The ‘Dog Park’ presents a bleak picture of post-Soviet Ukraine

Through a long novel that spans the period between 1992 and 2016 and has many locations within the cities of the former Soviet Union, Finnish writer Sophie Oksanen takes us to the depths of Ukrainian society, in which she compares life in Ukraine after its independence and life in Finland, revealing the great cultural difference between the two countries. A European country mired in poverty and another enjoying prosperity, and there is no evidence to monitor the contradictory reality of the two countries other than the protagonist comparison between the conditions of the people in her country and the dogs in Finland.

“I looked around, thinking about the nature of their life in a place where dogs have their own gardens and I thought that dog parks here are much more careful than recreational parks for people in Ukraine” p. 115. The novel presents a bleak picture of post-Soviet Ukraine. A state of poverty and political and social instability pushes everyone to engage in illegal activities.

fleeing from death

The events of the novel “Dog Park” translated by Reem Daoud (Dar Al-Arabi for Publishing and Distribution – Cairo) take place between several Russian, Ukrainian and Finnish cities. They take care of their dog and a woman who discovers it’s her old friend Daria sits next to her, making her relive her troubled past and escape.

The heroine recounts the journey of her life, in which she did not know stability, from one escape route from death to another. After her failure to be a model in Paris, she returns with regret to her mother and aunt in Ukraine to separate her. poppy cultivation with them (in 2006), but she finds work in a dubious company.Which sells embryos and after undergoing rigorous tests, including intelligence and physical tests, their family records are falsified, as is the case with other Ukrainian women. especially if they come from places close to Chernobyl or are polluted with coal or one of their relatives is in prison, to accommodate wealthy clients coming from Western Europe and America.

Thanks to Olinka’s skills and numerous language faculties, the company relies on her to bring in more donations and her financial life stabilizes for a while until she finds herself forced to flee after being accused of killing her boss’s son, so that she travels to Finland and works in a cleaning company as a maid.

The novel in its artistic plot relies on the interrupted narrative that begins from the present moment, to go back in time to discover how the narrator came to this situation and the nature of the events, places and the cultural and social background that came nga. and pushed it towards this fate, and this movement from time to time, in a country that gave it plenty of room to monitor the reality of Ukrainian society and the crises it is going through from one era to the next, starting with parliament. political corruption and widespread violence within society, which is expressed by the joke that Ukrainians repeat that “honest people are here in prisons, while liars are in parliament.”

political corruption

This corruption extends to all aspects of life. We are facing a society composed of two social classes, a poor, crushed class represented by the majority of Ukrainian society and a class that enjoys immense wealth. The main character in the novel has expressed these two worlds. The rich reveal the extent to which corruption has penetrated society.

Concerts, charities and donations to charity and orphanages are used as curtains to cover up their dishonest activities. The novel monitors corruption in the health sector by officials, starting with vaccinations that are not given to all children. Schools that feed their students twice and give false testimony to those who are not vaccinated are involved in this crime, who have received the vaccine, in addition to the reluctance of parents to give it to their children, believing that it is harmful.

The novel shows that when the United States gave the “swine flu” vaccines, many believed that their purpose was to infect the poor with sterility, and during the same period, the measles epidemic spread again and the politicians and businessmen who started these rumors were preoccupied. to convince financiers in the West of the need to support the production of locally produced vaccines, in order to believe in it, the people, and indeed the western countries gave a series of aid and donations of equipment and devices, and after more than They have not used this device for 10 years or its location has been made known to people, so that donor countries feel cheated.their rural homes.

Among the manifestations of widespread local corruption is Olekna’s attempt in 2010 to send gas to her aunt’s house in Dnipropetrovsk, so the responsible employee explained to her that it was not possible because the gas network for the region was already connected, but the fact was that pipelines were laid for half of the area and the rest was stolen by government authorities, and official letters and maps mentioned that the whole area had gas.

