Attempted to go buy some food at the market by Universitet subway station, but got impatient waiting for the trolley, crossed the street and went the other way, to the center.
I'm so happy we've moved. I used to love Moscow's center, and I still do, but to live there with Marta would've been a nightmare. Kyiv, no matter how much it's changed for the worse in the past year, still feels like a cosy village compared to Moscow's center.
But walking there on my own, without the stroller, I felt that the city was still its usual self: crazy, dirty, noisy - and energizing in a way that Kyiv is not.
It feels good to be back, though I know this nice feeling won't last long.
Also, there's a new dimension to the fear of getting stuck in a traffic jam now: the image of Marta, hungry and furious back home, and poor Mishah not knowing what to do with her. Like most of them, this fear is irrational - because Marta and Mishah are getting along wonderfully, and there isn't much to worry about here.
Trolley drivers, both males and females, are dressed as Santa Clauses now. One was smoking a cigarette as he drove.
At Ostozhenka, some inner devil pushed me inside an organic food store. I had no idea it was a fancy-schmancy, expensive place, but once I was there, I couldn't resist buying something: a box of Duchy Originals Orange Biscuits and a tiny glass can of Masala Chai spices.
Cost me slightly more than $20 (around 600 rubles) - outrageous.
But here's the funny part: before accepting my 1,000-ruble bill (approximately $35), the cashier girl asked me if I had some smaller denomination bills.
She basically demanded it: "Pomel'che ne budet?"
It really cracked me up.
They usually order you around like this at shitty stores - that they have no change is your problem, not theirs, and if you end up leaving without buying what you had to buy because they couldn't give you the change, it's your problem and the store's owners' problem, but not theirs, either. And you expect it at shitty stores and try to give them the exact change whenever possible.
But a place with a guard, a restaurant downstairs, a Japanese-looking saleswoman and exorbitant prices... Eventually, she did find the change for me, though.
Moscow can be so amusing.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Attempted to go buy some food at the market by Universitet subway station, but got impatient waiting for the trolley, crossed the street and went the other way, to the center.
Happened upon the Russian Nostalgia channel today - among other things, watched a re-run of the main Soviet news show Programma "Vremya".
I've no idea how they choose which old newscasts to show, but today there was one from the end of 1989, and the main theme was the revolution in Romania. Very Soviet-looking and Soviet-sounding Soviet reporters seemed rather sympathetic towards the revolutionaries - even called Nicolae Ceausescu a tyrant a few times.
There was also an item on Manuel Noriega - he was about to surrender at that time.
And - a piece on Western Ukraine and the conflict between the Russian Orthodox and the Greek Catholic churches: unlike the rest of their stories that day, the tone of this one was hostile, indignant, strangely familiar from both the Soviet times and from today's Russian news. Despite it being 1989, the Orthodox clergy seemed like part of the establishment - a weird feeling, but not surprising. Filaret, the current patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchy), was shown at some high-level meeting - and it reminded me of the 1991 article in Ogonyok that claimed that he had collaborated with the KGB, using a code name Antonov (the Wikipedia entry on Filaret mentions this bit of info, too, by the way).
Soviet anchors were simply phantasmagoric. Especially that bespectacled woman. She and the male anchor shared the common idiocy but looked differently enough to resemble a couple married unhappily for too long, forced to tolerate one another, possibly because of kvartirnyi vopros (the Soviet curse of having to share the same tiny apartment with half a dozen generations of one family). What a leap it must've been for Leonid Parfyonov to re-introduce male-female teams on NTV a few years ago - two teams in which both anchors acted as if they were buddies, almost. And how awkward they looked at first, how unnatural - must've been the burden of the Soviet past...
Sports host Vladimir Maslachenko, on the other hand, was allowed some freedom: he was dressed in a hip-looking checked suit!
Anyway, I'm hooked and will most likely watch Programma "Vremya" regularly from now on. I'm not feeling nostalgic at all - but I am very curious. Curious about the time I wasn't paying too much attention to because of all those stupid boyfriends and other teenage distractions... :)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
From our window on the seventh floor, I could tell that the guys in orange jackets down in the backyard were Tajik: the street sweepers. This is a "very Moscow" thing.
Komsomolsky Prospekt is like Khreshchatyk - three lanes in each direction. Only the traffic seems to be not as intense as it is in Kyiv now - unbelievable.
Also, this neighborhood is so much neater than Bessarabka...
Monday, December 25, 2006
The first thing I heard as we stepped out of the train in Moscow was an anti-terrorist warning: a recording of a rather melodious woman's voice, saying that as a precaution against terrorism, we should not accept passages from strangers.
They've had this recording for a long time, but after a year in Kyiv, it did sound crazy. And - it was the first taste of the perfect Russian they all seem to have here (in Lviv, the first taste of the perfect Ukrainian also used to happen to me at the train station).
The cab driver said Kyiv was beautiful, we said there were too many cars there now, and then he asked this: "What do khokhly call those we call 'the new Russians'?" (For those who don't know, khokhly is a somewhat derogatory term for Ukrainians - I choke on it but also believe it is often used not to offend, but to avoid sounding too politically correct; "the new Russians" - noviye russkiye - are the nouveaux riches.) We laughed and Mishah at first said that there was no special term, but then clarified: "We, too, call them 'the new Russians'."
As we were unloading, the cab driver asked how life was in Kyiv. "It's okay," we replied. "Just like anywhere else." "Good," he said. "Because from what they're telling us on TV, you'd think it's some total nightmare over there."
There are two elevators in our building - one opens where the apartments are, the other stops half a flight of stairs down and opens to the other side: one for the wife, the other for the mistress, to keep them from running into each other, as Mishah has explained.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The move has gone very smoothly, so smoothly I still don't fully realize I'm in Moscow. Except that our new apartment here is so very lovely - Mishah did an amazing job decorating it and all that. I feel like I'm visiting someone else's terrific place, cosy and with so much to explore: it's been a year and two months, so I only have a very vague memory of some of our stuff. Marta slept like a baby on the train - too bad the bunk was too narrow for me to really enjoy it. I can't stop feeling terrible about having left my parents behind, but I try not to think about it all the time. Also, with Marta, I couldn't be of any help to mama, so at some level, it's not a great loss to her. But she'll miss Marta a lot... Well, this is life, I guess. And we'll be back in Kyiv in about three months.
Thank you all so much for your comments and wishes... And - merry Christmas!
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Papa's first day back home, mama's second one in more than two weeks, and we're moving to Moscow tomorrow. Papa's condition is breaking my heart - how he has changed in just one year, how totally helpless he is now. As for our move, a huge part of me is pretty heartbroken over it as well, but I'm so sick of Kyiv, and though Moscow is normally a lot worse, at least there'll be no hills to climb every time we go for a walk. But leaving my parents is tough, especially now. I'm so tired of always having to move... I hope Marta, unlike me, won't be cursed with this curse.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Was trying to take my mind off the sad things, did a quick GV translation, and found this photo in the process - at the Wikipedia's Maidan Nezalezhnosti page:
Supposedly, this is what they are planning to build in place of Hotel Ukraina (formerly, Hotel Moskva). I hope it's some kind of a joke...
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Ukrainians are registering 35,000 cars per month (official DAI data we buy via Auto-Consulting). 33% of those are in Kyiv and 30 days in an avg month yields, incredibly, 385 cars registered in Kyiv each day. This is 91% more than prior year.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I've just finished a huge Global Voices translation and feel I can still go on and on. Strange, because I'm more used to falling asleep while I type now...
Sorry for this silence, and thank you all so much for the kind words and thoughts... It's been a very tough week for us here.
Papa noticed a newspaper at someone else's table today - and asked mama to borrow it for him. We're not sure if he could read or understand anything in the paper, but that he is interested in the outside world again is a very good sign, we hope... Inshaallah. Interested in something that he loves - the news. Is obsessed with, actually... Something other than tennis, which still is the subject of what we thought was delirium, but what the doctor called "lexical crumbs" today...
Mama spent the Monday-to-Tuesday night at home - the only one so far, since last Wednesday. Papa was sleeping through most of the night then, with the help of some sedatives, and there were also new patients in their room, some with their relatives, and there was only one bed left (occupied in the daytime by a man who illegally leaves the hospital in the evening and returns in the morning for treatment).
