A conversation with Julian Chaplinsky about the geopolitical crisis and the Ukraina

A conversation with Julian Chaplinsky


Lviv, 3 April 2024


During my stay in Lviv to research my new book on Danylo Movchan's watercolours about the war, he invites me to meet his friend, the celebrated architect and intellectual Julian Chaplinsky. The conversation challenges me.


I hear that you know our world-famous Swiss architects.


I like Botta.


Do you?


Yes, I know him personally.  He worked as an architect on the planning of one of our churches, which is still under construction, and also lectured at the architecture department of our university. But I also know other well-known architects from Switzerland, for example, Patrick Thurston, who I really like.


We also really like Herzog/de Meuron, his Elbe Philharmonic, a new landmark in Hamburg.


Tell us what interests you in Ukraine?


I read an interview about you yesterday. It was published in TV Mysto on 31 March. It was a great interview. It gave me a little more information about you. What is your job like?


I would say I have a monster task. You mean the interview when I was the city architect.


And you were offered to leave Stuttgart, but you stayed.


When the war broke out, a colleague of mine, Stefan Benisch, offered my family shelter. My two daughters also spent three years in Stuttgart, studying at a Waldorf school. They came back with some knowledge of German and were very open-minded. For me, Stuttgart is a very cool city, with an interesting culture and architecture. And, of course, Mercedes and Porsche. Are you from Zurich?


I live in a small historic town between Basel and Lucerne. And I was a pastor in a Reformed church for 35 years. Now I'm free and I'm doing book projects. The first book was about my depressive episode.


The second is not my book, but Myroslav Marynovych's memoirs, which I managed to publish in German. I found the English translation of this book on the homepage of the Ukrainian Catholic University, read it and wrote to him. This is a very important book for me, very important for all of us in this time of war. I also wrote: ‘You should publish it in German’. He replied that a colleague of mine from my days as a student at the Technical University had already translated it. But some German friends told him that the text was not good enough for publication and that it needed to be reworked to be in a good style. That's when I took over. Last year, we met for the first time in person at the University of Zurich. There was an event to celebrate the publication of the translation. The professor spoke to Myroslav, and I read from the German translation.


And now I visited Myroslav and Lyuba, also a very brave woman. To my surprise, Mykhailo was there, and Lyuba is his aunt. His mother died when he was young, and he came to live with the Marynovychs. Now he has a business in professional marketing of advertising on television and other media. He used to live in Kyiv. Now he's in Lviv with his now safe child.


‘I first visited Lviv in 2017 when I wanted to buy a new interpretation of traditional icon art. When I walked into the small room of the Ikonopys gallery, I saw an icon by Ostap Lozynskyi - and it was really created for me, it completely touched me.  I looked him up on Facebook. There I also found Mateusz Sora, who annually invites icon painters to masterclasses. Last Friday we were able to open the Nowa Ikona exhibition near Basel. Mateusz was there with seven artists.

I also received an offer to publish a new book with the ibidem publishing house in Stuttgart. I thought that it could be about Danylo Movchan's watercolours on the theme of war.


During my research, I found a brilliant interview with him on your blog, which I translated and which will become part of the book. I would like to ask for permission to publish it.


It is not a problem. I am impressed by your initiative and interest in Ukraine.


I have also seen your beautifully shot video of Yaryna and Danylo painting icons and what they say about it. I think it was in the mountains.


Yes, these are hills compared to your mountains.


I read that at first you wanted to study art.


I come from a family of musicians. My father played the French horn in a symphony orchestra. My older brother is a percussionist and also played in a symphony orchestra for many years. And my mother is a musician, music critic and music theorist. Yes, and a pioneer.


At first, the main idea was that I would continue this family musical heritage. But when I was 14 years old, I remember well, my father said that there shouldn't be poor people in our family, so he forbade me to be professionally active in the world of musicians. But I played the bass guitar, just for myself, but professionally.

I still wanted to study art. Unfortunately, I didn't pass the exams because I got sick on the way to the art college.


In our house, there was a sculpture of our neighbour on the floor. He advised my father that he couldn't make an architect out of his son. If he wants to be an artist, that's fine.


It's a more practical profession. Isn't it?


Yes, it is. That's why I more or less spontaneously entered the Polytechnic University and became an architect. I like drawing, making sketches about urban development. So I still have these artistic skills. But perhaps music is more my skill. It's more my personal and emotional basic skill.


