Discrimination Against… the Ukrainian language!

(feature article)

Is it safe and comfortable to be a Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainian in Ukraine? Answer: not always. This is Victoria. This summer, she applied for a job as a corporate psychologist, sent a resume letter, and received a phone call that evening. “I spoke Ukrainian, as usual. I was not asked anything about my work experience, education or anything else, except whether I would speak Russian. To which I answered, ‘No,’” says Victoria.

She was refused. She was told that they were looking for Russian-speaking specialists. Victoria began to speak out about this discrimination in public, and when the situation became public, she was called back with an apology and told that the person in charge of Victoria had been released.

Oleksandr was beaten for the Ukrainian language this summer too. He bought ice cream at the M. M. Hryshko National Botanical Garden and asked the saleswoman to speak the state language. Instead of hearing some apologies, he got, “I won’t do it. I don’t want to speak it. So, these are your problems!” Then he was showered with a deluge of taboo words accompanied with the first punch into his head.

“A boy ran out of the next tray and hit me, knocking me off my feet. I did not suffer any major physical injuries, of course, but I suffered morally,”complained Oleksandr. Only after the publicity did the owner of the store apologize, and the saleswoman and the attacker were fired. The case did not reach the court.

There are no official statistics on how many Ukrainians are persecuted in their country every year because they speak their native language. Only public statements by victims make isolated stories of language discrimination visible. With the beginning of the war, they increased. Thus, in December 2019, Ukrainian activist and volunteer Artem Myroshnychenko died in Bakhmut. He was beaten to death by his aunt. Relatives and friends are convinced that Artem was killed for speaking Ukrainian, but the court rejected this version. Attempts to suppress the Ukrainian language accompanied us at various stages of the state development. And although after the Maidan Revolution of Dignity and with the beginning of the war, many more Ukrainians began to speak Ukrainian, the fashion for Russian is still among us, and with it the discrimination against the Ukrainian language.

Currently, no one is safe from the language harassment. And if this has happened to you, you can apply to the authorized body, for example, to the Commissioner for the Protection of the State Language Taras Kremin. By the way, during today’s meeting with the authorities of the Odesa region, the language ombudsman said, “To date, no facts of discrimination against citizens who speak other languages in Ukraine have been recorded. Instead, we have numerous facts, say, in the field of service, when citizens are harassed and humiliated for using the Ukrainian language.”

He noted that his main task is to protect the state language and the rights of citizens to receive information and services in Ukrainian. “This in no way undermines the rights of people who speak other languages,” Kremin underlined. In addition, if you feel oppressed because you are a Ukrainian-speaking person, you need to talk about it, at least, on social networks. For example, Lyudmila Denisova reacted to Victoria’s story, posted on social media. Lyudmila sent an appeal to the violating employer and only after that Victoria was offered an interview, but this time Victoria refused…

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