We are filming today around Kiev and we are going to be focussing on living with fairly extreme forms of prejudice. What it is like to be a member of a vulnerable and unprotected group in society? We have been reflecting a lot on the severe beating of Yaakov Alexander, a 25 year old man who is in critical condition after being attacked by neo-Nazis at the Central Synagogue of Kiev on Saturday night. We have been thinking about a friend of Jenny's from Odessa who is still suffering after his beating by neo-Nazis. In both cases the police seemed hesitant to a) act and to b) label it as a hate crime, trying to make excuses to avoid an investigation.
Prejudice exists at home, people are bullied and even attacked by bigots all the time but there seems to be something different about the situation here. The scary thing is, is the fact that extreme forms of prejudice are visible from the grass roots level right up to the parliament. Anti-Semitic smear campaigns are often used during elections, anti-Semitic leaflets are still published and people are still being beaten to within an inch of their life. Why does this happen?
Ukraine is a perfect example of where a lack of education can take you. The groups persecuted here today are almost the same groups that were targeted by the Nazis. Jewish people, gay people, people of Gypsy descent and many others. The question is why has Ukraine not moved on? Why has their been no reconciliation made between these different groups and the wider Ukrainian society? For us there are a couple of reasons which stands out for us. The first (in no particular order) is a lack of closure. Although over 2,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians saved Jewish people during the war, hundreds of thousands actively participated in the mass murder of millions of people. It seems to us that Ukraine has not reflected and come to terms with its past and how it acted during the war, meaning that it has not given itself a chance to move on. For any party to have closure then the events and actions of the past require open discussion. The second is a lack of education. If ignorant, racist views are unchallenged or encouraged by society then of course people are going to cling to their ancient prejudices. People in Ukraine (just like everywhere else) require education on what it means to be a universal citizen, what it means to be a person, what it means to be a member of a persecuted group in order that they understand the world around them and how they contribute to it.
It is very sad that Ukraine is still the site for open forms of prejudice, especially when millions of its citizens were murdered during the war. Today, we are going to try and speak to people to find out their feelings about living here and how it feels to be so vulnerable to attacks. The situation in Ukraine, albeit more extreme, is similar to situations elsewhere and this is not the only country in the world where prejudice exists but it does highlight the need for universal education and understanding of prejudice, in order for any of us to move on.