31 May, 2009

Ukraine: Beginning a New Life

You may wonder why I should write about such sad things in the Ukraine Travel Guide. Well I just want to show you what Ukraine went through before its independence. I want to make it clear why Ukraine is still legging behind most European countries with respect to economy. In my humble opinion we have chosen a wrong way of development, or it would be better to say that this way of development was imposed on Ukraine. The war and totalitarianism badly affected Ukraine. I must admit that there were a lot of good thing about USSR (discipline, effective mobilization and cooperation of people). But the worst thing that people were deprived of individual freedom and some civic rights and absence of the healthy competition because of total control of economy by the government did not teach people how to run business and establish effective market relations which I believe are the only way for positive economy development. The Iron Curtain being brought down, Ukraine has to begin its life from scratch in new market conditions. Our only hope is new generation of enthusiastic and energetic people who will take over control over the country soon. Hopingly, they will manage to destroy those soviet residues of corruption and sluggishness of business. We hope to develop knowledge about what good services and fair business are. Ukraine has learnt a good lesson and the mistakes are unlikely to be repeated. We need to feel support from other countries; we need to be recognized by the world as a reliable and developed country. We do not want to be associated with Russia as Ukraine is individual country although it has much in common with Russia. So come visit Ukraine, a beautiful country with beautiful people, a land soaked with blood and tears which has survived through enormous grieves and thus highly values piece, kindness, friendship and hospitality. Welcome to Ukraine!

There are a lot more things about Ukraine I am going to tell you in my future Ukraine Travel Guide posts. Please, stay in touch and you will be surprised.

30 May, 2009

Ukraine in World War II

Another disaster was around the corner for Ukraine. In eight years after the famine, in 1941, Nazi Germany began occupation of the territory of USSR and Ukraine was one of the first soviet countries on the way to Moscow. It seems that Stalin did not expect aggression towards USSR from Hitler as the former planned to cooperate with the Third Reich. Therefore Soviet Union was unprepared for the war. Ukraine and Byelorussia were buffers between Nazi and Russia. Therefore most of bloodiest battles took place in the territory of Ukraine.

Two evils united for poor Ukrainians: totalitarian communist regime and Nazi ideology. But actions of Germans were really bold and rude. Hitler ordered to apply the most brutal means against partisans even against women and children. It’s clear that the partisan resistance was the only defense method for Ukrainians at the beginning of the war. According to the Nazi ideology people of Ukraine as well as other Slavic people were classified as Untermensch (sub-humans) and Hitler wanted to colonize Ukraine and completely annihilate Ukrainians or turn them into slaves. Thus Ukrainians, Russians, Byelorussians and other people had no choice but had to fight for their lives. Hitler hated Slavic people almost as much as Hebrews. I do not know the reason why. Neither can I figure out how could those Nazi guys burn children and women. They were programmed robots or zombies. So after so much innocent blood being shed without any rhyme or reason, Slavic people had to unite, in spite of mistakes of the totalitarian government of USSR, to kick Hitler's ass as it was an affair of honor.

The main interest of Nazi Germans in Ukraine was the world's best black earth (a highly fertile soil) and slaves. These Nazi guys had no mercy. They separated families, ruined houses, raped and tortured people, let alone millions of Ukrainians being killed. They transported trainloads of fertile Ukrainian soil to Germany, thousands of Ukrainians served as slaves in Hitler's Nazi Germany. Ukraine had been occupied by Germany for three long years and apparently this country was the greatest victim of World War II as it is recognized that Ukraine had suffered the greatest material damage and human losses of any other country in the was. Ukrainian people fought shoulder to shoulder with Russians, Byelorussians, Poles and other people to break the backbone of the fascist regime. I am proud that my ancestors were strong and brave enough to disturb the Hitler’s Blitzkrieg plan. Hitler thought that conquering USSR would be as easy as a pie, but he was wrong...

So Nazis were beaten but losses of Ukraine in World War II were terrible. As I mentioned above Ukraine was the buffer between German Army and Moscow which was target of Hitler. Considerable forces of both armies were concentrated in Ukraine. Ukrainians suffered three years under German occupation. Only a little part of Russia was occupied while Ukraine was completely under control of German Army. Actually Ukraine was a bloody mass and complete ruin. According to statistics population of Ukraine decreased from 41 657 000 (in 1941, beginning of the war) till 27 382 000 (in 1945, end of the war). Edgar Snow, a foreign correspondent from America visited Ukraine in 1943 and at the end of the war in 1945 and was so astonished at the enormous losses it had suffered that he wrote an article for Saturday Evening Post titled "Ukraine Pays the Bill." It could be said that "The Allies won the war but Ukraine paid the bill."