When I have free time, I prefer to make music, play the bass guitar and listen to music. Not doing sketches.


Are you in a band?


No, I only play music by myself. Sometimes I play pieces with others.  Then the idea came that I could organise plein airs for my friends. After all, we have a dacha in Sankiv. When a friend visited my house in the mountains, he said that it was the perfect place to organise plein airs for artists.


So let's do it! So we organised seven plein airs for artists, most of whom were painters. You can see some of the results here in the office. It was a fantastic collaboration. When you can feel what they think and how they work, each in their own way, with different intentions, it's very, very interesting and you want to see it again and again. Eventually, I sold my house. In the meantime, I bought a house nearby, without mountains, but also beautiful. I plan to build a gazebo there near the forest, where I can invite different guests and artists so that we can continue our plein airs.


And what are you planning?


I met Danylo on Facebook, where I saw his work and was very impressed. I wrote to him that I would like to buy something from him. That's how we gradually became friends. Apparently, Facebook can lead to good things, not just a lot of fake news and unnecessary things.


The mood in the West


What is the mood among ordinary people in Switzerland, not just politicians? What do the Swiss think about our war? Does it bother them? Do they pay enough attention to this issue or not?


I myself have been to Switzerland probably six times. So I know what you are like: a good culture, stability and order, a great interest in environmental issues. All this is probably more important to you than some new war in Africa. But that's just my imagination, not thorough research. And perhaps you can also tell me about your government's position.


It is ready to use our opportunity as a neutral country to organise an international conference to find a solution for Ukraine. The first step should be to clarify the terms of peace talks with Russia. But peace is too big a word for the current situation. I think that it is more realistic, but also more difficult, to agree on common ideas among all the participating countries regarding Russia. We cannot start negotiations with Russia yet, Russia cannot be trusted in principle. They have taken Crimea and Donbas from Ukraine, and now they have seized the south-eastern territories. This will be a very difficult path. Our media are talking about this as well. However, the majority of our population still agrees that we must do everything possible to make Ukraine an integral part of Europe.


The threat to liberal democracy with its religious roots


I hope so. I am currently studying for an MBA at the Ukrainian Catholic University, where we have a very famous professor, historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky. Together we read the most famous books of mankind.


These are Plato, Aristotle, etc., and the last one is John Locke, the founder of liberalism, and his theory of the good order of the state, the idea of freedom. For me, all these works have become ‘monuments’ to the idea of liberal democracy, especially in our situation of war. What these people said is very important for us today. When the guys from this movement, who called for liberal democracy, really led Europe forward and the United States to independence. It led to a great movement to resolve all these contradictions in Europe peacefully. John Locke also said: ‘There is something we must remember at this very moment. It is religion’. Locke also became a priest for us because he also told us that we need a foundation of faith in God. But today's liberal democracy has become disconnected from God, and we are feeling the consequences of that today.


We will see what happens next. But I can already see its consequences, this dangerous cult of our ego, which threatens stability when some people say: ‘This is not our war, what do we care? We all understand that Putin's path is wrong. It is bad because it contradicts our values.  Why should we fight for liberal democracy?’ In Reagan's time, it was still normal to go to the Soviet Union and demand real democracy, freedom and human rights.


The democrat Kennedy was a Catholic, and Reagan seems to have been a Protestant. We still see today what Protestantism has achieved in Scandinavia. That is why I fear that we do not take seriously enough the activities of regimes in Iran, China and Russia that are concerned about their hegemony and threaten the Western world. All of these regimes still live by the idea of government and religion, as they did before the Enlightenment in the 19th century. This does not correspond to the modern vision of God and is probably the first reason why the current world situation is so dangerous.


I think this war is giving birth to a new ideology that will dominate us. Because the Western world no longer knows what its liberal democracy is based on. What I mean was absolutely clear to these people in the 18th century. Isaac Newton, for example, was a very pious man. So was John Locke. They all believed in God. They had a strong ethical foundation based on their roots in the Catholic or Protestant faith.


