An open letter to the Ukrainian People,
I’m proud of you.
From the beginning, I’ve been watching you. I’ve kept my eyes on the news and I’ve gobbled up every piece of information I can find. Some days, I would even read the same story multiple times, but from different sources hoping I could find a new bit that I hadn’t read before. For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with your politics like I’ve never been obsessed with politics before.
Some of you know me personally. I spent two years in your wonderfully beautiful country feeling welcome. I refrained from commenting on anything slightly related to politics or policy or things that just don’t quite sit right with my American point of view because that’s what we are advised to do as Peace Corps Volunteers. We don’t want to rub people the wrong way. We also don’t agree with you openly because that might rub your neighbor the wrong way. It was a long two years of keeping these thoughts and opinions to myself.
That time is now long past. I’m free to say what I wish and I’m going to attempt to do just that.
My dearest of Ukrainian friends and colleagues from Konotop, I agreed with you. Your president was not a good man–a crook. You deserve better. I’ve read and heard over and over how he became president under some questionable situations and these things alone convinced me that he couldn’t be trusted for long. You were right all along.
When I read that Ukraine was nearing the final steps towards a trade agreement with the European Union, my heart cried out with joy. This, I thought, was exactly what Ukraine needed to pull themselves out from their current economic situation. I was elated. Then, I came into work one morning in late November to pull up the news only to find that Yanukovych had pulled out of that deal and leaned towards Russia. At this, my heart cried out in sorrow and pain. I wanted only the best for my friends.
Each morning, noon, and night I followed your story. I hoped and hoped and hoped that no one would die in your very well executed peaceful protests. You protested better and with more vigilance than any other group that comes to mind. I smiled because I knew your protestors truly wanted peace and the hopes of Western Europe, not an uprising.
Then one morning, I read that the first deaths had started. Slowly, the count climbed and climbed and some days it spiked. I worried that people I knew would be in those numbers. I knew so many bright young men and women who expressed to me thoughts and beliefs that might pull them into the foray. That’s good, but I wanted your safety. I hope you all are safe.
But the point of this letter is to hopefully caution and guide you a little. It because I care so deeply for your future that I write.
You’re at a pivotal moment in your country’s recent history. You determined that your president was a bad person who abused his power, his nation, and his citizens. You threw him out and how he’s wanted for mass murder. That’s the right step. I’ve seen the pictures of his ‘palace’ and it’s disgusting extravagance which I contrast to rides across Sums’ka Oblast on a yellow mashrutka. The countryside was beautiful, but the mashrutka and the villages lacked the extravagance that your former president lived in. How could a man lead a country when he lived in a completely different one?
Yanukovyvh is gone. It’s time to select a new president. Be wary of every candidate. No one can buy your vote, they can only earn it by being genuine to you. Look beyond their words, their promises, and their offers. Who is going to do the things they say and who is going to just say things? Choose the person you think is best. Choose the person who will keep all Ukrainians free. The one who would never turn a gun on its own citizen for wanting something better. Choose a Ukrainian who lives in the same Ukraine as the rest of you because that person will know exactly where Ukraine is and where Ukraine needs to go.
You’re a smart nation now and you can do things on your own. Listen to my advice, and choose to accept it or reject it. The choice is all yours. The future is all yours.
With love from the deepest varenyky filled crevices of my heart,