This hospital stay is a good example of how one can get used to just about anything. By now, mama is on friendly terms with a few people in the room: they're all prepared to help each other out if necessary. Maybe it's even good that they don't have rooms with more privacy at this hospital: how would mama be able to leave papa for a few hours if there was no one but him in the room? Someone has to be there to call a nurse - that's the way it works here.
One man is from a town 100 km from Kyiv - his son is taking care of him, and he told my mama some horror stories about their local, small-town hospital and the doctors there, and compared to that, this Kyiv hospital is luxurious, almost. (An aside: the guy is 43 years old and he's got two grandkids already. His second wife is just three years older than I am, 35... His father is my mother's age - and twice a great-granddad. Crazy.)
Still, it's a horror, what's been happening to papa this year, and the state of health care in this country. It's even more disgusting now to listen to all the political bullshit on TV (and on top of it, to suffer through the daily slalom between their Lexuses with Marta in a stroller). Also, at one blog today, I read someone's comment on Mikhail Khodorkovsky: how the Russian people are responsible for what's happening to him, and I thought, God, but the man had a $15-billion fortune, right, and do they really expect people who survive on $100 a month to stand up for him now? When you are at a hospital here, you better watch how a nurse fills your syringe with the medication you need or else she'd steal it and resell it and you'll get water instead - and you expect these people to go to rallies to protest Khodorkovsky's imprisonment? (It's an incoherent rant, but you know what I mean.)
The tariffs war is continuing here, there was another fight at the Kyiv City Council yesterday, but I missed it, and they seem to have agreed to lower the rates by 10 percent, though I'm not sure I've got the figure right. On Wednesdays, they have live broadcasts of public executions of the Kyiv district authorities - a freak show, really. Some Kyiv residents who come there with their problems are totally clueless: one relatively young-looking guy said he and his family was homeless - including his 8-month-old granddaughter - and would they still have to pay the communal services fees? Surreal, isn't it.
And the infamous Nestor Shufrych (can't find a link that would provide a good portrayal of the guy, sorry) now heads the ministry of emergencies. Absurd. As absurd as the translation of the ministry's full title:
Friday, December 08, 2006
A brief note on today's City Council mess:
Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky is a blend of Kuchma and Yanukovych, a real shame. He sounds as retarded - slow and content-free (though there is some hope here, as both Kuchma and Yanukovych imroved somewhat over the years). He speaks a terrible mix of Russian and Ukrainian (I do that often myself, too, adding some English to the cocktail, but I horrify my family and friends this way, not the whole fucking country). He likes to switch into prosecutor/thug/mafioso modes, sounding inappropriately menacing in all three of them. He looks repulsive, too, but that's a matter of taste, I guess.
There's a pro-mayor majority in the City Council now - 70 deputies from Chernovetsy's Bloc, the Party of the Regions, Lytvyn's Bloc and some other entities. At least three defectors from BYuT. That sucks, obviously. And it also emphasizes the importance of all those tiny election winners - whores.
Today (well, yesterday) there was another rally by the City Council, which I couldn't attend, but I watched the live broadcast instead. From the window, I could see that the rally wasn't as big as the one a few weeks ago - because cars continued to run on both sides of Khreshchatyk.
Inside the City Council building, they spent a few hours congratulating each other on the Civil Servant's Day and failing to agree on the agenda - possibly waiting for the people outside to lose patience and go home. Which is exactly what happened around noon.
Yulia Tymoshenko's Mikhail Brodsky (also quite repulsive in manner and appearance, even though he's on "our" side) is the rebel hero of the tariffs war. He kept yelling something from the back of the auditorium, trying Chernovetsky's patience, until they deprived him of the right to speak from the podium for the day. A punishment for "naglaya morda", as the mayor put it. (How would you translate it?)
I'm too sleepy to continue writing now, so I'll just mention that the thuggish-looking guys who allegedly started the spectacular fight that I managed to catch on TV as it was happening, could've been Chernovetsky's bodyguards. Also, the opposition is expecting mass protests at the beginning of January here, when people receive the new communal services payment forms in their mailboxes and are expected to pay 3.5 times what they are paying now. Who knows. The pro-mayor majority have voted to look some more into the tariffs issue, but even if they do agree to change something, it won't be more than 10 percent off. The opposition wants to cancel the new tariffs altogether (if I'm not mistaken).
A daily dose of Kyiv hospital horrors:
Mama finally showed up around 6 pm, for the first time since around 1 pm on Wednesday. She ate (I had ordered pizza, for the first time in my life here), fed the cats, cooked something, did some laundry, played with Marta, packed four huge plastic bags of food, clothes, medication - and a toilet seat, a not-so-tiny personal luxury - all this in two hours or so - and rushed back to the hospital.
Unlike the other two hospitals, this one is huge and rather deserted; finding a nurse is a feat. Before leaving today, mama went looking for some staff to ask them to keep an eye on papa in case he decides to wander off. She, of course, was prepared to pay the nurse on duty for such a favor. But the bitch (my age, approximately) yelled at mama as she was about to enter the nurses' room: "Don't go in here, stay where you are!" Despite this initial rudeness, mama explained the situation to the bitch: that she had to leave to buy medication, among other things, and that her husband might get up and try to go somewhere, dressed in nothing but underwear, and if they saw him, they should know that he was from room #19, and they should catch him and lead him back. To which the bitch replied quite hysterically: "Man, doesn't he understand anything or what?!" Very calmly, mama said to her: "Excuse me, but have you forgotten where you work? It's a hospital, the floor for people with strokes, and some are in better shape than others, and you are here to help them all." The bitch was more polite after that and promised to look after my father. She didn't get any money from mama, of course. Kurwa.
You know, when I was having Marta at that wonderful, clean and expensive hospital last year (Isida), I made this observation: the nurses there were really, really sweet, which isn't surprising, considering the conditions they work in, and, perhaps, their salaries, and, definitely, the competition they faced in getting and keeping their jobs. But: I could easily imagine most of those women working at some totally shitty, average place - and still being as sweet and helpful. It does happen here sometimes, I know.
Anyway, my mother's spending the second night at the hospital, and it's good there are vacant beds in papa's room for now. We do fear that when it's this hospital's turn to accept emergency patients, they'll fill the room up, and mama will have to sleep on a bench in the hallway or something. Leaving my father on his own is out of question for now.
What's also breaking my heart is that Marta and I are moving to Moscow very soon, and neither mama, nor papa are able to enjoy Marta's company for these last days.
Most journalists couldn't get past the sanatorium checkpoint, especially the TV people with their heavy equipment. But a few brave souls pretended to be assistants of various politicians and did manage to slip through. Ha-ha. They should have asked the locals to show them those secret holes in the fence, thanks to which the sanatorium beach used to be quite crowded on hot, sunny days this past summer, despite the guarded checkpoint. God, how I miss summer.
(As for the "Our Ukraine" vote, Victor Baloga now heads its political council. Baloga is also head of Yushchenko's administration.)
Thursday, December 07, 2006
It was wrong to praise those ambulance nurses yesterday: in an attempt to lower my father's blood pressure, they gave him something too strong, and the pressure dropped from 150/something to 110/something within minutes.
This must be the reason he got delirious later; his delirium was tennis-themed, something about someone not letting his teenage students in to see some important game - he was trying to convince someone that this was the only way for the kids to learn, etc., and mama had, at some point, to start playing along: she told him the game was already over.
It is heartbreaking.
Mama spent the night at the hospital, in a six-bed room with only two other male patients in addition to my father. He is much calmer now, so the night was calmer than the previous one at home, too. She's still there, waiting to get the doctor's opinion.
Marta and I were home alone with our two black cats last night. Funny how our apartment has always felt way too crowded, but yesterday it was so uncomfortably empty. I must've changed since Marta's birth: I used to love having the whole place to myself, but not anymore. Or perhaps it's because the reason why everyone's away is so different now.
Marta woke up around midnight again and stayed up till around 2 a.m. This totally screwed up the translation I was doing for Global Voices: by the time I managed to get back to it, I was too sleepy to think or care about what I was writing.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
My mother is my father's nurse again - for the third time in one year...
She hoped to get him a single room at the hospital he's been taken to, but they only have those (for an extra fee, of course) at Surgery Department. None at Neurology. I saw their Surgery floor a few years ago: at the common bathroom there, the sight of a woman wiping her ass with a newspaper instead of toilet paper was not unusual.
