A reflection on the recent history of Ukraine by Carmen Krusch-Grün, Ph.D.

 “So where are you headed?” A typical question for Germans to pose before the summer holiday season. At this point, the first difference between Western and Eastern Europe becomes apparent. In Germany, the answer ‘to Odessa’ is followed by an uncertain facial expression and the accompanying question “Where is that?” With the response “in the Ukraine, on the Black Sea”, the level of uncertainty increases, because their brainwaves are not able to produce an image of dream vacation destination. On the contrary, there was something going on in the Ukraine and it was nothing good. A conversation like this would be very unlikely to occur in Eastern Europe. Everyone there is familiar with Odessa; everyone knows it is located on the Black Sea and that it has beautiful wide sandy beaches to offer; that it lives up to its nickname, the  Riviera of the East. Everyone knows that many thousands of Ukrainians and Belarussians vacation there, but also that the country has been at war for the last three years, and much more besides. Most are well informed about the causes, its course and the current state of the conflict, as well as the overall situation in the country, because it is of serious interest to them. The third question, which is typical of both the east and west is: “Ah, you are from there?” By this point, I find myself thinking I should have just answered with “Mallorca” from the beginning, and spared the questioner and myself quite a bit of time.

Because no, I am not from there, I have no relatives from there, and I also do not come from eastern Germany; I was born in Bavaria and grew up in Hesse, in a tiny village 50 km northeast of Frankfurt. An area which my neighbor, who coincidentally happens to have been the first secretary of the German embassy in Moscow in 1988, refers to as “Hessian Siberia”. To this extent, there is a relationship, though not an ethnic one.

Why then, I, as an older single mother, am going on vacation in Odessa with my daughter and her friend requires yet another explanation