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The View From Pidkamin

Jun 20, 2022 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

political

I have been much preoccupied lately over the war in Ukraine and have neglected to keep in regular touch with my perceptive and eclectically erudite cousin Hryts from the village of Pidkamin, which regular readers of this column will recognize as the self-proclaimed garlic and horseradish capital of Western Ukraine. To me, Hryts is symbolic of the three P’s of the evolution of the modern Ukrainian, namely peasant, partisan and philosopher. In the course of his life, he has experienced all three of these P’s in living technicolor. Born to a peasant family and tradition, Hryts was actively involved in most of Ukraine’s 20th century struggles for freedom and independence. Now in his “golden years”, he has managed to synthesize all he has learned and experienced into a worldly wisdom and perspective on life that never fails to impress and amaze me.

I called him on SKYPE recently, glad that Russia’s indiscriminate destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure had not yet affected the internet connection to Pidkamin.

“Nu, Hrytsiu,” I began, “has the war reached Pidkamin yet?”

“Well, well, if it isn’t my young ‘smarkach’ (runny-nosed) cousin from Canada!” he chuckled.

I was not sure whether I should take that as a compliment or an insult, having already crossed the seven decades of age barrier, but knowing Hryts, I knew it was likely to be a bit of both.

“Ne rvy sertse (don’t let your heart be torn)”, he continued. “The Russians have not yet discovered that Pidkamin is the site of Ukraine’s most important strategic reserves of garlic and horseradish, so we have so far escaped any attacks. I have however, seen the odd missile launched from Belarus flying overhead heading for Lviv. I am tempted to request a few Stinger missiles from the Ukrainian armed forces, so that I can welcome those missiles with appropriate Ukrainian hospitality.”

“I see that you are as feisty as ever, Hrytsiu!” I replied. “So, how do you think this war will play out? Can Ukraine actually win?”

I heard him chuckling as he shot back – “Durniu (fool)! I see you still have a turnip for a brain. You need to pay better attention to the lessons of history. Russia has been trying to subdue and eradicate Ukrainians for centuries, and for centuries they have failed. They may win some battles here and there, they may succeed in occupying our lands for a time, but they can never crush the spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people to hold on to their language, their culture and their ancestral lands. Our people are like our horseradish. They are so deeply rooted and resilient that once planted, you can never get rid of them. No matter how you try and destroy them, they keep coming back stronger than ever. This is another aspect about Ukrainians that the Russians have all wrong. They try to insult us by calling us “okrops” (dill), but we are more like horseradish rather than dill, and when they try to bite into us, they are in for a nasty surprise!’

“Yes, yes. I see what you mean.” I replied. “I just don’t understand why the Russians keep repeating the same mistake over and over again. Don’t they learn from past history?”

“Aha, my turnip headed cousin, you have identified the root of the problem exactly!” he shot back quickly. “The Russians have not learned from history because they have no history. Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, the Russian authorities, be they Tsar, Commissar or Putin thug, have systematically suppressed and erased the Russians’ true history. Instead, they have tried to appropriate Ukraine’s history and claim it as their own. Russians have a massive inferiority complex which they hide by bullying all their neighbours and blaming their victims for their own deficiencies and faults. They are a country and a culture that has destroyed its own roots and has nothing left to be proud of or to build on, so they try and create artificial achievements and victories by attacking others. It is a self-defeating strategy with no long-term future. Regrettably, they still retain enough strength and power to cause untold damage not only to their neighbours but also to the whole world beyond.”

“As always, Hrytsiu, you make a lot of sense!” I continued. “I only wish that this brutal war would end and we could get back to normal life again.”

“That too will come,” Hryts answered. “Eventually Russia will collapse from the weight of its own sins and deficiencies. Until then, we must resist the evil it has spawned, and hopefully with the aid of the rest of the free world, that will come soon and within our lifetimes.”

“Amen to that!” I concluded, recognizing once again that Hryts is as proficient a philosopher as he has been as a peasant and a partisan.

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