Zisels: “To freedom, ours and yours”

Joseph Zisels, head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine (VAAD Ukraine) and leader of the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine, former political prisoner, from his speech at the People’s Assembly of Euromaidan during the Day of Dignity, December 15, 2013:

“Today the situation in Ukraine is very similar to 2004, for once more the same propaganda is being used against Euromaidan, against the united opposition, against all of us. They are trying to sow the seeds of conflict, to pit us one against the other, and to create an artificial standoff — national minorities against Ukrainians. But Ukraine and its people have changed in these years, in this short time. The Maidan has changed, not only thanks to the barricades, but in much greater ways — thanks to the people who are defending their dignity here. We are not so naive as we had been then. We no longer idealize our leaders from the opposition. Instead, we work together with them, having a firm understanding that they are not messiahs, but simple people like we ourselves are. We are not enchanted, and thus not in danger of being disenchanted.

[. . . speaking to representatives of national minorities:]

“The nations among which we live are not always going through a phase of stable development. Sometimes a time of changes comes, a time when peoples rise up in battle for their independence, for their social and democratic rights. When we continue to look to the powers that be, we, the national minorities, unwittingly come into contradiction, and sometimes even direct conflict with the people who live in their country and wish for a better future for it. Our instinct of self-preservation pushes us towards the authorities, but our feelings of justice and empathy often lead some of us, and especially our children, into an alliance with the struggling people. This has happened many times in our history: in Western Europe, in Poland, in Baltic countries and countries of the Southern Caucasus, and, naturally, in Ukraine.

“Such a time of changes is upon Ukraine now, and we are once again, as it has been many times previously in our history, are before a difficult choice: are we with the people or with the authoritarian regime, with the honest citizens or with thievery and corruption, do we follow instinct or our feelings?

“Do we want to return to our Eurasian past or move into a European future, into the state which neighboring European countries are currently in? We, citizens of Ukraine, are in constant contact with these countries’ citizens, we visit these countries, and of course we all know very well that they are not ideal fairy tale kingdoms, but countries and peoples that have achieved a dignified life for most of their citizens through their own will and perseverance.

“The government knows of our weaknesses, of our eternal problem of choice, and wants to attract us to its side again, to scare us with “nationalists and Fascists,” to divide and work us against the Ukrainian people, who are all the more certain in choosing their European future. The government uses different ruses and provocations to force us to remain in our Eurasian past. It tries to seduce our children through its corrupted feeding trough and possibilities of illegal enrichment.

“Last Sunday I spoke in Berlin to many experts from European countries and tried to give an objective evaluation of the situation in Ukraine and to answer many questions. In particular, when asked about the extent of the threat to the Jews and to Jewish communities in Ukraine, I said that risks are ever present. But right now in Ukraine the risks of attack from protesters and even radical groups are minimal, but the provocations of the government, constantly being organized to implement a scenario of violence or a state of emergency, carry much more threat.

[. . .]

“Men and women always desire one thing, independently of their race, ethnicity, or religion — they want happiness for their children, so that the children grow honest and just, become educated feeling with a sense of self-worth. Let each of us ask themselves the question: can we achieve this with the current government? And is it not time for all of us together to legally change this government for one which will lead Ukraine to a European future together with us?

So let us all repeat that wonderful slogan of our joint past together: “To freedom, ours and yours!”

Read the complete speech here.

 

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