They "care" from a distance.

People care about people in Ukraine as long as they stay in Ukraine. They “care” from a distance.

Having spent a few months in Slovakia recently I heard and saw people’s contempt for Ukrainian immigrants. That was before the latest violence. The landlords in SK don’t care about the quality of housing they offer Ukrainians, they are treated with disrespect, they are paid the least in jobs nobody wants. No number of pro-Ukraine rallies will undo the intolerance and contempt that Ukrainian immigrants have been experiencing. I know this is not unique to Slovakia.

Looking down at everybody who comes from a relatively disadvantaged country is common throughout Europe. There’s a hierarchy in xenophobia.

In the US, we treat people from Mexico and Central America as something less, similarly to what Eastern Europeans experience in Western Europe. When it comes to Ukrainians, in the US they all are lumped into one group of people with every Eastern European. Almost nobody ever asks you anything about the life in your home country. The political right will immediately label you a communist based on accent alone, the political left doesn’t know what to do with you.

I’m writing this because I see so many people suddenly declaring care and love for people they are normally disinterested in. I understand why they are doing it – they want to feel good about themselves, they want to feel like they are on the right side of history, they want to protect their own humanity threatened by violence.

What I hope for is that in times of peace we show respect, love, and equal rights to people who have less than we do, that we don’t stay silent bystanders when we see people who are other than us mistreated—online or offline.

Symbolism is important but let’s make sure our performative gestures grow into something deeper. Even if we just start now.


Eva Putzova