May 01, 2014

Survival Ukrainian

Survival Ukrainian

"We are all Ukrainians,” declared US Senator John McCain not long ago. Yes, but do you at least speak some of the “українська мова” (Ukrainian language), Senator? “Hї”?! (“No”). Too bad.

Being a native Russian speaker, I understood everything that was being said on Kiev's Майдан Незалежности (“Independence Square”). Thirty-four years ago, when I was watching a football match featuring my then favorite Dinamo (Kiev) on Ukrainian TV, I easily figured out what штрафной майданчик meant (“penalty box”; the Russian is штрафная площадка). So, with a bit of linguistic logic, one can assume that майдан –as in the one colored in Ukraine's жовто-блакитный (yellow and blue) national colors –is not a площадка (playground or platform) but actually a rather large площадь (interestingly, the word Майдан is originally from the Arabic maydan, dating perhaps to when the Crimean Khan held sway over these lands).

As a result, I also easily understood the leaflets that activists from the Ukrainian “Правий сектор” (“Right Sector”) disseminated in Херсон: “Москалі та жидва чекайте!” Москаль is the pejorative for “Russian” and “жидва” is the notorious Ukrainian pejorative for “Jews”. Thus it read, “Russians and Yids Just You Wait!” The leaflet was signed by “Stepan Bandera” – an allusion to the infamous Nazi collaborator whose followers, бандеровцы, perpetrated atrocities on Ukrainian soil during WWII and its aftermath. Well, ласкаво просимо (Welcome) to a new Ukrainian reality, where hate speech seems to be tolerated.

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