That is why both Kennedy and Reagan did not want a third world war. Kennedy was a Catholic, Reagan was a Protestant. Reagan saw the catastrophic consequences of the Vietnam War, in which the United States was involved. He could not attract the attention of voters with this. It was always said that it was an exaggeration that the communists were going to destroy all Americans and everyone else in the West. In fact, no one wanted this war, but everyone knew that it would eventually happen. When everyone saw the consequences of the war, the countless deaths, all the blood shed, suddenly everyone was against the war,

Reagan saw this and didn't want to make the same mistake. So he chose the Vatican as his negotiating partner and the Polish Pope John Paul II to find a common solution.


They said: ‘Okay, let's make peace’. But today we see that the Catholic Church is no longer very relevant. Back then, the Church had a chance.

I also experienced this loss of importance of the church when I was a parish priest. In the beginning, I had a feeling that the church was still at the centre of our society. But more and more the tide was changing. Today I can no longer say that the church plays a significant role. At best, it is on the margins of our society. And I can already see the first signs that the wind is blowing against it.


For modern intellectuals, Christianity is something they reject more or less decisively. This is quite understandable given the countless scandals in churches, especially regarding sexual abuse. This is less true of Protestants. Our centuries-old, familiar connection between church and state is now breaking down. More and more people are leaving the church. Currently, just over half of the Swiss are still church members. Most of them have no real connection to the Christian faith, and even fewer to the church. In a few years, there will be only a minority who profess any commitment to the church. Our society has already said goodbye to Christianity. There is no longer a common value base. Even the importance of human rights is increasingly being denied, especially in right-wing circles.


The division of Western society


Our Swiss society is increasingly divided into two political wings. On the left, we see more well-educated, intellectuals and cosmopolitans, many of whom are well off and have correspondingly higher incomes. Among them, ideological attitudes are becoming more and more widespread. The key words here are: gender, decolonisation, climate concern, the fight against homophobia and Islamophobia, political correctness, agnosticism, or, if spiritually open, to the proposals of Eastern religions. On this side, there are certain values that others find overwhelming, cannot share, or even fiercely reject and fight against.


I see these increasingly extreme left-wing tendencies in the protests of the students at the University of Zurich. They demonstrate solidarity with Palestine, condemn Israel's self-defence, and some are even unconsciously anti-Semitic. The extremely brutal Hamas attack that led to the war is hardly mentioned and even less condemned, or even explained as understandable.


As for the left, I certainly understand Ukraine's desire to be independent of Russia and to choose the West. But it is difficult for them to accept the fact that Ukraine needs weapons to do so, otherwise it has no chance. Therefore, the left will have to sacrifice part of its ideology, its ideal of a society that does without an army.

I see exactly what one of our newspapers wrote about:


“There are three clear red lines in democracy that can contribute to dehumanisation and indirectly incite violence: 1. blaming other people for all social problems and assuming that everything would be fine if group X did not exist. 2. vilifying dissenters as enemies, instead of seeing them as political opponents and negotiating partners with legitimate interests.  3. stylising democratic disputes as a battle.”


Now the right-wing, which has become even stronger, is ideologically radicalised and influenced by Trump. It sees Ukraine as a totally corrupt country, believes in partly sinister conspiracy theories, is fiercely anti-American and rejects the EU. It also opposes a reasonable solution to the asylum issue, environmental problems, etc. In particular, during the coronavirus crisis, it adopted conspiracy theories and spoke of a coronavirus dictatorship. Our government and media are generally distrusted. Many people no longer read, watch or listen to them, talk about ‘lying media’ that hide the truth from us, and focus on ‘alternative media’ that tell us the truth that is being suppressed. And increasingly, Putin is seen by many as a real alternative, and his Russia as almost a paradise. People are campaigning against supporting Ukraine, saying that it will only promote the US arms industry, that Zelenskyy is a puppet of Biden and the EU, a clown, completely incompetent, who is sacrificing his own people and has caused countless deaths, a multiple billionaire, completely corrupt and just plain stupid. And the United States is actually primarily responsible for the war, it forced Putin into it. The conflict in Donbas was a civil war, everything Russian was banned, etc. And Ukraine is still part of Russia.


I read all this in countless comments in the Weltwoche, which has openly supported Putin from the very beginning and used to give long interviews to the Russian propaganda channel rt deutsch, allowing itself to be called one of the few who support Russia in the Russian media. - Sadly, I also see Christians who are quite devout and who see something good in Putin in his stance on homosexuality, his (alleged) support for the family, his opposition to abortion and his commitment to a Christian faith with a nationalist character. All of these incredible human rights violations, the constant exposure of the Russian population to propaganda lies, criminal cases against members of the opposition, and the loss of freedom of thought are not recognised or downplayed. Or trivialised.


