Unlike some of its neighbours, Ukraine did not want to find itself at the forefront of world history. The contemporary dystopic images that flood the news reaffirm a metaphor put forward by the nineteenth century poet and artist, the founder of the modern Ukrainian identity, Taras Shevchenko, that evokes this tendency towards peaceful hermitage. In one of his poems, Shevchenko describes the real traditional Ukrainian utopia as ‘a cherry orchard by the house’. It is a private cosy place on which no one can intrude, at which there reigns a measured, somewhat archaic, order. Similar ideas are expressed by the modern iconic painter and author of satirical and obscene short plays Les Poderevianskyi, who several years ago formulated the national idea of the Ukrainians in the words which can be approximately rendered to translate as ‘get off us’.
This ideal image of the future was apparently established due to the centuries of foreign domination in Ukraine. That is why the word ‘independence’ has acquired extraordinary significance for Ukrainians. It means not just the independence of the state, but something much more important: the self-determination of the people, the preservation of their identity, as well as freedom of person and unconquerable human spirit. It is no accident, therefore, that this very word (nezalezhnist in Ukrainian) has become the object of ridicule by Russian chauvinists and propagandists, who link it to ‘Russophobia’, total dependence on the West, and ‘licking the American boot’. It is also remarkable that another Ukrainian word used in relation to Ukrainians, which they hate, is svidomyi (conscious).
As a futurist, let alone a simple, sane, and rational individual, it is difficult to describe what has and continues to befall Ukraine. I am in the relative safety of the city of my birth, Lviv. But missiles are falling over northern and eastern Ukraine. Hospitals and railway stations are being bombed. Genocide has been committed in Bucha and other cities. Mariupol has been annihilated. Millions have been displaced and forced to migrate. The only way I can make sense of things is to consider that we are now living through postnormal times, which is characterised by complexity, contradictions, and chaos. But the signs of postnormalcy do not manifest themselves evenly everywhere. In many spheres and regions, the processes and mode of life of the people are not much different from those that were several decades ago. Hence, the questions arise: where are the manifestations of postnormality most powerful and where does the theory of postnormal times best explain what is going on. We can assume that it is where the framework of normality is not so strong, where there are borderlines and transformations, and breaking up takes place, or where formerly there was desolation, and something new has appeared in a short period of time. More often than not, it gets complex, contradictory, and dysfunctional. I think nowhere is more postnormal than Ukraine at present.