At another centrally-located Kyiv hospital (as central as it gets, actually), they used bathrooms shared by the whole floor to administer rectal exams to their male neurology patients. Also there, they almost got my father - age 73, post-stroke - climb to the third floor: not because the elevator was broken, but because the nurse didn't feel like walking over to it.
But today's ambulance nurses were very nice - three women, one big enough to lift and carry an average-sized man. My father can walk, though: he keeps trying to walk away somewhere all the time, even when there's an IV in his arm...
Calling an ambulance means having to let them take your father to what's basically a random Kyiv hospital - and this is part of the reason we've been wasting so much time, waiting, hoping he'd get better on his own. No signs of improvement yet, high blood pressure, other things. Getting someone packed for a hospital here feels like packing for a police interrogation with not much hope of return.
Tough, depressing times.
My papa's condition has suddenly gotten worse today.
The wake for the acquaintance who died in a car crash - I didn't have the guts to attend it, even though I was in the neighborhood at the time.
My friend who lost her husband to cancer a month ago told me how she had forgotten what he looked like before he got sick, but now she has put up his pre-illness portraits all over the place and it is beginning to feel better. Their baby is due in less than two months.
I'd rather be in Istanbul now...
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Holodomor-as-genocide news: from the Party of the Regions, only Taras Chornovil and Yanukovych's former press secretary Hanna Herman voted in favor of the bill; none of the Communists voted.
Here's part of an AP story:
Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday adopted a bill recognizing the Soviet-era forced famine as genocide against the Ukrainian people, a move seen as a victory for pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.
The bill passed in a vote of 233-1, a small majority in the 450-seat legislature.
The recognition opens the door to potential legal consequences including compensation for famine victims and recognition of the famine by the United Nations as genocide against Ukrainian people. Ten countries, including the United States, have recognized the famine as genocide, but U.N. recognition would imply an international acceptance.
Moscow strongly opposed calling the famine a genocide, contending that the famine did not specifically target Ukrainians and warning Ukraine not to "politicize" the issue.
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's party proposed using the word tragedy instead of genocide, in what was seen as an effort to avoid spoiling ties with Russia. Only two lawmakers from the party's 186-member faction supported the bill; the Communist Party, which is also in the governing coalition, also did not support it.
Due to the resistance in parliament, the bill proposed by Yushchenko underwent several changes, including referring to genocide against the Ukrainian people instead of the Ukrainian nation. Lawmakers also dropped an initiative that would have made it a legal violation to deny the famine occurred.
And a relevant picture I took today, somewhere on Vorovskogo St.:
Written in red: "And under Communists - they'll finish up the construction!"
Added in white: "[The construction of] GULAG."
A note on Kyiv's mayor: a week or so ago, he said on TV that one of the city's chief medical officials has to be "chased out of Kyiv with a broom" - "gnat' yeyo nuzhno metloy iz Kiyeva."
Normally, you'd also mention that the broom's been "dipped in shit" - "gnat' srannoy metloy" - it's a set expression, and even though he didn't say it, he most likely meant it.
And even though many medical officials - and even some doctors - do deserve just that, it kind of hurt my ears to hear the mayor say this.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Famine - the genocide of the Ukrainian people - has been recognized by the parliaments of Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Estonia, Italy, Canada, Lithuania, Poland, USA, Hungary. [What about] Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada???
65 photos from the Famine commemoration yesterday - here.
It started at Sofiyivska and moved to Mykhailivska Square, a very emotional affair. I got there after the departure of all the VIPs, but there were still so many people - lighting candles, listening to survivors' testimonials broadcast on big screens, just standing there quietly.
Too many media folks, though, especially photographers, but I shouldn't be the one to complain about that. A demented-looking anti-Semite by the Bohdan Khmelnytsky monument. Down on Khreshchatyk, or up in Lipki, not a trace of mourning: Kyiv is a big city now. On Channel 1+1, very inappropriately, the final part of Dancing With The Stars contest show.
To learn more about the Famine, here's the 1988 report to Congress (via Cyber Cossack).
Saturday, November 25, 2006
35 photos from Maidan's 2 years are here. Blurry pictures of a blurry event.
112 photos from Nov. 23 rally in front of the city council are here.
Most young people holding the flags of Nasha Ukraina, Yulia's Bloc and Pora looked like they were just skipping classes this way. Most elderly people seemed to be genuinely protesting the new tariffs. One of the main slogans was "Mayor - out!"
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Roman Bezsmertny and some crazy guy begging them all to keep up the fight: "I will cry, my wife will cry, the people will cry if you give it up halfway through..."
A note: I do realize that these videos are nothing special. Moreover, they aren't in English, and I'm not just too lazy/busy to translate - I can't hear much of the stuff there is to translate. So I apologise if I'm wasting your time and bandwidth, but I really have to play with it.
I still prefer photography to video. I sort of hate the invisibility factor of the video, the fear of what comes next: what if someone on someone else's video does something gross and no one has warned me in advance?
A glimpse of Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Ukraine's defense minister.
The sound really sucks, on this one and the rest of my videos. Here, all I can hear is someone calling Moroz "Judas"...
P.S. The tall guy is Hrytsenko's bodyguard - and a beacon of sorts: someone sent a photojournalist his way, and I followed.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
A lot more people showed up after 6 pm.
Still, the whole thing was somewhat unfocused.
When someone with the microphone tried to start a "Yush-chen-ko!" chant, about one third of the crowd joined in, but as many seemed to be yelling "Han'ba!" ("Shame!"), and a few chanted "Yulia!"...
When they tried to get the crowd to chant "Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty!" ("Together we're many, we won't be defeated!"), an old, eccentric-looking nationalist yelled this, quite bitterly: "Razom nas malo, nas ne podolaty!" ("Together we are few, we won't be defeated!").
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
Here's part of Ellison's bio:
Keith Ellison, 42, is a father, husband, lawyer, state legislator and community advocate.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, he moved to Minnesota in 1987 to attend University of Minnesota Law School, where he graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1990. Ellison and spouse Kim, a high school mathematics teacher, have lived on the Minneapolis Northside for the past 17 years. They have four children ages 17, 15, 10, and 9.
I've managed to finish that Marta's-name-in-my-foreign-passport business - I've handed in all the paperwork and it should be ready in a week. I hope.
I found my tax identification number, wrote it into the form and went to the same sberkassa as last time - because it's close to the passports office. The line there seemed to be made up of exactly the same people as on Tuesday - especially the old women, I swear I've seen all of them before.
Turns out I don't remember how lines work here anymore: you take your place at the very end and by the time you're supposed to reach the cashier's window, at least five more people pop up in front of you, in addition to a dozen or so who were there from the start. These extra people are not cutting in, no. They were either seated on the chairs by the window or had gone out to buy bread next door and returned just in time for their turn. I wasn't prepared for that. I didn't let one such returnee in in front of me - he would've been the sixth one or so and that would've been too much for me. (Then, they didn't process the poor guy's payment for the same reason I had to leave empty-handed on Tuesday: the stupid tax number.)
One more thing: at that particular sberkassa, the line seems to grow in all directions - some people walk in and stop right there, by the entrance, after asking who the last one is, while others move to the line's tail. Very confusing.
Anyway, I paid my 20-something hryvnias ($4), rushed to the passports place, was the third one in line there (great luck), finally entered the room and sat across the table from a fat woman in gray cop uniform. She looked at my handwritten letter and said it had to be printed.
I really wanted to be done with it quickly, so I decided not to try to find out if she could prove to me that that was the law and not her personal whim. "Do I have to pay the typist," I asked. "Oh, I've no idea," she no doubt lied in reply.
So I went to the typist at the other end of the hallway, having first secured a promise from the cop woman that I wouldn't have to wait in line again to get back in. The typist charged me 18 hryvnias ($3.60) for practically nothing - for typing a few lines on an elderly Soviet typewriter:
I filled out a payment form and pretended that the typist was indeed doing me a favor when she agreed to take the money to the sberkassa herself - of course, she'd put it into her pocket. I should've fought, I know, should've resisted basically bribing someone and also allowing them to rob me, but I really felt I couldn't afford it, with Marta waiting for me and all. A perfect example of why corruption is flourishing in Ukraine.
I rushed back to the cop woman with the printed letter - but she was not there, and then they kicked us all out because it was lunchtime, and I spent the next hour wandering around the neighborhood, feeling misanthropic and unpatriotic.
