In summer, Kiev is a charming city, filled with cafes and light. But the peaceful atmosphere is deceptive. History has not departed. Ukraine has been shaken in recent years once again – by revolution, and its handmaiden, war.
The ‘Euromaidan’ revolution toppled the pro-Russian government of President Victor Yanukovych in March, 2014. Yanukovych’s departure was followed by the Russian seizure of Crimea, and then the outbreak of a Russian-supported ,separatist insurgency in the Donbass – the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. The ill-equipped, rusty Ukrainian forces moved to crush the insurgency, but were then met by the entry of conventional Russian troops in August. The Ukrainians suffered bloody setbacks in the battles of Iovitsk and Debaltseve, before a ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk on February 11, 2015.
The war is not over, and the issues that led to its outbreak have not been resolved. Today, the Ukrainians and their Russian enemies face one another along a static 400 kilometer front line. Observers from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitor the ceasefire. This reporter spent several days in the warzone of eastern Ukraine, and shooting across the lines is a nightly occurrence. Not just rifles. RPG, self propelled grenades and machine guns too. 10,090 people have died in this largely forgotten conflict over the last three years. Over 2 million people have been made homeless.
The war has impacted on Ukraine’s Jewish community in two central ways. Firstly, Jews resident in eastern Ukraine have suffered the direct physical effects of the fighting. Most of Donetsk and Luhansk’s Jews fled westwards as the frontlines approached their homes in 2014. The provisions offered by the Ukrainian authorities to those made homeless by the war are minimal. Efforts are ongoing by a variety of Jewish organizations to provide for those Ukrainian Jews made refugees by the events.
The second impact is a little less tangible. The war of 2014 was an important moment in the ongoing development of national identity in independent Ukraine. ...
Jonathan Spyer on Ukraine's Jews