Saturday, April 29, 2006

Took these Besarabka pictures while waiting for a friend yesterday:







These are the things I take for granted, never really notice - because, well, this is Besarabka, and the statue of Lenin at Bulvar Shevchenka, and I can walk with my eyes closed here - and I do walk like this most of the time: the goal is to get past it as quickly as possible, on the way home or elsewhere.

You'd think that after 20 years thoughts about Chernobyl would be nothing but routine and memories would fade, but no, there're still things that take me by surprise.

I was literally shaking when I first looked through that girl's semi-fake site - kiddofspeed.com - in spring 2004. And I froze in my steps yesterday during our walk in the park - when I looked at the Dynamo stadium's green football field and suddenly recalled how we walked our new dog, Zosia, there - just days after April 26, 1986, when Zosia became our dog. Suddenly I could see her again, running fast across the field, joyful as hell. And as I was reading about the 14 firefighters at Olexa's blog tonight - the firefighters who arrived in Chernobyl hours after the explosion and died a few weeks later - I got a lump in my throat as I thought of Boris, husband of my mama's friend, a firefighter who would've been there then if he hadn't missed the bus. He was late thanks to the otherwise annoyingly remote, un-central location of their apartment. He did go later, more than once, but he's probably still alive. Dina, his wife, told mama about the accident right after it happened, on the morning of April 26, as they were on their way to play tennis. They found Zosia instead and went back to our place to wash her. There were years when mama wasn't keeping in touch with Dina, but in the summer of 1998, they were friends again for a while, and Zosia died in Dina's arms while my parents were traveling outside Ukraine. And maybe Boris is still alive, but my mama's other friend isn't - Nelya, a scientist who was spending much of her time in Chernobyl following the accident. I still can't believe she's dead. She died of cancer. In the summer of 2000. Mishah and I were leaving for Yaremche on the day I learned about her death. And then there's my high school boyfriend's father, Volodya, a physicist: we used to secretly borrow his car when he was away in Chernobyl - we used to basically steal his car, each time driving his poor wife, Valia, crazy with worry. I talked to Volodya on the phone in January and he sounded very sick, and I don't know if that's because of Chernobyl or maybe he wasn't all that sick but somewhat tipsy - it was his son's 33rd birthday after all. And I was afraid to ask what was wrong with him, and I felt a little guilty for having shared my joy with him, the joy of Marta's birth.

Et cetera.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

According to Reuters, Milinkevich has been sentenced to 15 days in jail "for organizing a major rally in Minsk deemed unlawful."

Milinkevich denounced the sentence as blatantly political.

"This is a political action, political sentence," Milinkevich said after the judge read the sentence in court. "Leaders of leading political parties are behind bars."

In the morning, when I was taking Marta to the bathroom to change, mama said this, quite unexpectedly:

"You know, she's now the age I was when the war began and the Germans came."

Marta will be turning 5 months on May 1. My mama's birthday is January 31, 1941.

Gazeta.ru reports (in Russian) that opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich has just been detained in Minsk.

***

Below are three of my most recent Belarus items on Global Voices:

LJ users andrews_kovas and eugene_grabkin post their photo reports from Charnobylski Shlyakh, a protest rally that took place in Minsk yesterday.

***

Iryna of TOL's Belarus Blog writes about more arrests and detentions in Belarus, following yesterday's protest rally "Charnobylski Shlyakh." She also quotes Syarhei Kaliakin, an opposition activist: “20 years ago Chernobyl disaster has taken place. 10 years ago a political Chernobyl has happened, when the legally elected parliament was disbanded and people, who rely on violence rather than rule of law, came to power.”

***

David McDuff of A Step At A Time links to an item at Maidan about a young Belarusian facing seven to 12 years in prison for having written "We want something new!" on the wall of a building in Minsk.

Radio Svaboda's photos from Charnobylski Shlyah are here and here (via TOL's Belarus Blog).

I've just translated and posted this on Global Voices...

LJ user wall4 - originally from Lviv, Ukraine, now living in Connecticut - writes about his experience as a soldier forced to serve in Chernobyl 20 years ago (RUS). The piece is accompanied by several black-and-white army pictures.