At 3 pm, I went back and handed the cop woman all the papers without any problems. She could've sent me home again, though, because the propiska stamp in my internal passport is outdated: we are not Starokyivsky district anymore, it no longer exists; we are Pechersky district, and the stamp should be restamped. A trifle that could've caused me some more pain in the ass.
I didn't feel like teasing them with my camera in there, so here're two pictures that I took with my cell phone. The first one is the typist, the second one is the general view of the place:
Caught this on TVTs (TV channel of Moscow mayor Luzhkov) today, on Vremechko daily show:
An elderly woman (70-something), her daughter and the daughter's 15-year-old son, all three looking perfectly Slavic to me, speaking absolutely correct Russian. They've been living at Rizhskiy Vokzal (one of Moscow's train stations, Riga direction) for a while, and before that in the street in the freezing cold, and before that in Latvia, and before that in Nizhniy Tagil in Russia. They had sold their Nizhniy Tagil apartment and the money they received for it is already up. They live off the old woman's pension that she somehow managed to get herself in Moscow, quite a feat for a homeless person, and they also sweep the floor at the train station. The boy hasn't been to school in two years.
They would really love to get an apartment in Moscow, and are passionately appealing to mayor Luzhkov (maybe because he is one of those Russian politicians who pretend to be patron saints of all the "Russian-speaking people" of the former Soviet Union).
The family's explanation of why they're entitled to an apartment in Moscow is really silly: the boy's (wayward) father is a Muscovite. They haven't located him yet, though.
(This way, I could probably demand a Moscow apartment, too: one of my great-grandfathers lived in Moscow before the revolution, and one of my grandmothers lived there well into the 1990s, in a very nice place, I've been told, and, if you follow the logic of that crazy family, the fact that we were not on speaking terms with her since 1986 doesn't really matter - I want an apartment, how much longer do they expect us to live in rented places? But I digress.)
Naturally, the hosts and the audience weren't too sympathetic; someone even used a rather common argument that "Moscow isn't made of rubber" - isn't stretchable.
But the real reason why I'm writing about it here is a remark made in passing by one of the show's male hosts - it went something like this:
- If I'm not mistaken, you are Muslim, right?
- So why don't you move somewhere to Tatarstan? I heard it's not a bad place to live.
I mean, can you believe it?!
Would they find an apartment for them if they were Orthodox Christian?
And would the guy recommend them to move all the way to Birobijan if they were Jewish?
Et cetera. So much stuff in that one remark, someone could squeeze a dissertation out of it.
This in a country whose Muslim population is over 20 million people.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I felt rather misplaced twice today.
First, when listening to NPR - one thought that ran through my mind was, "Where is Ukraine?" It's very strange to realize that while I'm interested in hearing about "their" issues, "my" issues are 100 percent irrelevant to them. Not bad, just weird. Even weirder, though, would be to imagine lots of Ukraine-related content on NPR. Ha.
Second, I felt misplaced while watching a very strange broadcast from the city mayor's office on the city council's channel (it made me spend about half an hour glued to the TV tonight). A hundred or so people were being publicly presented with apartments here in Kyiv: their names were being called out and they were being summoned to the front of the large auditorium, handed flowers, chocolates, and the keys, and their new addresses were being announced to the whole city (a bit too careless, I'm afraid), and some were asked to stay and tell everyone about the miserable, subhuman conditions they've been living in up until now, and then short videos of these ratholes were being shown.
Shocking, most of it. Shocking, because it's 2006, not 1976, and because it's still pretty much a norm to live like this, several generations in a tiny apartment, in the same room, often, and some of these people have been waiting for more living space since the late 1970s. Kvartirnyi vopros is as relevant today as it was then.
Mayor Chernovetsky is, of course, exploiting these people, giving himself positive publicity, etc., but... it's not what you're thinking about when you're watching it. Only once, when some poor guy thanked God for this new apartment, the city council woman with a microphone elaborated on his thought: like, yes, thank God for directing the authorities toward this great decision (the mayor and his religious beliefs is a separate topic, of course).
In other news, I tried to have Marta's name written into my foreign passport today, so that we could travel to Moscow without any problems at the border. What's needed is a photocopy of her birth certificate, a letter, and less than 20 hryvnias ($4) paid at sberkassa. Sounds easy, but it's not.
A bitch at the passport office informed me that "the boss" wasn't likely to accept a hand-written letter, that it had to be printed - and that this would cost me some money. She was probably offering me her services as a typist this way - intimidating me into begging her to type the letter for me - but instead I asked her where it said it couldn't be hand-written. Nowhere.
But I didn't get to see "the boss" today because I had to make the payments, so I went to the sberkassa - the one we used when we were setting our wedding date last year. Sberkassa is like a bank, only there're always lines there, because this is where everyone pays their utility and phone bills. I came there around 1:30 pm, half an hour before their lunch break, when, according to them, their computers get turned off automatically. I spent 15 minutes filling out two payment forms - a torture. I stood in a pretty long line for ten minutes. I made it to the cashier's window just in time - only to be told that there should be my tax identity code in one of the boxes on one form, yet another multi-digit number, which I don't remember, of course - and without it, there's no way I can pay them my goddamn 8.50 hryvnias ($1.70). The other payment, 10.47 hryvnias ($2.10) can be made without the code, somehow.
I'll have to go there again on Thursday. Bastards.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Rumsfeld's resignation, a view from Iraq - Marines’ Reaction to the News: ‘Who’s Rumsfeld?’, by C.J. Chivers.
This New York Times piece is about an Iraqi father of 14 explaining the meaning of the recent political developments to a group of U.S. marines who are temporarily using the roof of his house in an operation:
If history is any guide, many of the young men who endure the severest hardships and assume the greatest risks in the war in Iraq will become interested in politics and politicians later, when they are older and look back on their combat tours.
But not yet. Marine infantry units have traditionally been nonpolitical, to the point of stubbornly embracing a peculiar detachment from policy currents at home. It is a pillar of the corps’ martial culture: those with the most at stake are among the least involved in the decisions that send them where they go.
Mr. Rumsfeld may have become one of the war’s most polarizing figures at home. But among these young marines slogging through the war in Anbar Province, he appeared to mean almost nothing. If he was another casualty, they had seen worse.
“If American Army came here for three months, four months, O.K.” Mr. Menti said. “But now is four years.”
If there were no American military presence in Iraq, he said, there would be no insurgents. One serves as a magnet for the other.
Mr. Menti spoke to the sergeant as if he were an American diplomat, as if he had some influence over the broad sweeps of American foreign policy. The sergeant remained quiet and polite.
“I don’t think he realizes that we’re trying to make this country safer for him,” he said to Lance Corporal Maguire.
“I think he realizes that we’re trying to make it safe, but that the more we stay here the more people come in and make it worse,” Lance Corporal Maguire replied.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
A quote from Mustafa Jemilev, from this May 2003 interview (RUS):
We are proud that in the half a century of our struggle to return to our motherland, we haven't shed any of our own or anyone else's blood.
Bits of Mustafa Jemilev's bio, from here (RUS):
- born on Nov. 13, 1943, will turn 63 in three days
- deported with his family from Crimea to Uzbekistan on May 18, 1944
- May 1966 - accused of refusing to serve in the army and sentenced to 1.5 years
- Sept. 1969 - sentenced to 3 years, for defamation of the Soviet state
- June 1974 - sentenced to 1 year, for draft-dodging again
- three days before he was to be released, they accused him of anti-Soviet propaganda; he protested by holding a 303-day hunger strike (they had to feed him forcibly)
- April 1976 - sentenced to 2.5 years
- a month before that sentence was up, they tried to cook up another case against him, but he scared them off by hunger-striking for 15 days; released in Dec. 1977
- Feb. 1979 - sentenced to 1.5 years in prison, but the sentence was later changed to 4 years of exile in Yakutia
- when this term ended, he moved to Crimea with his wife and child, but was kicked out of there and back to Uzbekistan three days later
- Nov. 1983 - arrested for the 6th time, sentenced to 3 years
Also on Nov. 7, I watched a really nice TV show with Mustafa Jemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars. The timing was perfect - a very graceful fuck-you to the kommunyaki on their favorite day.
Jemilev is like a live history book - and he doesn't seem to need any bullshit political charisma because of that.