I know the Soviet false reality that Myroslav lived through, which led to his arrest and punishment of 7 years in camps and 5 years in exile for defending human rights. In the final part of his memoirs, he presents his vision of a free future: as a prerequisite, an urgent reassessment of Russia's criminal history, followed by repentance and forgiveness, and then the possibility of forgiveness on the part of the victims. He also clearly sees the weaknesses in Ukraine - the neglect of ethical norms as a consequence of the Soviet era, which has led to dishonesty and corrupt behaviour. In order for the divided Ukrainian society to unite, it needs good common values based on the Christian faith. He pins his hope on the younger generation of Ukraine: their desire to move west and thus live in freedom. 


How will the war end?


None of us is a prophet of what will happen in the coming months and years. What do you think? Do you see the war ending?


No, we don't. From our point of view, we understand that Putin does not want to negotiate. He is not interested in a peaceful outcome. So it's not just about Donbas or Crimea. He wants to influence the whole world. This is a new world politician. He is absolutely addicted to his idea that he has to restore the Russian Empire of the 19th century.


His friend Kirill, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox State Church, is helping him in this endeavour. What he spreads in his sermons and documents about the West and war is, for me, simply criminal, a holy war against the West and NATO. He also promises forgiveness of sins and paradise to fallen soldiers. And he justifies the outright genocide of Ukrainians. Putin is also completely insane with his idea that Ukrainians do not exist. He wants to overthrow the government in Kyiv and make Ukraine part of his Russian empire again. For me, the current war is only the first step. His next step will be to return all the states that used to live behind the Iron Curtain to Russia: Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, etc., including the territory of the former Yugoslavia, especially Serbia.


Ivan Ilyin, a nationalist Russian philosopher, died in Switzerland and was buried near Zurich. Putin has ordered his bones to be transported to Moscow for a new grave and fully honours his memory. Dugin is another one of these ‘philosopher-philosophers’, no more dangerous than Ilyin, a fascist who agitates against the West and is well connected to the far right in the West.


He is an absolutely typical product of Russian propaganda. In Russia, they can call anyone who fits their ideas a philosopher. He is a product of the KGB in the early nineties and has always been in these Russian fascist movements. In fact, in Russia, this must seem very strange. This fascism is very close to the Russian Communist Party. We really have to say that it is absolute, even if it calls communism scientific. This only applies to Russia. This is a world full of contradictions.

Today they say that they are Christians, the holiest Christians on the planet, that they now believe in Christ. And at the same time they say: ‘Stalin was actually very good.’ But Stalin left behind countless thousands of priests. And today they say things like they profess Christ and at the same time worship Stalin. And the Russian Orthodox Church cooperates with all of them. A normal person does not understand this, not even a little bit, and certainly not to such a terrible extent.

And if you ask normal Russians who belongs to NATO, they will tell you: The United States, of course. And that's it. Do they even know what NATO is? What is it, what are we all talking about? So they just repeat the information from their television. In Germany, we see this ugly brand-new movement that looks like a hot soup of this ideology. And we still see the old anti-capitalist movement that still believes: ‘We must abolish capitalism completely’.


It's still the same old people. We have anti-Americanism as a religious phenomenon. There is no longer a Western world that is united in its orientation and values.


Yes, perhaps there are some differences in Europe. Especially in Scandinavia, half of Germany and the UK. Europe with a Protestant flavour. Otherwise, you can only see how united the world is. We can't even connect with them in any way. If you take the UK and the Netherlands, it's a completely different story.  If you go south, to Italy or Spain, Italy is... When I talk to Italians, I'm not satisfied. For me, they are like the world of their architects and designers. It seems to me that this country has completely lost its role as the founder of the leading philosophy of Europe. Yes, completely. It's all about furniture, bags, fashion, Milan and the fact that new stores with their sinfully expensive products can open in Moscow again.


And about good food, the joy of life, the southern atmosphere that we all enjoy.


