Following Communism: Careful What You Wish For

July 12, 2019

I moved to Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity.  The feeling of the youth was palpable in the summer of 2016 when I visited, a sense of forward optimism and a shedding of the past.

Since I’ve been in Ukraine for a couple of years I’ve seen both the Schengen zone open for Ukrainians and a plethora of cheap flights going to European destinations.

One of the pros of Ukraine is that many of the young people are very curious and open to new ideas.  I give kudos to Ukrainians opening ethnic food outlets without any background in the cuisine.  It was interesting walking into an Indian restaurant without any Indians in the kitchen in Kyiv.  It takes courage and an open mind to do something like this.

I’ve also noticed if someone has the means they will travel even if they have to do it very cheaply.  Cultural exploration is on the top of the priority list here for the youth in Kyiv.

And while Ukraine is a complicated place, there is one thing not complicated here… the fact that I haven’t met one young person that wants a future in communism.  Not one.  Sure some pensioners miss the old ways, but anyone under 40 shows zero interest in the system of the past.

What young Ukrainians do show is an interest is in the other direction: the West, an increasing level of independence, a future devoid of Soviet ways.

Beautiful Perugia, Italy

Beautiful Perugia, Italy

I just got back from that Western world a few days ago.  Italy, the 8th largest economy in the world.  Italy, the cultural wonderland steeped in art, architecture, food, style, luxury…. It’s hard not to be in love with the place.

But what I found on the streets one afternoon in the small city of Perugia will shock most people.

There was a large group of young people demonstrating and marching together under a shared vision.  They shouted political slogan and waived flags over their heads.  Bright red flairs and smoke filled the air. The police made sure the march was peaceful as pedestrians from the city looked on.

Like the Ukrainian youth after the Revolution of Dignity, they all had the same optimism for better days ahead.  They shared their beliefs, their vision for something greater than themselves.  But there was only one difference between young Ukrainians and their Italian counterparts that day.

It was a parade for the Communist party.

The march was done in classic Italian style so it actually looked quite fun and festive.  The sun was out and the sky a deep blue.  Smells of garlic and pesto came from restaurants as people sipped wine in the middle of the day on extended lunch breaks.  The streets they walked through were full of architectural gems.  People donned stylish fashion.

Communism never looked so good.

I sat on the sidelines and thought about the irony of this situation.  While most young Ukrainians look to the West as the future, this youth of the West was waiving the flags that represented Ukraine’s past.

Another Irony is if these Communist party members got their way they would introduce a system that would disallow them to collectively march city streets shouting out a countering ideology against the state.

This isn’t an article about Italian politics; I am no expert in this subject.  But the simple reality of the demonstration shows the disgruntled youth of Italy and their justified frustration.  The current system isn’t working for them and they want something different.

Italy in 2019, isn’t doing well economically.  Its banks are fragile, the country is drowning in debt, youth employment is through the roof (over 50% in the south), high taxation cripples entrepreneurship, bureaucracy is layers thick.

By no means is the want of a Communist future a reflection of the majority of the Italian population.  But it did come as a surprise that thousands of people congregated in the middle of the day of a midsize city to waive the red flag with the hammer and sickle, while Ukrainian youth want nothing to do with that flag.

How odd it is to see two sides of the same coin when looking at Ukraine and Italy—young people who wish for a brighter future but who choose diametrically opposed systems to pursue it.  Basically, each are looking for greener pastures ahead, the one they each don’t have much modern-day experience with.

So, I have a bit of advice for young Ukrainians and Italians: careful what you wish for.  What a strange twist of fate it would be for a Ukrainian who moved to the “dream” of Italy find himself watching a Communist parade that represents the ideology of Ukraine’s past roll by.

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