The show - Pozaochi on K-1 - was about his personal and political life; they interviewed his sister, wife and son, as well as one of his opponents and one of his colleagues. Jemilev was in the studio and was asked to react to what all those people were saying, to elaborate on it.
I loved his son's story: when he was a student in Turkey, he was looking for a restaurant job. At one place, the owner asked him where he was from. Crimea, he said. Oh, you have a great man there, a hero, Mustafa Jemilev, the Turkish guy exclaimed. And Jemilev's son made a mistake of revealing his true identity to him - and didn't get the job as a result, because the restaurant's owner just couldn't allow himself to have a great man's son waiting tables at his place.
K-1 seems like a really nice channel, by the way. In addition to Mustafa Jemilev, a documentary about Georgia a few days ago, so interesting, with minimum politics (just enough of it, actually) and maximum Georgian culture, history, customs, etc.
I've just posted a set of 26 pictures from the Nov. 7 Communist rally here in Kyiv, across the street from where I live. I ran out for 20 minutes at the very end of the rally, when I saw them out of my window, laying flowers to Lenin's monument on Shevchenko Boulevard. Comparatively few of them, but many journalists and even more riot police (resembling some evil folks from Star Wars).
Mama told me I shouldn't advertise kommunyaki by posting their photos - and I replied that they weren't likely to get anything but negative publicity this way, with all those portraits of Stalin and shit like that. Funny, but a similar exchange took place at LJ user plushev's blog - only it was about the Russian March in Moscow (my translation is here). Sort of relevant for all those useless discussions of the Russian journalism that followed Politkovskaya's murder: journalists here are often expected to lead the masses, still, and to keep them from doing this, one should shut them up, period.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The season of angry phone calls to ZhEK (communal maintenance office or whatever it is) began this past Monday: there was no hot water all Sunday. Tepid, every now and then, but not warm enough to wash Marta.
So I called them to complain, not the first one from our building, but to the neighbors they kept saying the problem was with the taps in their apartments, nothing to blame ZhEK for. To me, the woman replied that their plumbers have already raised the water's temperature, so it should get better soon. It did.
At one point, she said she understood me because she was a tenant, too, and I had to explain that she was speaking to me not as a tenant, but as someone representing a company that received money from tenants and was supposed to make their lives comfortable using this money. I also told her that since we were about to start paying them three times the current monthly amount, they and the way they work would be receiving a lot more attention.
In last week's Korrespondent, there's a piece by Andrei Smirnov, Aleksandr Paskhover and Irina Solomko (RUS) on the new utilities tariffs. Below are a few notes:
- From Dec. 1, prices in Kyiv go up over three times; the raise is the first one in seven years.
- Mayor Chernovetsky's idea is to have "the rich pay for the poor."
- Those who paid 150 hryvnias a month ($30), will now have to pay about 500 hryvnias ($100). Those who managed to install water counters are saving about 100 hryvnias ($20) a month.
- Due to the price hike, Kyiv residents will pay 2 billion hryvnias ($400 million) more in 2007 - but will get back only 100,000 hryvnias ($20,000) worth in budget-funded social services. The rest is going to end up in the pockets of energy company owners.
- How they calculate utility tariffs (according to professor Mikhail Krasnyansky): "Imagine that you have come to a grocery story and they don't weigh sausage for you, but instead calculate its cost using integral tables."
- According to official reports, Ukraine uses about 17.5 billion cubic meters of gas for residential purposes a year. Poland (whose population is smaller than Ukraine's, about 40 million people, ) uses 4 billion cubic meters a year. Ukraine's figure is most likely not true, but since gas counters are rare, it's impossible to tell ho much gas we really consume. Some people are making huge money on this, of course.
- On the average, a Ukrainian family of four pays for 1,5 tons of water a day - which is something like 45 tons a month - which is impossible.
- Here's how much a family of three living in a two-room apartment (60 square meters) would be paying monthly when the new tariffs are introduced:
Donetsk - 464.28 hryvnias/$92.85
Odesa - 426.36 hryvnias/$85.27
Kharkiv - 424.71 hryvnias/$84.94
Kyiv - 423.33 hryvnias/$84.66
Dnipropetrovsk - 416.91 hryvnias/$83.38
Lviv - 254.34 hryvnias/$50.86
Simferopol - 155.49 hryvnias/$31.09
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Where should I begin.
Every night these past few days, I tried to post something, but kept getting interrupted. Marta's sleeping habits have changed yet again - she likes to wake up in the middle of the night and stay up for a few hours, playing and crawling around, and she screams every time I try to lull her back into sleep. It's all really exhausting, but I'm not complaining, I'm just stating the facts.
What's also exhausting is having to walk half an hour one way and half an hour back to reach the park during our daily walks - an hour every day spent slaloming between cars with a stroller, uphill much of the time. Okay, here I am complaining.
My mama helps me tremendously, and I've no idea how we're gonna survive without her when we move to Moscow.
Here's a photo of Marta on one of her after-midnight sprees...
Sunday, November 05, 2006
While LJ was down yesterday, here is what was taking place in Moscow: photos from the Russian March 2006 and the antifascist rally, by LJ user 50x50.
It's the most popular blog entry right now, according to Yandex Blog Search (an awesome resource, by the way).
Politicians featured include Kuryanovich, Rogozin and Belov. Also, it does look like an event where the media and the police outnumbered the protesters. I mean, celebrators, if there is such a word and if it fits the context.
This elderly woman with a portrait of Politkovskaya adores going to rallies: LJ user nl has a collection of her pics from various events, including pro-Lebanon and pro-Israel ones, and a story (RUS), here.
More photos here, at Sergelin.ru.
Still more photos and a report (RUS) here, by LJ user smitrich.
Photos from Vladivostok, by LJ user atrey.
Two videos on YouTube: a short one of a few guys throwing their hands up in a Nazi way, and a long one, of Belov screaming his speech, looking and sounding like a complete idiot, the way Hitler did.
The most comic thing about Russian nationalist politics now is how someone who changed his not-too-Russian last name Potkin for the totally acceptable Belov is attacking someone who used to be Aslambek Dudayev but is now quite conveniently Vladislav Surkov.
(I remember writing/translating about some of it last year, here.)
Saturday, November 04, 2006
LJ is back on, but I don't want to read about it now - half-literate crap, full of curses and hatred aimed in all directions: Putin is a Jew, Lenin is a Jew, Stalin is Georgian, Potkin-Belov (leader of DPNI) is a Jew, Surkov is a Chechen, et cetera. Funny how victims are always depicted as heartbreakingly miserable, while in reality all they seem to do is spit hatred.
I read that there was a fight here in Kyiv, too, between guys from the "Imperial March" and some Ukrainians who opposed it, right outside our building, but I didn't hear or see anything. During our walk, I saw riot police near Bohdan Khmelnytsky monument, but they were just standing there, trying not to pose for tourists' pictures too much.
Too tired, too busy to write.
Marta's all over the place all the time and it's too cold now to take her for those long walks...
Marta's fever was caused by roseola, by the way - thank you, guys, for letting me know about Calpol: they recommended it to my mama at the drugstore, too, and she bought it, and I gave it to Marta once and it worked. Marta's rash was barely noticeable - but enough to remind me of something I'd read on the web a day ago: this is how I figured it was roseola, not (just) the teeth. I didn't call a doctor...
Russian March in Moscow tomorrow, very curious how it would go, really hope no one's gonna get hurt.
Also tomorrow, one year since I left for Kyiv: feels like yesterday, but also very distant.
Here's a picture of Kyiv that's not really Kyiv to me. The new building isn't bad, but I think it totally doesn't belong there, on Lesya Ukrainka Boulevard. I think all those skyscrapers don't belong in Kyiv's center at all - why can't they build something like London's Canary Wharf away from the center?
And a year ago, Nov. 7, 2005:
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I showed mama these two photos of a huge traffic jam in Moscow (RUS, by LJ user dolboeb), and she exclaimed, "Oh God, why would anyone need a car there!"
So I had to show her these three pictures of a rush hour down in the Moscow metro (by Two-Zero).
And then I read this text to her, by the organizers of the banned Russian March: they are now planning to gather a few thousand people at Komsomolskaya station (circle line), around 11 am, Saturday, November 4. Another reason to have a car in Moscow.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Yevgeniya Albats vs Anna Arutunyan - this seems to be the Russian LJ's new war.
