Aleksei Babii: 'Whatever happens now, I’ll die a Ukrainian. That is absolutely clear to me.'

posted 12 Mar 2014, 11:40 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Mar 2014, 12:03 ]
11 March 2014

Source: (info)
by Aleksei Babii, historian, Krasnoyarsk 

For as long as I can remember, I have never cared about nationality – whether my own or anyone else’s. So far as anyone else’s is concerned, it’s clear, any person has many characteristics that are more important than their ethnicity. 

As for my own nationality, it’s also clear. I never gave it a moment's thought. Well, I thought, probably I’m Russian or, at least, a Siberian.

But this was at the same time as I knew that at the most a quarter of my blood (if we’re talking about blood) was Russian.

As for the other three quarters, I’m Ukrainian. Although I’ve spent at most six months of my life in Ukraine, on various business trips.

And I don’t know the Ukrainan language. I can understand it when it is spoken, but I cannot speak it.

That was my 'personal record', as the doctors say.  And here, as the doctors would say, is my discharge report.

The first time I felt myself to be Ukrainian was when I arrived in Kiev in 1982. I got out of the plane in Borispol airport, breathed the air, and understood that I hadn’t come on a business trip, I had returned home.

The air itself was familiar to me, not to speak of the people. Well, it was as if I had arrived in Koshurnikovo where I went to high school, where each hump in the ground is familiar and where every second person went to the same school as you.

I remember how I was amazed by this feeling, because I had gone there, so to speak, on a completely routine business trip, without any of these feelings or ideas.

The second time I felt myself to be Ukrainian has been in connection with recent events. Because I live with the feeling that my country has been attacked. The Fatherland is in danger!

The feeling is schizophrenic, because my (my!) country it turns out has been attacked by a country of which I am a citizen, and whose state language is so native to me that I write in it almost without mistakes, without knowing a single rule.

Nonetheless it is such a strong feeling that I would stand up now and sing "Ukraine has not died yet", if I knew the words.

Why do I say all this? Because if the situation could awake national feelings in a person who for at least 60 years has not cared less about national feelings, and who all his life has lived in Siberia, then what an explosion of national feeling now must be happening with the citizens of Ukraine.

Whether this had been part of the plans of the Russian authorities I do not know, but this has clearly happened.

So far as I am concerned, whatever happens now, I’ll die a Ukrainian. That is absolutely clear to me.

Identification has happened, and now, if I'm asked somewhere or other (during a census, for example) what my nationality is, I shall answer without hesitation: I am Ukrainian.

And as for other people, nationality is, as before, of no interest to me whatsoever. Every person has many characteristics, much more important than nationality.

Photo of Aleksei Babii, Krasnoyarsk by Aleksandr Kuptsov