favorites Jewish life ukraine

Farewell Ukrainya

Farewell Ukraine. On a plane on my way from Kiev towards a stop in London on my way back to the States. There was something special about Ukraine for me. Funny, though, I think I might be willing to say that about any place where I spend an extended period of time. I think one of the beautiful things about the human heart is how it naturally attaches itself to whatever it becomes familiar with. I think, barring our own intervention, that our natural tendency is to grow to love everything that we come in contact with. For example, I love this woman sitting next to me, a 20 year old Ukrainian studying in England, self-avowed fan of pornography (well that part does make it more exciting, but I‘m sure I‘d love her if she were a porn abolitionist as well). I also love the Weymouth, England man sitting next to her returning from holiday in Crimea who seems like he would be truly at home on a pub barstool ragging about whatever. I also love the man across the aisle who has passed out from laughter. He was on some form of Goofers which made it almost impossible for him to stop laughing. Even though I know it was a drug induced Joy, I love him just the same, even passed out. All it takes is a little familiarity with someone or something and love can appear. I am coming to believe that the more and more open we become, the less time it takes for us to love something or someone. Eventually, if we keep paying attention to the times we aren’t loving so we can learn what gets between our love and the world, the time between our initial interaction and the emergence of our love reduces to instantaneity.

And so I love Ukraine. The thing that seems to want to get between that love though, for me, is the history of the anti-Semitism there. And it’s doesn’t just feel like history. One of the primary national heroes today is a man named Boghdan Khmelnytsky who was the leader of the Cossacks during their “wild west” days un the 17th century. While successful at driving out the Poles and forming something identifying as present day Ukraine, he also was the driving force for many pogroms against Jews at that time. General estimates are of the death of approximately 100,000 Jews at that time. Seeing his statue prominently displayed reminds me that anti-Semitism is not dead and gone, although the original design for that statue in Kiev had a Jew, among others under the hooves of the horse. I guess it’s not so different than in America where we still revere President Teddy Roosevelt who wrote describing American Indians as “scattered savage tribes, whose lives were but a few degrees less meaningless, squalid, and ferocious than that of the wild beasts with whom they held joint ownership,” and strongly supported the conquest of these “savages.” We also revere the first president of America. George Washington, who is noted to have paid taxes on 134 slaves that he owned in 1772.

So seeing the anti-Semitism get’s in the way of my love for Ukraine, but seeing the truth of that block helps it to dissolve some. I think what stops the love from fully emerging here is a lack of true understanding of human nature (which might give greater rise to forgiveness) and some unresolved grief (which I think might have the power to do the same).

I like this new theory that’s forming, that of familiarity breeding Love, because it explains and opens a path to loving all, loving everything, everyone. I would imagine there is a biological survival mechanism in place here, for if familiarity leads to love, and if love leads to a desire to protect those we love, then familiarity and thus love would lead to greater likelihood of survival. The downside of this in application is that it is likely the same force that leads to nationalism, creating prideful identifications which lead to wars, discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Familiarity also leads to bigotry, for bigotry is a way that people separate others from those they are familiar with (love), so as to better ensure their own aggrandizement and survival. The best cure in my opinion for bigotry is familiarity, familiarity with those held in lower esteem, which naturally leads to love. When California was fighting for gay rights back in the 60s and 70s, a hugely important part of the strategy to combat the inherent homophobia was to have as many people come out of the closet as possible and tell others about their sexual orientation. Poll analyses showed that people overwhelmingly voted in favor of greater gay rights if they had close friends or family members who were gay, and against if they did not have such relations. The same is true for Gay Marriage. Once people know gay couples who are married or are parents, they become much more willing to accept it and vote in support of it.

I’m not trying to apply this theory to romantic love yet, although I think it does play a part, but romantic love generally has a physical/sexual attraction component, more complex psychologies, and of course hinges upon the scattering of mystery moon dust.

So do I love Ukraine? Yes. Perhaps it’s simply because I took the time to get to know it better, maybe 6 weeks in all. But it is also a very beautiful place, with old European style cities, cobblestone streets, beautiful countrysides, rivers and mountains, and people who seemed to me to be welcoming. And of course, my heart was touched very sweetly there as well, which of course adds to my affection for the place.

Farewell Ukrainya. Until we meet again.

Leave a Reply