Corruption does not stop there, but political parties depend on hiring demonstrators to sing against certain parties in exchange for the salary they are given. During Olinka’s job search, one of the girls offered her the job by giving her said: “They need beautiful faces. in demonstrations to pay immediately, accept everyone and do not reject anyone. ” This was similar to what happened after the Orange Revolution, when newspaper ads were published asking people to take part in demonstrations.

extreme poverty

This government corruption is reflected in the social level and makes Ukraine a fertile ground for criminal activities, such as gangs that work in the drug trade and exploit people for cultivation, because they need the money they bring, which spreads kidnappings. , murder and disgusting. The heroine of the storyteller and her ex-girlfriend Daria were among the victims of this criminal world. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the father of each of them worked to buy shares in the coal mines with a partner after the state went to privatize these mines. so that his friend was exposed to liquidation by their third partner, who turned into one of the rich of society, so that she works for his good, the heroine without knowing that he killed her father.

In the middle of this world mired in poverty, everyone is exploited. Young Ivan goes to jail for a petty crime and meets drug dealers and when he gets out he becomes one of them, in addition to the illegal work of Children inside the mines and the lack of of protection against health damage caused by factory work, not to mention the collapses that occur in dozens of victims within the mines.

As for women, they are probably the most exploited and abused, both physically and psychologically. Advertisements with the formula “Why should a beautiful girl be poor?” distributed, usually to sex companies or agencies that attract those who want to marry Ukrainian women or sell body parts and embryos.

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The novel sheds light mainly on the world of the embryo trade, in which the need of girls for money and to escape the poverty that hangs around their necks and their families, who have no right to treat those who are ill, is exploited. . Through this economic factor, these dubious institutions lure girls into this world in which refugees fleeing wars from their home countries are exploited, and young girls who are in orphanages, and they are impoverished by these companies to become. at risk of death during these surgeries, or serious illness and permanent disability resulting.

As a result of the lack of supervision, Ukraine has become a global market for all the rich people of the world who want to have children, who treat donors as a commodity.

Russian-Ukrainian conflict

As for the external reality of Ukraine, it is no less bad than the internal one, especially with the Russian-Ukrainian crises. The novel published in 2019 predicts the invasion of Russia in Ukraine as a whole, which was achieved in 2022 There is an obsession with the characters in the Ukrainian novel that Russia intends to occupy their country entirely after occupying parts of the south, to the east without the slightest resistance, and enabled separatists from the Donbas region to take advantage of a plane crash. Malaysian in July. 2014 as an excuse, and accusing Ukrainians of being behind its downfall.

Olenko / narrator comments on Russian control of Crimea after the revolution that toppled the pro-Russian Ukrainian president, saying: “I followed the developments of the revolution from afar and I was sure sometimes that Russian tanks would enter the Dnipro after the invasion of Crimea. “I followed the Russian news bulletins online and I followed. The weather is there and I was not the only one doing it. The whole of Ukraine can be added to the Russian map in a few hours.”

The novel also expects the continuation of this war, which will leave hundreds of victims without taking responsibility, “The war will continue and there will be more troops, some without heads, and others are scattered pieces and may fall a number more large aircraft. and no one will be held responsible for any event ”p. 106.

The tense situation between the two countries negatively affects Russian and Ukrainian workers working abroad and quarrels break out between them, as the Russians blame the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians the Russians.

The author of this work is Sophie Oksanen, Finnish novelist and playwright, born in 1967. She has six novels, the most famous of which is “Cleaning”, which has been translated into more than 40 languages ​​and has received a rating. big. , selling more than two million copies, and her novels also “Stalin’s Cows” and “When He Disappeared.” Pigeons “, in addition to” Dog Garden “, which was published in Finnish in 2019 and whose translation rights have been sold. In more than 24 languages, and this is her second work translated into Arabic.

The author has won dozens of literary awards and enjoys great literary prestige in her country and is called “Charles Dickens of Finn of Estonia”, and her work is often compared to the novels of the famous writer Margaret Atwood.

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