Three girls and 4 little women stand on the platform of a Vienna metro station. The ladies converse in Russian to 1 one other as the ladies mess around them. The ladies all of a sudden be part of fingers and start to maneuver in a circle whereas singing the Ukrainian people tune ‘Oi u luzi chervona kalyna…’. The tune, which guarantees to boost up Ukraine as one may revive a wilting tree, turned an unofficial anthem of Ukraine’s resistance after a video of the rock singer Andrii Khlyvniuk performing it in his military uniform went viral (it was even coated by Pink Floyd). On one other summer time afternoon, the tentative notes of the identical melody drift into the air from an open window. Maybe the kid of Ukrainian refugees is getting in some observe after being separated from their piano again residence.
Like in lots of European cities, encounters with Ukraine and Ukrainians are an on a regular basis prevalence in Vienna today. The Ukrainian language, or Russian with a definite Ukrainian accent, may be heard on nearly each avenue nook. Town’s Ukrainian neighborhood has mobilized to assist the refugees who’re swelling its numbers, to ship assist again residence, and make the Ukrainian voice heard within the Austrian capital – a spot well-known for its political cosiness with Russia.
Ukrainians in Vienna are nothing new. The Habsburg Empire inherited hundreds of thousands of them when it annexed the lands which can be at present western Ukraine from Poland within the late 18th century. The Empire’s capital drew them in because it drew in all of the imperial minorities. Vienna’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, on Postgasse within the metropolis centre, dates from 1783; whereas a sure Georg Franz Kolschitzky lends his title to a avenue close to the primary station. The statue on the identical avenue celebrating the Ukrainian-Polish service provider, spy and hero of the Siege of Vienna has him holding a Turkish coffeepot. Based on the legend, beloved by Ukrainians and locals alike however almost certainly invented, Iurii-Franz Kulchytskyi launched espresso to the Viennese in 1683.
Within the 19th and early 20th centuries, as most Ukrainians languished below repressive Russian rule, Vienna represented a pretty centre of cultural and political gravitation. Whereas Russia all however banned Ukrainian tradition in direction of the top of the 19th century, Ukrainian cultural and linguistic rights had been revered in Austria. Habsburg Ukrainians even loved political illustration within the imperial legislature. Ivan Franko, the good western Ukrainian writer-activist, defended his doctoral dissertation in Vienna and stood for election to the Viennese parliament.
An apocryphal story tells of a fateful assembly between Franko and Theodor Herzl in a Vienna coffeehouse, after which Franko started to view Zionism as a mannequin for the Ukrainian nationwide undertaking. Just like the Jews, the Ukrainians had been a repressed minority unfold throughout numerous European empires with no fashionable custom of statehood to name on. Whether or not the assembly actually befell is disputed, however Franko definitely turned fascinated about Zionism, as was mirrored in his constructive overview of Herzl’s Der Judenstaat and his epic poem Moses (1901), which was banned within the Soviet Union as covert Zionist propaganda.
Lesia Ukrainka – the pseudonym of Larysa Kosach, a pioneering feminist and dramatist – visited Vienna from Russian-ruled central Ukraine within the early Eighteen Nineties in the hunt for a remedy for her tuberculosis. As a younger girl, she was impressed by the town’s fashionable structure and the vibrancy of its tradition. Her early dramas bear the distinctive affect of decadence and Freud – a stunning improvement within the conservative Ukrainian literature of the time.
Her lasting impression was bittersweet, given the distinction with the suffocating ambiance within the Russian Empire. ‘I’ve by no means felt so painfully how heavy these chains are or how that yoke has tormented my neck,’ she wrote in a letter in 1891. ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such heavy, burning, bitter sorrow over this as I do right here, in a free nation…’ One of many highlights of Lesia Ukrainka’s keep in Vienna was the prospect to debate literature and politics with the native department of the Ukrainian youth affiliation, or Sich. Right here she enthused over French symbolism and was pissed off by her compatriots’ dogged adherence to the naturalism espoused by populists like Franko.
The Vienna Sich was one of many inspirations for a gaggle of younger Ukrainian activists to type the Ukrainian Youth Society of Austria (TUMA) in 2010. Vienna’s historic ties to Ukraine imply that it’s nonetheless, because it was within the late 19th century, a pure centre for gravitation for Ukrainians college students. For a similar purpose, native universities and lecturers nonetheless take an curiosity in developments within the former Habsburg lands to the east.
In distinction to Lesia Ukrainka’s time within the capital, disputes over the utility of artwork for the nationwide trigger might not be on the agenda for Vienna’s younger Ukrainians, however patriotic duties definitely are: TUMA turned a key participant in selling Ukrainian tradition in Vienna after the Maidan revolution in 2014 and has been central to the organisation of each the volunteering effort and the common pro-Ukraine demonstrations held within the metropolis since February 2022.
The vitality and willpower of organisations like TUMA or, for instance, the Ukrainian Institute London are attribute of the brand new Ukrainian diaspora. Ukraine has had a big and energetic diaspora for a lot of a long time, notably in North America, however current years have modified its dynamics. As in Ukraine itself, Maidan and the annexation of Crimea sparked a revival of civil society actions inside the diaspora. Within the early days of the present warfare, cash raised and tools sourced by Ukrainians within the West was essential to the Ukrainian military, which was drastically underfunded and underequipped. Diaspora organisations world wide have stuffed the hole left by the state within the sphere of cultural diplomacy– it was solely in 2014 that the Ukrainian state made severe, concerted efforts to advertise its tradition overseas.
