I'm 30, I'm 30 right now. I was born in the USSR, if you say so, here in Sevastopol. I lived here and as well as I lived in Moscow, because my family moved there so I started there. Every summer I spent here anyways. What to say… Cultural background… Okay, the background. My surname is Ukrainian. I'm Petrenko, like the Ukrainian ending of the surname, because my great-grandfather comes from Odesa region.
My grandfather, if you say his, I don't know, identity of the time, it was written Ukrainian there. Then my grandmother came from Ukraine too, but she was Russian and Ukraine from the, you say Eastern Ukraine. By my mother's side, I have relatives from Central Russia, and ancestors from Kuban region, which is Southern Russia. They were Cossacks actually, Cossack Ottomans. Then they were people who were called Kulaks, if you maybe know this thing. It was people in the village who has their own households, very good going and everything.
When the Soviets came, they took everything from them. It was just the part of the politics to nationalize all the things and to make everybody equal, and to make Kolkhoz in the village, collective property everything. In our family, we spoke Russian and my grandfather too. Even though my grandmother came from Ukraine, I remember when I was little and she needed to write something about grandparents life to obtain the nation or something like that. She had to write it in Ukrainian and she was struggling doing this, because she was remembering some words to do in Ukrainian language. If you ask, like I'm not against Ukraine at all. We have relatives there, and I love the culture, and the costumes, and the cultural musical, how they sing and everything on this. Well, in Ukraine I've been only to Odesa, I've never visited the regions. In Odesa I've have been in 2013 just before everything on this, so in the end of 2013. In general, I have nothing against if you say, if you ask.
If you ask about Sevastapol, it's not like your average town or city in Russia and well, we have our own way of thinking of us, because our ancestors here they've defended the city twice. You know about the history a little bit, because it was the first one, the first defense from English, French and Turkish fleets when they wanted to conquer the city. The second one of course in World War II from Nazis.
The first one lasted almost a year like 350 something days. The second one lasted 250 days. This time where our city was defending and it was here and everybody in the second world war almost everybody was killed because nobody was evacuated at the time. They couldn't evacuate and so everybody and the defenders was from Ukraine, from Georgia from all over Russia and if you say in the Soviet Union, there was no nations and religion, everybody was Tovarisch.
As my mum for example tells me for example, there was no difference between a Russian and Uzbek for example, or Tajik from Central Asia. Now, we have something like they are Gastarbayter [from German] in Moscow for example. Uzbeks, people don't see them [in Moscow] as equal people. Because the only [Uzbek] people they see are taxi drivers, or cleaners you know like this. In the Soviet Union everybody was mixed and they were like, "Okay you're my Tovarisch." There was no international hatred or something like this. Everybody was very, I'd say treated like a friend.
What does it mean to be Russian-Ukrainian? Do you feel part of something distinct? The second one, do you think religion or language relates to the national identity? Well I do think it relates. I believe that Ukraine for example from my point of view now has a lot of problems because they tried to fit [everyone] in one country. They tried to fit two different, historically different, not nations, but like all of eastern Ukraine was Orthodox and Russian and speaking Russian and part of Russian culture and this way of living and thinking. If you visit an Eastern Ukrainian village you'll see-- well, it will be better but the average Russian. But if you visit the Western Ukrainian, it will be European like I don't know, for example the city of Chirnovski is very European. It's like in Czech Republic or something like this. They are Catholics and the language is from-- it's a mix of Hungarian and Polish and everything like this, and they are just half and half and they try to connect these two halves in one country, unfortunately without respect to the other half. The represented from whatever half gets the power, they neglect the other people. It's not like in Switzerland where you have four national languages, even 1% of the people talk some languages and it's official language.
In Ukraine, for example, in the times of Ukraine, Sevastopol is a Russian city, Russians live here, okay. We can study Ukrainian at school, because it was a part of Ukrainian and you should know the country's language. If you know like 99% of the city, I've never heard anybody talk in Ukrainian here in the streets in my life, if it's not a tourist from Ukraine. It's not bad it's just a fact. In other parts of Ukraine, they talk Russian and in Kiev too.
So why would, for example, my friend who is like family friend. She's older than me and she worked in a local government TV channel. She did several years of science, not science fiction but popular scientific programs like these. First she's doing it in Russian, then they said that the rotation [where it would be viewed] would be only in Ukraine. She did two versions, she hasn't [been] paid for it. Because it was like, she did a version in Russian and then she did a version for Ukraine for rotation. For Sevastopol, they showed in Russian.
Then they told, "You should talk in Ukrainian," for rotation in Sevastopol. Then she said, "Okay, I will talk about Karnival," who's our Admiral, about Karnival in Sevastopol in Ukrainian," so it's absurd. Why should it be like this? Because I believe there was no respect for Russian speakers because you have half a country speaking Russian. Okay, you study Ukrainian in school so people would know because it's the country of Ukraine but why every movie in the theater, why every channel should be only in Ukrainian.
All the official documents, if a person doesn't speak Ukrainian very good, he didn't understand it, he couldn't understand it. He couldn't say anything in a bank, or in any sphere of life in Russian. I believe that's the main problem. They try to do one country without respecting anything like this and the other and not letting people decide. If they would do it smoother, I think the people wouldn't have so much-- Well, Sevastopol anyway, maybe that have, because it was-- In the rest of Crimea for example, Sevastopol is a different thing but in the rest of Crimea, people wouldn't have so much like, "Why we're having this flag? Why we're being pushed to believe so, or I don't know so? Why we are studying only Ukrainian literature or Geography at school and none Russian?" These things, there were a lot of questions like that.
And about about the religion, yes it is defines, but talking about Soviet Union, now it's-- I don't really know. Well, historically it appears that it defines. When I look at Ukraine, I think, yeah, right. The language surely does. I've been too Barcelona now in the times of referendum and I spoke to many people there. Well, I've spoken to people and I have heard the things that I was hearing here, so all things that.