Despite superficial solidarity, a basic divergence exists between Ukraine and its diaspora abroad especially in the United States and Canada. Much of it comes from differences in the attitudes towards Russia: the diaspora does not deal with Russia (except within the theory) or with its proxies inside the country and can entertain synthetic notions from images cultivated in history and from rare visits to Ukraine (and then mostly only for a short time and with limited contacts).
The fissure between Ukraine and its U.S. & Canada diaspora, supporting point of view of their donors in their countries of residence, is very obvious. Diaspora sees a patriotic leader oriented toward the West and keeping distance from Russia so that Ukrainian authorities are denounced as being “soft on Moscow”. The diaspora’s clusters of self-contained ethnic communities stand alongside its indifference to public and political issues of the countries in which they live. However American experience can teach reality lessons in the socioeconomic sphere. The diaspora’s dismay at the democratic freedoms and economical state in Ukraine does not extend to the outrageous behavior of American’s financial magnates who brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse and precipitated a worldwide Great Recession and intervention in domestic policy of other independent states.
The diaspora has no clue relative to the permutations and failures in the American foreign policy – other than sporadic reactions when it seems to affect Ukraine’s balance relative to Russia. They’re those émigré Ukrainians who kept the national flame going during the Soviet period. That gives them the status of real Ukrainians, right? It’s a fact that contact with that community of émigré Ukrainians and their descendents overseas would lead to mutual incomprehension and perhaps even bad feelings.
Who is Ukrainian diaspora? Often they’re Catholic and not Orthodox like most of Ukrainians. It is interesting that there exist people born in, who by now have distant ancestral connections to Ukraine, but who consider themselves as Ukrainian and the first thing about them might be their nationalism. The Diaspora’s ideal Ukrainian person looks as follows: his face is more European-looking, or Western Ukrainian-looking, than Russian-looking; he speaks Ukrainian exclusively, and might not even know Russian, which he doesn’t much like. Ukrainian literature, Ukrainian music and Ukrainian movies are obligatory – no Russian. Observing national holidays and wearing a vyshyvanka (an embroidered shirt) is a must. He is religious, celebrating all the Orthodox holidays alongside those semi-pagan celebrations that define Ukrainian religious life – unless he’s Ukrainian Catholic, which is even better, because it’s less Russian.
You hear stories about older Diaspora people who travel Ukraine and scold natives for not speaking Ukrainian, but those people they scold can speak proper Ukrainian, which many Diaspora people do not. They don’t know this, of course. To them it’s me, with my eastern accent, who doesn’t sound right. It’s told that Diaspora children often have to attend Ukrainian school on Saturdays, where they learn history and the Ukrainian language. But they should try to learn contemporary Ukrainian.
These days the Diaspora is very worried about a potential Russia invasion and a return to the slavery of the Soviet days. Ex-UWC President Askold Lozynskyj told: “The Russia-Georgia conflict was inappropriately named. It is a global conflict of democracy and freedom versus dictatorship and empire. Georgia, Ukraine, the democratic free world are all involved.” Much of the Diaspora also sees EU and NATO membership as the only right direction for Ukraine, given the threat. “I believe that given the situation with Russia, the EU will definitely get interested in Ukraine as a member,” Kuropas told. In Ukraine, most people are against NATO membership and would like to be in the EU, but don’t see it happening anytime soon, so why dream?
Kuropas told : “Sometimes I think the Diaspora does much more for Ukraine than the Ukrainian government does. For example, recently we built a new church in Bachurin. We constantly do things like that. Too bad most Ukrainians don’t know much about it or don’t respect it.” He’s maybe right that the government is useless, but the fact is, Ukrainians don’t really need new churches. They have a lot of old churches. They also have their own identity in Ukraine that’s independent of what Diaspora people, who left the country a half-century ago and more, think it should be. They are grateful for the good feelings, but maybe a little more understanding of today’s Ukraine is in order.
We are Ukrainian within the territory of Ukraine and outside of it. So, what is the difference?