The Fight of Our Lives by Iuliia Mendel
The Fight of Our Lives by Iuliia Mendel – My Time with Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s Battle for Democracy, and What It Means for the World – is a memoir by Zelenskyy’s former press secretary. It is a very good book, in parts autobiographical, but also covering Zelenskyy’s rise to power, and the russian invasion of Ukraine.
I highly recommend this book for many reasons. First of all, she is so open and does not shy away from problems within Ukraine. She talks about her experience with needing to bribe professors at the university. She talks about the good parts and also the ugly parts of the political campaigns in 2019. Zelenskyy is presented in a good light and it’s obvious she likes him a lot. Although some might say that expecting staff to sleep only 3-4 hours when they had meetings abroad might be a bit too much. For me, as for Iuliia, it’s a good thing, it shows how hard working were all, Zelenskyy and his staff. I like that she included small snippets like that in the book.
She was alongside Zelenskyy, in her job as press secretary, when he met putin and European leaders, when he visited the front lines in Donbas. She shared little stories about the interaction with Merkel, for example, which were really interesting. She covered a lot in what is a relatively short book. Her writing style and the translation are nicely done and the book was a delight to read.
What I had some issues with is that she talked about oligarchs and Ukraine’s problem with them. I was particularly annoyed when Merkel decided to go to Kyiv (before the full scale invasion) to talk about corruption. Really?! Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder worked for oil giants Gazprom and Rosneft, which made NS2 and linked Germany’s economy to russian oil for his own benefit. He attended a russian celebration earlier this year which meant his wife was fired by the company she worked on. Merkel was keen on NS2 too. Let’s see what else, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was given a 3-year sentence for corruption (he was president when Merkel was in power). Examples from UK and US can be found with an easy search.
As Garry Kasparov wrote 2 days ago: ‘Pathetic to hear people in Vilnius suggesting corruption as an excuse for not providing Ukraine a NATO ascension plan. If Zelenskyy were corrupt, Biden wouldn’t be president!’.
Yes, there are problems with corruption in Ukraine, but let’s not forget that there are problems with corruption in all countries. Perception index of corruption differs also depending on what is presented on the news. In UK very little is mentioned on TV about Schröder or Sarkozy, so naturally these two countries seem less corrupt. Germany is 9th in the corruption index and France is 21st, but the situation with their former leaders suggest something else.
She talked about corruption in Ukraine, but didn’t put it in context. All countries have corruption. While there are big differences between countries, Merkel’s visit was presented in a better light than it should have. Eastern Europe is perceived as corrupt because some corruption cases were widely presented in the media, that doesn’t mean it is an accurate reflection of levels and, more importantly, of the consequences of corruption.
I will end with a personal example, from Romania. I bribed someone who worked in the police to make my ID faster. There was no alternative, to pay a fee for example. I went to the police, paid the relevant fees, my ID was checked and so on, it was just bumped in the queue due to my bribe. It was a long time ago, now isn’t possible to do the same thing.
The Fight of Our Lives by Iuliia Mendel
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My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes!
Published by: Atria/One Signal Publishers
Year it was published: September 2022
About the author: Iuliia Mendel is a Ukrainian journalist and political advisor. Born in 1986, she studied at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She was the press secretary in the administration of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy from June 2019 to July 2021.
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