A dearth of grand­fa­therly wis­dom

Kyiv Post - - Opinion - OLEK­SIY OPANASIUK

Ukrainian men have the short­est life spans in Europe – 62 years. World­wide, only a few coun­tries in Asia and most coun­tries in Africa are be­hind us in this. We los­ing our grand­fa­thers. We are los­ing the wis­dom and kind words that once in­spired Va­syl Sy­mo­nenko’s “Bal­lad of a Grand­dad.” We now have a short­age of wise el­ders who could take care of us and who could set us and those who rule us straight.

Men die too early in Ukraine, de­priv­ing younger gen­er­a­tions of wis­dom that comes with age, ex­pe­ri­ence and ed­u­ca­tion

Our grand­fa­thers must have been quite un­happy in this place. Some­how, they try to leave it with­out even show­ing it, long be­fore we could take no­tice of the se­ri­ous­ness of their in­tent.

And therein lies the truth of why there are so few grand­dads left.

Or at least that’s the opin­ion of learned peo­ple who have taken no­tice of our grand­fa­thers dy­ing off. Re­searchers say that, apart from one im­por­tant chro­mo­so­mal dif­fer­ence, men live shorter lives than women be­cause they live like … well, they live like men. They don’t whim­per over their aches, they don’t look for help when it re­ally hurts, they don’t like to be care­ful and they don’t like to “be” … when

it does not mean to “live.” They dis­cuss with their doc­tors the lat­est in soc­cer in­stead of the lat­est in their ail­ments. And with their wives they talk about stars at night in­stead of plans for the twi­light years.

Per­haps Ukrainian men are the great­est men in all of Europe, since they live this lit­tle. Their blood must be too thick for their ru­ined veins. The Cos­sack blood. This month many of our re­tirees will be­gin re­ceiv­ing new re­tire­ment sub­si­dies. A 100 hryv­nias on av­er­age. Such was the pres­i­dent’s prom­ise. The elec­tions are not far off.

Of­ten these crumbs anger many of the re­cip­i­ents, par­tic­u­larly our grand­fa­thers. Many con­tinue help­ing their fam­i­lies even in old age. And get­ting a mea­ger raise to in their mea­ger pen­sions makes them feel like they are lesser men some­how. It’s hard to fathom that this scanty tip from the gov­ern­ment would buy any­one’s vote. It can only buy wrath. There are sev­eral ways to add more years to the lives of our grand­fa­thers. But a few hryv­nias added to their pen­sion isn’t one of them. Doc­tors say that we have to teach men to stay healthy, to take care of them­selves, to think about their own health. If so, turn­ing their coun­try into one of the most cor­rupt, un­de­vel­oped, bu­reau­cra­tized coun­tries in Europe isn’t go­ing to help. In a coun­try like that, grand­pas stop think­ing about them­selves al­to­gether.

They can only think of the pitch­fork in the shed.

A few ex­tra hryv­nias won’t calm them down.

I re­cently lost two grand­pas who were very dear to me – both in­de­fati­ga­ble, ever-ac­tive, not easy to calm down. One fought for a bet­ter fate for his land in his books; the other, who passed away only days ago, by at­tend­ing po­lit­i­cal ral­lies in sup­port of those in whom he truly be­lieved. A very im­por­tant piece of my coun­try has bro­ken off with their de­par­ture.

We cel­e­brate our grand­fa­thers only when Vic­tory Day is upon us. Such is the tra­di­tion. We re­mem­ber their hero­ism and their sac­ri­fice.

But on a day like this, I think more about those morsels of wis­dom they gave away through­out their lives with lit­tle hope that we would ever make good use of it, about war and life with­out war.

Some like to tell us that liv­ing this life is like read­ing a book – it gets more in­ter­est­ing as you go along. And when I hear this I pray to God that our fa­thers have enough years left to fin­ish read­ing.

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