Albats (LJ user ymalbats) has received 153 comments on this post so far.
Arutunyan (LJ user arutunyan) has received 512 comments on this post.
Most of it is in Russian, including Masha Gessen's reaction - here.
More on the conflict - in my previous post.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Random links, in Russian and in English, in no particular order, and a few brief notes - I hoped to write more about much of this, but with Marta teething and other stuff, I have no time whatsoever. I tried to post this last night, but Blogger was down.
- Hilarious and absolutely pointless: Oleg Kuvaev's video-blogging experiments (RUS) - here (2 videos) and here. Kuvaev is the creator of Masyanya.
- My last night's GV translation of Kuvaev's intro to the first two videos and some other LJ-related stuff - here.
- In my Saturday GV translation - on the blog war that's going on Russia now - I mentioned Anna Arutunyan's 2005 piece on Russian bloggers - and then on Sunday, she gets grilled (RUS) by Yevgenia Albats on Radio Echo Moskvy for an opinion piece she wrote on Anna Politkovskaya for the Moscow News.
Arutunyan's piece is rubbish - I know I have to be more specific when I write something like this, but I really don't have time for this now. Okay, just one tiny thing, a quote:
When terrorists held an auditorium hostage during the Nov. 2002 production of Nord-Ost, she spoke to the hostage takers and made their demands public.
Today is the fourth anniversary of the end of the siege - and it's October, not November.
Still, the reaction of Albats has been inappropriate, misplaced, hysterical. It's bad for the general cause or whatever, to act like this: with friends like this, there's no need for enemies. Putin had referred to a newspaper article when he said those unfair things about Politkovskaya - and it would've been so much more useful if Albats had found the authors supplying Putin with this info and grilled them instead. Also - a few xenophobic callers drawn to the show by Arutunyan's Armenian last name have added to the terribly bitter aftertaste.
- In her LJ - which lay dormant for a year - Arutunyan writes (RUS) about the humiliating Albats experience and gets plenty of comments: here and here.
- Arutunyan's really long text on the media (RUS), published in Novyi Mir last year - here.
I'm posting the link not because I hope to read the text later, no, but because there've been many discussions about Russian journalism lately - how ironic that it's Politkovskaya's death that has inspired these discussions, not one of those silly Izvestia pieces on Ukrainian language (RUS)... It would've been more natural to start hearing more about kadyrovtsy using their cell phones to film torture, but no, instead there are all those pseudo-academic attempts to determine whether Politkovskaya was a journalist or an activist.
- A response to Arutunyan from the eXile, on what I assume is the Moscow News, the paper that published that pathetic Politkovskaya piece - here's the link, but I want to quote it here, because if it's indeed the Moscow News, then it's sort of-kind of relevant - and funny - even though it's from a year ago as well:
Dear Ms. Arutunyan,
If just one single article in your newspaper was as clearly written and
grammar-mistake-free as this sic letter to Rudnitsky, you guys might actually land your first paid advertiser, rather than having to continually suck at the teat of a disgraced oligarch. [...]
- Wanted to post a few links to Bolshoi Gorod - but their site seems to be down now. Who knows, maybe they got hacked for running too much of pro-Georgian content.
- Almost forgot: an opinion piece by Evgeny Morozov on the blog war, in the International Herald Tribune - here.
Several people forwarded the piece to me yesterday and here's part of my response:
sounds a bit too alarmist - and irrational... like, nossik is the virtual putin or something...
and the controversial figure in charge (Sup's chief blogging officer is Anton Nossik, the father of the Russian Internet and, among other things, a former associate of Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin's spindoctor).
Who would be to blame for destroying a viable and vibrant public forum and turning it into another Kremlin- medicated sanatorium? Nossik, Sup's blog boss, who increasingly resembles Ivan the Terrible killing his son in that famous Repin painting, should top anyone's list of suspects.
take marina litvinovich, who seems to be an archfoe of putin's regime now, creator of PravdaBeslana.ru, whose presence in the blogosphere is quite noticeable (lj user abstract2001) - she used to work for gleb pavlovsky at the time putin became president, too - she was one of those who helped him get to power...
if you think about her, then it's really hard to understand why nossik is so evil. i'm not saying he is an angel, i don't know that much about him, but i would've preferred to read a more convincing argument against him...
also, marat guelman (lj user galerist) - he used to be involved in exactly the same things as pavlovsky, manipulating politics, not just in russia, but also in ukraine, too, very notorious, and now he seems to be so innocent, he gets beaten up in his gallery, putin-bush-osama cartoons from his gallery get detained by the russian customs, it all does seem to be connected with the georgia scandal, with the rotten regime and all that - and he's anti-sup, too - despite his "kremlin spindoctor" past...
i mean, go figure...
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Marta's still very feverish, especially at night... I haven't called the doctor - because she's not coughing, acts the same way as she always does, just takes naps more often and isn't all over the place all the time. I admit that I'm scared that the doctor would just prescribe antibiotics - I don't trust them. I think I can see where the new teeth might break through - I do hope they are the reason for her fever... But if she remains feverish tomorrow, I'll call the doctor.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Such a good day today/yesterday (Sunday) - must be because of the weather, Indian Summer. One of those days when I feel so happy to live in Kyiv.
Must be also because there are very few cars here on weekends, unlike the rest of the week.
Kyiv has grown so big; night traffic at the Besarabka/Khreshchatyk corner that I see from our window is mesmerizing - all the glowing, non-stop, like an electronic music video.
I've noticed today that during the day, when the crowd on Khreshchatyk isn't too drunk yet, there's a lot of beautiful Ukrainian language out there: normally, I pay more attention to what people look like, not how they speak, but today I kept eavesdropping on the bits of relaxed weekend conversations in Ukrainian - and loved it.
Loved it so much that, on the way to the tiny and cozy courtyard of St. Sophia's, I suddenly had a craving for something Ukrainian to read. I stopped at a tiny Ukrainian-language bookstore that exhibits a selection of its books outdoors when the weather's nice (located on that tiny street that starts near Zoloti Vorota and goes parallel to Volodymyrska towards St. Sophia's). I bought Lesya Ukrainka's biography (13 hryvnias/$2.60, published in 1971, signed by the author, Anatol Kostenko, for poet Oleksa Novytsky) and a work on Petro Mohyla - read from both of them while Marta was taking her afternoon nap. Loved it, of course.
On the way back home, I passed a group of krishna/hippie/dervish kind of people who do the Whirling Dervish kind of dance on Khreshchatyk every weekend. Two girls were circling around in a trance, in those amazingly beautiful skirts of theirs, a beautifully happy-looking bearded man was beating the beat for them on a drum, and another guy was playing some repetetive tune on a flute. A dozen or so people stood nearby, watching. Among them was an old woman - a village woman, most likely, though she wasn't wearing a headscarf - and she was singing, she was sharing the beat with the whirling girls and singing in Ukrainian, the song that I think I recognized because Mishah used it to calm Marta down in the first months - but he had been performing it in that exaggerated, funny "goat" voice, while the old woman on Khreshchatyk was singing it beautifully - "Oy, u vyshnevomu sadku, tam soloveiko shchebetav, dodomu ya prosylasya, a ty mene vse ne puskav..." (Update: mp3 is here - thank you, R. Smith!!!)
A lovely day.
Two pictures from St. Sophia's:
Friday, October 20, 2006
Among other things, Natalya Gevorkyan writes (RUS) about Putin's/Russia's image in the West, the damage done to it in the past two months. Her feeling seems to be that Putin is not the puppet master anymore - which doesn't make him less responsible for the situation, especially considering that all this could possibly be the beginning of an emergency that would keep him in his chair for the third term.
Valeriy Panyushkin has decided to quit political writing and is moving to Gala, a glossy magazine, of all things. He feels both good and bad about it; his last column in Gazeta.ru is here (RUS).
Rumor has it, Masha Gessen is moving to Gala together with Panyushkin. Her last Moscow Times column is here.
On the one hand, it's such a pity - first, Politkovskaya, and now these two. But on the other hand, at least they are alive, and, honestly, I'd rather read Masha's wonderful vignettes about her kids (RUS) than be fed the same old political crap, no matter how finely written, over and over again.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I asked my father today: he has worked as a tennis coach since 1958 - that is, he began earning money as a tennis coach that year, but worked for free before that, since around 1951.
