in Ivano-Frankivsk, two writers in the torment of war

On the pedestrian street, in the center of Ivano-Frankivsk, more than 600 km from kyiv, Russian is spoken. Thousands of Ukrainians – 13,000 are registered with the municipality – have found refuge in this city in western Ukraine, not far from the Carpathians. Before the war, this city of 250,000 inhabitants, in the midst of a real estate boom, was already attracting residents from other regions of the country, seduced by the quality of life and the jobs available in IT, food and technology. information.

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The front is far away, but three weeks of war have transformed daily life, punctuated by air alerts, checkpoints and the mobilization of conscripts. The locality buried, Tuesday March 15, one of its own, the soldier Dmitry Bobkov. Three missile strikes virtually destroyed the airport’s infrastructure. It’s time for patriotic songs, including in public spaces, where the municipal chamber choir regularly performs the Ukrainian anthem.

“Proud Sergeant of the Soviet Army”

The former capital of the short-lived Republic of the Peoples of Western Ukraine, proclaimed in 1919, the cradle of Ukrainian culture and language, before the leaden screed imposed by Stalin, aims to be in unison with the nation in arms. “This war reinforces the assertion of a civic Ukrainian identity that transcends ethnicity and language,” underlines the writer Taras Prokhasko, sitting in a pub, a few meters from the regional philharmonic, transformed into the headquarters of the territorial defense forces.

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“The process has been underway for several decades, he continues. It was forged in collective action: the Maidan revolution in 2014 and, today, the simple fact of helping each other and having a common cause in the defense of the country. The Ukrainian soldiers who are in this war speak Russian. Residents can challenge and protest against the invader in their own language. »

In the 1990s, 53-year-old Taras Prokhasko was part of the “Stanislav phenomenon” (the city’s former name), a group of intellectuals and artists claiming Western postmodernism, after the collapse of the ‘Soviet Union. In 1988, three years before Ukraine’s independence, he did his military service. “If I were Russian, I would say that I am a proud sergeant of the Soviet army”, quips the novelist, awarded by the BBC in 2013.

“Do not become a satellite of Moscow again”

In a column published in early March on the magazine’s website Zbruc, under the title “Nothing has changed”, Taras Prokhasko returned to his experience of a year and a half in this incompetent and cruel structure. Soldiers handed over to the arbitrariness of their leaders, radio communication down, blind advance in the forest, with an insufficient stock of ammunition, little fuel, and dry rations. “The Soviet army, perceived on the outside as a military threat to the whole world, was above all, as we joked at the time, a danger to itself. We knew that the allowable loss of personnel during military exercises was three percent”remembers the writer.

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Thirty-four years later, he castigates the Russian imperial DNA which claims to lecture the Ukrainians, these “Little Russians”, condemned to play the auxiliaries of the empire. “We are part of this central Europe whose destiny has always been decided by more powerful neighbours, to the West or to the East, he said. We do not want to become a satellite of Moscow again, under the pretext of re-establishing a buffer zone, to protect Russia from Western influence. »

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A fellow traveler in the 1990s, also a native of Ivano-Frankivsk, Iouri Androukhovych, 62, always thought that Ukraine should tie itself to Europe, the only way, according to him, to get out of “the gray zone of post-Soviet despair”. “The question is what price we will have to pay for this European choice”, he said, referring to the loss of Ukrainian lives and the destruction wrought by “Russian War Criminals”.

“Europe has opened up to refugees, he adds, but as soon as Putin raises the nuclear threat, she gets scared. Facing him, it makes no sense, because he will not stop at the borders of Ukraine. There is no choice but risk and courage. »

“Military support is the best peace plan”

For this Ukrainian novelist and essayist, Western elites are mistaken in believing that democracy always ends up winning against authoritarianism, without wanting to admit the existence of different values ​​behind Vladimir Putin’s motivations. Simply offering him a negotiated way out would only postpone the problem.

“Military support for Ukraine is the best peace plan, he insists. By making Vladimir Putin pay an ever-increasing price for his invasion, the United States and its allies will increase the chances of a peace deal that is not a surrender to Russia’s blatant aggression. »

→ REPORT. Between blockade and warning sirens, Odessa settles in the war

Meanwhile, the author of Moscoviada (Éd. Noir sur Blanc, 2007, 176 p., €19.25), a sarcastic tableau of the excesses of the Soviet multinational empire, got himself a Kalashnikov and joined a local vigilante group. “The last time I used a submachine gun was in 1983 during my military service in the Red Army. I don’t know what’s left of it but I think it will come back soon. In the Soviet armed forces, the best soldiers were Ukrainians. »

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