This is the true philosophy of today's Italy. In Nordic countries, such as Denmark with Copenhagen and Denmark, people are also thinking about climate change. They are trying to develop new environmental technologies. And they are thinking about how they can involve others in their plans to save the planet. You also live in a country that takes this seriously. So, this is today. It seems to me that we are in an even worse position now than we were two years ago.


Why is that?


I don't see any enthusiasm to help us anymore. Even though there may be some negotiations going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. It is so exhausting to realise that we have no influence. Absolutely powerless in our situation. What happens when Russia now has many more weapons and has been able to increase its power? They have built new missiles and tanks. They still have so much money, money from their oil and gas. And we have nothing. So we are trying to ask others to give us some of their weapons to somehow keep us on the front line. We don't even dare to say that they should please give up all our territory to save our souls. In the US, they say: ‘Oh, no, no, no, you know, we can't. We have to defend ourselves against all these people from Latin America who want to flood us?’ These words, which I also hear from Europe, really just mean new investments in their own armies.


Our Swiss army is now also investing more in the army again. I think this is a question in all European countries. Germany and France have already started.

I also remember what Macron, the French president, said in the first months of the war. He was tired of trying to talk to Putin over and over again, spending countless hours on it, but to no avail. Just empty talk without any meaning. He thought that it made sense to go to Moscow again and again and say to him: ‘Let's solve this peacefully. Okay, take Crimea, let's be normal. And now he says: ‘We think maybe we will send our soldiers into Ukraine. Maybe we will. Now two years have passed, two years, about 200,000 Ukrainians have already died in this war. Two years. So how many more deaths do we have to have in Ukraine?

When will the French soldiers or NATO soldiers come to save us? But Scholz keeps telling us the same thing: ‘No German missiles in Ukraine! We don't want to take sides unilaterally, we don't want to become a theatre for this war.’ But you supported us, so you are on the same side. For Putin, it is a good sign that you will not do anything. There are parties in Germany that are against us, I have no illusions about that. Europe will come and give us some soldiers. But the topics of these discussions are so unexpected and complex. This is the worst thing for me. We believed so much in European values, which are now lying in the ground.

Ukraine's struggle and despair


In Ukraine, we fought so hard for our election to Europe. Yes, we did. We chose the path of liberal democracy and the path to Europe, to the family of European nations. It was our independent, absolutely natural decision, our choice. But the reality is that Ukraine may or may not be in the European Union one day. Maybe Ukraine will be in NATO, maybe not. It's a complicated game, you know, and Europe doesn't understand it.


If we imagine that Putin completely conquers Ukraine in five or seven years, Ukrainians will be soldiers in the Russian army, which will conquer Poland and the Baltic states. And this is absolutely real, because it has already happened in history, when Ukrainians were in the Russian army in the First World War and killed Poles. It was the same in the Second World War. Ukrainians were part of the Russian or Soviet army.


But Finland remembers the war against them. They remember everything. They understand the Baltic states. They know that if they don't support Ukraine now, they will have the same perspective for their nation tomorrow.


It won't be tomorrow, but maybe in 10, 12 or 20 years. Okay, I'm an old man. But those people who are already dealing with this today, they understand the perspective of tomorrow. And in 20 years, we will not be ready to wage war with today's technologies. What kind of war is this? It's a war of drones, a war of missiles, a war of artificial intelligence.


The bullet that kills you is already smart. It is not just a piece of steel, it will be cheaper tomorrow thanks to artificial intelligence. If someone wants to, it will hit you between the eyes, so for me it's like a blood hunt. That's why I understand when I see the war going on in Ukraine today that NATO, for example, does not yet have drones. We are using drones very effectively in the war today. And we assemble them ourselves in countless basements or kitchens, but NATO doesn't even have a standard for these drones. And they are always thinking about whether artificial intelligence has any use in war. Tanks don't do anything anymore. You don't win anything by destroying tanks. But if you use threats, you can destroy tanks completely, or at least stop them. And the enemy is finished. We see good results from the American Patriot system. So it is a very successful technology. Our technology from the sixties or seventies is still good, it has been modernised, but it is still quite good.


But the nature of war has changed, and we have digital warfare, information warfare. In World War II, Hitler could not influence the Slovenian peoples through the German language.


And now you just say to your mobile phone: ‘Translate me’. The problem is the new media. I often hear that you don't know what is true, what the media show. My daughter is a journalist. So many people say you can't trust our media.  I can't listen to that anymore, because I am convinced that most journalists work seriously and hard.


