Forgive Me, Russia, and I Will Forgive You

Photo by Yevhen Plishkin, from Insider

Photo by Yevhen Plishkin, from Insider

Elena Styazhkina, for OstroV. March 2, 2014

Zinaida Gippius once said: “If you need to explain, there is no need to explain.” But this rule works for love. For those who know how to love. Those who want to hate maybe do need an explanation…

I am Russian. After January 16 I felt like an extremist. After February 20, I felt distinctly like a banderite. And for a long time now, since the Tuzla incident, like a Ukrainian.

I don’t know how it happened that after the sunk Atlantis of the Soviet Union this feeling arose in my soul, a slightly sore, nervous and yet sweet feeling: what first was just another country turned out to be my Motherland.

Ukraine is my motherland. The Russian language is my native language. Let Pushkin save me. Let me be relieved from sadness and worry also by Pushkin. Pushkin, not Putin.

I am a Russian Ukrainian, extremist, banderite and nationalist. I am curious, no longer in theoretical terms alone: with which sentiment will a Russian soldier shoot at me? With the feeling of fulfilled duty? Deep satisfaction? Sadness that I betrayed the Great Russia? Will he shoot me and weep?

Forgive me, Russia, and I will forgive you on this Sunday. Forgive me for writing books in Russian, reading lectures and loving in Russian. Forgive me for the fact that I will continue to dream, think and worry in Russian. Your soldier will come and free me from my worries.

A difficult thing: killing those who speak the same language as you. There is a unique chance to get a taste of it now.

Forgive me, Russia, but banderites will not come for us. They did not come to exact revenge after the war. They died over there, in Western Ukraine, for their land, for their language, for their right to be free. And almost all of them have died. Some from bullets, some of old age. All banderites are gone.

So you will have to kill us instead. The Russian Ukrainians and as well as those who yell today, “Russia, Russia!” A bullet is stupid, a bayonet is smart. A demining tool has even grander intellect. If it falls in good hands…

You have these good hands and you will come to us with a demining shovel? To force us to brotherhood? (me, probably better to sisterhood). You will create an Ossetia. So hooray, we will be recognized by the Republic of Nauru! We’ll live off vegetable gardens, and will read, like Averchenko said, letters shaped out of gallows? What a paradise…

You know, I am friends with different people. Among them are real thugs and real academics, geniuses and careerists, town madmen and bourgeoisie. The nationalities are also colorful. My friends sometimes don’t know themselves which of their ancestry dominates.

You will not believe, but the Donetsk thugs are ready to join partisan divisions to fight for Ukraine. And the bourgeoisie, whose last day has not arrived, are ready to buy up firearms. By the way, stolen ones. From Russians.

I regret that many of those I cherish had shut off their souls and, having drunk their allotted shot of vodka, yell on the streets: “Our proud Varyag does not surrender to the enemy!” (a reference to the famous battleship of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, ed)

Doesn’t surrender, yes. It knowingly sinks itself. Forgive me, Russia, but I don’t understand, why you want to drown your Varyag in Ukrainian steppes, taking on board both mine and your countrymen?

It’s hard for me to explain to you, but Donetsk is my people, Ukraine is my country. And if you want to kill me for this, who will then speak Russian with you?

Forgive me, Russia. And I will forgive you for this Sunday. Because I know: the Russian people are not rubber dolls from the Federation Council. They are the People, whom you don’t see just as you don’t see Ukraine. Not seeing Ukraine is an affliction. Ask Yanukovych how it ends.

Here’s something else: I went to a protest for my own country and against war. It was not a large one. In any case, it was not as well militarily and tactically prepared as the one that decorated itself with your Russian flags. Flags and, for some reason, vodka.

Your dressed up sailors yelled to us: “Get out of the country!” And of course, “Russia! Russia!” A couple times, they promised to kill us.

There is a rule on the Maidan: when you do not know what to do, when you are frightened, when your spirits are down, sing the anthem. The Ukrainian anthem is very good for chasing away the demons. Try it. The method is proven: “Ukraine is not dead yet, its glory and freedom…”

Translated by Anna Shvets, edited by Mariana Budjeryn


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