Placed firmly on the fault lines of Europe, Ukraine looks both East and West. Yet, what Ukrainians fight for is nothing less than their future.
Among all European states Ukraine stands apart – historically, politically, geopolitically. One of the largest European states – just recently moved back to the map of Europe – it still remains a kind of “terra incognita” to many. It is a nation that defies trends: It falls in love with Europe when the others grow euro-skeptical; it fights for ideas when others grow “pragmatic”; it picks up the torch of freedom when others drop it; it opens up to the world when the global trend is to snap shut like an oyster.
Ukraine is paradoxical, surprising, intoxicating, underappreciated, lovable, irritating – and many other things – all at the same time. Ukraine is “the nation on the move,” the place where things happen, where the whole region can tilt one way or another. A country that deserves a sober, earnest and sympathetic look.
The most important thing that one has to understand is this: Ukraine wants to become a better nation. After a century-long existence in the shadow, it wants to be seen, to be successful and appreciated. This drive for change is so immense that Ukraine had not one, but two, revolutions in one decade. Where else is it even thinkable? The idea of all these revolutions and of its reform drive is to finally unfold Ukraine’s enormous potential and to shrug off its sins – primarily, the corruption that has been for decades embodied in Ukraine’s political class.
In the wake of the most recent revolution, amid Russia’s aggression in Crimea and in the East, Ukraine has been working on its European transformation. Painfully, not without setbacks, step by step – things are changing. The culture of corruption gets replaced with the culture of honest public service. The sense of individual responsibility replaces paternalistic thinking.
After centuries of Russia-reliance, Ukraine is pivoting to the West. Yes, Russian flags and weapons and mercenaries are still marring the life of 6 percent of Ukraine’s territory. Nevertheless, the overwhelming feeling is that the point of no return has been passed: Living in Russia’s shadow is our past, but not the future.
Enjoying a common market with the EU, more cost-effective even than China, innovative and ready to roll up its sleeves, Ukraine is on the radar of many international investors. It is eager and willing to learn from the West. It sees the West (primarily the EU) as a successful transformation. It wants to become free and successful – like its neighbor Poland a decade ago. This vibe of freedom is omnipresent in Ukraine. Civil society is a huge factor. The culture is booming. If you visited this year’s concerts of the Dakh Daughters in Austria, if you have read the novels by Andrey Kurkov and Yurii Andrukhovych – you would vouch for that.
Ukraine has so much more to offer – first of all, economically and culturally. This huge and fascinating country can make a difference in so many ways, especially now. Thank you, dear readers, for being curious enough and taking a closer look at Ukraine.