The day I arrived in Kyiv, I opened our mailbox and found A Letter From Russia there, addressed to me, Veronika Ihorivna Khokhlova. My mama was with me then, and she started laughing when she saw the envelope, and told me that all the young people - those potential Yushchenko supporters - have been receiving this.
There's no return address on the envelope - just an imitation of two postmarks, one of them carrying the words, Pismo iz Rossii (A Letter From Russia). Below is a drawing of a solid, male handshake - in blue, the color of Yanukovych's campaign. The letter, despite its title, was sent from Ukraine, not Russia: there's a 0.45-hryvnia Ukrainian stamp in the right-hand upper corner, with a picture of those wonderful flowers that grow in the wheat fields, vasilki in Russian and voloshky in Ukrainian, and the Ukrainian symbol, a trident. There's also a real postmark: Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 28, 2004.
Inside, there's a letter, typed in Ukrainian, signed by the Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Communities in the Russian Federation, V.M. Khrystenko. He is writing me "on behalf of over 10 million Ukrainian expats living in Russia":
We live in Russia, but all of us, Ukrainians, care about the fate of our native country. We stand for the strong and independent Ukraine, and cannot stay aside while our Motherland is in danger.
Then Mr. Khrystenko tells me how wonderful Yanukovych is - while Yushchenko is nothing but mean and evil.
A person who carried out a loud election campain on someone else's money, and having sold his own independence, is ready to sell that of Ukraine. [...] Yushchenko's friends are the American swindler George Soros, who has been lavishly financing his campaign, and an American counsellor, a Polish-American [amerikanopolak] Zbigniew Brzezinski, as well as other experts in seizing power in poor countries.
There's more - but I'm too disgusted to waste my time translating it here.
Mr. Khrystenko stops short of telling me who to vote for. After recounting all the wonders that would happen to Ukraine if Yanukovych is elected - and all the horrors that await us if Yushchenko wins - Mr. Khrystenko concludes:
We, the Ukrainian community, hope that common sense, life experience and the great wisdom of the Ukrainian people will help make the right choice.
We stand for the strong and independent Ukraine!
I'll end this with a non sequitur from P. J. O'Rourke's Sept. 1991 piece about the former Soviet Union - one of the truest things ever said about us:
Nina took me to talk with the leaders of the TV-station protest. This was one of five or six political interviews that I did while I was in the Soviet Union - with Ukrainian Nationalists, Ukrainian non-Nationalists, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, anti-Gamsakhurdian Georgians, pro-Gamsakhurdian Georgians and some people I don't know who they were.
I can tell you what they all had to say, if you like, I mean if you're having trouble getting to sleep or something. I would ask them what their group advocated, and they would say, "Democracy must be defended." I would ask, "How do you propose to do this?" They would say, "There must be a structure of democracy in our society." I would ask, "What are your specific proposals?" They would say, "We must build democratic institutions." I would ask, "By what means?" They would say, "Building democratic institutions is necessary so that there is a structure of democracy in our society at all levels." And by this time I'd be yelling, "BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??!! And they would say, "Democracy must be defended."
The Soviets were firmly rooted in the abstract, had both their feet planted on the air. It was impossible to get them to understand that government isn't a philosophical concept, it's a utility, a service industry - a way to get roads built and have Iraqis killed. [...]
Speaking about Iraqis, I've almost forgotten about the U.S. election. Normally, I try to forget about the pointlessness of Ukrainian politics by focusing on what's going on in the States - it's more entertaining this way. But now the opposite has happened: Ukraine has made me forget about the States. And what I wish above all now is that November passes as quickly as possible, with Yushchenko and Kerry elected and forgotten about. I can't wait for our regular New Year's trip to Istanbul. I'm sick of politics.
P.S. You can read all of P. J. O'Rourke's text in his Give War a Chance book. But, to save you a few bucks, here's a joke he ends this piece with - he could've left everything else out, for all I know, and this joke would've filled the gaps:
There's a joke people tell in the Soviet Union: Mitterrand, Bush and Gorbachev have a meeting with God. Mitterrand says, "My country faces many difficult problems - lagging exports, Muslim minorities, European unification. How long will it be before France's problems are solved?" God says, "Fifteen years." Mitterrand begins to cry. "I'm an old man," says Mitterrand. "I'll be dead by then. I'll never see France's problems solved." Then Bush says, "My country faces many difficult problems - rececssion, crime, racial prejudice. How long will it be before America's problems are solved?" God says, "Ten years." Bush begins to cry. "I'm an old man," says Bush. "I'll be out of office by then. I won't get any credit for solving America's problems." Then Gorbachev says, "My country faces many, many difficult problems. How long will it be before the Soviet Union's problems are solved?" God begins to cry.