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Letter from Ukraine.

Yesterday, the New York Times published a letter from Myroslav Marynovych, vice rector of Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, in response to this disturbing report--one of many about the ongoing crisis there. Marynovych has written a longer open letter titled, "What Can Ukraine Expect from the West Now?" Here it is, in full:

I write to you as a former prisoner of conscience of the Brezhnev era. All other titles are rapidly losing sense in the light of the bleeding Ukrainian Maidan [the central Independence Square].

All my life I admired Western civilization as the realm of values. Now I am close to rephrasing Byron’s words: “Frailty, thy name is Europe!” The strength of bitterness here is matched by the strength of our love for Europe.

If it still concerns anybody in decision-making circles, I may answer the question in the title.

First and foremost, stop “expressing deep concern”. All protestors on the Maidan have an allergy to this by now in these circumstances senseless phrase, while all gangsters in the Ukrainian governmental gang enjoy mocking the helplessness of the EU.

Take sanctions. Don’t waste time in searching for their Achilles’ heel: it is the money deposited in your banks. Execute your own laws and stop money laundering. The Europe we want to be part of can never degrade the absolute value of human lives in favor of an absolute importance of money.

Also cancel Western visas for all governmental gangsters and their families. It is a scandal that ordinary Ukrainians living their simple lives have to provide their ancestors’ family trees to obtain a visa while ruling criminals guilty of murder, “disappearances”, and fraud in the eyes of the whole world enjoy virtually free-entry status in Europe. 

Do not listen to Yanukovych’s and Putin’s propagandistic sirens. Just put cotton in your ears. Be able to decode their lie; otherwise they will decode your ability to defend yourself.

Instead, listen to Ukrainian media sacrificing their journalists’ lives to get truthful information. Do not rely so much upon the information provided by your special correspondents in other countries who come to Ukraine for a day or two. Hire Ukrainians who live in this country to translate the Ukrainian cry of pain. Secure money for that right now instead of waiting for funds from next year’s budget.

Come to Ukrainian hospitals and talk to so-called “extremists” who want to “subvert the legitimately elected government,” those who have “cruelly beaten” policemen and “deliberately” blasted explosives to wound themselves.  Yes, the face of war is cruel. But, arriving at the Maidan, these people repeated almost literally what King George VI said to his people on the 3 September 1939: “We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called… to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.”

Go out of your zone of comfort!  Just recall the coddled ancient Romans who refused to do that in time. Cajoling Putin won’t bring you security. Letting him take control over Ukraine could make the world peace even more vulnerable. A Ukraine divided by force won’t bring the world peace, just as a Poland and Germany divided by force didn’t bring peace to the world.

Let us conclude in solidarity with the King and the Ukrainian people: “The task will be hard.  There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God.  If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God's help, we shall prevail.”

Myroslav Marynovych

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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I am sympathetic to the Ukrainians having grown up with so many and being on Slavic descent on my father's side.

However, there really is a divide within that country that and culture that goes back at least 1000 years. On one side, there is the pro-Russian side (not surprising religiously Orthodox) and on the other side, there is the more pro-Western side (not surprisingly while Eastern rite, they remain Catholic). In fact, most of the Eastern rite that I have known eventually migrated over to the RC side just because easier to access, etc. So, basically, this cultural side is more Western than the other half that is more Russian.

That country's dividing line can be seen as far back as the great schism between the Eastern and Latin church.

I see no workable solution except, perhaps, further balkanization meaning split the country in half, with one half European, and the other Russian. Together they can form a kind of confederation.

I think we should exercise some caution as I have read that there is some evidence of US hired proxies that are agitating this tumult. Maybe there is and maybe there isn't but the Ukraine is hugely symbolic for Russia and we should not be playing games on that turf.

Reading around on the situation in the Ukraine, I get the impression that the U.S. and the EU, if not exactly playing games, don't have a set policy that they are pursuing, if not together than separately.

President Obama anouncing that "there will be consequences," says the obvious without saying anything in particular. Chancellor Angela Merkel receiving the leader of the opposition smiles and shakes hands but no more than the rest of the EU is she ready to make a counter-offer to Russia's billions. And with good reason: the EU can't afford it and it would be supporting the Ukrainian economy for decades.

George D's mention of a split between East and West in the Ukraine may be in the cards, but it is hard to see how that will solve its economic and political problems. Change is hard. And I don't see that the U.S., our state department, or Victoria Nuland know what they're doing, except egging people on--for what end? Poking Putin in the nose. That's not policy, that's school year behavior.


In my view, these situations are exceedingly complicated and as we've seen in other situations, not easily solved by outside entities, be they the US, the EU or even Russia.  The real question, it seems to me, is what would the EU actually do, to solve this problem?  I have read and heard some commentators who suggest that Russia could ultimately send in troops to assist the Ukranian government.  I am skeptical that the EU, and certainly the US, are willing to do any such thing.  And at some level, hard though it may be, just using good offices to try and bring about some sort of settlement might be the only viable alternative. 

