Writers from Eastern Europe raise the alarm at the new wall that runs through the continent | Culture

From left: Dorota Maslowska, Sofi Oksanen, Ana Blandiana, Monika Zgustova and Andrzej Stasiuk.
From left: Dorota Maslowska, Sofi Oksanen, Ana Blandiana, Monika Zgustova and Andrzej Stasiuk.GETTY

The tearing of the European borders that is contemplated these days and, in the background, the new bleeding pulse that East and West continue to fight despite the end of the Cold War, is a shock for the intellectuals of that old side of the iron curtain that they have lived and portrayed the division that fractured the continent. Shaken by a deterioration that advances without solutions in sight, the Eastern writers consulted by EL PAÍS raise the alarm about the sad harvest of this time. “After almost half a century of history under communist dictatorships or freedom dominated by consumption, the mentalities of the two Europes are still different,” claims Ana Blandiana, a great Romanian poet, with an important work recently gathered by Galaxia Gutenberg. “The two Europes have to know and understand the differences of each one. It takes more time and empathy to create a truly united Europe ”.

What has further poisoned an already deteriorated situation has been the dramatic situation of hundreds, thousands of immigrants stuck not only on the border between Belarus and Poland, but also in that East-West combat that has found a new field in those cold forests. battle. The young author Dorota Maslowska, one of the most internationally renowned Polish writers today, says that some friends of hers living in the Podlasie area found several hungry and sick people hiding in the forest in the summer. They tried to help them, but they could barely.

“Those soon became thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds who had arrived deceived by Belarus and who have ended up freezing and starving trapped between two countries,” says Maslowska, author of the interesting Two poor Romanians who spoke Polish (The broken nail). “Our cynical and populist government, which appeals so much to the propaganda of Christian values, has failed. They push back the refugees and although there are many activists and volunteers trying to do something, with a government that refuses to help and leaves them with no chance of survival, we all feel guilty. And we probably are, ”he says.

And the fact is that the operation that Belarus is carrying out to bring immigrants to the gates of the European Union, which everyone links to the protection of the Kremlin, is but one more chapter that spoils the prospects for understanding. The Czech Monika Zgustova, a fine novelist who has safeguarded her nose and ability to reflect the reality of the East (her books are in the Gutenberg Galaxy), is the daughter of refugees and, as such, “seeing other immigrants suffering makes me long hurt”. “I have no illusions: this crisis or hybrid war will drag on and get worse. I hope that what we are witnessing will help Europe develop a rigorous migration plan. Giving Erdogan a tip to keep refugees away from the European border has only served so that another dictator, the Belarusian Lukashenko, supported by Putin, also reaches out to Europe to receive his gift.

“Europe exhausted”

The Polish Andrzej Stasiuk, who narrates the wandering of those who live on the margins in Eastern Europe in improvisation (Cliff) admits to harboring a host of complex feelings between compassion for those refugees, anger at the Polish Government, which uses them cynically to strengthen its position, and impotence in the face of using ordinary people as an instrument of great politics. . “We are well aware of this practice in our part of Europe and Europe has no way of changing or reversing it,” he says. Stasiuk believes that Europe is exhausted and out of ideas, even though nothing better has emerged in its place, and that Poland is trapped in the polarization of society. “Who knows if the future of Europe is a war in which everything changes.”

Migrant camp on the border between Belarus and Poland, on November 14.
Migrant camp on the border between Belarus and Poland, on November 14.Xinhua via Europa Press (Europa Press)

The move to challenge western borders with immigrants was rehearsed by Russia in 2015 on the border with Finland, recalls Sofi Oksanen, a combative author born in this country of an Estonian mother. “Russia transported barely clothed refugees to the Lapland border to freeze in savage conditions. So the EU did not help Finland, when in reality it was a challenge, a Putin test to the EU, “and that attitude was a mistake.” That operation, he says, helped Russia to gather a lot of information about the reactions of the people, politicians and the EU itself. “If it had reacted differently, we would not be in this situation today. The result was that today the Belarusian dictator punishes Lithuania at its border for hosting opponents and that Russia undermines European values ​​by exposing the inability of the EU to act. With this they send a very clear message: look at Europe and the EU, they are not a better alternative, their democracy is no better than our system ”, assures Iksanen, author of the works Purge and Rule (Salamandra) and activist committed to democracy in the face of the threat that comes from the East.

The Hungarian thinker László Földenyi, with an important published work on totalitarianisms, is not optimistic about the scenes that arrive from the borders of Belarus or Greece. “This is scary. It is also scary that only Germany has received a million and a half migrants in recent years and many cannot be integrated. We must be aware. What awaits Europe in the coming years and decades does not allow me to be optimistic. I fear that migration around the world will lead us sooner or later to dangerous tensions and social catastrophes also in Europe ”, he warns.

Beyond the challenge at this moment on the border, the interviewees are sure that the rights acquired in the European Union are already undermined in their countries, and not only threatened, by the constant pulses that countries like Hungary or Poland have with their partners. Europeans. “The rights valid in the EU have already been lowered in Hungary,” says Földényi. As soon as the EU investigates Hungary’s non-compliance, he says, it is compared to the Soviet Union, “but the difference is that we wanted to join the EU and not the Soviet bloc. In addition, the Fidesz party [ultranacionalista] and the State are no longer separated, following the Soviet model, and this is incompatible with the EU ”.

Hungary has served as a decisive example to be followed by countries such as Slovenia and Poland and cited by populist parties in the Netherlands, Sweden, France or Germany in their aim to undermine the EU. Zgustova blames Angela Merkel for having been too permissive with Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian leader, whom “on more than one occasion she has taken the chestnuts out of the fire”, and believes that the Soviet footprint has been powerful in the Eastern countries. “For four decades, society had grown accustomed to totalitarian logic with its twisted ideology. Accepting that party within the EU was problematic and it was known, but if they had not done so they would be in Putin’s clutches. There was no other option ”.

The Kremlin’s footprint is clearly in the transfer of immigrants to the Polish border, says Blandiana, with the aim of undermining the EU. “It is one more form of the cynical attack on Europe, victimizing both desperate migrants and Poles, placed in desperate situation, as part of the Russian foreign policy of violating all norms, defying international treaties and human rights. . Unmasking this challenge in solidarity is not only the correct and winning answer, but also the EU certificate of strength ”.

All warn of the deterioration of relationships, of the new danger of confrontation, but some raise their voices for mutual understanding. “We should not make the mistake of identifying these problems with Eastern Europe or with individual countries. Nationalism and populism are phenomena across Europe, even if they differ in level, ”says Michael Zantovsky, biographer of the late Czech leader Vaclav Havel. “The solution must emerge from mutual respect and debate and not from confrontation.” So be it.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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