Rather than commenting on matters pertaining to Ukraine myself, today I think I will let Ukraine's President, Victor Yushchenko do all the talking. Very recently, - on September 30th, in fact, President Yushchenko held an outdoor press conference in Kyiv. I think that forever more it will become known as the Green Clearing press conference, or the "прес-конференція на зеленій галявині". What the President said are things that needed to be spelled out, but are rarely actually stated by Ukraine's politicians. President Yushchenko spoke like a statesman, not a politician.
For the benefit of the English speaking community I will dare to translate some salient moments from his answers.
"What can we do, so that we, in our own country, do not feel like Little Russians, like khokhly, like servants, so that we do not feel that we are sitting on the stoop of a church and praying to the 450 honorable men that should be self aware enough to do all those things that 46 million people expect?
Why do we not feel that we are masters on this land, nor feel that we in fact form the government, that we set the priorities?
For example, is it right for the nation to sit and plead that unlimited parliamentary immunity be cancelled?
That fact is an embarrassment to anyone living in the 21st century. We were not creating a caste system. We had declared that we were a free country and that all are equal before the law. So why are all not quite so equal as claimed in the Constitution, nor as desired by the nation? Why do we suffer people in politics that clearly do not share our Ukrainian values?"
Further on Yushchenko said:
"And I will speak to this also. Two thirds of my emotions, my feelings -I will address to you, dear journalists, so that you remain the guardians of those democratic values that we fought for in this country. Only through democracy does this country have any hope for independence and territorial integrity. Everything else leads to our colonization."
And later, when asked about his chances in the next Presidential election, he said:
"I've said many times, that I am not interested in where Yushchenko end up. I am self-sufficient. That is not the question. Excuse me, but as a citizen, I'm not very interested in the name of the Presidential candidate. I'm only interested in one thing. What kind of a country will we have in two or three years? That is all."
"Speaking plainly, I will win the election. I have no doubt, no doubt at all. But if I don't, believe me it will never be a tragedy for me. [...] You will evaluate this without prejudice, and you will be proud of those four years that you lived in the Ukraine that was created by President Yushchenko. I do not think that you will return to the year 2004."
"I am convinced that you will not forget the freedom of speech that Yushchenko's politics brought. Quietly we will begin to get used to the fact that we are a nation-state, that we are a free nation, that we have fundamental democratic rights, the right to choose."
"You know, [...] I simply know that there could have been a different path and a different direction. - With the downfall of national values, with a forgotten past, with a forgotten language, with forgotten books. I do not speak of defense matters, where believe me, I'd like to have seen people next to me that knew how to spell the word NATO. Or how to lead the country into a system of collective European security, and not in the opposite direction."
"I will not sign the Budget prepared for 2010 that gives the Military only 8.3 billion Hryvnias. That is the Budget of the destruction of Ukraine's armed forces. That is an insult to a soldier, to an officer and to the defense of this country. [...] Today a pilot of Ukraine's Air Force gets only 4.7hrs flying time per year. We have 250 such pilots that are supposed to defend our skies."
When asked about the ongoing investigation of his own infamous Dioxin poisoning, he replied:
"Regarding your question about my poisoning, the three individuals that invited me, cooked the food, and served it, are citizens of Russia and live in Moscow."
When asked about Moscow's attempts to influence the election, Yushchenko said:
"The influence will be as strong as usual. But the results will be weak. Why? Because with every year the people that call themselves citizens of Ukraine, understand that who will be the President is an answer that is theirs to give, not anyone else. That is all.
And whom would Russia like to see as President? It is easier for me to say whom they don't want, for all the others they would want. For that I should direct you to (Russian President) Dmytro Medvedev's letter. It seems to me that the answer is written somewhere there between the lines."
When asked about the fact that his focus on NATO is out of step with an apparently lagging public opinion he replied:
"4 years ago they were saying that Mazepa was a traitor of Ukraine and they hung signs about how President Yushchenko is revising history. But today the nation chose him as its 11th greatest hero. And excuse me, Bandera was 3rd. So let us be wiser today than we were yesterday.
The same about the Holodomor. You know that today 75% of the nation has recognized this page of history and share in it. 4 years ago they said, why should we return to 1932?
That's because it is our history. That is because if you do not know your history, if you do not have your own history, then you will never have a future.
We must recognize how in the 20th century, the century of our parents and grandparents, we declared independence 6 times, and we lost it 5 times.
I do not want us to lose it a sixth time, at least not while I am President."
"A nation capable of having its own state - is a nation which has its own language, its own culture, its own history, having recovered its own memory and a list of other things including a defense policy, its own informational space, humanitarian field and so on."
When asked about the infamous insulting Medvedev letter of August 11, and whether Ukraine could deliver an even sharper reply, Yushchenko noted:
"The very possibility of that kind of attack depends not only on someone's' political culture, but also on the unity and consolidation of the nation, the understanding within the nation - to which such a missive is addressed.
We have lived with a 5th column for 350 years. Today that 5th column is in our politics. "
"When we talk about our history, why are we so sharply criticized that the wrong history is taught? A nation will only be a nation when it has its own history, with its own heroes, and doesn't look at its own history through foreign eyes. [...] When we ask ourselves what is Ukrainian history, the history of the Ukrainian nation - it is the history of the struggle for our independence. Whether 30 years ago, or 18 years ago. We recall our "Sixtyers", we recall our Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and liberation movements, whether we speak of the Ukrainian National Republic and those five Ukrainian States that were lost in the 20th century. Excuse me, that is our history. Not imagined, - our history. To raise up one's own history is to be independent. "
"I want that very much, for the nation-mother - not to forget its language and its culture."
"That is why the letter was not a surprise. Rather, it was a confirmation that we are working in the right direction."
Myroslav Petriw is the author of Yaroslaw's Treasure. A meeting with the author and book presentation will take place on Sunday, November 29 at 3:00 p.m at the the UNF Resource Centre, 145 Evans Avenue.