„There was nothing spontaneous in Crimea”

Jan Pawlicki is a journalist and screenwriter. He is a correspondent of TV Republika for Ukraine. Mr. Pawlicki shares his thoughts on Ukrainian energy, Tatar zeal and why Europe should follow the citizens of Kiev with the readers of e-magazine Bardzo Mi Miło [Nice to Meet You].


Anna Stępniak: Since when you’re witnessing what’s going on in Ukraine?

Jan Pawlicki: I went there in January for the first time. We were planning a concert for Ukraine, performed by Polish artists – with Paweł Kukiz, Marcelina and Darek Malejonek. Unfortunately the band Maleo Reggae Rockers played only one song and the concert was stopped. Clashes broke – we in the middle of them, and wounded people next to us. It was one of the most intense moments back then. I turned back to Warsaw but I knew I’d come back to Kiev in order to make a documentary. I wanted to talk to people in EuroMaydan – record their emotions and opinions. We captured plenty of accounts and what’s most important we captured the top moment of EuroMaydan mobilisation. We also made interviews with Tyahnybok and Parubiy [deputy of Batkivshchyna, commander of Maydan – A.S.] and some other politicians. I looked forward to a conversation with Klitschko and Yatseniuk, but it didn’t work out, eventually. But back then, the situation was still calm.

Were you in Kiev during the most dramatic week in February?

I left soon before “the bloody Tuesday” (February 19th). 20 dead people was the outcome of that day. And then “the black Thursday” and the massacre on Instytucka Street. I was in Lvov, there was also Maydan, although much smaller, but involved in the protests as well.

Anyone wants the Iron Julia?

I don’t think so. There are some who believe in her martyrdom. But the crowds were not carried along by her performance on Maydan. It was more like theatre, preparation for the political campaign.











I would like to ask you about Lenin’s monuments and people’s longing to the Soviet Union. Is it real? The ideas of communism are still vivid in Kharkov?

Many of these monuments were downed (in the east of the country). On the other hand Lenin’s statue is a symbol of the city of Kharkov. For Ukrainians, this is their perception. They declare having memory of communist crimes, the Famine-Genocide [Holodomor], but at the same time they admit that USRR was a multinational state.

How did Creml succeed to fan the flames with pro-Russian sentiments?

Simply and efficiently. With a feeling of threat among people. Putin has used the label of “banderists” [Stepan Bandera’s followers – i.e. people who continue nationalistic views of one of the most cruel Ukrainian leaders during the IIWW and the ideas of his political party, responsible for massacres and genocide against Poles and Jews] who allegedly could be now a danger for the Russian-speaking people. And good Russian army wants to help and protect them againsts fascists. By efficiently heating up the emotions Creml has gained profits. For example, the building of the Ukrainian Navy was taken by women. They just entered there, together with some “activists” carrying sticks. A similar case occurred in the air base Belbek. Civilians were marching in the front, and armoured vehicles were behind them, then the army. Ukrainians found themselves in a difficult situation: how can we shoot at civilians? These people were directly put in danger but by using this method Russians created an impression that military bases were “spontaneously” taken by Crimean people and Russian troops were just helping.


Let me return to Western Ukraine: am I not to hasty to state that the civil society is being created there?

No, you’re not. Apart from what we saw in Kiev, I’ll give you another example. In Lvov police stations were burnt, and the officers vanished. There was no one to look after the city. So the people of Lvov took the matters in their own hands in order to prevent the anarchy and vandalism. When the mayor of the city announced the enrolment to the volunteer security forces hundreds of people came. There were too many of them! The inhabitants felt that they have to protect their community. I think this civic energy is present and it shows up not only when there’s a common enemy.

I wonder what the reactions of the people in Crimea were when you said you’re from Poland.

It was a mixture of curiosity and prejudice – the same story: you are political activists and spies. And then the same people were saying that we in the Western media distort the reality. There’s no war in Crimea.

Has anyone from your team had any unpleasant or dangerous situation?

No, nothing like this. But I can say that the so-called “self-defence” of Crimea was very brutal towards the Ukrainian journalists.

What will happen to Crimean Tatars?

