AT THE SCHOOL DOOR

Today the Dutch people are casting ballots in a referendum on whether Ukraine should (or should not) have an Association Agreement with the European Union. The recent polls show that 66 per cent of Dutch voters would reject the Agreement, and it looks like the only favorable outcome for Ukraine can be a less-than-30-per-cent turnout of voters – in that case the referendum will not be recognized as valid. It’s sad, of course, especially if we remember that the Euromaidan began in November 2013 after then-President Viktor Yanukovych had had made a U-turn away from Europe and was ready to be bear-hugged by Russia. It’s also sad, if we remember thousand of Ukrainian lives that have already been lost in a war started by the revengeful Putin. Definitely, Ukraine would be getting more “European” in character if its judicial and economic system were controlled by such documents as the Association Agreement. But here’s the absurdity of Catch-22: the solution of a problem is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem. In Ukraine’s case it means that to get more “European” (as regards all aspects of its life) the country should join Europe, but it can join Europe only if it is “European” enough, i.e. uncorrupted, law-abiding, sharing values of the European civilization, etc.

PZ 400:03 Inv 5598	 Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky: At the School Door, 1897 The Russian Museum

As a teacher, I also measure Ukraine’s aspirations by comparing them to an intention of a primary school pupil (an underachiever, to make things worse) to get into college. Another image that crops up in my mind is a picture by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky, an artist belonging to the Russian 19th-century realist school of Itinerants. The picture is titled “At the School Door” and it shows a teenager who usually guides a blind man, but this time he has just dropped in at a rural one-room school and is enviously looking at children sitting at desks. Take a wild guess: which of them can personify Ukraine? Which can represent Europe?

I have a dream: one day, а well-situated, economically strong and trouble-free Ukraine receives an offer from the EU to “join Europe.” The Ukrainians are voting on the offer, and the results of the referendum are very unpredictable.

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