19 Apr 2006

Ukraine and the European Union

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European Union Commisioner, and Vice President, Günther Verheugen, in response to a journalist’s question about the future of the European Union, dismissed the aspirations of Ukraine (the largest segment of the Partitioned former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, whose Western region, Galicia, had been part of Austro-Hungary in the 19th century), subsequent to her liberation, to inclusion in the community of Eropean nations, saying, “In twenty years all European states will be members of the EU, with the exception of the successor states to the Soviet Union that are not yet part of the EU today.”

Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovyh, whose novel, Twelve Rings was recently translated into German, reacted with pain and indignation in his acceptance speech for this year’s Leipzig Book Prize:

In December 2004, in that miraculous moment between the completion of our Orange Revolution and the repeated round of presidential elections, I was offered the opportunity to address the members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The essence of my speech was a plea to the parliament and the European community at large to help a certain cursed country save itself. I told them roughly what I was hoping to hear: that Europe was waiting for us, that it couldn’t do without us, that Europe would not be able to realize itself fully without Ukraine. Now it is finally clear that I was asking for too much.

Since then, fifteen months have passed and I have spent two thirds of this time among you. That is – forgive my sarcasm – in Europe. During this time I gave dozens of interviews, agreed to participate in dozens of debates, round tables and even more literary readings. In these public appearances I became the re-broadcaster of a single idea which wasn’t really that absurd – the idea that we too are in Europe. These five words are a quotation, first formulated at the end of the nineteenth century, one hundred and ten years ago. With these words the writer, essayist, and translator Ivan Franko wanted to draw the attention of thinking Europeans to the intolerably marginalized, outsider position of the Ukrainians of Galicia and of the Ukrainians generally. This is a rather painful statement, just listen to it: We too are in Europe. A lonesome call in the dark.

So, one hundred and ten years have passed, and the need to re-broadcast this slogan is still there; in fact, it has become greater. I tried to take every opportunity to talk about it, because your assistance to this cursed country in whose language I write and explain myself is of vital importance. And this assistance need not be fantastically difficult, it consists merely of one thing: not to say things that kill hope.


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