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My Independence Day story: USSR 2.0

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Aug. 22, 2012, 6:04 p.m. | Op-ed — by Olena Goncharova

Students wave balloons and smile as they take part in an action in Independence Square in Kiev called "Smile Ukraine! A smile overcomes a crisis!" to put a smile on peoples faces to overcome the current economic crisis.
© AFP

Olena Goncharova

Olena Goncharova has been a Kyiv Post staff writer since January 2012. She is a graduate of Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. To contact: email goncharova@kyivpost.com, Twitter @FlyToSun.

Once I was sitting in the bus, deep in thought. The old man sitting next to me was reading a book. Suddenly he looked at me very seriously and asked, pointing at the book’s title: “Have you read this one before?”

 I shrugged when I saw the book title “USSR 2.0.”

“Do you think it will be good?” he asked.

I gave him a puzzled look and expressed my opinion. I think it’s better to live in a new independent country than restore the old empire.

“You’re very young and know nothing,” he argued. “You even can’t imagine what USSR is.”

Thankfully, I can’t.

I’m the same age as Ukraine. Obviously, I know nothing about the U.S.S.R. except for history lessons.

A new broom sweeps clean, so Ukrainian history has served different governments in different ways. And, for Ukraine, there are lots of blank pages.

Many facts about the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during World War II, about the 1932-33 Holodomor, about the 2004 Orange Revolution appear in history books, only to disappear when these events fall out of favor to the powers that bee.

I’m guessing we only know about 30 percent of the story.

That famous Josef Stalin quote – “Our life is getting better and more joyful” – is ironically grim.

Many of those who participated in the 1990 students’ Granite Revolution for national independence, the 2001 Ukraine Without Kuchma protests and the 2004 Orange Revolution are frustrated.

Their hopes are ignored. Maybe it is naive and childish, but I still tie an orange ribbon on Nov. 22’s Freedom Day, meant to commemorate the Orange Revolution’s victory in overturning a rigged presidential election.

Ukrainian students are not tired of protests and riots. There are many people ready to make changes in Ukraine’s life. They’re everywhere … except in parliament.

For my generation, when information needs to be updated, we press F5. I think it’s the fresh angle Ukrainian politicians should see.

Instead of crying about the awful situation in business and agricultural spheres, they need to change their attitude towards life. They should use bikes instead of cars. They should do less harm to nature by picking up litter after picnics. They should pay taxes and try to be honest.

And that is what all Ukrainians can do.

What irritates me the most is moaning about a better life somewhere in Europe.

Sure, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. And in order for Ukraine to find itself on the top lists of the world’s ratings, we need to do something for a prosperous future – without populism and fake patriotism.

Some days ago I asked people about the biggest Ukraine’s achievement since its independence. One answer astonished me so much that I was momentarily speechless. The man, relaxing in Shevchenko Park and chewing dried crusts, told me there’s no such country as Ukraine. The nation is depressed. We need to close this page as soon as possible. The next chance is the Oct. 28 parliamentary election.

The nation needs to be united around the idea of a successful country with solid prospects for the future.

Ukraine has great potential because of its heritage and human resources. Despite the problems, Ukraine is only 21. She is like a young woman thinking of her own way in life without old stereotypes and cliches.

Kyiv Post staff writer Olena Goncharova can be reached at goncharova@kyivpost.com  

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