I have been keen for a long time on this phenomenon of the popularity of modern Ukrainian poverty concept. Perhaps, it is because I remember 86 UAH (about 30 USD) salary and 13 UAH scholarship when you think what is better: to buy some bread to relieve hunger or a packet of cigarettes to smoke and decrease appetite.
My first personal fridge (a very old one which could be locked only with a bike elastic) never had any of its shelves filled fully with products even just after I had got my salary. But there wasn’t such a word as “poverty”. That was the time when Yulia Tymoshenko was waxing eloquently on TV (by the way, my TV set was also very old and black and white) that we were beginning to live better and in a while, we would live just wonderfully. I spent 80 % of my salary to pay for rent and utilities. Naturally, utilities also cost little at those times. But 10 UAH for electricity out of 20 which were left, that was much. But there was no poverty, pensioners got their 60 UAH pension, paid for utilities, worked in the garden or several gardens, kept potato on their balconies, told jokes to each other in the evening and didn’t even think about any subsidies. I am not sure if poverty existed then. There were some social benefits, it was even possible to buy them if you knew the right person. But as for subsidies, they appeared later. But they were so sophisticated that only those with stamina managed to get them. But there was no poverty.
A friend of mine has visited 10 countries in the last three years. She went somewhere to the seaside or mountains. Somewhere to wander through ancient streets. Somewhere just to drink coffee and look at the view from a hotel room. Before that, she, of course, had been working hard, paying taxes and even Ukrainian Lviv seemed a foreign city to her. She is going to visit some Asian country now. And she thinks she’s poor. Yes, now she tells the most frequently that life is hard and she struggles to earn some money, that she has never lived so bad.
A man, 45. Until he turned 40, he was a civil servant with an uninteresting job and low salary. He says that he dealt with some papers and had some bargains sometimes. Working as a civil servant, he managed to get only an old Soviet car, a room in a dormitory (due to his wife) and ulcer. The only thing he remembers from that time is that people were afraid of him as of a civil servant, and how he loved to go on holidays to trade union health resorts. Well, furniture was bad there and he had to kill cockroaches at night, there was also just one shower on one floor, and it worked only four hours a week – but the main thing is it was free. Today, this man has a good Skoda, a bit used, but in good condition. They sold the room in the dormitory and bought a flat, small but with a spacious kitchen, two bedrooms, and a big balcony. They celebrated their anniversary in Paris. He also considers himself poor. Desperately poor, even bread price is terrifying. He can afford to have lunch in a restaurant several times a week, but it means nothing, the main thing is that bread costs 12 UAH (50 cents) but used to cost 1 UAH.
My neighbor has recently had eye surgery. The only thing she paid for was a taxi when she was coming back home. The expensive surgery was free for her because she has the Kyiv Residency Card and pensioner ID card. It was enough to cover all the expenses. Her hospital room had a bit old furniture, and it was noisy in the afternoon because of some improvement works in her ward. Besides, she also gets her hypertonia medicine for free. She sometimes advises me on a butcher who has more tasty meat. She is also poor. Extremely poor. She hardly breathes, her poverty is very huge. Especially after the subsidies became monetary and she saw real money and realized how much utilities for her three-room flat cost.
I have been confused for a long time where this phenomenon comes from. We’ve started to eat better products. We’ve started traveling. We buy smartphones. We dress well. There are many vacancies. But we are poor!!!
I asked my mother. My mother is a pensioner, she has a minimum pension and lives in a village with gas heating. Who else can know better about poverty? My mum paused to think and said that she hasn’t lived so easily in the last 30 years. Yes, gas is expensive, but it’s easy to get a subsidy. Moreover, now she can even save some money by consuming less and paying with a monetary subsidy. Medicine is expensive, of course, but at least it is available. “You see, dear, in the 1990s, when father was alive yet, we had to save money the whole summer to buy you a jacket, And today, I get a pension and buy a jacket I want, and I know that after that I won’t be hungry. Would I like to live better? Sure. I would like to renovate my house, to help you more, I would buy you an electric meat mincer. But it used to be more difficult, far more difficult. We were very poor, I had to borrow bread.”
The phenomenon of poverty is winning in our society. Someday, phycologists or sociologist might analyze it and determine informative reasons for it. And today, a sated former official, whose wealth is of unknown origin, writes about poverty, while not less sated citizens agree with her sitting in the airports, their own cars, restaurants, etc. Because it is too hard to believe in your own strength, too hard to take responsibility for your life, and it is so easy to live in poverty which doesn’t depend on you, and a “bad guy” is to be blamed. Well, our future is created by mostly quite wealthy witnesses of “poverty”.