In America, I’m what you would call a “mutt” meaning I’m not just one ethnic background but rather multiple. In total, my ancestral blood includes English, Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch, and Ukrainian. My paternal grandfather’s parents were ethnic Ukrainians thus making me 25% Ukrainian.
I’m extremely proud of my Ukrainian heritage for it is my only tie to a “modern day” immigrant past (my maternal grandfather’s ancestors immigrated to the United States in the 1630s from England and have been in Pennsylvania ever since if you can imagine). However, my paternal great-grandmother came to America in 1912 and my great-grandfather came over the following year.
I say “ethnic Ukrainian” since at least in my great-grandmother’s case, her village was in what is today modern day Poland (I’ve never been able to locate my great-grandfather’s village but I have no idea if it even exists anymore due to the events of the two World Wars). But at the time my great-grandparents were born, they both were part of what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire; however language and culture wise, they were Ukrainian.
Unlike many other Americans who have deep and tangible connections to their ethnic heritage, my only ties to my paternal great-grandparents are what I was able to “scrounge” up over the years (copies of their immigration and naturalization papers and a couple of photos of them I’ve gotten from distant relatives). In my house growing up there were no ethnic/cultural traditions that we did, we were as American as American can be. My paternal great-grandparents had three children, all boys, and regardless of the nationality or culture, most people know that boys don’t care about “that kind of stuff.” And to make matters even more “tricky,” my paternal grandfather was the “rouge” son as in he did not marry a Ukrainian girl whereas his two brothers married Ukrainian sisters. (My paternal grandmother was of English and Scottish heritage.) So their household, the household my dad grew up in was assimilated even deeper into the “American way of life” and further away from Ukrainian culture.
But my writing this post was to discuss what is currently going on in the Ukraine. Last week, the country suffered the deadliest violence since its independence from Russia 22 years ago. And the reason for this horrific violence? The people simply want to live in a free and truly democratic country whereas the president, Viktor Yanukoyvch and his supporters, didn’t “agree.” (Yanukovych has since fled the capital of Kiev with his whereabouts unknown.) The protests started months ago when Yanukovych discarded a European Union trade deal and instead turned towards Russia for financial support. This angered thousands since the last thing the Ukrainian people want is to be closely allied with Russia, a nation that repressed their nation for decades while it was a part of the Soviet Union. Russian president Vladmir Putin is a strong supporter of Yanukovych and many feel he is controlling the Ukrainian president’s “strings” and influencing what goes on there as well.
While unrest has been taking place in the Ukraine since the fall, last week week more than 100 people were killed with thousands more injured during anti-government protests. Ukrainian citizens were ready to die for a cause they believed in even though it was reported that government snipers were firing at crowds of protestors. As a result of the violent protests, the parliament voted to oust Yanukovych and with new elections set to take place on May 25. Also, an arrest warrant has been issued for the missing president over the killing of civilians.
As Americans (and the same goes for individuals living in other democratic nations), we take for granted what other individuals in the world are willing to die for-the right to live in a truly free country.
What’s going on in the Ukraine is currently going on in other parts of the world (Syria, Thailand, Venezuela) and tragically has also taken place in countless other countries throughout modern history. But in regards to my “personal ties” to the Ukraine, right now, I pray for the innocent people there, I pray that they will achieve the democratic government they so want, the democratic government they so deserve.
And for a more sobering and haunting understanding of what’s going on in the Ukraine, check out this two minute video that explains it.