08.10.2008 | Omar Uzarashvili

When a country is ill, you hear cries of “They’re coming in hordes”


A plane lands at Boryspol Airport from Tbilisi – the capital of a country were Ukrainians are seen as a brother people and are met with Caucuses hospitality.

Yet the first passengers from the Tbilisi flight, stepping on Ukrainian soil, are within minutes swearing: “Magis deda vatire” (“may your mother weep” – Georgian). They mutter this curse at the Ukrainian border guard officials. Those Georgian nationals not met by Ukrainians prepared to guarantee that the person will live with them and will leave Ukraine at the right time, are put back on the plane and forcibly returned to their homeland.

In Ukrainian legislation there is nothing to prohibit a citizen from Georgia or any other country from entering Ukraine if he doesn’t have relatives or friends here. Maybe he just comes to admire the Dnipro River or to drink coffee in Lviv like thousands of tourists from western countries. Yet the border guard officials explain their action which should outrage any Ombudsperson by saying that their internal instructions allow them to hold “special talks” and to not allow people into the country who strike them as suspicious.

It sometimes seems like the Ukrainian enforcement bodies are deliberately pinning the image of enemy on people from the Caucuses who are quite legally in Ukraine.. If some burglar turns out to be Georgian, Armenian or Azerbaijani, you can be sure that the Public Liaison Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] will circulate that information with a headline stressing that a Ukrainian’s flat was cleaned out specifically by a Georgian, Armenian or Azerbaijani criminal.

According to the same MIA there are no organized ethnic gangs in Ukraine unlike in the USA where the most powerful criminal syndicate “Casa Nostra” is made up entirely of Italian immigrants, and its heads exclusively of Sicilians. Yet nobody in the US would think of not allowing tourists or immigrants from Sicily into the country just because their fellow country people have organized one of the world’s most notorious criminal syndicates. What is more in most states journalists are not allowed by law to mention the nationality of a criminal. They understand there that the word “criminal” is just as international as “peasant” or “worker”.

In 1993 Georgia lost a war which it was effectively waging with Russia and lost Abkhazia, 80% of the population of which was made up of ethnic Georgians. A fair number of the 300 thousand refugees from Abkhazia were scattered around the world, with a good number settling in Ukraine. There are an especially large number in the Donetsk region. These Georgian nationals can’t find official jobs in Ukraine like other foreign nationals. Ukraine at one time passed extremely strict legislation on immigrants. A business which takes on a foreign national, according to this legislation, has to provide the relevant services with documents certifying that Ukrainian citizens do not want the job. Poles, incidentally, after joining the European Union, when their workers went to Western Europe were forced to soften their restrictions with regard to Ukrainian workers. And is Ukraine really faced with the risk of unneeded workers? Aren’t there enough job ads around businesses to make it clear that they need drivers, construction workers, joiners and turners? Yet refugees from other countries who live in Ukraine don’t have the right to find work in order to earn an honest living to feed their families. After the latest events in the Caucuses the Russian-speaking East of Ukraine which has been well worked on by the Party of the Regions, the Communists and Russian television, see every Georgian as their enemy just because Georgia dared to stand up to Russia. My relative had a shop assistant shout at her that “Your Saakashvili should be hung” and refuse to serve her during the war.

In hospitable Ukraine people from the Caucuses are better off not going on to the street for no reason. Every time I have to be at a railway station (with my Ukrainian passport and face of a person from the Caucuses) the border control people invariably hassle me, in front of hundreds of people humiliatingly looking through my suitcase and studying my documents. One time when I didn’t have my passport with me, the border guard actually went to the trouble of accompanying me to my flat - to make sure that I have the right to breathe Ukrainian air.

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