September 26, 2023


Українська світова інформаційна мережа | Ukrainian Worldwide Information Network


4 min read

Dignity. As the tragedies of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin, Borodyanka, and of the villages north of Kyiv that lived (and died) through a month of Russian occupation become better known, what strikes me (and others) as the most catastrophic, the most revolting, nauseating and disgusting, about these mass killings is that their victims were denied Dignity.

These people, and their brethren in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kherson, and countless other cities, towns and villages throughout Ukraine that Russian soldiers have temporarily captured, suffered and died not because they were combatants, not because they resisted occupation, not because they somehow threatened the authority of the Russians. They were killed because their death gave the Russians pleasure.

Immanuel Kant – perhaps the foremost philosopher of the modern world – proposed a simple principle for determining the morality of any action. He called it the “categorical imperative”. Simply put, a human being should never be treated as a means or instrument; a human being is an end. A human being is of value. A human being has dignity.

When a 10-year old girl is brought to hospital in Zaporizhzhia from occupied Mariupol with vaginal and anal tearing, the world is appalled because she has been denied dignity. Her body was used as an instrument of gruesome decadence by Russian soldiers.

When the body of an elderly man on a bicycle is found at the side of the road in Irpin with half his head shot off, we are repulsed because the dead man was denied dignity. Next to the body lies the man’s dog, mourning his master for two days after the Russians left him to rot on the curb. The dog understands dignity.

When the bodies of a family of four are found in a mass grave in Bucha, each with their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in their skulls, journalists and politicians bear silent witness. These Ukrainians were denied both their dignity and humanity.

The Ukrainian word “hidnist” is most often translated into English as “dignity”. The translation misses a significant amount of the Ukrainian subtext. In English (and in French) “dignity” implies an earned quality: something exclusive that is not universally possessed. After-all, a person can act dignified, or can be undignified. Historically, dignity was considered a quality of the upper classes that became “democratized” over time.

In Ukrainian, hidnist’ is a quality universally possessed To call a person a “nehidnyk” (lacking dignity) is extremely insulting. And when a person – in this case the Russian soldier – denies hidnist’ to his fellow man (woman, child), Ukrainians are deeply wounded. Retribution is avowed because depravity must be avenged.

For a Ukrainian hidnist’ is an element of humanness that is to be universally respected. To deny hidnist’ is to deny humanity, to treat another as a means of gratification (indulgence, vile amusement, carnal decadence) rather than as an end, a value, a treasure. Such behavior deserves not only punishment, but revenge.

Until two days ago when the war crimes of the Russians were merely hearsay, their invasion was viewed by many Ukrainians as a calamity, but one that periodically has beset this country throughout history. Now that the truly evil nature of the enemy has become obvious for all, victory in this war (including retribution and punishment of the Russian invader) has become a moral imperative for the entire nation.

Eight years ago, the anti-Yanukovych protests in Kyiv were given the name “Revolution of Dignity”. Then, we stood for the dignity (hidnist’) of the nation, of the people. We demonstrated our displeasure with a regime that violated the dignity of students and youth who were beaten; with a government that denied citizens the right to free expression, movement (particularly visa-free travel), economic opportunity…

Now our fight is for hidnist’ in its fundamental sense: for the right to be, to exist, to live. Russia denies us that right. It is evil. There can be no compromise.

On March 31 the Levada Center, a largely western funded Moscow-based polling company, published the results of a representative survey of Russians:

53% solidly support and another 28% support on the whole, the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

Together that’s 81% support!

51% of respondents said the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine activated feelings of PRIDE in Russia. Not shame – pride…

A Russia that rejects the dignity of humanity must be defeated and destroyed. It’s either us or them.

God help us!

Mychailo Wynnyckyj

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