Ukraine: A Last Bastion of Whiteness?

Graham Seibert, American Renaissance, March 27, 2015

An American finds a racial identity far from home.

Some years ago, I decided to start a new life. I wanted to get away from an America that had taught even my own children to despise our Mayflower heritage. In September 2007, I went to Kiev, in Ukraine, to study Russian for a month, and then went back to Kiev in November. The next spring I folded my US household, sold my cars, activated Social Security, and signed a long-term lease in Kiev. Over the next two years I continued learning Russian and making contacts. In September 2009 I met a Ukrainain woman whom I married in 2010. We had a son in 2011, and built a house in 2012.

I am committed to homeschooling my son here. He starts life as a dual citizen, but by the time he is grown the West may have choked on its multiculturalism and debt, and Ukraine will have begun to realize its potential. The Ukrainian passport could be the more valuable. In any case, he will be bilingual. My wife and I speak English to each other and his education will be in English, but for now my son and I converse in Russian. Meanwhile, I have become a close observer of life in Ukraine.

The very name Ukraine means “the border” in Slavic languages. It is on the eastern fringes of Western civilization, abutting Russia which, as the world discovers over and over, has a distinct mentality.

UkraineMap

A thousand years ago, Ukraine, as Kievan Rus (Kiev of the Russians), was the cradle of Russian civilization. However, beginning with the Mongol conquest in the 13th century, Ukraine has almost continually been under the thumb of its neighbors. Austria-Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Turkic peoples from the south exploited the rich land and took the population as slaves, serfs and soldiers. In 1648, Ukraine detached itself from Poland only to end up in Russia’s embrace, where it remained until the fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine was barely touched by the Enlightenment. The liberal values that brought Western civilization to a glorious culmination in England, Western Europe, and the former British colonies did not arise here. Ukraine industrialized partially and belatedly. Its wealth remained centered in agriculture, and the genius of its people never came to flower.

Ukrainians never enjoyed the self-esteem of the Western European empire builders, but neither are they burdened by any sense of historical guilt. They are still proud of themselves, and would consider the notion that they owe anything to the downtrodden of the world as ridiculous.

Ukraine has not attracted immigrants. It is too poor and too far away. It was badly governed under the Soviets and their successors. Though the weather is no worse than that of New York, foreigners associate it with Siberia. They don’t come.

As a result, the population is quite homogeneous. Of 45 million people, only a few hundred thousand are of a visibly different race. Quite a few Ukrainians have a slight Oriental cast to their features–a legacy of the Mongol occupation. There are students from China and other far Eastern countries, the Arab world and Africa, though they number in the low tens of thousands. One can spend days on end in the capital city without seeing a non-Caucasian face.

Ukrainians have a kind of naïveté about people of different races. In 2008, people on the street honestly could not believe that the United States would nominate a black man for president. The choice of Mr. Obama simply seemed absurd. They could not grasp the idea that some blacks can be as smart as whites or that whites would vote for a black president.

The Roma or Gypsies are the minority Ukrainians know best. Numbering about 50,000 and concentrated along the borders with Romania and Hungary, they are not nearly as numerous in Ukraine as to its west in Eastern Europe. The Roma do not look vastly different from Ukrainians of an Oriental cast, but their clannishness and their way of life set them apart. Like the Gypsies in storybooks, they are poor and nomadic, making their living selling flowers, scavenging from garbage dumps, and selling scrap metal.

There is a future metro line a half mile from our house. Gypsies have taken up residence in the dachas (summer houses) condemned to clear the right-of-way. Walking past these rundown, unheated 550 sq. ft. structures during the winter I see underdressed children playing in the slush, and laundry fluttering on the line. Knots of Gypsy women, many pregnant, travel on our neighborhood jitney bus.

Ukraine lacks a class of liberal bien-pensants to enlighten the Ukrainians about the Roma. Bus drivers and shopkeepers are openly contemptuous of them. This means that our neighborhood Roma generally behave themselves; they know it would go badly if they did not. Ukraine has not become a destination for Roma migration the way Great Britain, Spain and Italy have. The pickings are slim and the reception cold.

