Friday, August 3, 2007

Is Ukraine Changing?

Having been here in Ukraine for over eight years I have seen some changes, but I sometimes stop and wonder if anything has really changed at all since Ukraine gained its independence nearly 16 years ago. The cheesie concerts at Palats Ukraina performed by people who's time has passed, the backwardness of so many things... I think it is time that we ask ourselves: "Is Ukraine just a Potemkin Village?"

Yesterday, afternoon I began to think about this after my business partner called after arriving at Boryspil for a flight out of the country for a business meeting. He said, to me, "I finally cleared through passport control, and guess who was in line in front of me?" My first response was, "Why did you say finally, was there a problem?"

"Not for me, but it took the guy in front of me half an hour!" Of course I could have tried to guess until I was blue in the face, so instead I asked him. "Who was in front of you?"

"Ruslan Ponomariov. They treated him like a second class citizen, like dirt. At first I thought they wanted his autograph, but nothing of the sort! They just kept on asking him inane questions and trying to get under his skin!"

So think about it folks, we are in 2007, and even a Grand Master in chess gets hassled by his own citizens[border guards], upon departure from his own country? Has anything really changed?


  1. Maybe they did not know who he was.
    I didn't.

  2. Цікаві факти про Україну:

  3. Orest, the issue really isn't whether they knew who he was or not it is the ineptness and Soviet mentality of so many civil servants in this country.

    One of the comments on my mirror of this blog on Multiply had the following to say regarding this topic:

    "Re: Ponomariov - I know the feeling, I just can't stand Boryspil bureaucracy - Immigration & customs are just pathetic. Why does it always seem to take 40 odd minutes to get through that passport control. And they play those silly psychological power games with people as if they're not going to let them through (especially people from the West) The thing is the more honest and decent you look; the bigger criminal you are - because you've got money and they've got jack...They're hosting Euro 2012 - It will have to improve by then or they'll have a riot on their hands with thousands of fans arriving every few minutes... Boryspil can't just have them queuing up all day to get through passport control..."

    Even when I flew through the US just a while ago and with the new way they handle people at their border - is a little more civilized, and quicker. On my way through back to Ukraine, I was treated as a special - my Canadian Passport issued in Kyiv during the Orange (R)evolution is not machine readable, and the US Border guards took me aside for all of five minutes and asked me for addition identification. That's a big difference. I their eyes I'm no one special - nor should Panamariov been treated specially, but he should have been treated with dignity which we all deserve.

  4. Kasia,

    When they say a picture is worth a thousand words... They knew what they were talking about. Some of the pics on that link say it all.


  5. Regarding this whole problem, just think about what blogger Neeka has gone through with the loss of her father in Kyiv. The lack of dignity with which she was treated, is just one reflection of where Ukrainian society stands.

  6. Is this really all that surprising and shocking?
    This has been going on for how long?

    Everyone seems to be shocked that the mentality is the same.

    The old saying applies "the more things change, the more they remain the same."

    You people should try the Lviv airport. You will think that Boryspil is quite civilized.

    Just because some Orange flags were waved around a couple of years ago everyone expects that 70 years of Soviet mentality will disappear overnight. It will take a generation or two at least.

  7. Orest,

    It isn't that surprising or shocking, but I will have to agree with you it will take a few generations. Back in 1993 when visiting Independent Ukraine for the first time my aunt asked me when will it all change. My prediction to her was three generations... I think I'm pretty close to such prediction...

    The problem lies in the values, or in many cases here, the lack of values. Many European and North American friends have said, due to the lack of these values they will not bring up their children in this country. This doesn't surprise me... Actually if I am ever in a similar position, that may be my choice as well.