“Understanding Ukraine” – history, politics and freedom struggle: reading and discussion with Steffen Dobbert

“What is the price of independence?

How brutal can a path to freedom be?

And is it worth giving life for?

The guests had hardly taken their seats in the dark theater of the Sandkorn when they were confronted with perhaps the most serious moral question: How much death, suffering and deprivation is the achievement of political freedom and independence of a state worth? The reading and discussion “Understanding Ukraine” on November 17th began with these questions with the author of the non-fiction book of the same name, Steffen Dobbert, a journalist at ZEIT and ZEIT ONLINE. These three introductory questions are also the first sentences of the book. They accompany the audience beyond the evening. However, Steffen Dobbert could not and did not want to give clear answers to this moral dilemma. In short episodes, his book describes Ukraine’s long and all too often bloody path to a sovereign state: from the beginnings of Kyiv Rus with its center in Kyiv, through the emergence and destruction of the Cossack state, to the mass murder by the Holodomor – the atrocities of the Stalin era – until the defensive war of Ukraine against the Russian Federation.

The reading of individual passages was repeatedly supplemented by discussions between the moderator of the evening – Karoline Gil – and the author, who has traveled the Ukraine on more than 50 research trips over the past decade. During the conversation, it was clarified again that the war between Ukraine and Russia did not start on February 24 of this year, but shortly after the overthrow of the then Yanukovych government in 2014. The statement that the areas south-east of Ukraine were fighting a separatist war was also made clear Fight against the government in Kyiv, Steffen Dobbert dismissed as a myth. The war has essentially been a war waged by Russia to weaken Ukrainian sovereignty since 2014.

A special feature of the event – organized by the Reinhold Maier Foundation and Klett-Cotta-Verlag – were the interludes of singing by the Karlsruhe fan choir, the first and so far only German-Ukrainian choir in Germany. Under the direction of Peter Arestov, the choir managed to set impressive musical accents. After two hours of reading and discussion, the choir of Ukrainians and Germans had the closing word with the song “Dona nobis pacem – Give us peace”. A wish that was certainly shared by everyone in the Sandkorn Theater that evening.

Text: Original German: David Pflegler (Ukrainian and English: Google Translate)
Photos: Michael M. Roth, MicialMedia

Buch: Steffen Dobbert – Ukraine verstehen
Ukrainer in Karlsruhe
Fächerchor Karlsruhe (Projekt Deutsch-Ukrainischer Chor)
Das Sandkorn – Theater und mehr

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Michael M. Roth
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