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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed with permission of The Forum.