When you travel to Ukraine you can notice monuments to World War II heroes as well as graves of killed solders almost in every big city and small town. There is hardly a family which did not lose someone in Ukraine. Even now people find unexploded ordnance, and these shells kill people even today. Even now people find members of their families which their lost during the war. And so many are not still found. We say “the war is not over until the last solder is buried” and we still find bones in the fields and forests of Ukraine. We are still recovering from that war. Our fields are seeded with bones and poured with blood of the war victims. May their memory live forever!

26 May, 2009

Tears, Blood and Ordeal

Ukraine had been struggling for independence for centuries. And at last the cherished idea was implemented on August 24, 1991. The USSR was ruining and Ukrainian politicians used the situation to proclaim independence. People confirmed their agreement through the referendum.

A lot of countries wanted to have Ukraine or a part of the country during its history: Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Russia (which never give up trying to regain power over Ukraine). I cannot even imagine how many people perished, were killed, slaughtered or prisoned during time of war and “piece”. I am not a historian and my vision of Ukrainian history may be ridiculous for a professional historian but I can point out some crucial aspects of the country’s history a simple person like me sees them.

Well looking back the revolution of 1917 proved to be a mistake, heart-brake and disappointment. I understand that proletariat hated a lot those who owned something and could manage it to earn. The Russian tsar was about to introduce constitution and we could become one of those nice and neat European kingdoms. But this was not in God's plans for our country. The revolution occurred... The Red Army which consisted mostly of hoi polloi killed most of prosperous peasants, grand people, and the intellectuals. Those who were lucky enough managed to escape abroad and worked overseas to glorify other countries. Ukraine tried to proclaim independence but this led to armed conflict with the Bolshevik government in Petrograd. Thus the Soviet era began. The idea of implementing communism turned into a terrible experiment on millions of people. Almost all important property was expropriated from people to be owned by government. Kolkhozes and Sovkhozes (collective farms) were created. They used to say that the land belonged to every soviet citizen. But who cares about something which belongs to everybody? People living in villages had to work on land for all their lives to give almost the whole harvest to government. They had no passports and could not move to towns or cities. Anyone who made even a little try to show disagreement with the developing totalitarian system were arrested and killed in exile. A lot of wonderful writers, poets, politicians and other prominent people were murdered or died in Solovki prison camp and Gulag.

Ukraine was always a piece of cake for communists as it was the USSR’s “bread-basket”. Ukraine has the best black earth (chernozem soil) in the world and its fields yield enormous harvests. But it seems that Stalin needed this bread for other purposes then feeding people of USSR. He planned quick industrialization and his people took away all bread that they could found, every single wheat grain to sell abroad for money used for industrialization. If someone tried to hide something he/she was likely to be killed, if someone tried to “steal” a few ears of wheat or rye he/she was sure to be executed by shooting with no investigation or trial. This was the period of famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 (Holodomor). Now imagine that you do not have a single bread crumb to eat. You were forced to give away all your food and cattle and you have small children who are begging you to feed them. It’s heard to realize for a modern person living in Europe or North America what it takes to survive in such situation. People had to eat grass, roots, leaves, dead animals; some people got crazy and ate other people. In institute I read a short story of a writer (whose works were prohibited during Soviet Union) about a mother who got crazy and boiled her child to eat. Oh, my God, it was terrible! More than 10 000 000 people died, 17 people every minute, 1000 every hour, more then 25 thousands daily. But this was only the beginning.

25 May, 2009

Ukraine – Sleeping Beauty

Hello world! I am a guy from Ukraine and a patriot of my country. I was frustrated to realize that many of you guys now nothing or quite a little about Ukraine. Many of you think Ukraine is a part of Russia, others believe that Ukraine is a very poor country inhabited by wild, illiterate people who do not know what laundry washer or microwave oven is. That’s not true, believe me. Of course Ukraine is legging behind the most of European countries in economical development, but we are far from being that wild as some of you guys may think.

I want to share some interesting facts about Ukraine. I wish to awake your interest in my country. I want you to have desire to travel to Ukraine and see with your own eyes how beautiful the country is and how nice and welcoming Ukrainian people are.

I am not a big writer but nevertheless I’ll try to reveal some good and some not very good thing about Ukraine. I am going to create a kind of a travel guide. Our country needs tourists very badly as we want to develop a positive image of Ukraine and reveal its beauty to the world. Ukraine is Sleeping Beauty needing a kiss to wake up and shine with her charms.