Message to Ukrainian Womanhood, [Politicus #1,105]
by David A. Mittell, Jr.
I sat with three teenage Ukrainian girls at the newly-expanded Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw, Poland, waiting for a flight to Lviv, Ukraine. One had russet-golden hair crowned with braids above each ear. When we had been sitting together long enough, I reckoned, for the instant intimacy of travelers to set in, I complimented her braids and said they reminded me of Yulia Tymoshenko's.
One of her mates rejoined: "I hope she has a better fate than Tymoshenko."
That day, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had rejected an independent German doctor's opinion that the imprisoned, mysteriously sick former Prime Minister needed to be transferred to a hospital. Let her die! the president of Ukraine was really saying; for his Party of Regions is a gang holding the Sovieto-medieval view that political opponents are to be eliminated. That Ms. Tymoshenko might become a bigger problem for them in death than she is in life is beyond them.
Oksana Makar had been gang-raped, set on fire and left for dead. Three men were arrested. Two of them, who are from families of the contemporary *nomenklatura* under the Party of Regions, were released without bail.A few days later, a furor erupted in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv, more commonly known by its Russian name, Nikolayev. On March 9, 18-year-old
Ms. Makar had burns over 50% of her body and was expected to die of her injuries. But when I left the country she was holding on and speaking out from her hospital bed. In Ukraine, victims of sexual assault are not protected by a custom of privacy, as in the United States. Our ways have their reasons, but I was struck that her voice, her face, her wounds, her burns bespoke her humanity in a way that our reticence about naming the victims of crimes involving private parts does not. Mykolayiv/Nikolayev, near Odessa, has supported the Party of Regions. This crime, with its ritual protection of the regime's* mazhory *(brats) produced a national outcry and an unprecedented local one.
There is a theme here. The 29-member Yanukovych cabinet contains no women. Yet the Russian writer Tatiana Tolstaya, who has lived in America, calls the Slavic lands matriarchies in which the *baboosa, *the grandmother, is the family's CEO – as opposed to our own Anglo/German/American traditional patriarchies. We don't have to answer that to understand that Ukraine survived 1,000 years of foreign oppression through the strength of her women; and that women will play an essential role if the country is to be freed from the morally-enervating, economically-hindering corruption of today's domestic oppressors.
The government's message to the girl with the russet-golden braids through Yulia Tymoshenko, Oksana Makar and its cabinet of men is the wrong one. To Ukrainian womanhood it is, I believe, intentional.
Back at Chopin Airport, sorrow at leaving Ukraine was lifted when I was seated next to a young Polish woman for the flight to America. In the 1940's, her parents had suffered the privations of fascism's Soviet continuation. She works for a Swiss company, and was on her way to an American holiday, including Disney World. She knows the history of Poland's
extinctions as a nation, and is patriotically proud that Sovieto-fascism met its match in a Polish Pope.
All in all, Poland may be the healthiest country in contemporary Europe. For Ukrainians, who have a shared history of faith and culture, war and oppression, Poland thriving is an alternative to the retrograde methods of the current rulers of both Ukraine and Russia.
Footnote: Oksana Makar died on March 29 as this went to press. The two released suspects had been re-arrested under public pressure. All three suspects have now been charged with murder.