Posted Ian Shulman
A Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis could have become a real pride of the country and join a beautiful company of other Hollywood beauties of Ukrainian heritages (listing her namesake Mila Jovovich, Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and many more). Instead, she unwittingly became a part of a nationalistic provocation.
It’s not that Ms Kunis is not talented enough to be an example of a Ukrainian success story in Hollywood. It’s just that some people strongly believe that a person can only be either Ukrainian or Jewish. Mila belongs to the second group; hence, it’s Jewish people who can be proud of her if they wish, but not Ukrainians.
It all began when Ukrainian far-right Igor Miroshnychenko posted a Facebook status stating that there is no reason to be proud of Mila Kunis or to attribute her to Ukraine since she is not an ethnic Ukrainian, but a Jew. He added that Kunis is proud of being Jewish, while all her remarks regarding her childhood in Ukraine are plainly negative.
The story would not cause a scandal of such scope if not for a tiny detail. While referring to the Jewishness of Kunis, Miroshnychenko used the word ‘zhydivka’ (жидівка), which is offensive in modern Ukrainian.
Being accused of antisemitism, Miroshnychenko answered that by labeling Kunis ‘a Jew’ he was only referring to her ethnic background; moreover, he doesn’t consider the word ‘zhydivka’ offensive. Politician’s supporters claim that the word has been present in Ukrainian language for ages and used by many important Ukrainian authors. Later, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that using the word ‘zhyd’ (male) or ‘zhydivka’ (female) is appropriate and can be used on any occasion except for official documents.
To explain the essence of the situation, one should deal with some basic linguistic. The word ‘Zhyd’ (or ‘Żid/Žid’) is a perfectly normal and the only possible word for ‘a Jew’ in most of the Slavic languages. It used to be so in Ukrainian too. However, in the 1920s and 1930s the word was declared inappropriate (just as it is in Russian) and substituted with a neutral word ‘yevrey’ (‘єврей’), meaning ‘a Hebrew’. ‘Zhyd’ in modern Ukrainian is perceived rather like ‘kike’ in modern English; the difference is that the word ‘zhyd’ used to be appropriate before. Even though the word is still in use in some remote Western parts of the country (which was annexed to the Soviet Union only after WWII and where Polish cultural and linguistic influences are strong), it’s not a surprise anymore that one can feel offended by this word. Even though the secretary of Kyiv’s Chief Rabbi has recently stated that he likes the word ‘zhyd’ and doesn’t mind being called like this (though he admitted that some people don’t like this word so much), the word ‘zhyd’ for a greedy and tricky person is in use in vulgar Ukrainian.
The word ‘zhyd’ is the one you can see written on a fence, while the word ‘Jew’ written there would sound slightly awkward. Many antisemites would be happy to explain you the difference between a Jew and a zhyd (the first category is less dangerous and you can be friends with one or two of them).
In other words, Miroshnychenko’s surprise of finding out that someone can be offended by a word ‘zhyd’ is doubtful. I am not quite sure if Mila’s got to know about this nationalistic remark, but to all others, the incident became a sad and unfortunate proof of Kunis’ negative memories on her Ukrainian childhood.
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December 11, 2012 | 9:26 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
Up to 1945 Trzebiatów now a town of Polish West Pomerania was part of Germany. The history of the last 60 years, gradually erased all traces of the former local Jewish community. Devastated during Kristallnacht, the synagogue survived the war, but was demolished in the early years after the arrival of the new settlers. The Jewish cemetery was destroyed in the early 70s. The city without those places and forms of commemoration lacked the memory of the people.
It might have been like that still, but thanks to Krzysztof Baginski, a resident of Trzebiatow and a student of Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts and his project this can change.
The main feature of his project "Ner Tamid" is its apparent immateriality. The project is based on the technical properties of the ultraviolet radiation. Located on the eastern wall of the building (and the former eastern wall of the synagogue) the word "Ewiges Licht / נר תמיד / Wieczne Światło" made with colorless ultraviolet paint, will be visible only after dark, with a special UV lamp. The inscription, though physically exists, is readable only by highlighting that will take place for 8 nights connecting it to the holidays of Hanukkah. However, it began on Dec. 9, in the second of the eight days of the holidays and will end one day later symbolically extending the memory of the Jews of Trzebiatów.
The project is co-organized by the Cultural Centre of Trzebiatów, Jewish Community in Szczecin and Vocational Training Centre in Trzebiatów. The project was granted full support of the mayor of Trzebiatów Mr Zdzisław Matusewicz.
The illumination of the monument was accompanied by lectures and workshops related to the presence of Jews in Trzebiatów and Poland which were organized by the members of the Young Jews Club “Be’Yahad” from the Jewish Community in Szczecin.
December 3, 2012 | 1:25 pm
Posted Ewa Popowska
It was in 1987, when Polish catholic periodical, „Tygodnik Powszechny”, published on its first site the article Poor Polish looking at the Ghetto by Jan Błoński. One of the most significant texts in the magazine’s history, concerning complex Polish – Jewish relations during World War II, provoked a range wave of comments, including lot of disagreements. Why did it cause so much buzz around itself?
’80 in Poland it was still a time of mythologizing the mentioned relationship, which in many ways continues to this day. Post-war literature, as well as cinematography was not recalling any acts of Polish part in Nazi-made Holocaust if such existed. War movies were telling stories of people throwing food above the Warsaw Ghetto walls, some of heros were trying to take part in a Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Noone was literally giving a name for any kind of participation. Noone was giving a name for inaction.
Jan Błoński, inspired by Noble prised poet, Czesław Miłosz, is looking back at the history from a point of view of a Polish catholic, considering the time that has passed since the tragic years of war. Miłosz, in his 1943 poem, Campo di Fiori, compares Polish society looking at the flames of burning Ghetto to Rome street sellers who did not wait for the ashes of Giordano Bruno’s pile to become cold before they got back to selling and haggling. The reason of this comparison is the carousel wchich used to stand just next to the walls of Ghetto. It did not stop working when the Uprising began nor when it was finished. Is it enough to blame Polish citizens of participation? Błoński disunites two different figures: participation and the complicity. No matter of what were the circumstances, no matter for how many of Polish were helping Jews and how many were not, in order to safe their families life during the Nazi occupation, Poland must work on its national memory to admit its trespasses and wrondoings. This is the only way to achieve the peace of mind and conscience.
This is the point, where Błoński takes inspiration from another poem of Miłosz, Poor Christian looking at the Ghetto. Lyrical subject is hiding from a mole, a personification of a remorse, digging in the ground. Błoński is asking why do we have to hide from it? To run awal from conscience, from questions? From a conversation? Isn’t it a sign of feeling guilty? Why in every conversation about Polish anti-Semitism he takes part in when abroad, he must run away from tricky questions to arguments from which the new accusations grow up? Author claims that Polish catholic has got to stand up and admit that not in every inch we were perfect in the past. History in its complexity cannot be considered as black and white, nevertheless, we must face up also the darkest elements. Using words “we”, not thinking of the concrete numbers of gulity and not guilty personas. Take the responsibility of whole nation. This is the necessary way to work the subject through and clear the memory. Not by forgeting, but by the analising – it allows us to understand the mechanism and learn. Miłosz said clearing the national memory is a obligation of Polish poetry. Błoński, not disagreeing, adds that it must be done by Polish people.