The relatively few Africans one sees in Kiev are mostly students. There are not enough of them to form ethnic enclaves, and they have no choice but to get along in a Ukrainian environment. One must suppose that they are of tough stock: intelligent enough to master another language well enough to study, and self-sufficient enough to get along in a different culture. Unlike African men in Western Europe and Canada, the students appear reticent about approaching local women. Advances would probably not be welcome, and Ukrainian men might well be offended.

Within Kiev’s small international community there are a few black diplomats and businessmen. They have professional bearing and dress, and are generally quite a bit lighter than Africans. They would not have been posted here unless they were educated and articulate. Those with whom they work readily accept them as the Frenchmen and Englishmen on which their behavior is modeled, though they sometimes have problems with police, taxi drivers, and other common people.

The situation outside Kiev is a little different. There are larger groups of African students in some provincial university towns such as Ternopol. There one finds the kind of loitering and lollygagging that characterizes African students in other countries and African Americans on some American campuses. The Ternopol newspaper published an article about unpleasant black behavior, only to be reprimanded by the authorities in Kiev for their lack of hospitality.

Ukraine is not a major destination for Third-World immigrants or asylum-seekers. It is attractive primarily because it borders the countries asylum-seekers really do want to reach: Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. Ukraine is therefore an unwilling host to quite a few Afghans, Africans, and others who did not make it to the European Union.

The UN High Commission on Refugees does not think highly of Ukraine. It writes that “Ukraine should not be considered as a safe third country and UNHCR further urges States not to return asylum-seekers to Ukraine on this basis.” In other words, Ukraine does not lavish benefits on failed asylum seekers. It is unlikely many Ukrainians lose sleep over this. Ukraine has problems enough without asylum seekers, and anyone who has traveled has seen that immigrants fail to assimilate.

In any case, the numbers are not large. The UNHCRR writes that Ukraine has had an average of 1,500 asylum-seekers per year, with Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Kyrgyzstan heading the list of countries of origin. The Ukrainian press occasionally reports on one settlement of Africans in the Odessa area, where local businesses have scraped up employment for some of them.

Ukraine is fundamentally Ukrainian and its citizens are patriotic. The people of Kiev are uniformly, categorically against what they see as Russian aggression in the East. Maidan, and then Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and actions in Lugansk and Donetsk, have unified this country as never since the Second World War. Although Kiev is primarily Russian-speaking–years of Russian domination made it the third-largest Russian-speaking city in the world–its soul is totally Ukrainian.

Despite a history of terrible government and rapacious oligarchs, the people support each another generously. Robert Putnam of Harvard would say they have a lot of social capital. In fact, the shared adversity of an oppressive government seems to drive them together, just as shared danger unifies soldiers.

For example, there is a strict honor system on the buses. People get on and then pass their fare forward to the driver. It goes hand over hand, passenger to passenger, and back comes the change. Though the fare is only about 15¢, I have witnessed change for the equivalent of $20 go untouched from one end of the bus to the other. If I overpay, the bus driver scrupulously points out my error and gives me my money back.

Ukrainians love children. They look at every child as one of their own, and think it is their responsibility to take good care of them. An anecdote: About five o’clock on a fall afternoon I took my two-year-old son for a ride on the train that circles Kiev. The 25-mile route takes a bit more than an hour. There were lots of people on the train, and he took off his outer clothing as he got hot. Then he said he was hungry. I got off at the next stop, son in one arm and clothes in the other, looking for a bench to sit down and dress him for the 50-degree weather.

Before I could find one, I was surrounded by six women who insisted that he was freezing. Well and good–I gave them the clothes, which they put on him with great speed. I thanked them, but they would not let me go. They followed me a quarter mile to the grocery store where I bought him something to eat, and were waiting outside when I emerged with a banana and yogurt. They demanded to know whose child he was.

The American in me was annoyed. It was none of their business. However, my Ukrainian sensibilities told me to be thankful that they cared that much. I called his mother on the phone and she explained everything to the ladies, after which they escorted me, all smiles, back to the train station.

