With Eurovision long gone from Ukraine’s capital, the rainbow-colored Arch of Diversity in Kyiv is back to its original grim, gray, Soviet-era look, and back to being the People’s Friendship Arch.
The gloomy monument, built in 1982 to symbolize the unity of the Soviet Socialist Republics, had for about a month been a brightly colored symbol of equal rights for all, matching the motto of May’s Eurovision, which was “Celebrate Diversity.”
Kyiv utility workers started covering the monument with colored sticking paper, turning it into a rainbow, in late April.
However, they hadn’t even got halfway through the work before howls of criticism were raised in social media, with some accusing city authorities of promoting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. A group of angry right-wing activists from the Right Sector movement intimidated the municipal government into a compromise — the rest of the arch was to be covered with a traditional Ukrainian embroidery-style pattern.
Even so, the Arch of Diversity remained unfinished until mid-May, with the gray patch on top accurately reflecting the half-hearted efforts of Ukraine’s authorities to fight for diversity and equal rights.
When Eurovision was over, the colorful paper was stripped off with the last pretenses of “celebrating diversity.” While Kyiv’s authorities have promised to launch a public competition for future designs to decorate the dismal People’s Friendship Arch, none promise to be as colorful and daring as the Arch of Diversity.
It seems Ukrainian society, or its leaders at least, are simply not ready for public displays of the kind of European values for which more than 100 Ukrainians died in the EuroMaidan Revolution that drove dictator Viktor Yanukovych from power on Feb. 22, 2014.
So now Kyiv, the capital of the independent, democratic and secular Ukrainian state, will probably end up with a bland redesign of the ugly monument, if that.
We say: When you’re stuck with a 30-meter high gray steel rainbow given by a nation that is now your enemy, turn it into something beautiful. Bring back the rainbow. Celebrate diversity — now and every day.