I got my ass handed to me by a 19-year-old Ukrainian woman yesterday.
One of my Ukrainian language teachers here is a very intelligent, kind, multilingual student. Yesterday we took a field trip to the grocery store to teach each other the English and Ukrainian names for basic foods — a handy lesson for survival here.
But at the end of the afternoon her tone changed from gentle to serious as she confronted me about something that had been bothering her.
“Why is your blog so insulting to Ukraine?” she said. Before the comment even registered she then proceeded to tear me a new one, asking me if I thought Ukrainians were just barbaric cave people, why I came here if I thought this place was such a joke, and that I was basically a pampered ass, ignorant of the effect that years of genocide, war and colonial subjugation has had on the people here.
Before I could even defend myself, she said that she still respected me, but that I should, “mix some clean water with the dirty.” She then jumped on a streetcar and left me to marinade in my own shame… as well as a peculiar pride for having taught her proper use of the word mix hours earlier.
I agree that generally I have focused on the more absurd aspects of this country. In my defence I have always been drawn to ridiculous things no matter where I am living. See, here, here and here. I also agree that many of my posts have included, “potentially insulting generalizations about people and cultures” I did give fair warning about this. Also, for years I was obliged to write un-critical articles for luxury lifestyle magazines, and I may have gone overboard now that my leash is off.
I think it is a particularly Canadian trait to make fun of things. We have been a wealthy, peaceful, internationally recognized country for over a century. We have no problems taking the piss out of our culture and national institutions because there is no direct threat to them.
The same cannot be said about Ukraine. Since the Mongol invasion, Ukrainian culture, sovereignty, language and people have been under siege. Ukrainians have endured slavery, colonial rule, countless wars, genocide, totalitarianism and a general global ignorance to their society. Ukraine has only been a nation for 18 years, and a functioning democracy for five years. Look at the other former Soviet Republics: Moldova, Belarus, and Kazakhstan! C’mon.
I’ll address Mariya’s concerns after the jump. Plus, From now on I promise to mix in a little more clean water.
In particular she had issues with the following:
Vodka: Why Ukraine can’t have nice things. “I’m not a drunk, my friends and families aren’t drunks. And that photo you used!” she said. Okay, the photo was bad, and the overwhelming majority of people I’ve met here are not drunks. That said, what I wrote are indeed facts, and I still believe that attitudes and policy towards alcohol are a major issue here. That said; it is indeed dirty water.
Russian Facebook: “If you hate VKontakte so much why did you join? Also, none of my friends have sexy pictures on for their profiles!” True… most of the profile pics are pretty much what you would expect from a social networking site. But there are more provocative photos than you find on Facebook, from both men and women. I think some of this has to do with the fact that beauty is held in high regard here and there is pride in showing it off. Also, I am not laying blame at the feet of girls here for attracting Internet prowlers; I am simply saying that VK is an easy avenue for these sleaze bags.