It has always been clear in my mind that the many ills of Ukraine are not the cause of a major sporting event which is slated for 2012, but the European Football championships have clearly drawn attention to the countless problems which exist in contemporary Ukrainian society. Every nation has its problems, in some, it is more apparent than in others, though in Ukraine it seems that all of its citizens just grin and bear it.
Many years ago I heard one civic activist in Ukraine use the following phrase at least twice during every one of his public appearances or interviews with media. “The problem isn’t the elections it’s the electorate!” Well if it’s the electorate then clearly the problems that Ukraine has on its plate, are just as much the fault of the electorate as those who they voted for on this or that party list which a candidate was on, who in no way under the current electoral system or legislation which exists can be held accountable for anything they do, or don’t do, how they vote or how their fellow party members vote for them in their absence.
So when will the electorate, Ukraine’s citizens, start acting and not simply having their discussions on how terrible things are? I am certain that this past Friday night, like any other night of the week, that without a doubt there were hundreds if not thousands of small groups of individuals around the country doing a great deal of talking. Some of them around the kitchen table, others at the local watering hole, and others still without any alcoholic beverages near by whatsoever. But as an old Slavic saying goes, “What is on the sober man’s mind is on the drunken man’s tongue.” It seems that just like in the “pseudo” world of Ukrainian politics, which has more political parties than one is able to count on all of one’s digits; civic society is just as splintered. The formation of a number of loosely knit groups throughout the country in the past eighteen months is just as difficult to keep track of as political parties.
So just what are all these new groups doing? A friend of mine, recently stated on his Facebook page that he was tired of going to any of the numerous demonstrations in the nation’s capital as they were simply nothing but a waste of time, and stated that it was time for Ukrainians to take things into their own hands, like in Libya. Though understanding how Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU), has been targeting bloggers and others, he clearly said that he didn’t want to be blamed for a call for the taking to arms. Clearly, the frustration of many Ukrainians is there, and this is just one of at least a hundred comments I have seen in the last couple of weeks from individuals I personally know, or am acquainted with through numerous means and who I consider far from radical. They are just sick and tired of it all, but so many of them have to deal with simply “surviving”.
Survival – yes staying alive no other way of putting it. In order to do this there is one factor that is important in any society and that is safety. Though with October 29, 2011 a so-called D-Day in Lviv, and the opening of what is for now being dubbed the Lviv Arena; safety is something that is the furthest thing in the minds of public officials who have stated that the stadium will be officially opened October 29.
On Friday October 28, President Yanukovych stated in a briefing at the still to be completed stadium that they decided that the opening would take place in October as a matter of convenience for everyone involved, regarding the weather and temperature and in order that this festive event would be remembered. However, the key agencies that are to sign off on allowing to put this architectural construction into operation have not done so, and probably won’t until some time in 2012, as the stadium, is far from being ready to be, as they say in Ukraine, “delivered for exploitation”. According to unnamed sources amongst construction workers on the site, there have been a number of short cuts taken in order to meet the crazy, but nonetheless, already year-late deadline of completing the stadium. In places where things should have been bolted, they simply welded two pieces of metal together.
This doesn’t surprise me, and it probably doesn’t surprise many Ukrainians, though it is time for them to start saying “NO! We will not have any part of this insanity that has been thrust upon us!” This would have be an appropriate stance of citizens of Lviv regarding the stadium that was delivered to them in part. And for some it will be. One comment on YouTube by one such citizen of Lviv named Volodymyr wrote on October 28th. “Tomorrow I will not go to that stadium, I fear for my life and the most important thing is that everything that is being done in a rush for the Euro will not be achieved, in the spring they will be putting down asphalt and so forth, and it is pile of our money, it’s a nuthouse.”
In addition, who was at the opening of what should be a landmark event in the history of such a city as Lviv? Clearly, President Yanukovych himself was a no-show. I guess he too had come to his senses like the earlier commentator on YouTube and probably knowing a bit more of the truth thought twice about setting foot in a stadium, which legally should not have had anyone on its territory but the workers building it.
A video was presented on the history of football in Lviv and as it came to a close the voice over of the video pumped up the President’s image, while lambasting the previous administrations during which the building of the stadium had come to a halt. For those locals who were there, they didn’t take kindly to those words about the “virtual president” whistling and shouting cat calls of shame. It was a show, which was deplorable and simply depicts how the powers that be continue in the vein of Potemkin, in trying to paint a rosier picture than the reality.
As I related above, at least one citizen of Lviv and another of Kyiv have voiced their opinions. “We have had enough!” But how many who have voiced their opinions will in the future carry out some activity which will bring down the soviet style dinosaurs who were resurrected by the electorate; dinosaurs, who are not only anti-society and safety but who are also anti-Ukrainian in their policies? It appears that the level of what the people of Ukraine are able to tolerate is being stretched further and further by the current regime, and only two questions remain. Just how much will they tolerate and how long will their pressure valve continue to function? And when the pressure valve finally fails, just how far will Ukrainians go in order to bring some order to their land, which so far has only lined the pockets of a very small portion of the population?
Vasyl Pawlowsky Independent Consultant
The commentary of this was first published on the Ukraine Business Online site.