names that appear on the pages of The Day. It is a crime not to know about Ostrih because this university is the cradle of Ukrainian book-printing and is associated with the very interesting history of Ukrainian monasteries and Ukrainian spirituality.

“As for the third volume in The Day Library series, which we are launching today, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it is dedicated to the blessed memory of Jacek Kuron. It is a very good thing that you recalled his name and the unique role he played: he was a person who did his best to bridge the gap between two complicated histories, two nations. I have just remembered a moment from my own life story. In December 1989, when Solidarnosc had already come to power, a small delegation of Ukrainian writers, including me, was visiting Poland. Some of the members of our delegation happened to gain access to Jacek Kuron’s office (he had just been appointed minister of labor). I think I saw a minister in jeans and a sweater for the first and last time in my life (he liked that sweater, which he considered a revolutionary attribute). We talked about some things that were important for Poland. I can still remember the rather bleak picture of Polish life at the time. Now Poland has made tremendous strides in a rather short time. I think we can benefit greatly from this experience, and this is one of the reasons why we examined the subject of Ukrainian-Polish relations.

“Kyiv Mohyla Academy recently hosted Mykhailyna Kotsiubynska, who delivered a public lecture entitled ‘The Wind from Ukraine and Our Existential Efforts.’ Actually, her talk dealt with ethics and morals. She spoke about the peculiarities of our post-revolutionary situation and the moral principles that keep man and society in a proper state. There were two main things on which she focused. Firstly, she said, ‘I categorically oppose a single-cell mentality.’ In other words, one should not simplify complex things. The other emphasis was that every human being is responsible for his/her attitudes. Declaring that people should square their shoulders, she applied this idea to the Maidan situation. (This corresponds to what you asked and what Ms. Ivshyna said in her answers). Ms. Kotsiubynska emphasized that, in spite of all the existing risks, dangers, and threats, there are high hopes that once an individual has squared his shoulders, he will never bend down again. This is a great opportunity indeed. I would like to complete this thought with the words of another wise person, Mykhailo Drahomanov, who wrote approximately as follows in one of his articles (I can’t quote it word for word but you will understand the gist): ‘If you think that somebody will pay attention to you because you are crying, you are totally wrong. You will be noticed when you are strong.’ This is the moment that we experienced last October and November. The world paid attention to us not because we had done a lot of crying before but because we succeed in being strong. We were noticed at a moment of strength. This is one more opportunity for us. So I also want you to be strong.”

Yana KUT’KO, third-year student, School of Liberal Arts:

“Dr. Panchenko, could you, as an author and editor of the book Wars and Peace, indicate the difference between Ukrainian and Polish patriotism?”

“I cannot lay claim to an absolute truth, but I think the difference is that Polish patriotism has never doubted itself, while its Ukrainian counterpart has sometimes done so. One should not doubt. One must be confident in oneself and one’s capabilities. Ours is a very bitter history — this is common knowledge. There were moments when our intelligentsia found it very difficult to answer (even for itself) the question, what was even the object of its patriotism. This brought about destructive doubt. We must know exactly who we are. Only then will our patriotism be absolutely constructive.”

Oleksandr BOTAROV, second-year Political Science Major, School of Liberal Arts:

“When Polish patriotism is in question, it is regarded as an integral part of Polish nationalism, but when the question concerns Ukrainian patriotism, it is regarded as something chauvinistic rather than nationalistic. Is this the problem of our Ukrainian patriotism?”

“I think this is the problem of our deep-seated stereotypes. Every word leaves a certain historical trail. Vladimir Mayakovsky once said, ‘Our words, even the most important ones, become commonplace and wear out like a dress.’ But sometimes, much to our regret, it takes them too much time to become obsolete. The same applies to the idea of nationalism. This notion exists in the international vocabulary and means nothing bad. It is essentially a synonym to the word ‘patriotism.’ The trouble is that a very abusive political label has been attached to this word for a very long time, almost 80 years. The inertia of this word usage and this meaning is still there. Let us get rid of it. I don’t think there is anything bad in the idea of nationalism. Chauvinism is a different category. ‘Nationalism’ is a notion very close to ‘patriotism.’ So I think that in this respect we must be the same as all the other nations and consider ourselves normal nationalists, i.e., we must venerate our land, culture, language, history, and, for that matter, our national interests.”

Taras DAVYDIUK, second-year Political Science major, School of Liberal Arts:

“Dr. Panchenko, for what kind of readership is the newspaper The Day intended? ”

“Firstly, I’d like to say that at one time I decided to consider contributing to The Day as a certain creative standard. I am glad to be one of its contributors. What kind of readership is this newspaper designed for? Again, I can answer this question as a reader and as a person involved in this paper’s activities. I think The Day is intended, above all, for people who think analytically. After all, you can get information from countless sources, but what appeals to me in The Day is, first of all, its in-depth analysis and different opinions of very clever and interesting personalities. From among my latest impressions, I can single out the kaleidoscope of views related to the death of Pope John Paul II. What left a special imprint in my mind is the article by Serhiy Krymsky, who is a brilliant philosopher and a superb lecturer. I once discussed with schoolchildren (when I taught at the university’s lyceum) the difference between a reasonable and a wise person. We came to the conclusion that reason, unlike wisdom, can sometimes be evil. So we devised a formula: wisdom is reason plus kindness. When you come across the opinions of wise people on The Day’s pages, you enrich your intellect. So, to sum it up, The Day is a newspaper for readers who think, for the homo sapiens in the broadest sense of the word.”

P. S. The recital by the kobza-player Taras Kompanychenko, which followed the book discussion, confirmed that there were a lot of “normal nationalists” (in Prof. Panchenko’s sense) at Ostrih. The university is extremely interested in these kinds of contacts. This example of genuine Ukrainian music received thunderous applause here. For example, according to The Day’s scholarship winner Pavlo Bulhak, the kobzar’s music is helping to instill aspirations for “Ukrainian historical reality and all things Ukrainian.” Small wonder that right after the concert some people strongly advised Kompanychenko to record a new album.

During one of her tours of Ukrainian universities, Larysa Ivshyna said it would be a good idea to establish “centers of crystallization,” i.e., places of the highest intellectual level, in order to create a positive and constructive public mood. The Ostrih Academy is undoubtedly one of these centers. For this reason, The Day and the university still have a lot of plans to carry out.