Friday, March 30, 2007

Ukraine on the tip of the tongue in Australia

When I left Australia on Wednesday, the big news of the day was the story about the Ukrainian swimmer and her father, who scuffled poolside at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne.

While I've heard the stereotypical stories of domestic violence in the former soviet union, I've never seen it first hand.

So I was surprised that, despite living in Ukraine, it was in Australia that I saw a bit of argy-bargy between Ukrainian parents and kids. Not first hand; rather, splashed all over the newspapers.

The paper reports obviously sparked a lot of commentary on the radio in Oz, with people talking about how this sort of violence in not acceptable between parents and kids, or in the sporting community, or both. All the while talking about Ukraine in quite a negative light.

Here's my thoughts on the situation:

- Firstly, I do understand that violence is a part of life for some Ukrainian families, same as Australian families and indeed many families in many different countries. As to whether the stereotype of drunk and violent families in the FSU more so than many other countries is actually true, I'm not sure, but this episode unfortunately perpetuated that stereotype.

- Secondly, Australia is a developed and rich country. Ukraine is only 15 years into independence, is still rather poor and is still trying to find its feet in the global sphere. While violence isn't acceptable, I'm pretty sure Ukraine's priorities don't currently lie in spending money on huge domestic violence awareness and advertising campaigns that Australia does at this stage of the country's development.

Sometimes Ukrainians don't understand how other parts of the world may be different. The most obvious way that I see this is when I try to speak Russian - people can get very frustrated when I tell them I don't understand them, and their reaction makes me think they can't understand that someone doesn't speak their language (fair enough, I am in their country after all).

Violence doesn't solve anything, but Ukrainains are very emotive people - I like to think of them as the Italians of Eastern Europe. They talk with their hands, and if they feel an emotion, it's likely to be the extreme of that emotion (I've heard a couple of Ukrainians say they listen to sad music on purpose so they can cry at its sad beauty...)

What the coach and his daughter probably didn't realise that in Australia, it's illegal to even spank naughty toddlers into submission. They certainly wouldn't have realised that they would go to court and possibly be jailed for having a family scuffle by the poolside.

Sorry about being serious for once. But I just feel like it's a shame that Ukraine is top of mind in Australia and everyone's determined to be as negative as possible about it.

Really and truly, Ukrainians tend to be unemotional and a bit grumpy in shops and restaurants, and boy can they get their elbows out on the metro. But in their own homes, my Ukrainians friends are fun, helpful, generous and very lovely people who have a passion for life, their families and their country.

14 comments:

Beccy said...

Welcome home miss moi, I hope you had a very enjoyable trip.

I thought that was a very well written informative post, (I hadn't actually heard of this incidence) and you've given me an insight into Ukranian culture.

Claudia said...

I'm glad you had a safe trip. That's a shame about them getting into trouble..especially away from home. I hope everything works out all right for them.

Karmyn R said...

That was on the news here in the U.S. too - but I didn't catch where they were from.

Unfortunately, domestic violence (even on children) is everywhere....just here in the U.S. the father would have waited until they got home behind closed doors to wallop on his kid.

zandria said...

This is a good look at the juxtaposition between Australia and Ukraine. :)

Amy said...

Is it really illegal to spank children on the bottom in Australia??? If so, I'll be in a lot of trouble... it's definitely been an effective tool in our household for the last 8 years! I guess it's better to know now before I get thrown into jail for "abusing" my kids...

olechko said...

we always get in the papers with some negative info: Chernobyl, miners deaths, Yuschenko poisoning - and very short-lasting orange events to compensate for all of this in the press.

Have a great rest of the trip back home!

Willowtree said...

While I make no comment as to the actual incident (frankly it was their business and there were no injuries inflicted).

What created the furore was the 7 minutes of video footage that would have convicted him of violent assault in almost any developed country in the world, which was played over and over.

And it wasn't just the Aussies who thought it was a bit much, FINA (whose HQ is in Italy) banned him for life.

PS I don't know if you saw the end of the saga, but he was let of in the court system, and they all kissed and made up.

PPS. Welcome home.

Sam said...

Hi! I came this way via Beccy's blog.

I felt kind of sorry for that coach and his daughter. I watched it on the news (I'm in Australia) they must have felt so humiliated. Okay the authorities were concerned for the girls welfare, but I don't think they should have broadcast over every TV station.

No said...

Thanks for the well thought out, objective story..I think this should be published somewhere.

Pamela said...

i missed this one -
probably for the better.

I approve of a little spank -- a small hurt to keep them from a much bigger hurt later in life --
but this sounds like the dad lost his cool

Melissa said...

I missed this one too. Don't apologize for serious posts - sometimes they need to be written. :)

Welcome home!

ChrisB said...

Hope you had a good trip home. I didn't see this bit of news. Without debating the rights and wrongs: it would have been manna to the media.

The very nice man said...

Hi, little one!
I saw the clip and it was hardly what you could class as domestic violence! It was a disagreement which got a bit heated, that's all.
News people!!! They are nuts!!

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear beccy. Thanks! I just thought I'd set the record straight that, although I'm often sarcastic about living in ukraine in the blog, all the Ukrainians I've met are nice and have a great sense of humour. And a shizen load of passion. Put us laconic lazy aussies to shame.


Dear claudia. I believe it did, and the father still 'loves australia' according to the aussie newspapers.


Dear karmyn. Yeah, it certainly made headlines around the world. Still think it was a bit of a murdoch empire and his cronies beating the story up. But I agree domestic violence is bad and sadly I don't think it will ever stop. Hopefully people can be made more aware of what it is and how to get away from it.


Dear zandria. Thanks... We are totally different countries. In many ways, I've learned that Australians can be real lazy gits. The only time I've seen people get their goat up recently is at the cronulla riots and that made me embarrassed to be an Aussie.


Dear amy. I've left a message on your blog for you! It's grey area. There are laws in place that make it easy for truly abusive parents to be detained.


Dear olechko. Yes, it's true. Although, most Aussies I know remember Ukraine for the Orange revolution, as it really was HUGE on the news.


Dear willow. True true. But I would argue that they come from a developing world, so perhaps they really didn't know better. I mean, the cities in Ukraine are quite developed, but the countryside I believe is still really poor... But what are you talking about, you've been to Russia, you've seen how caught up in their emotions they get!


Hi Sam. Lucky you being in Australia! Welcome. Yes, it would have been embarrassing for them. I don't think anyone, whether they were from Ukraine or the USA (ok, maybe not USA, how about UK) would have expected that the cameras would be trained on them 24/7, even when they're having a family conversation.


Dear no. Aw shucks. I think it will only get published in this blog, but thanks!


Dear pamela. Actually, when I saw the footage, it's more like the daughter lost her cool. She seemed to give it to him more than anything.


Dear melissa. Thanks! Yes, a serious post is needed to keep us (the authors) all sane at times, no?


Dear chrisb. Yes. Exactly. I guess that's what peeved me the most. They even played the footage on so-called 'current affairs' programs in Australia, and got swimmers to comment on what they thought. Because, all of a sudden, swimmers are family mediation experts? Gimme a BREAK!


Dear very nice man. Yes, they are nuts. Media drives me mad. I actually gave up reading the paper for a while last year and I think I need to do it again.