20 Years Ago. Letters I haven't written.

"Mama, I'll never forget how you were running back and forth outside the locked gates of the conscription center. Don't be upset, everything will turn out fine, I won't be staying there for a long time."

"We are on the train, all became friends quickly. All dead drunk, officers don't stop us, they understand... [...]"

"Kiev is empty, 6 AM, only water trucks are watering the streets constantly. At the checkpoint to the north of the city we pass trucks and buses with refugees. They are from there. We are on the way there. Everyone shudders - from the chill of the dawn and from fearsome anticipation. Everyone's sobered up long ago."

"We've arrived, Polesskiy district, a tent camp in the field. A hot, wonderful day. We are all standing, afraid to sit down on the grass - because of radiation. Here's one who has lost patience and sat down. Another one after him. Ten minutes later, everyone's lying on the grass, sunbathing - and it's not scary at all because radiation's invisible."

"We are in the no-go zone. Patrolling a village, guarding it from looters. Suddenly, there's rustling in the grass. [...] A stooped old woman emerges: "Dear sons, let me get into the house and take a blanket and a pan. They chased us out, didn't let us take anything..." We turn our eyes away, there are tears of shame and grief in them..."

"Mushrooms are huge and there are plenty of them. The locals pick them along the forest road. They squeeze themselves through the fences, get into the Zone and pick mushrooms. We tell them: "What are you doing, people. You'll get poisoned!" - and they laugh in a friendly way in response, with peasant's slyness: "Nothing'll happen to us, look how beautiful the mushrooms are..."

"Mama, we've almost got caught in a serious shower today. Sasha Tatarchuk and I are walking at the side of the road, and suddenly hear great, scary noise. We raise our heads, turn around - a helicopter is over us, watering the road with a mix of iodine and lysol, to beat the radioactive dust down. We barely managed to run off the road's side, almost got sprayed by this stinking crap."

"World Cup in Mexico. Maradona scores with his hand. [...] USSR-Hungary 6:0. We are watching it all in the village of Osipovichi, Narovlyanskiy district of Gomel region, in the village school. On the blackboard are the words "28 krasavika 1986 goda" [April 28, 1986 - BEL]. It means that 12 km away from Pripyat children had classes two days after the accident."

"Mama, I've seen the Red forest and the power plant far away. And the crimson sunset over it. It's incredibly beautiful here - forests, lakes and silence... In villages, cats and dogs come to our checkpoints and eat buckwheat with canned stew from the same plate. Sometimes they don't manage to share it and the dog barks at the cat, and the cat straightens out whiskers and responds with hissing. Cats win more often (as in real life). Horses, having gathered into herds, dropping foam, are running around fields and gardens covered with meter-tall grass. Sometimes an armored personnel carrier flies by at great speed."

"Mama, soldiers guarding the perimeter of the power plant are given Swedish grape juice in cartons with straws, and chocolate. They are wearing small gauze respirators and rubbered protection suits. 19-year-old boys. Next to them I feel like a wise, experienced, brave warrior. I'm 22 already."

"Going home. At last. The train passes the suburbs, approaches the train station. We are packed by the window, our cheeks and noses pressed to the windows. Home."

To my friends Sasha Tatarchuk, Pavlik Fedorich, Vova Gamazin, Vitya Mostovets, Lyokha, Aristarkhushka, Ivan-Shayba, Zaliznyak. Be healthy. Let you children grow up healthy, this is very relevant for us all...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Many of those who used to live in Pripyat now live in Kyiv's Troyeshchyna. Faraway, so close: Chernobyl is 120 km (75 miles) away from Kyiv.

Vitrenko says Ukraine's court system is controlled by NATO...


Kyiv, April 22, 2006
Volodymyrska Gorka

These girls are like birds - or mermaids.

(I'm off to bed now, good night!)

I doubt I'll have anything to say about the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl. By now, I'm so tired of all this collective masochism: "oh, these pictures are so gloomy, so depressing... let's see some more!" I used to get pretty drunk on this day, but I haven't done that in a few years. We have Marta now, thank God.



I wrote this here, in my April 12 parking post:

A few months ago, we saw cars with their wheels locked - an equivalent of having your car towed away, I guess - but someone sued the company that was doing it and won, and they had to stop.


The cop who told me about the lawsuit was pretty hopeful about the new mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky.