One winter day I was slogging through snow along our dirt road toward the bus stop. Although we are less than three miles from the presidential mansion in the heart of Kiev, our neighborhood has dirt roads. A neighbor stopped to offer me a ride. Meeting an oncoming car on the one-lane road, we backed into a driveway so he could get by. We got stuck. The other driver came over to help us. We first tried to rock the car out of the rut. When that failed, the other driver produced a shovel from his trunk and we dug it out. When that also failed, he got a tow rope, and that pulled us out. Ukrainians are ready to help each other, and are resourceful about it.

Ukraine is too backwards to have developed the thousand petty harassments of modern life. I will never have a policeman tell me my grass is too long or that I shouldn’t burn leaves in the yard. Instead of getting a $100 speeding ticket for driving 40 miles an hour where such a speed is perfectly safe but the sign says 30–just to satisfy some township budget–the cop is content with an honest bribe of five dollars or so.

Neighbors will never fink on me for letting my son walk the streets by himself. They will talk to me, but never to the authorities. If he happens to repeat one of my more candid opinions in the hearing of other adults, I will not be pilloried or forced to attend sensitivity trainings. Government has better things to do. I can tell him, without fear, how the world really works.

I don’t worry about being called a racist. People here believe what was considered for generations to be common sense: Jews are smart, East Asians are both smart and hard working, and we white folks are far from the dumbest people on the planet. When I cite erudite publications to that effect, Ukrainians accept it as no more than scholarly opinion that happens to correspond with everyday experience.

Ukraine adheres to traditional values that are disappearing in the West. Most women want to marry and have children. If they don’t marry, it has more to do with economics than preference. Grandmothers look forward to grandchildren, and want to be actively involved in rearing them. A young mother will generally leave the kids with a grandmother if she goes to work. Women start their families early, so it is not uncommon to meet a great-grandmother in her 60s.

Socially, young Ukrainians are decades behind. They are naïve in delightful ways. Few university students smoke. Tattoos and piercings are rare. Young people I know don’t curse and don’t drink much. Nobody does recreational drugs. Hard drugs are the curse of the down and outs, but better people eschew them. People have heard of homosexuality, but people who practice it seem to stay firmly in the closet. A neighborhood lad, obviously gay in my eyes, invited some strangers to his apartment and was murdered. Ukrainian friends were shocked at my analysis of the situation: that he probably fell in with some rough trade at a gay bar and got rolled. It never crossed their minds that a homosexual could be living among them.

Ukrainians are Orthodox in the same nonspecific way that Latin Americans were Catholic a few decades ago. They don’t know the Bible and they may not go to mass often, but they cross themselves when they pass by a church, and they believe in God. They don’t even want to think about Darwin or the aspects of modern science that seem to conflict with religion. This deeply felt but rarely articulated religiosity appears closely related to their devotion to their families and to the idea of having children.

Ukrainian women are known throughout the world for their beauty. They are slim, have clear complexions, wear attractive clothes, and act like ladies. It is acting like lades that sets them apart from Western women. They want to be attractive to men, and they do what it takes to find a husband and have children. The men, for their part, seem to appreciate women and also to love children.

Ukrainian and Russian wives enjoy a good reputation in the United States, despite the fact that some of them learn all too quickly that they can get away with treating their husbands shabbily and will make out well in a divorce settlement. In their own element, surrounded by family and friends, all whom I know with foreign husbands are extremely happy, however modest their incomes may be by Western standards.

This is the country in which I’m going to raise my son. I want him to be a member of a community, and he will find that here. I want him to be proud of his people, and Ukrainians are proud of themselves. I want him to work hard and here, if you don’t work hard you don’t eat. I want grandchildren, and here, everybody rears children in the expectation of grandchildren. This is where my genome and part of my culture will pass down to successive generations. It is here that I can find a white identity for myself and for my son.

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Graham Seibert
Mr. Seibert reared his first family in Bethesda, Maryland. He has written many book reviews and a book on homeschooling.
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