How they make you an enemy of the State
There are countries in which the most banal incidents can become the plot of a detective story or thriller. The writer Andriy Kurkov, in an article for Die Welt, comments that Ukraine has once again become such a country. During the five years that followed the Orange Revolution Ukraine was counted among free countries, whereas now Freedom House has classified it as “Partly Free”, This is linked with the domestic and foreign policy of the country since President Yanukovych came to power a year ago. This policy has impact on the life of one of the most well-known writers of Ukraine.
Andriy Kurkov explains that this is Maria Matios who writes wonderful works, is laureate of a national literary award and has thus far not taken part in any political actions or polemic.
Things changed, he says, when in her capacity as Deputy Chair of the National Taras Shevchenko Award Committee, she accepted the Award on behalf of Oksana Pakhlovska who could not come from Rome and made a short speech. This speech, in which she quoted Taras Shevchenko, boiled down to the message: Ukrainians, do not let yourselves be turned into the slaves of Moscow.
President Yanukovych was attending, and apparently after the speech, an advisor to the President came up to Maria Matios and asked indignantly how she could have dared to say such things.
It was from that time that Maria Matios’ problems began, including being unlawfully dismissed from her position on the Committee with attempts to appeal against this in the courts being unsuccessful.
Then police arrived at the Lviv publishing house Piramida which had published her autobiography which was named Book of the Year. The police demanded that they withdraw it from sale and claimed that this was on the instruction of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Kurkov writes that over 5 years the publishers had lost their fear of the police and categorically refused.
The police then turned up at an address where she had lived years before. Kurkov mentioned they even asked if the residents would be prepared to testify against her at an open trial. Specifically about the fact that the writer in her last book had written that the monument in honour of the Great Patriotic War in Kyiv was phallic in its form, with this, they said, having offended Veterans of that War.
It was when suspicious individuals began appearing in her native village and asking questions about her parents, that Maria Matios got worried and wrote her letter to the Prosecutor General and Minister of the Interior. The Prosecutor General publicly denied having given any instruction while the police again said that they were following Prosecutor’s instructions.
It transpired, Kurkov wrote, that this was all from a complaint by Communist Deputy Petro Tsybenko.
Kurkov writes that after the scandal broke out, numerous politicians got involved with the writer receiving calls of support from Viktor Yushchenko, the present Speaker of Parliament, V. Lytvyn and even former judges of the Supreme Court offering their help in defending her rights. He points out that she has thus turned into a star of news broadcasts, which, he adds, is not where she would like to be.
The present Minister of Education, D. Tabachnyk, recently called the Memorial to Victims of Holodomor a phallic symbol, but Kurkov notes that he has received no visits from the police over this.
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