Well. Guess who filed that lawsuit?

Right. Chernovetsky.

Bastard.

(Ukrainska Pravda piece about it, in Ukrainian.)

The results of the March 26 election will probably become official very soon: Vitrenko, Karmazin and Bogoslovskaya have finally lost their court appeal.

Who knows, maybe we'll get the news of the coalition soon, too.

Most people have probably forgotten that there ever was an election: it's been exactly one month.

The Pushkinskaya attack story looks totally different now. And confusing.

(Sources: Kommersant, Gazeta.ru, something else, I guess - I've been reading it throughout the day but couldn't find time to post anything here, and now that I do have time, I'm too tired to think clearly...)

According to investigation officials, Abramyants and Kulagin had commmon friends - among Lokomotiv and Spartak fans - but didn't know each other. Abramyants said something rude to Zhanna Nefedova, Kulagin's 15-year-old girlfriend, and Kulagin stabbed and killed him. Video cameras installed at the station didn't record the killing, nor are there any records of skinheads getting off a Vyhino-bound train. Kulagin's mother says her son's interrogation lasted four hours and there was no lawyer present. Then the interrogators invited her into the room and announced Kulagin's choices: either he admits to killing Abramyants out of jealousy and gets a minimal sentence, or he faces 15 years in jail for ethnically motivated murder. Kulagin's mother told her son to choose the former, but he later retracted his confession. The Abramyants family lawyer insists on the skinhead version: they spent some time walking around the station before picking their victim; Abramyants was stabbed in the heart, which may mean the attacker wasn't an amateur; Abramyants was a nice, hardworking boy from a good family, not some violent football fan; two more guys were wounded, which possibly means there were several attackers.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One of the joys of blogging is that I don't have to explain what Chernobyl is every time I mention it. The need to state all those basic facts and figures is, to me, the horror of journalism.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I wrote the previous two posts in the morning, but Blogger was down so they got posted only now.

Aha. Also according to a Gazeta.ru update (in Russian), the Armenian boy was killed by a friend - because of a girl they both had a crush on.

There were no skinheads: the victim's and the attacker's friends - all of them fans of Lokomotiv, one of Moscow's football teams - made up that story to save the attacker's ass.

The attacker, Denis Kulagin, always carried a knife with him.

The victim, Vagan Abramyants, was an only son in a family that moved to Moscow in the late 1980s, to escape the pogroms in Baku, Azerbaijan.

***

Gazeta.ru has two sidebars on this story: one about an attack on a Turkish citizen in St. Pete's subway this past Saturday, another about the murder of a Tajik in Moscow (the second Tajik was severely wounded in that attack).

According to Gazeta.ru (in Russian), the Armenian boy was killed by another boy: "a student of a Moscow school, born in 1989." Twelve boys were waiting on the platform - among them the Armenian, a Moscow University of Management student - when a group of six or seven boys got off a Vyhino-bound train and attacked them.

***

You know, I've never taken pictures in the Moscow subway - out of some inborn fear of the police, I guess, not because I'm so law-abiding or something. Much of my fear is really a fear of humiliation: being picked out from the crowd for doing something totally innocent, though unlawful. I wish I could look at it as an adventure.

Whenever Lyndon posted his metro photos at Scraps of Moscow, I was slightly jealous, but also incredulous: no one has ever told him not to shoot down there? And when they did fine Megan in St. Pete, part of me took it as a belated justification for my timidity, for having wasted so many wonderful photo opportunities.

***

Can you imagine that some people now probably consider it a mere prank to attack and stab someone with a knife, in the middle of an always crowded, central subway station, and then run away, making those cops look like total losers...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

While I'm at it, here's what it looks like in Kyiv:



"No to the black mayor"
(Adidas store on Prorizna)

Refers to Leonid Chernovetsky, Kyiv's newly-elected mayor, a follower of the Embassy of God church, whose pastor - Sunday Adelaja - is black.

A relevant post at another_kashin (in Russian), the LiveJournal of journalist Oleg Kashin (the news report he's citing differs from the one I've read, though - I thought the murder took place down at the station, not near it):

Today

Itar-Tass Agency reports that a young man resembling a skinhead attacked an Armenia native and stabbed him many times with a knife near the Pushkinskaya metro station. The man died of injuries on the spot. After the attack, the bandit went down into the subway. The search for the criminal has begun.

