Sunday, February 23, 2014

Challenging Days for Friends in Ukraine

Penn State Dickinson School of Law has frequently hosted visiting academics from Ukraine.  I've had the privilege of working with very talented, engaged scholars on choice of law issues, conflicts of law, family law, and filial support questions.  I've been thinking a lot about my friends as I follow the news about violence and change in Kiev during the struggles over the future for the country.  We did not always agree on the law, but our debates were always spirited. I hope they are safe. Knowing how committed the lawyers I've met have been to modernization and the rule of law, I can only imagine how painful this period must be.

In 2012, I was invited to publish an article, "Filial Support Laws in the United State and Ukraine," for a Ukrainian journal on family law.  I later expanded my analysis for the University of Illinois' Elder Law Journal, as an opportunity to compare domestic and international trends in use of such laws to compel adult children to pay for costs to care for aging parents.  In this effort, I was guided by several people, including my Penn State colleague and noted Russian law scholar, Professor William Butler, in going beyond literal translations of Ukraine statutes and to examine case reports that shed light on the potential strengths or weaknesses of different systems of enforcement.  As I wrote in my second article, the Ukraine cases "demonstrate the impact of poverty -- and the importance of even a few 'dollars' extra per month - for the elder parent" for any country struggling to create a viable economic system, including former Soviet block countries. 

My thoughts go out to the families, including their elders, who face uncertainty during these challenging times and who deserve a brighter future.

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The difficult time for the Ukraine now begins. As understandable as the ouster of an apparently corrupt Russophile may be, the result is a loss of stability. This comes at a time when prosperity for the region requires mutuality and trust. Neither the use of Soviet-style oppression tactics nor the consequent resort to popular uprising can help bring the region the prosperity for all that is needed.

The division of political sentiment between the western and eastern provinces seems manifest. Some form of federation, perhaps only as a temporary expedient, as between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, seems like the best solution to mediate passions and to allow a return to normalcy. Yet, the outside parties in the negotiation seem to insist on a winner take all approach that restores some of the cold war tensions to a part of the world that needs integration more than fortressing.

One wonders why the Church was so passive in a nation that rests on the historical divide between the Eastern and Roman Churches. Why didn’t the Pope collaborate with his Eastern counterpart to call the parties in the standoff to resolution? Instead, what little compromise has been reached has been brought into being by secular political interests without the spiritual celebration of the human spirit that the world’s spiritual leaders might have brought to the conflict. The result is a further diminution of the spiritual authority of faith in an era in which faith is already questioned as a positive aspiration.

Posted by: Jack Cumming | Feb 24, 2014 7:18:12 AM

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