Today’s Musical Dispatch from the Front tackles stereotyping and its nefarious results. First published 9 August 2013. (Second part next week) As usual, Google Translate will help with parts in a language with which you are not familiar)
Добрий день мої друзі
When I lived in Alberta (Canada) ‘Ukrainian’ jokes were in vogue. A friend of Ukrainian descent tried to start a new trend: ‘Anglo-Saxon’ jokes. To no avail, he came to the conclusion that English speakers weren’t all that funny.
An example: “What do you call a Ukrainian running after a garbage truck?”…. “The galloping gourmet” (a popular TV cooking show at the time)
From my dad’s anecdotes (from occupied Holland during WWII):
In the villa, there was a telephone exchange. Everyone had been invited to Mr. Otten (one of the suppliers)’s birthday party. The village had been left almost vacant. Lucas and I stayed behind. Before the war, Lucas had served on Dutch submarines, and he therefore had a good understanding of electronics. Whilst I kept a look out, Lucas went to work. Not only did he cut wires, but he also cross-wired and soldered wires together. Lucas had his eye on the beautiful curtains, and I had to dissuade him from taking them (“are you off your rocker? Hurry up we’ve got to get out of here!”). It all took too long and we disturbed the guards. The front gate had been locked. We had to leave through the heavily guarded back. We flew over the back yard and over the two meter high wall, and if we’d been in the Olympics we’d both would have got medals! A group of Ukrainian guards with their guard dogs chased us. We ran off (more medals!) and escaped into a garden……
[Dad had told me that the Germans had deployed Ukrainian sharpshooters all over Europe as guards. Ukrainians had initially seen the Nazis as ‘liberators’ (from the Russians) and some had enthusiastically joined the German army. Dad tells me that the ones guarding the villa at Aerdenhout had on normal German army uniforms, with a tiny ‘Ukraine’ embroidered on the shoulders]
.“Guten Morgen Herr Breitruck”, “Guten Morgen??…Wissen Sie nicht was da gestern abend passiert ist? …da sind Schweine hier rein gekomen, und haben die ganze Telefonzentrale vernichtet. Sie wussten was die taten”, “Wie sind die denn weg gekommen?” “Da, über die Mauer, durch die Minen…” “Ach, Minen, Minen, überall steht ‘Vorsicht Minen’…” “DA! LIEGEN MINEN!”.
The next morning we turned up for work as per usual. “Good morning Mr. Breitruck” “Good morning??…don’t you know what happened last night? Some bastards came in last night and destroyed the telephone exchange. They knew what they were doing” “How did they get away?” “There, over that wall, through that mine field…” “Ah well, mine-field, mine-field, what mine-field? There are signs ‘Danger Mines’ all over the place…” “THERE, THERE ARE MINES!” When he said that, I could taste my breakfast in my mouth! It turned out the telephone exchange was far more important to the Germans than we had ever imagined…..
For the rest of his life dad had a fairly intense dislike of Ukrainians. Never mind that Ukrainians were between a rock and a hard place.
Not really a great choice between the Nazi ‘liberators’ and the Soviet oppressors.
As far as dad was concerned they were and remained traitors.
A small step to ‘Ukraine, a Nation of Traitors’
A small step to a nation of ‘not all that funny people’, Never mind all the British comedy greats on television.
A small step from refugees to (heaven forbid!) economic migrants and queue jumpers.
Thus functions stereotyping.
(continued next week)