Yes, absolutely. So we have no ethical boundaries for the challenges of artificial intelligence. No government in the European Union has a clear idea anymore how we should deal with it in our society. Maybe we really need to look at where the red lines are.


Others have been using AI for a long time: ‘Please make me a video of Selensky saying: ‘We're going to kill you all!’. It goes viral, and countless people, not just grandmothers from the village, really believe that Selensky said it, that it was not fake Selensky, but something like a crazy Trump. Trump can say anything, and people believe him. He tells himself: tell people what they want to hear.


The falsity of Trump's ideology


If you were a devout evangelical Christian and you could tell him that over the phone, Trump would tell you: ‘I'm a born-again Christian too. I believe in your God.’ And he would say to me: ‘Dude, you're Ukrainian. I like Ukrainians. Vote for me.’ To people from Latin America: ‘You are the centre of the planet Earth’. And that's it.


He knows who owns the media that spreads his messages, with which he wins elections. And we are afraid of the monkey with his nuclear bombs. Today we no longer need nuclear weapons. You can use artificial intelligence on social media to provoke and prepare millions of people to burn down the Capitol in Washington.

Yes, with today's propaganda capabilities, you don't even need nuclear weapons. I see what Trump is doing on his Instagram page. There you can see what it really looks like. I'm just shocked by how primitive the pictures are. Yes. This is the level of European culture today. And this has already gained 400 thousand likes. This is absolutely no ethics, this level, absolutely no inhibition. Trump knows that he is completely dependent on people who control the media, who want to vote for him and don't know what they are doing with it.


I think it's an interesting show for a lot of people, and they like this showman. If you want to be president, you have to be a serious person. A lot depends on the US elections these years. But the division of society caused by Trump is not only a reality in the US. We are living in a bad time in general. Perhaps there have never been truly good times.


I don't see any hope. We just have to live as if it were not. As Martin Luther said: ‘If you know the world is going to end tomorrow, go and plant a tree today.’ If you are losing hope, you can go to the coffin now. Many people would not want to deal with our reality, not just young people. Do what I want, party, have fun, live a better life, relax in a resort. It is better not to think.


Shall we be like the Jews?


I wanted to ask you about Carl Gustav Jung, a psychologist. He lived in Zurich, right? Was his father a Protestant pastor?


(I didn't know at the time of the conversation. But it's true. I thought he was Jewish. Sigmund Freud was a Jew). Jung said that people are incurably religious.


Now I'm reading a book about Selensky: ‘The Showman by Simon Schuster, with a foreword by Anne Applebaum. It's very interesting, a deep insight. And how he changed when the war started.


No, I wanted to ask you about something else. From your point of view and your European experience, how do you think Ukraine will affect Europe? There are already more or less 5 million Ukrainians living in Europe. Yes, and this is not the end. I think that over time there will be more than 5 million.

We may even end up like the Jews. Like a nation without a state. This is certainly a realistic scenario. Can we somehow influence Europe? You know the views of Myroslav Marynovych, another Ukrainian. So what mental or psychological aspects are important for Europe?


How do you see Ukraine's chances from the West?


I read what you said in an interview about Silicon Valley. There are a lot of these IT hipsters there. We have them in Ukraine too. Let's use them.

We also need to start producing many things that are now produced in China or India in Europe again to be less dependent on global trends.


It is also interesting to see what Ukraine has to offer us in terms of art. I visited an exhibition of contemporary art in Ukraine from Soviet times to the present day. It was extremely interesting and at the highest level. It should be shown in our country. The art that was created in difficult times, even suppressed, is deeper and more relevant than the art that is created in a society that is oversaturated with prosperity. I feel our art is much less relevant.


Selensky also gave us a different image of Ukrainians. A different face than we had imagined, not having any real knowledge of the history and people of Ukraine. There are so many interesting, talented and brave people here. Young people in Ukraine have long been Europeans. Show us what you are capable of. Don't hide, surprise us. Especially now, when people are interested in you here. Do it like in sports. Do your best, surpass us. In Basel, many people were surprised by the high level and diversity of the new kind of iconic art from Ukraine. Where else are there so many young people who make new sacred art with conviction and professionally?

I also saw several ‘made in Ukraine’ shops with very attractive products, high quality and attractive design. Why not open a chain of stores here? People would buy, it doesn't always have to be Danish design. And certainly not from China.


