This afternoon, I had a discussion about Ukraine with a middle-aged guy who came to fix our kitchen vent fan or whatever that thing's called. First I chose to complain about my predicament with cameras - it was a bit like complaining about your medical problems to a doctor you met at a party, a torture for someone spending his whole life fixing things or people. Then we discussed digital cameras in general, whether they were worth their price or not. And then I was tempted to show the guy a photo I took of a Yushchenko supporter talking to a Yanukovych supporter that was published in the Ukrainian edition of Viva! magazine - not my first photo credit but the one I'm extremely proud of because of the picture's placement and size, and its charm. After that, it was natural to talk about Ukraine.
"I think Ukrainians overreacted," the guy said. "It wasn't such a big deal to make such a mess out of it."
I explained all the basics to him: the "proffessor" thing, and the two criminal convictions, and all the violations, and the wife's bitching about drugged oranges and felt boots "made in the USA," and the humiliation of having someone like Yanukovych represent your country.
"It was all done just to spite Russia," was the next thing he said.
I explained that Russia, or any other country except Ukraine, was the last thing on most people's minds during that month, and that Putin had no one to blame for making a fool of himself, and in any case, if he managed to survive the Kursk disaster, Nord-Ost, Beslan and everything in between, it'd be such an overreaction for him to collapse because of a tiny Ukraine fiasco.
"Ukrainians want to join the EU but it'll never happen because they just don't belong there - they aren't Europeans," was the next argument.
I replied that joining the EU was such an abstract goal while the desire to live a decent life seemed totally realistic - and one thing that Maidan has, hopefully, taught us is how to demand that the politicians at all levels follow up on their campaign promises.
"But our people are too timid, they can't change anything because they're scared of their own shadows," the guy said as he was leaving. "It's like in that proverb - a crow is jabbing out your eye and you do nothing to chase it away. It took Europeans centuries to become what they are, and Ukrainians aren't Europeans."
"No, they aren't. But you've got to start somewhere, and we've done it, and I'm wishing you the same."
It was a totally peaceful discussion, really. The guy wasn't hostile in any way, just totally convinced he was right. Same about me. It was interesting. It was my third encounter with the Russians who, in my opinion, were totally clueless (I'll write about the other two, which occurred in Istanbul, later) - and it's hard to blame these people: the way the Russian channels were covering Maidan is said to have been so absurd that I wish I had had a clone here in Russia, watching TV and reporting to the real me in Kyiv about it...