The 2022 invasion has introduced one other change to the diaspora. All of the sudden, it finds itself augmented by tons of of Ukraine’s most distinguished activists, lecturers, journalists and cultural figures, displaced from Kyiv and Kharkiv by Russian bombs. Ukraine’s momentary loss has become a achieve for western capitals, their universities and cultural establishments. Vienna has performed host to main Ukrainian writers and artists comparable to Natalia Vorozhbyt, Alevtina Kakhidze, Kateryna Babkina and Liuba Yakimchuk. Town’s Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) – for effectively over three a long time a vibrant political and cultural level of contact between Europe’s jap and western components – has been notably energetic, internet hosting dozens of students, writers and journalists. The image is replicated in lots of different European cities, particularly Warsaw and Berlin.
The Viennese public has been receptive to the wave of cultural migration and sympathetic to the plight of Ukrainians basically. Properly-attended exhibitions, literary readings and movie screenings proliferated in Vienna from March effectively into the summer time. The annual Sommernachtskonzert on the Schönbrunn palace integrated Ukrainian composers. Big reproductions of Alevtina Kakhidze’s drawings adorned the doorway to the Museumsquartier. Ukrainian flags abound on public buildings and within the home windows of personal houses. Ukrainians might use public transport and enter the town’s museums freed from cost.
There are specific circumstances to this good will, nonetheless. Confrontation and discomfort are greatest prevented. An exhibition over the summer time on the Albertina gallery entitled ‘The Disasters of Battle: Goya and the Current’ juxtaposed Goya’s well-known collection of prints with images by the modern Ukrainian photographer Mykhailo Palinchak. However the informal customer, having seen solely the title and promotion, wouldn’t have realised that the exhibit had something to do with Ukraine till she entered the exhibition area.
Palinchak’s pictures, specializing in refugees and ruined buildings, are quietly highly effective, however present no acts of violence and just one useless physique (in truth, simply the hand of a useless girl protruding from some rubble). The distinction with Goya’s graphic drawings, which present brutal acts of homicide, rape and torture, produced an impression of squeamishness in regards to the violence being perpetrated by the Russian military. The issue prolonged to the exhibit’s explanatory texts, which fail to say Russia, referring solely to ‘the outbreak of the warfare in [Palinchak’s] fatherland’.
Naive ‘both-sides-ism’ and makes an attempt to ‘reconcile’ the conflicting events are widespread in Austrian discourse. In September, pro-Russian (successfully pro-war) protests had been allowed and guarded by the police, who eliminated Ukrainian counter-protesters. In Could, the Vienna metropolis council launched a poster marketing campaign that includes a Russian man and a Ukrainian girl holding items of a jigsaw puzzle painted within the respective nationwide colors. The motto was ‘Collectively. That is our Vienna.’ In the eyes of local Ukrainians, not solely was speak of reconciliation far too hasty, however the implied nationwide connection extremely inappropriate.
This reticence creates an issue in getting via to audiences in Vienna or elsewhere. Western Europeans, even educated ones, are sometimes ignorant in regards to the nation and must be guided via the very fundamentals of Ukrainian historical past and tradition earlier than extra a posh dialogue can start. These audiences additionally are typically emotionally reserved. At a discussion at the Austrian Literary Society on the significance of translation in a time of warfare, the activist and translator Nelia Vakhovska complained about consistently having to take the expectations of her German-language audiences into consideration when talking in regards to the warfare. ‘I’m bored with apologising for my feelings,’ she instructed the packed room of the Society’s grand, 18th-century headquarters. Her phrases had been met with an ungainly silence. Kateryna Iakovlenko, an artwork historian and author in residence on the IWM, wrote about the phenomenon of ‘Ukrainian rage’, which isn’t solely exhausting for westerners to take, however can be attributable to them: ‘now we have goal causes to really feel such robust feelings,’ she wrote, ‘and the primary purpose is European slowness and neutrality.’
Talking to a different packed-out occasion on the College of Graz, the London-based historian and author Olesya Khromeychuk put it in phrases understandable to a progressive European viewers (and which she repeated in a piece for the Royal Society of Arts Journal): being an outspoken Ukrainian within the West, she stated ‘is like being perceived as an indignant girl who won’t cease screeching in regards to the patriarchy’. The row of displaced Ukrainian students being supported by the college nodded vigorously.
The commentary was extra than simply an analogy: as a result of Ukrainian wartime laws permits males of navy conscription age to go away solely in distinctive circumstances, the Ukrainians talking on behalf of Ukraine throughout European capitals are nearly all girls, and their gender is usually a think about the way in which their ‘emotional’ attitudes are obtained.
Vienna is a microcosm of what’s taking place all through in Europe. For all of the faults and ambiguities across the reception of Ukrainians, the general impression is definitely one in every of openness and generosity. Among the many hundreds of thousands of grateful Ukrainian refugees are tons of of Ukraine’s main minds, from poets and artists to engineers and economists. By no means earlier than have Ukrainians have been so current and vocal within the mental and cultural boards of western Europe.
However in distinction to the times of Ivan Franko and Lesia Ukrainka, when Ukrainian writers sought to flee the cultural confines of Russia and sate their thirst for brand spanking new concepts within the nice cultural centres of Europe, at present’s Ukrainian intellectuals in exile see themselves as academics slightly than college students. The query is whether or not European audiences can put apart their egos and sensitivities for lengthy sufficient to pay attention and be taught.
That tentative hand fastidiously selecting out the notes of Oi u luzi… in an ethereal Vienna condo might effectively have been that of a refugee youngster. However maybe it was an aspiring younger Viennese pianist studying the tune after listening to it from her new Ukrainian classmates.