Last Friday's 'Shuster Live' programme entitled 'Is there an end to the War?' was, even by Ukrainian standards, one of the most depressing items I have seen for a long time.
The representative studio audience was asked a simple question:
"Do you want reconciliation to take place between OUN-UPA and veterans of the Soviet Army ?
Overall, 72% were in favour. Regionally, amongst those from Western Ukraine it was 90% in favour, Eastern Ukraine 59%, Central Ukraine 83%, and Southern Ukraine 55%.
The population well understands the dreadful paradoxes and dilemmas Ukraine faced in WW2. The parents of brave Soviet soldiers, including millions of loyal Ukrainian soldiers, had died a decade earlier in the Stalin-induced famine or during Stalin's Great Terror. Many thousands of Ukrainians from Halychyna, which had been 'liberated' by Stalin as part of a deal with Hitler in 1939, also fought in the Red Army. Thousands of their brothers served in the Werhmacht even though their families had frequently been brutally treated by the Nazis. Millions of their brothers and sisters had also been deported to Germany as slave labour, and having survived allied bombing raids, when they returned were treated appallingly by the authorities for 'betrayal of their country' - sometimes to be treated as slave labour yet again. And during the years immediately after the war, often forgotten by many, the entire country collectively endured near famine too while other parts of the Soviet Union fared rather better.
But in Shuster's studio Dmytro Tabachnyk, minister of education, Communist party leader Petro Symonenko, who are now part of the ruling coalition, as well as some members of the opposition did everything possible to reduce any possible chance of reconciliation. The ministers' aim was to simply demonise anyone who did not follow their simplistic orthodox, half-truthful Soviet line.
The programme starkly revealed that the differing attitude to WW2 and Stalin's leadership, between what can loosely be called eastern and western Ukraine, lies at the dark heart of political conflict in the country.
Reconciliation processes have had some measure of success in other countries e.g. in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Spain and elsewhere. It is vital that such processes start take place in Ukraine if there is to be a better tomorrow.
The nonchalant or malicious attitute of current ministers to the reconciliation favoured by the population, and e.g. to the erection of statues of Stalin in today's Ukraine, shows how little they care about this. Former president Kravchuk correctly pointed out the absurdity of today's Communists' actions when over 50 years ago Stalin had been denounced by the party which he headed, by peers that were first-hand witnesses of his crimes.
"There is at least one common denominator to all...approaches to reconciliation. They all are designed to lead individual men and women to change the way they think about their historical adversaries. As a result, reconciliation occurs one person at a time and is normally a long and laborious process....Reconciliation matters because the consequences of not reconciling can be enormous."