It has been reported that the attacker was 18-20 years old, his head was shaved, and he was wearing a black jacket and black cargo pants. According to the law enforcement officials, the criminal is very dangerous.


I was at Pushkinskaya on my way out into the city at the time the corpse was lying there. Indeed, a kavkazets [a Caucasus native] and somewhat too cut up. Little fences were placed around him, inside the fenced area two Slavic women sat, and across the central hall cops were holding hands and solemnly looking around, like they do at [Lenin's] Mausoleum. To pass the cops, one had to go up toward the Gorkovskaya pass, and then go down the adjacent staircase. This is what I did. Turned around to look at others. People are walking, talking, smiling, then look at the Armenian, and their jaws drop.

I told the cab driver about it. The cab driver laughs - well, our dear skinheads again, great.


What follows is an attempt to discuss the term kavkazets:

[...]

sumlenny: "kavkazets" is one of the most stupid terms for a commentary like this. The victim was an Armenian. Any average Azeri (also a "kavkazets", according to your classification) will be cheering his death more than some Russian fascists.

[...]

object: Any [Azeri], aha. Any.

sumlenny: ok, lets say "many [Azeris]." Do you remember how during a joint NATO training an Azeri officer "lost patience" and killed his Armenian fellow-trainee with an axe?

In any case, the goal of my comment wasn't to insult Azeris. I was drawing attention to the fact that there is no such entity as "kavkaztsy". Only for a journalist sitting in his ivory tower do the look the same, just like the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans do. But a Chinese would be very offended if you call him a Japanese.

object: For those who killed this poor Armenian, such an entity does exist, I think. After all, they don't ask for the passport [to learn the victim's ethnic origin] before attacking.


And here are some more reactions:

krumhilda: A nightmare... I'm more shocked by the people's reaction than by the corpses. Though that's monstrous, too.

lukyanich: Armenians like us [Russia], the only ones in the Caucasus, all the more a pity, a skinhead has bumped off a Christian. Perhaps time to bump the skinheads off, eh?

ac_diver: very likely that this will start happening soon... i heard today that (in Petrozavodsk, I guess) in a fight between "kavkaztsy" and skinheads, they did kill one skin... There's one question in this situation - who will these "kavkaztsy" consider as belonging to the entity of "Russians"?

rusliner: Violence begets violence. Do you need that?

sumlenny: what you've said is nonsense. Violence can as successfully - and sometimes even more successfully - be brought on by the lack of resistance to violence.

rusliner: I'm not calling to ignoring violence! But to respond with violence is only possible when ALL THE OTHER means have been exhausted. Otherwise, I won't see any difference between sides.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

An ethnic Armenian was stabbed to death by a skinhead-looking guy in Moscow today. It happened around 6 pm, at Pushkinskaya metro station, the very center of Moscow.

What a fucked-up place.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The funny thing is, I'm beginning to see some beauty in it...

To park on the sidewalk, they also have to do some driving around on it. Traffic jams often occur.





Some of them seem to drive on sidewalks just because they can:





A dumb animal.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It's summer on our parking lot (aka Khreshchatyk)!!!



A really hot day today.

Via Languor Management, Maud Newton's quick email interview with Keith Gessen, translator of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices of Chernobyl. The book has won this year’s National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction.

***

My last year's post about the book and the translation is here.

***

And here's an unrelated item from Dan McMinn's Orange Ukraine, with a link to a Kyiv Post piece:

Bad news: The World Bank suspended a big AIDS project in Ukraine because the government hadn't managed to spend any of the money, mostly because it refused to give some to nonprofits.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Marta has had DTaP and polio shots today.

I needed to wash her right before the shots were to be given, but they told me to just wipe her - because they do not have hot water in their taps.

That's the very center of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.



Ni chornomu meru ("No to the black mayor") was scrawled on a few buildings in the Volodymyrska/Prorizna neighborhood. It refers to Leonid Chernovetsky's religious affiliation: he's a member of the Embassy of God, a Christian church whose pastor is black. Somehow, I'm not sure what annoys me more: the racism of it or the fact that they have nothing better to do but mar the poor buildings.