Marta is crying a lot less when she sees him at home now - but she sobbed when he came up to us in the park this afternoon.
Looking for stuff to translate for Global Voices is getting more and more difficult: too often, I start feeling dirty after just a few minutes of browsing through Russian LJs.
One guy is shutting down his journal because the Russian segment of LJ is now owned by the "kikes." Another is asking on whose side you'd be fighting if you lived during WWII - and gets 1,192 responses. And one of the most popular searches now is on the upcoming Russian March.
I'm so tired of reading through other people's hatred.
And Putin, he seems to be courting this militant segment of the electorate, tries to be more like them and, possibly, lure them away from their leaders, the competitors. And it shouldn't bother him that what he's doing doesn't look nice to most people outside Russia: they aren't his target audience.
I've translated a selection from Natasha Raslambekova's war diaries for Global Voices - here.
Sorry for the silence: I'm re-adjusting to the city life.
Back home, I keep having flashbacks to when Marta was a newborn - pretty amazing... I can't believe it ever happened.
I can't believe we've ever lived in Pushcha Vodytsya, either...
Today, I decided to walk up the stairs from Franka Sq. to the presidential administration, with Marta in the stroller - and, after the first set of stairs, a cop came up to me and helped me carry the stroller all the way to the top. Extremely nice, even though I could easily do it myself - have had a lot of practice in Pushcha.
In the park today, the color of the benches shocked me: gray. Not yellow, not blue - just gray.
Marta is still scared of my father, but I can feel she's slowly getting used to him. Too slowly - she doesn't have much time before we move back to Moscow.
My father has raised hundreds of kids in his 50 years or so as a tennis coach - and now his own granddaughter starts sobbing whenever he comes close. How sad. He doesn't look or sound his best, though, and, most likely, never will. Even sadder.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Moving back to Besarabka was stressful: we haven't got much stuff, but for some reason it occupied way too much space - you should've seen the van we were riding in, how packed it was, and me in the midst of it all, with Marta asleep on my tit, all stuck in an unexpected traffic jam. You wouldn't have seen any of it, though, because of the van's fancy window tint. A family straight out of a Kusturica film.
My computer's charging cable broke Saturday night - and I nearly went crazy, positive that I'll be arriving to the wonderful adsl connection at Besarabka without a computer. But thankfully, there is an Apple store in Kyiv (across the street from the stadium on Velyka Vasylkivska), so Mishah went there and bought a new cable today.
(Velyka Vasylkivska seems to be the only new, post-Soviet street name that no one in Kyiv feels comfortable using - most people still call it the old way, either Krasnoarmeyskaya or Chervonoarmiyska: Red Army Street.)
The speed of my internet connection back home is amazing: so fast, it scared me at first! I can't imagine having spent four months on that terrible dialup, managing to accomplish anything at all!
Khreshchatyk is so noisy, but it's nice for a change, civilization.
The weather is horrible, no one's prepared for the cold, there're still plenty of people wearing summer shoes, etc, even though it's colder now than it was on December 31 last year.
Marta is so not used to my father, she starts sobbing every time she sees him. We don't know what to do about it - any advice? Is she always gonna be this timid or is this the age thing? Poor papa... (She's not scared of the cat at all, however. Quite the opposite...)
Friday, October 13, 2006
We didn't have hot water again, for about 24 hours, not too long, but I panicked still, because it's already cold outside, and it's very cold inside the apartment (central heating doesn't get turned on until, I guess, Oct. 15, the day we're moving out of here), and no one I asked knew when it'd be restored.
So yeah, we are moving back to Besarabka on Sunday, after four months spent here. I'm happy and I'm not at the same time. Having to fight my way past all those cars with Marta not sleeping in her stroller anymore but STANDING in it - that's gonna be an adventure... But she'll have fun - so much new stuff for her to discover, including our two black cats...
She met her first horse two days ago, by the way - and got really scared. Cried non-stop until mama carried her away. Me, I've realized that I tend to fall in love with horses - I talk to them as if they know what I'm saying, and I have a hard time walking away, and I keep thinking about these encounters. Crazy. I rode a horse only once - for, like, 30 seconds...
The horse Marta and I met on Tuesday is one of the two that were brought to the sanatorium about half a month ago. I think they are planning to use them to entertain the visitors and their kids, at least this is what the guy taking care of them told us. A few years ago, in Kuchma's time, a notorious Russian TV guy, Kiselyov (don't remember his first name, and he's not the same person as NTV's Kiselyov), kept his horses at the sanatorium's stables - everyone here informs you of this at some point - but after the Orange Revolution, they stood empty and neglected. Now, there's Viking, the beauty we've met, and another one. I fed Viking some grass and am totally charmed.
Basically, he's another reason I don't feel like leaving...
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Was looking through the Russian papers to see what's being written about Politkovskaya - ran into an Izvestia piece on the "language issue" in Ivano-Frankivsk, titled quite radically: Diktatura Movy ("The Dictatorship of the [Ukrainian] Language").
It begins with a quote from Russia's foreign ministry:
"Elimination of the Russian language in Ukraine can no longer be ignored, [tough measures] now spread not just into the sphere of official communication, but to [everyday use] as well. The Ivano-Frankivsk officials have succeeded in this. In the city, it is prohibited to speak Russian on the premises of educational institutions, it is not allowed to hold mass Russian-language events and to paste notes in Russian. The Committee of Public Control, acting as the "language inquisition," watches over the observance of these rules. The Russian community's complaints aren't being accepted."
[...] Ivano-Frankivsk, named after a writer known for these words - "Study and leave politics alone" - has become the most Russophobic city of Ukraine. It is a miniature copy of Ukraine, which openly suffers from three problems: financial, gas and language. All of them are connected with Russia.
To read the rest of the piece, my dear readers, you'll have to learn Russian, and me, I'm going to bed. Na dobranich, spokoinoy nochi.
President Putin said this about Politkovskaya in an interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung today (in Russian, here):
I have to say that her political influence (and I think that the experts will agree with me) was insignificant inside the country, and, most likely, she was more noticeable in the human rights and mass media circles in the West. Hence, I think - and one of our newspapers has stated this correctly today - that to the current government in general and to the Chechen authorities in particular, Politkovskaya's murder has done much more harm than her publications.
He also called Politkovskaya's views "too radical" - and "perhaps, due to this radicalism, she didn't have such a strong influence on the political life in the country and even less so in Chechnya."
The way he sat quietly throughout the whole Beslan horror must be a beautiful norm, then. Would've been too radical to make a statement on something as radically horrible right away.
And the way he lashed out at the non-murderous Georgians is also a norm, I guess, not something radically silly.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I was browsing pretty aimlessly, then decided to check the Photo of Grozny on Request page - it's not there anymore, I wonder why and where those wonderful guys are now - and then somehow I found myself at the Virtual Grozny forum, a very friendly place, it seems, and there, I downloaded 28 pages of Natasha Raslambekova's 1994 war diary - and I've just started reading it, and it's so heartbreaking, so horrible, and written in such an intimate way... It's in Russian, unfortunately, but those of you who do know the language, take a look at it...
Update: I've read half of the text, an overwhelming account. I hope someone will translate it one day. It's like reading a blog - one of those Haifa blogs, for example... It's raw, full of typos, lots of incredible, vivid details... Hard not to cry reading it. I wish I could translate it, but no, I can't.
Update 2: When I write that it's full of typos, I don't mean it's bad - it's making it real, too real. And "full of typos" is an exaggeration - there are some, that's it.
Natasha is 38 and lives in France with her family now. Her daughter was a little girl then and remembers only some of it.
Update 3: She deliberately kept politics and the goriest moments out of her narrative.
I'm tremendously happy about this find - though 'happy' is probably not the most appropriate word...
A diversion of sorts: C.J. Chivers' piece on Georgian wine in the New York Times travel section...
[...] This is quintessential Kakheti, where almost every household makes wines, often for personal use but also for sale. Each household is intensely proud of its achievements. Wine is fundamental, a taproot of Georgian culture and psyche. In the villages, making and drinking wine is not a mannered, refined pursuit, but as basic as drawing water from a well, a thing to be enjoyed regularly and simply.
A notice to those who explore this life: According to tradition, Georgians believe that guests come from God. Moreover, ask about a family’s wine and you will have paid your interviewee a high compliment and be offered a challenge.
