Donetsk: A Defiant and Besieged City

Donetsk: A Defiant and Besieged City

Monday, 18 May 2015 11:31By Joshua Tartakovsky, Truthout | Op-Ed   Downtown Donetsk. Despite the ongoing war the city has made an extra effort keeping the streets clean. Residents of Donetsk have been demonized and castigated by the Ukrainian government and media. President Poroshenko famously said “their children will be holed up in basements.” (Photo: Joshua Tartakovsky) A visit to Donetsk reveals that unlike Western media portrayals, the city stands behind the rebels and refuses to accept the authority or legitimacy of the Kiev government which openly stated its admiration for Ukrainian fascist leaders. Donetsk is keen on resisting attempts at subjugation by Kiev. Its population continues to struggle to go on with its daily life as residential neighborhoods are frequently shelled. While Russia undoubtedly lends its support to the self-proclaimed republic via various means, it would be incorrect to say that the local population does not stand behind the republic. In a recent visit to the Donbass in East Ukraine, a group of journalists including myself visited Donetsk in order to better understand its reality for ourselves. The trip was organized by Europa Objektiv, a German-Russian NGO whose mission is to provide journalists with a tour of the frequently misrepresented region. We had many questions on our mind with respect to the situation in Donetsk. The image many of us had was that of acity whose streets were vacant of people and that was ruled by rebels through the use of force. Would we encounter Russian forces? Was there fighting in every area and would we be shelled? These were some of the questions. We left Rostov for Donetsk by car. Vietnamese journalists, two Englishmen from a Conservative think-tank and myself. On our way...
Visiting Auschwitz: Have We Learned Anything?

Visiting Auschwitz: Have We Learned Anything?

Below is what I wrote following my visit to Auschwitz in December 5, 2014.  Due to the upcoming Victory Day marking the 70th year to the victory of the Red Army over Nazism in the course of which Auschwitz was liberated and the recent Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, this appears as the right time to publish.   Visiting Auschwitz is very different than reading about the Holocaust. For one, visiting the physical town of Oświęcim, means that one can make contact with that immense event. In my case, I felt that it allowed me to imagine myself in the position of the victims, to see how they lived and to therefore develop my one own impressions rather than simply adopt blindly interpretations offered by ideological writers. Walking on a ground where the ashes of 1.5 million are buried feels somewhat as walking in a metaphysical reality where the death around is palpable. One realizes that yes, the Holocaust was a physical thing and yes, it did take place, and still one can walk where it happened, experience the trauma left behind and survive. The decades that passed may have slightly dissipated the smog of death but it is still there. Did we learn anything from that event? Often people forget that the camps of Auschwitz were not just spaces of extermination but also concentration camps. In other words, prisons where life was ordered in very strict lines, where fences separated one section from another, where tens of people were confined to the same bed, and where a sign stated ‘Sei Ruhig’ (Be Quiet). It was a place where power was...
Are There Nazis in Ukraine? A Visit to Lviv

Are There Nazis in Ukraine? A Visit to Lviv

  Tuesday, 06 January 2015 10:52By Joshua Tartakovsky, SpeakOut | News Analysis Truth-Out.org  The conflict in Ukraine has been to a large degree about history and how to interpret it. The marches held in honor of World War II Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera this past Thursday, January 1, 2015, in Kiev marking 106 years to his birth, confirm that understanding the past is essential for making sense of the future. While some have argued there are no fascists in Ukraine and that protesters in Maidan came from a wide gamut of Ukraine’s civil society, in the US Congress, difficult questions were asked about US support for the neo-Nazi Right Sector and in Russia, alarm was raised when pictures of protesters wearing Nazi insignia, and later Ukrainian army soldiers with fascist beliefs, were revealed. (Photo: Joshua Tartakovsky)The questions of what to make of modern-day Nazis and of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Stepan Bandera, suddenly became relevant and highlighted again the importance of understanding history in understanding the present. As one who lost people on both sides of my family to German and Ukrainian fascists, I was very interested in making sense of past as well as present events. To this end, I visited Lviv, Ukraine in December 2014 and read historical articles seeking to understand to what degree Ukrainain fascists were involved in World War II atrocities. This article is a culmination of these efforts. Following the coup that took place in Kiev, Ukraine, in February 2014, rumors have surfaced of neo-Nazis marching in the streets of the city and of a “fascist takeover.” Many have...