I didn't take any pictures because we were on our way to and from the children's clinic.

Quick links to some cheerful stuff:

Comedians Mikhail Zhvanetsky and Victor Shenderovich, both audio and text, lovely!

(All in Russian, of course.)

***



Shenderovich's Plavlennyi Syrok ("Melted Cheese") show - scroll all the way down for the archives and audio. So much stuff to catch up...

***



Zhvanetsky - the first random thing thing I clicked on was a work of genius - text and audio. All his old stuff is amazing. And it's so wonderful you can listen to him online...

I remember a tape of his pieces someone made for us in 1986 - we lived in Moscow then. Chernobyl made me more adult in one way that year, and it was tough; Zhvanetsky's tape was also about growing up for me, but in a very different way.

One weird thing I still believe in is that it was Zhvanetsky who made the Soviet Union collapse.

***

Both guys are like history books.

Via Sergey Belyakov, another Chernobyl site: 26-04-1986 - some really eerie, gloomy stuff...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Speaking of pysankas, I bought this Bollywood-style egg on Khreshchatyk on April 9:





Made of wood, covered with beads.

Costs 15 hryvnias ($3).

Via The Glory of Carniola, a Slovenian blog, I've found this do-it-yourself pysanka site - LearnPysanky.com:



I'm such a loser parent: I sit and dream now of how Marta will learn to paint them one day - instead of trying to learn myself... They are so beautiful.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Marta was 4 1/2 months yesterday - time flies. She sits now - with our help, of course. Loves it, can't get enough of it, keeps turning around, examining all the new angles and perspectives with such interest!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Eleven days before the 20th anniversary, here's a Chernobyl resource:

Pripyat.com - I've just found it, am looking at their pictures...



The section with photos taken before 1986 is too heartbreaking... not because the photos are anything special but because of what happened to all that ordinary life.

Their forum seems like an interesting and informative place to explore.

At least part of the site is in English, and there's also an English-language corner of the forum.

Friday, April 14, 2006

W. Shedd said...

This sounds like the beginnings of 'Neeka starting a grass-roots campaign to win back the sidewalks of Kyiv!' I notice the flickr badge is devoted just to parking violations.

Pedestrians of Kyiv unite! :-)

Leaflets on the windshields of cars that violate parking - placed by citizens ... might be one way to start. At least that is the sort of thing citizens do here, until they can get the attention of the mayor, city, and police. [...]


No, W., it's nothing but a way to vent, I'm afraid. I feel so vulnerable next to those huge cars and their owners, you know, and I'm pretty busy, too. But I'm serious about talking to traffic cops every time I can - even though that's nothing but venting, either.

And the photo thingy on the sidebar - it's neat, isn't it? I'm exploring Flickr right now, very belatedly.

***

Don said:

People/drivers will do what they know they can get away with. There is something about owning a car that empowers people.

You have a very pretty city center. It is worth protecting. It is horrible that cars are getting parked on the sidwalks like this. It will, over time destroy those sidewalks.

Those laws are way too vague. Cars shouldn't be allowed on sidewalks at all. Parking spaces need to be clearly defined with paint or other means. And violations should be consistently addressed. The police need to understand that this is their responsiblilty or it needs to be in a traffic authority.

Hopefully the mayor will figure out how much money can be made by parking fees and violations, and will also realize the value to the community in having a car free city center. But it won't happen without activism and bringing attention to the problem.


I, too, hope someone tells the new mayor about revenues that can be earned from parking fees and tickets. Maybe if old people complain loudly, something will be done - in a few interviews he's given, Chernovetsky said his priority would be helping those "who don't have much longer to live" - sounds horrible, yes, ominous, insensetive, tacky and all that, but who knows.

It has to be taken to a higher level, obviously - traffic cops all over Ukraine should be reminded of their rights and responsibilities, and many have to be fired for incompetence. Some of their rights have to be restored, no matter how 'undemocratic' it may seem. (Or is it called 'duties'? It is. Hard to think of it this way after talking to those two cops who were faking their helplessness to skillfully...)

