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Ukraine Yearns to be Free

Dahl, Howard. "Ukraine Yearns to be Free." Forum, 5 December 2004, sec. 2A.


I have just completed my 38th trip to the former Soviet Union and had the privilege of being in Kiev on election day. I was able to watch my Ukrainian friends vote and feel the enormous yearning for freedom and democracy from so many people. The present government is beset by systematic corruption at every level, and has done everything conceivable to remain in power and maintain their life of ease, at the expense of the people they are elected to serve.

Ukrainian history is replete with sorrow from the Mongolian invaders in the 13th Century to Joseph Stalin and his systematic starvation of Ukraine in the 1930s. I have asked countless Ukrainians over dinner to tell me their family story as it intersects with Stalin. Everyone has a story about a family member being murdered. One of the stories was told by an elderly man with a tear in his eye as he told the story of his father being murdered when he was 4 years old.

One of the tragedies of this period is the complicity of some on the left with a despotic regime that is increasingly being understood for what it was, a regime that was arguably worse than Hitler's. And yet Walter Duranty of the New York Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in the early 1930s on all the accomplishments of Stalin. This still angers many Ukrainians.

Many have ably written about all the well meaning, but nave people that were duped by Stalin. The late British writer Malcolm Muggeridge moved to Moscow in 1932 because he felt that the perfect civilization was finally being formed in Russia. After seeing firsthand what was going on and watching people like Duranty at work, he became extremely disillusioned. He writes of people like the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that the Kingdom of God had come to earth with Stalin.

Staying at my hotel in Kiev during the election was a senior associate of the firm that was monitoring election fraud around the country. I had the privilege of getting an hour by hour analysis of the hundreds of incidents of election irregularities. These have been so well documented that even the perpetrators are not trying to argue it was a fair election.

In the days leading up to the election there was a sense of joy pervading Kiev as people had orange ribbons tied to the antennas of their cars and when the ribbon adorned cars would meet on the street, there would be threes sounds of the car's horn, equating to the three syllables of Yushchenko's name. The joy has continued unabated.

Viktor Yushchenko is a rare politician in post-Soviet times. Even his enemies cannot say anything to tarnish his integrity. Ukrainians sense this and long to be led by a person who is not duplicitous. One of the great thrills for me was to watch the cheering crowd as Yushchenko went to vote near Independence Square in the heart of Kiev and a block from my hotel.

Vladimir Putin and most Russian officials are not at all happy with what is going on in Ukraine. The meaning of this election for Russia is a saga yet to unfold. In the meantime, the ferment in Ukraine today has brought unity to New and Old Europe and North Americans. There is a widespread support of the aspirations of so many Ukrainians for a free press, free elections and a true representative government.

The outcome of this impasse is uncertain, but life will never again be the same in Ukraine as so many have tasted something very sweet and will not be satisfied with their previous "diet."

Dahl is a Fargo farm equipment manufacturer who has done extensive business is Russia and Ukraine. He is on the board of directors of the Russian-American Christian University, the only Christian liberal arts school in Russia. E-mail hadahl@amitytech.com

Printed with permission of The Forum.

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