Yes, yes, I know what is from China. We know when I take off my handcuffs, what else doesn't come from Asia? When Poland became a member of the EU, what effect did it have? Was Poland perceived positively? Did it change anything? Poles were disappointed at first, but now they are back in Europe. What is your opinion?




The former government was a very nationalistic Poland, just like some nationalists here imagine Switzerland. For me, Poland is a very interesting country, but it is also divided. But there is also, and not only, a very conservative nationalist Catholicism, which I think is a problem. Poland has a lot to show us in terms of art. I was very impressed by this recently in Krakow.


For me, for us, Ukrainians, this ultra-conservative Poland is like the other side of the same mirror, because the country, just like Russia, is focused on this nationalist Christianity. I've heard a lot of nonsense from their politicians, like: our task is to bring Europe back to Christianity, and only Poles can do it. Or their national trauma is still very active, and they use it in Polish domestic politics, which we do not like. I fully understand the background because Poland has been divided many times throughout history, just like Ukraine. Poland and Ukraine are now back on the world map after being ruled by Russians, Germans and Austrians so many times. This is a very complicated history. That's why Ukrainians and Poles remember this time again, feel pain and fear that it could happen again. But they want to show the Russians that they really are one people, one nation. Is it difficult to understand this from the point of view of other European countries that have not experienced this? What does it mean to you?


Switzerland's understanding of Ukraine


As Swiss, we understand this desire for independence, a free nation that separated from the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, which won its freedom, although officially belonging to that empire for a long time.


Our identity lies in the fact that all of our language groups say the same thing about where they could have been. As a Swiss-German, I say: I am not German. As a French-speaking Swiss, I say: I am not French. As a southern Swiss, I am not Italian. We are all Swiss, even if we often know each other very little and are even strangers to each other.


Switzerland can do that, and you know that Germans will never tell you that: You are German because you speak German. The same goes for France and Italy. - So it's not a problem for you. And when I had guests from Vienna, the head of the Institute for Social Research in Vienna, who also visited Lviv during the war, I asked him: ‘What do you think about what we talked about? What are your fears about Russia?’ He replied: ‘I'm more concerned about the fact that Ukrainian politics is moving more and more to the right. I see this danger, but I'm not sure if it can be otherwise. I said: ‘Look, we are at war, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, and they are ready to kill us all. These are our real concerns. And you are afraid that we are all nationalists.’ He thought we really were, and now, in this terrible time.


When I think about tomorrow, I don't know if Italy will elect another Duce Mussolini, who said that the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland really belongs to Italy. In such a situation, you simply become a nationalist when you find yourself in our position.


I understand that. I think about what Mateusz Sora told me about the divisions in Polish society. The same thing is happening in the US. Mateusz went to a demonstration in Warsaw about Poland's European future, and several million people took to the streets. We really cannot say which way it will go. But Poland knows that Russia is dangerous.


Lugano and the role of banks


Yes, they know this very well. Another memory from Switzerland: I was travelling through Switzerland, from Italy to Ukraine. I found an artist from Lugano on Facebook. I don't remember his name. I called him and he said: ‘Okay, if you're in Lugano, I'll come to you so we can meet somehow.’ We were walking around a beautiful city with a lake and a new museum, and I said to him: ‘It's such a beautiful city! It's incredible.’ He replied: ‘No, not anymore’. I asked him again, ‘Why?’ ‘You know, when I was a kid, we used to live on the street, and it was full of people. Today the street is empty, full of banks and expensive shops. It is no longer a city worth living in. But when you come to an Italian city, you always see a lot of locals. They are sitting around drinking coffee and are very emotional. Let's talk about something.’ In Lugano, you see very empty streets. There are only these office workers, employees in suits and white shirts. Everything is clean, but there is no life.


I think you should go north, to Locarno or Bellinzona, there is still life there. In Bellinzona, there is always something going on, even if it's local. Lugano has a lot of Italians who come with their money. The role of banks is a difficult issue for Switzerland.


Yes, I understand that. How much Russian money is there?


I don't know either. Nobody really knows. Or we would prefer not to know. - Thank you for everything you have conveyed, which I think is very important and competent.



Thank you for coming to me. I think we meet us, when I’m coming the next time to Switzerland.

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