While rather many Commonweal readers seem concerned with counting angels on the head of a pin with respect to NDU's legal response to the ACA, we have the makings of a potential civil war warming up in the wings.   We probaly should be praying for discernment by our leaders as to how the US should react if Putin sends Russian troops into Ukraine. 

Of course Putin knows that there is no political will in the EU or USA to intevene in Ukraine, so what exacty would be his disincentive?  He can show the power of Greater Rssia, and indeed his own authority to lead where others only talk.

I seems a very frightening situation to me.

Mark L.

But Mark, the real question is what, beyond giving both sides a " stern taking to" maybe implementing a few sanctions, can and should the US and/or the EU do?  That's really the issue isn't it?  Just as when the US intervened in Panama duing the Bush years, the Soviets could wag fingers and such, but not much else, in this instance we can do little more than that.  How exactly would you propose we intervene, particularly given that by most reports the nation is fairly evenly split between those seeking to move west and those seeking to return east?

To the question of Putin sending in Russian troops: Wouldn't that really start a Civil War? This is not Hungary in 1956 or Czecheslovakia in 1968. Stories in the NYTimes have reported that outside of Kiev, Ukranians are breaking into police and army supplies of weapons. Don't know how many they have requisitioned (and in some places the police and army may be on the Opposition's side), but it certainly looks like war could break out, especially if the Russians sent troops.

Why any more than Germany or the U.S. would Putin send troops?

The media is hot on this story, of course, and pretty soon there will be calls for "Do something! Do anything!" Who will be first? Vladmir Putin or Lindsay Graham?



I'm thinking something closer to the2008-09  Russia-Georgia situation than Hungary or Czechoslovakia.  I know the situation was somewhat different, breakaway republics from Georgia.

I do agree with you though that there will soon be call to do something.  John McCain will no doubt be calling for arming somebody. As to the question of why would the Russians act before the Germans or the US,  The Russians would be more likely  to take some military action mostly because Ukraine is historically closely tied to the Soviet Union, and before that the Russian Empire and before even that, Kievan Rus, the Slavic confederation of the 9th through 13th(ish) Centuries.  And in some sense, isn't the issue of ties between Ukraine and Russia at the heart of the current upheaval?  The opposition became serious when President Yanokovich decided to enter economic ties with Russia rather than the EU. 

Jim Dunn,

It is exactly beause of your concerns tha I hope for discernment by our gvernment and the EU.  I hope there are persns beter trained and wth btter itelligncetyha I havewo have ebeen fllowng Ukraineyrs ad I hope that those in power can and will listen to advice of hones brokers within theivr own and related staff. Having had a first-hand look for 12 months on an occasion when the US decided to intervene in a civil war, I have no desire whatsoever that another boy or girl should be in such a position, especialy ased on such apallingly por understandng as we used then.   Pray for peace.


Margaret O'Brien Stenfels,

Why would Putin send in troops?  Well, because he can, tout court.  He can as a practical matter, sharing a long border and wth high-quality infrastructure, under his control in place.  He an as rhetorical matter, "to protect Russia's strategic interests and to protect traditionally Russian people."  See Russian intervention in Georgia as examples.

He can as a strategic matter to show the power and authority of Russia, and as a matter of the first-draft of history: Vladimir Putin isthe Great Man whose vision and will set Greater Russia on the road back to its rightful place in History.

I hope I am very wrong.

Mark L.



Here's a thought experiment: Western Ukraine has at various points in its history been part of Poland, Lithuania, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, why doesn't Poland send in troops? Not sure Austria has a military.  That Russia traces its origins to Kiev (true or not) hardly seems more dispositive than that parts of Ukraine were once Poland.

Re a split up of the country: Looking at a map, which I just did, I see that Kiev is in the center with the Dnieper River running down the middle. Is that a logical border for two different countries, one leaning to the EU, the other to Russia?

And here is a map that explains some of the issues (from the WashPost). And another.

President Obama anouncing that "there will be consequences," says the obvious without saying anything in particular.

He could bring home our Olympic athletes, right now.  That would be consequential for Putin.


Putin may be emboldened by the success of the Olympics (as der Führer was in 1936).

I did not like the way the BBC World Service fomented strife in Syria for the last 3-4 years. Caution is in order here too. Is the following Putin propaganda?



Putin's anti-gay thuggery plays a role in his Ukraine designs:

Tim Kelleher at RealClearReligion writes here about Orthodox involvement, some of it heroic, in the conflict.  A riveting photo, too.


Here's an historical anecdote.  I knew a Ukranian rather well in the 1950's.  He was the fiance' of my Filippino room-mate.  He was vociferously nationalistic and hated Russia.  One day my room-mate was really miffed about his frequent ranting about the two, and she commented to me, "Why does he carry on so about Russia and the Ukraine?  As far as I can see, the only difference between the two is that one is the conquorer and the other is the conquored."

Old antipathies last centuries, sometimes millenia. 

JP: Yes, a riveting photo.  I do wonder sometimes how much the varied traditions of Christianity present in Ukraine, and much of Eastern Europe, contribute to the turmoil and how much to reconciliation. That photo and others suggest a peace-making effort.

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