They are in a hopeless situation. I understand their fear which is rational. First, there are already signals that the land they live in could be taken away from them. [Tatars returned to Crimea in the beginning of the 90s. In 1944 they were displaced to Uzbekistan by Stalin. – A.S.] They remember the exterminations in Uzbekistan and now Russia wants to antagonise Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars. It will be much easier to govern Crimea. One Tatar girl told me with much concern that now she will not be able to find any job because she graduated from a “Bandera” university in Lvov. And Crimean Tatars do not want to be Russians. They are afraid of provocations, they are protecting their houses and mosques. Ostensibly the new government of Crimea promised them a 20% share in the parliament but it’s hard to believe such promises.

People in Poland have a positive attitude towards Tatars.

It works the other way around too. The Tatar people I’ve met are very positive towards Poles as well.

Illegal incorporation of Crimean Peninsula to Russia is not only an administrative action. Resources and infrastructure have been taken away.

Most probably the enterprises will be nationalised and then sold to Gazprom. But it’s not profitable economically for Russia anyway. Drinking water is a serious issue – in order to deliver it Russians have to use one particular canal which is governed by Ukraine. But even the authorities of Ukraine cannot do much about it and leave Ukrainians and Tatars by themselves.

Are Ukrainians scared? Vitaliy Klitschko was talking about a possible ethnic cleasing recently.

It’s an exaggeration now, but Tatars have already heard that the land they live in is not theirs. But it’s all complicated. As for the EU offer, the first part of the association agreement is only political. Ukraine is worried about the economy which can be seriously affected – the whole East of the country is based on trade with Russia. Putin knows that so he uses the Bandera card. And he will continue disturbing and weakening Ukraine. But I think it will toughen up the country.

Ukrainians have an opportunity which was lost by Poland – carrying the lustration.

Yes, they do. They need to check their forces – who is loyal and who is not. They should create new police, new intelligence agencies and carry a “zero option” like Saakashvili did. The problem lies in a fact that, for example, the members of the National Guard are people who were pacifying the EuroMaydan, so volunteers are very uncomfortable with it.

And what about Yatsenyuk?

He used to be called an ambitious careerist. But he has found himself in a very difficult position and his state is directly threatened. The problem with this state is that it is disordered, not sovereign and weak. Several laws need to be changed, not only the constitution. During Yanukovytsch’s administration, and even Kutschma’s, the state was much infiltrated by Russians. They were able to achieve any goal, on any level. Political and military elites, as well as intelligence service have been tied to Russia very strongly since Soviet times. It also includes personal dimension. The chances to change it have occurred just now. But there’s no time – the government says there’s financial crisis and a threat of war. When it’s over, they can rubble the Ukrainian state.

Don’t you think that Europe is in a state of lethargy, inertion?

What a paradox: the New Europe is all about debates of these or other groups, talks on gender. Who can go on the streets and protest against something else than social issues or minority rights? Ukrainians were able to vocalise their resistance as well as self-organise in basic issues. On the other hand, we do have when they want to achieve. Our state, although we complain about it, is not that corrupted and dependent as Ukraine in Yanukovytsch times.

One could say: how can we teach “democracy”?

It may not end on Crimea. I think the next stage is Bielarussia. What will the West do then? Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are left no choice. The sense of threat had been created artificially and then riots took place. Unlike Maydan, there was nothing spontaneous in Crimea. The whole operation was carefully planned and carried out. I never had any illusions about Russia but what happened there is very symptomatic. We, the people of Central and East Europe will never be safe, as long as Russian Federation exists. This state has to collapse, like USRR did.

What are your conclusions from your stay in Ukraine?

Ukrainian people needed the media interest which was also some sort of a safety guarantee for them. Our journalist involvement was worth more than objectivism and briefings at Yanukovytsch’s. We could have attended them. While travelling through the country I put things into perspective. I met people who had different awareness and different value system. Some of them were agent provocateurs paid by Moscow, but not only. There’s also apathy.

I think there are things we could learn from Ukrainie.

I appreciate their positive, powerful energy. No wonder we compare this revolt to “Solidarity”. Many Ukrainians woke up, they acted and showed their talents. For example one lawyer from Kiev, Irina Pantschenko started with taking care of wounded and now she runs an empire of volunteers. She has an amazing charisma, but she’s also a good person who shares good energy with others. An Iron Lady. It’s not about politics, it’s a grassroots movement. A big civic action lesson which can change Ukraine. It cannot be done by politics. The faith in utopia and revolution which would burn the old world and allow the creation of the new one is only a pipe dream.


Thank you for the interview.







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