Germany is for Ukraine, but…
Russia is everywhere in Germany. Cocktails in Berlin bars with the words “Moscow” or “Russia” in the title, complete collections of Pushkin’s works in the library of an estate in a German village. Notebooks with matryoshkas with sunflowers and tears as a gift for Ukrainian journalists in Berlin.
I open the notebook, and inside the inscription: “Dialogue, despite the war. Wow. How can you teach Ukraine how to treat the Russians when there is such a deep, unreflected love for Russia in Germany itself?
The German NGO “n-ost,” a transnational network working with global media and specializing in Eastern Europe, has been supporting Ukrainian female journalists and journalists in one way or another since 2014. A powerful campaign of support for “n-ost” began with a full-scale invasion.
I managed to get to the “Recharge, Reflect, Reconnect” program, the first vacation for many female journalists and media workers, which n-ost organized on the shores of the Baltic Sea together with the Alfred Toepfer Foundation and the Mass Media Institute. Four days at the sea, work with trauma therapists and reflect on how the war has changed journalism in Ukraine.
The first pebble from the deep wall of friendship between Russia and Germany that flew back was the “Moscow” and “Pushkin” rooms, where two Ukrainian journalists were accommodated.
Maricka Paplauskaite, co-founder of The Ukrainians project and editor-in-chief of The Reporters, who did not manage to live in the Moscow room, stuck a ” Kiev” floor sheet on the day of departure.
At dinner, the head of the Alfred Toepfer Foundation apologized for the Russian-film rooms. They said it was impossible to calculate everything, it was very insensitive of them. But they took off the sheet with the name ” Kiev”, told about “so historically formed” and not a word about the time to break this German-Russian umbilical cord.
So what are the conclusions on the perception of Ukraine in Germany?
84% of Germans, according to an April 2022 Eurobarometer survey, strongly agree or tend to agree that they feel strong sympathy for Ukrainians and Ukrainian women. There has been a surge of volunteerism in the country, and people have begun to take an interest in what Ukraine is all about.
But Ukraine is still largely perceived as the “Russian little brother. Russia’s infusion of soft power – the promotion of Russian culture in the West – is paying off. Ukraine is still devoid of agency; the Germans feel entitled to impose their notions of victory on us, calling for “dialogue. Instead of letting “poor, poor, uneducated Ukrainians” decide for themselves.