Healthy nationalism vs bullying

What Germans can learn from Ukrainians

I’ll start with a short description of myself. I’m Iryna from Lviv, Ukraine. In this city I was born and brought up, but for my studies I moved to Karlsruhe, Germany. I always loved my Motherland and her benevolent folk, our rich culture and euphonious language. I am happy to be born free here and to have a chance to get acquainted to Ukraine’s art as well as unbreakable spirit throughout history and our desire for freedom. My soul is hurting since six years ago with Russian occupation of some of our territories peaceful life has come to an end. My heart is bleeding when I read history textbooks. Maybe that’s why I, like many Ukrainian people, understand, that preservation of culture and national dignity is a key to achieving freedom and true independence.

Germans don’t talk about it

So, when I moved to Germany, something surprised me. People are afraid to talk about patriotism. It’s not a secret, what disgusting and tragic role Nazi-Germany played in the last century. That’s why the word “nationalism” evokes unpleasant memories among elderly people, and the youth feels unbearable shame for how their country is remembered in history. Only a small percentage of citizens calls themselves patriots here, and those are the people who rather don’t oppose Hitler’s politics. Maybe you’ve heard about a political party AfD with their right-winged views? Its representatives do everything to “save” Germany from foreigners, denying them essential rights, and not to let refugees into Europe, who, risking their lives in the Mediterranean Sea, are fleeing from countries which are suffering from wars, hunger and tyranny.

Unimaginable hypocrisy is pouring through their mouths whereas Germany, like almost all European countries rely on immigrants, who mostly works in the agriculture sector. Spreading of Coronavirus made it recently clear, how important these people are in maintaining the functioning of the state and for supplying what is essential for our living. Nevertheless, they’ve never heard a word of thanks from this party. Their followers are known as neo-nazis, who attack foreigners from time to time, who provoke disagreements and chaos in the society.

This is the picture Germans see in their mind when they imagine nationalism. AfD and their followers shamelessly call themselves true patriots, defaming the image of Motherland and turning it into brutal assaults. No educated person who has at least a little bit of good sense would call him/herself a patriot. The love to their own country is somehow feared and not talked about. Germans prefer the word “internationalist”.

It is so wrong and ugly, that something as beautiful, natural and valuable as love for motherland evokes shame.

True patriotism is love, not bullying

In my opinion, it’s time for these neo-nazis to open their eyes and face the truth: they are not patriots, just scum and misfits. Thankfully, they are too small and powerless to actually make some changes for the worse and nobody really wants to cooperate with them. Finally, hiding behind deceptive slogans is over! I want Germans to see what I see. If I were German, I would be proud of this country. I am already proud after having lived here for five years. I love Germany, because there is a lot to love it for. No, not for that bunch of wailing bastards, who will soon loose all credit and respect. But for just laws, for clean streets and preserved nature. For democracy, flourishing science and tolerance. For modern society, which stands guard over justice and humanity, acknowledging the mistakes of the past. So, Germans should hold their head high, not whine! Same as Ukrainians, they have impressive cultural heritage. Moreover, the industries blossom, they are not just struggling to survive. Big number of immigrants is an evidence for this. How many people were able to find shelter here! How many accents can you hear in the modern German language, how many representatives of different nationalities you see outside! Isn’t it wonderful? There is one thing that unites all of them – gratitude to Germany for a chance to start a new life and intensions to make this country even more successful.

So, you see, true patriotism unites us. We should not oppose immigration, but rather show the world that our home is a hospitable one, that we always have something to offer to anyone who is interested. The fact that a lot of people learned German and are working for the wellbeing of this country means that it is flourishing and modern. Germany is one of the most progressive countries in the world and shows a good example on which political reforms to carry out in order to become a democratic European state. Tell me, isn’t it a reason to be proud?

German patriots, I appeal to you! If your heart is also aching because of the troubles in your home country, don’t think that AFD is a party which could defend your interests. Don’t allow these bandits to blemish the image of a nationalist. Stand up and talk freely about the love to your Motherland! No, not that Germany who followed Hitler (all in all, you’re not to blame for the mistakes your ancestor made), but this tolerant and such a diverse Germany, which we have today. No race, no nationality, no sexual orientation, gender or religion should be disrespected.

Revolution of Dignity

Let’s return to Ukraine. I’m from the western part, where people are known for their patriotism. Citizens of Lviv and many other neighbouring cities sharply opposed pro-Russian policy of Yanukovych even before the Revolution of Dignity. But on that day, when this former president refused to sign the association treaty with the European Union, we demonstrated on Maidan together – West and East, North and South. Our patriotic spirit once again raised people to fight dictatorship. We wanted democracy, European reforms, because in spite of weakness and corruption of our former authorities, we as Ukrainians always carry democratic values in our hearts.

Photography: Iryna Yaminska

After a brutal massacre of peaceful protesters, Yanukovych faced even more resistance and fled from the country. Using the moment, Russian media were trying to spread some fake-news in the world, ostensibly the Nazis want to grab the power in Ukraine. They compared and still compare Maidan protesters with bandits. Why? Because we wanted freedom and democracy? Because our intentions did not match their invasive policies? Russia’s authorities turn their citizens to zombies in front of the television screens, still feeling nostalgic for the success in WWII. Who goes against their will – is a Nazi, such is the rhetoric of Russia. (How ironic, considering that Russian policies are very popular among the AfD representatives)

Finally, the lies about “Kyivan Nazis”, “banderivtsi” and “cannibals who eat Russian babies” on Russian and pro-Russian channels managed to convince a bunch of the Eastern Ukraine residents that the life would be better under the rule of Kremlin. By annexing Crimea and invading in Ukraine’s Eastern territories, Putin started a pointless war, in which fourteen thousand Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have died since 2014.

Speculating with the term of “Ukrainian nationalist”, Russian media tries to turn European society against us. But you know, let me tell you about our nationalism, me, a person who was born in the very heart of patriotic capital of Ukraine, grew up there and absorbed this mentality. If not for patriots, the Revolution of Dignity wouldn’t have happened. Ukraine would long have become a Russian colony and the way to the European Union would be closed forever. Russian propaganda, even the most influential one, can’t make you forgive the fact, that those people, who went out to Maidan, these nationalists stood for democratic values. They just wanted the life like in Germany. These “banderivtsi” died from the sniper’s bullets only for wanting to be in the EU. The elderly and the youth, people of different national minorities united not in order to push someone to the top of the power, but for justice to reign in our country. We did this because we love Ukraine and want to see her free from aggressor’s influence.

We love our Motherland for the same reason we love our parents. Although, a lot of my German friends told me: “We must love the whole world, not concentrate only on our own country”. Yes, I agree with this. But haven’t we learned to love our own mother before we started loving the others? In the same way, you can’t love the world without loving the part of it, where you grew up. This love is the only and the true sign of healthy nationalism. Everything else is just bullying.

Finally, if you’ve read it till here, I hope I could dispel lies of Russian propaganda about us, Ukrainian patriots. Europeans don’t have any reason to be afraid of us. After all, we dream about European Union more than anyone! Yes, that’s in Lviv where with Ukrainian flag there is always another one – blue with a circle of stars. Many people hang it out on their balconies, one day hoping to become the part of the society where human rights is the highest value.

I will always proudly carry my flag. And I will do it not against someone, but hand in hand with the other such unique and different countries. I believe that together we can build a brighter future, where there is no place for repression, dictatorship, pointless wars and battles for power, where instead of it reigns love and brotherhood.

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