What often will follow is a detour into Georgian hospitality, which is an adventure in itself, as you will be greeted as if you have come on foot over the snowy ridge, cold, lonely and starving. Food will be piled, wine will be served, and countless toasts will be made, no matter how many toasts you have already survived. [...]
There is an incredible stench on the other side of the Russian blogosphere: guys with tiny dicks are celebrating Anna Politkovskaya's murder.
LJ user misssing_link (Yuri Tyurin) posts pictures of fireworks; "Happy victory day, Russia," he writes. LJ user alekcei calls Politkovskaya "the enemy of my people" and writes that although "the death of any person is an irreparable tragedy," when "there's one enemy less, it always makes one happy." LJ user doppel_herz writes that "perhaps Grabovoy will manage to revive the talented journalist." Three pages of comments on the first post, five pages on the second, seven on the third.
A Kyiv acquaintance now living in Canada said over beer a few years ago that Politkovskaya was "a nutcase, a pre-menopause Valeriya Novodvorskaya." He's probably celebrating now, too.
Monday, October 09, 2006
So very painful to read Natasha Mozgovaya's February 2006 interview with Anna Politkovskaya, so unbearable - and so interesting. But it's in Russian, and it's huge, and it'd be very difficult to pick things to translate and to leave the rest untranslated... Sorry.
A quick GV translation:
Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist famous for her critical coverage of Chechnya and Vladimir Putin's policies, was shot to death in Moscow Saturday. Russian-language blogs are awash in speculation on who might be behind the murder.
Anton Nossik (LJ user dolboeb, aka "the Guru of Russian Internet") points (RUS) at Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's prime minister, without naming him; the Russian Yandex Blogs portal currently lists this post as the third most popular one in the Russian blogosphere:
The murder of Politkovskaya: cui prodest
The name of the contractor is absolutely obvious - it's just enough to know some widely available facts.
I'll cite them here, for the public record.
Fact number one. While Chechnya's prime minister [Sergei Abramov] was closely working on investigating the issue of who, how and where extorts money in Chechnya for "rebuilding the republic," he kept getting attacked. The last attack - a car crash - was the fifth one, if I remember correctly. And the most successful one. Abramov was out of the game.
Fact number two: An hour and a half before her death, Anna Politkovskaya told about her latest investigations in an interview to the Caucasus Knot. She was investigating - surprise! - the same mechanisms of money extortion, corruption and stealing of state funds that Abramov had been looking for in his time (and, to his misfortune, kept finding). Politkovskaya had the misfortune to declare publicly that she had the documents at her disposal that would allow her to recreate the whole corrupted scheme of financing the "Chechen national projects." The journalist's fate was decided.
Fact number three: of course, if there had only been an interview with the Caucasus Knot, Politkovskaya would have been alive now. Unfortunately, somewhat earlier, she managed to tell about it in an interview with Radio Liberty. And it's likely that the people whose plans could've been disrupted by her investigation had their own sources of information, which allowed them to know the current interests and creative plans of the deceased.
What has to be noted is the [...] recklessness that accompanied the contractor's decision to tie the long-awaited "fact of liquidation" to the happy state holiday [Vladimir Putin's birthday]. I have no doubts he'll be allowed to get away with Politkovskaya, just as his father was forgiven for the jihad he had declared against Russia. Because there are plenty of false directions in which the investigation could be diverted. [...] As for the actual hit man, I think the casting for the role of his corpse has already begun in the morgues of Chechnya's hospitals.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
From the New York Times obit:
In an interview in April with The New York Times, Ms. Politkovskaya said she had evidence of torture in Chechnya by Mr. Kadyrov’s police and other gunmen, including at least one witness who had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov himself. Mr. Kadyrov has always vigorously denied such allegations.
From the Novaya Gazeta site (RUS):
We do not know today who killed her and what for. We can only mention two main versions. Either this was the revenge of Ramzan Kadyrov, about whose activities she wrote and spoke a lot. Or it was done by those who want the suspicion to fall on the current Chechen premier, who, having turned 30, may aspire for the president's post.
Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead Saturday, and it's sad and shocking, and it's hard to think of anything to say now.
Rest in peace, Anna.
This is what I wrote about Politkovskaya roughly four years ago, after the Dubrovka hostage crisis:
[...] Politkovskaya has so far dissected an incredible expanse of Chechnya's tissue, following blood streams from the battlegrounds in Grozny to the refugee camps in the neighboring Ingushetia; from the army barracks in Daghestan to the offices of corrupted generals in Moscow; from the war zone nursing homes to the out-of-the-way homes of bereaved families of the missing Russian soldiers.
She doesn't seek to be in the spotlight but gets caught in it anyway: either through her noble initiatives to help the most miserable among her sources, or through the government's clumsy yet menacing attempts to silence her. The last time she drew everyone's attention was during the hostage crisis, when the Chechen terrorists named her as one of those they would have liked to negotiate with.
Hours after Politkovskaya arrived in Los Angeles to receive a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation, she had to start planning her trip back to Moscow. Around noon Thursday, October 24, a Russian TV channel arranged a live phone conversation with her, and she explained that at the moment she was having problems exchanging her Delta ticket for an earlier date. I thought that was so ridiculous, having to worry about tickets when the lives of nearly 1,000 people were at stake. And only when my American colleague and I visited Politkovskaya at her Moscow apartment ten days after 10/23, did I understand that the time difference, not red tape, had been to blame: it was the middle of the night when the news of the siege reached LA, and many people were asleep.
Smiling ironically, she told us how she had wanted to see Hollywood and the celebrities' mansions while she was in California. That was when I first caught myself feeling as cozy and ordinary as if I were sitting in the kitchen with my landlady: a daughter greeting us at the door; a son stopping by briefly to say hello to us and tell his mother he was off to work; a dear old Doberman, so excited about the guests that we all worried he might have a stroke. But Politkovskaya then began telling us how hard it had been to think of something to write in the note for the award ceremony she was going to miss, and I knew I was back in the kitchen of a woman whose magnitude was close to Andrei Sakharov's.
In her LA note she wrote: "I have always believed that Russian journalism, first and foremost, is the journalism of action. The journalism of taking the step that you simply must take. Please pray for us, those who are directly affected by this crisis. And of course, say a prayer for me. I am ever more convinced that the war in Chechnya must be brought to an end. And today, the time has come for me to appeal to President Bush and plead with him to use his influence on President Putin to stop the bloodshed in Chechnya, and to prevent it in Moscow."
Back in Moscow, she did meet with the terrorists, and with some of the hostages, and she returned to the "Nord-Ost" building a few more times that day, October 25, carrying boxes of juice for the people inside. Journalists and firefighters contributed their own money to buy the first portion of juice; later - almost too late - the government decided to participate, too. (Some of the J-7 juice must have seeped inside the theater, while some of us, outside, were musing over the deeper meaning of the brand's slogan: "Everybody loves their freedom.")
In Politkovskaya's kitchen, we drank tea and did not talk about October 25 - by that time she had already described her errands in the bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta and other publications. She told us about the people she knew among the hostages: her daughter's 24-year-old friend, a "Nord-Ost" orchestra member; her own childhood friend with her family. The young musician survived, and Politkovskaya published an interview with him later; her friend lost her son and husband, and Politkovskaya attended the double funeral, and wrote about it, too.
My colleague asked her about the current racist moods in Moscow, and Politkovskaya confirmed that they were on the rise. Regardless of whether we want it or not, she said, the hostage crisis has only made it worse for all those who've been demonized by the media and the President, those who are routinely called "the blacks" here. Two weeks on, in mid-November, she published the first two stories of a series documenting the newest wave of anti-Chechen abuses in Moscow.
It is a purely post-Soviet phenomenon that the war in Chechnya is nowhere near the end and the discrimination against Caucasians is rampant all over the country - all despite Anna Politkovskaya. Her brave reporting is easily accessible in print and on the Internet; her astonishing book, "A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya" (Harvill Press, London, 2001) is available not just in its English translation but in Russian as well. Her stories cannot have but the most profound impact, and yet, no major changes seem to occur.
Anna Akhmatova died on March 5, 1966 - the day of Stalin's death 13 years earlier.
Anna Politkovskaya was killed on October 7 - Putin's birthday.
The irony of such coincidences is so exquisitely dumb.