And I do sympathize with drivers, too. I sort of do. When I'm not too mad at them, or when I think of the people I know, the ones with cars. Omelchenko, the old mayor, used to build all those tacky underground shopping malls, instead of underground parking, and the current mess is the result. Again, maybe the new mayor has some ideas on how to get the city more parking space - but I wouldn't be too hopeful.

Another driver yesterday said that the few makeshift outdoor parking slots here cost 1-2 hryvnias an hour (5 hryvnias is $1); underground parking in the fancy Arena City or whatever it's called is 10 hryvnias per hour ($2) - and most of the annoying sidewalk parking seems to be free (and most cars parked like that aren't the cheapest ones, somehow). Pretty wild.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Talked to a driver today - a professional driver, with truck-driving experience. A very nice man. He said it's allowed to park on sidewalks - as long as you leave 2 meters or more for pedestrians.

I bought myself a driving rules brochure right after talking to him, because he told me it should be written there somewhere - and yes, there it was (in Ukrainian):

15.10. Parking is prohibited:

[...]

c. on sidewalks, except for cars and motorcycles, which can park on the edge of a sidewalk, leaving at least 2 meters for the movement of pedestrians;

[...]

f. in places where a parked vehicle would make movement of other vehicles impossible or would create an obstacle for pedestrians.


Ha.

I'll carry the brochure with me every day now and will bug traffic cops every time they're around when a parked car pushes me off the sidewalk.

Just think of it: the bullshit I've been told by two traffic cops already - right next to where Yushchenko used to work (the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Bank) and where he works now (the Secretariat on Bankova).

European capital, my ass.

***

The ugly parking lot on Khreshchatyk - impromptu and free, as far as I can see - is totally legal, because Khreshchatyk sidewalk (on our side, at least) is so wide...



***

The driver also said he thought fines should be introduced for parking violators, serious fines, 200-300 hryvnias ($40-$60), and there should be more traffic cops, not fewer. He said, "I'm saying this - and I mean it - despite being a driver myself."

The reason our drivers let pedestrians cross the street is because several years ago they were being punished severely when they failed to stop. The driver's relatives live in Moscow, and they were shocked during a visit to Kyiv: "You've got Europe here," they said after a day of walking around and watching cars stop each time they approached a zebra crossing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006



I couldn't squeeze past these cars last Monday, April 3, had to get off the sidewalk, a risky thing for someone with a stroller.

Got really mad, came up to the traffic cop standing nearby, next to Yushchenko's Secretariat fence, told him to watch how they park, ended up having a little conversation.

He can't do anything about it, sometimes he does come over to the drivers and tells them to get off the sidewalk at least partially, but they wave him off - they are busy. Usually, it's people from the offices located in a few buildings nearby who park like this. When something's up at the Secretariat, the cops have to clear the area, and they have problems with these cars even then - no one really bothers to pay attention to the plastic barriers the cops put up, they just drive over them.

Cops used to be able to unscrew and take away license plates of the violators - not anymore. Some law prohibiting them to do this was adopted two years ago - all over Ukraine, not just in Kyiv - so basically our traffic cops are just a decoration. A few months ago, we saw cars with their wheels locked - an equivalent of having your car towed away, I guess - but someone sued the company that was doing it and won, and they had to stop.

Traffic cops can't even fine violators - it is not illegal to park on sidewalks.

Not very illegal to drive on sidewalks, either: I asked the cop what would be done to a driver who hurts a pedestrian... either nothing, or a fine of 8 hryvnias ($1.50).

The cop by the Secretariat - a nice man, in his early 40s - hopes that the new mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky, will be able to do something about this mess - but for that to happen, all elderly citizens - thanks to whom the guy got elected - will have to start writing him letters, making lots of noise.

***



This is a picture from a few days ago, taken at Instytutska, around the corner from the Cabinet of Ministers and a hundred or so meters away from the National Bank.

When I walked there today, another, bigger, car was parked on the sidewalk, and I could see I wouldn't be able to pass between it and the green fence. A very young traffic cop stood nearby, so I decided to bitch about it to him, even though I knew it was useless.

He reacted as if he was just a passerby, someone who had nothing to do with all that car business. I pointed at the sign right above his head - parking violators would be towed away, no less - and he looked surprised, as if he'd never paid attention to it before. He said the jeep had already been there when he came to this intersection, so there was no way he could help. I asked a few more general question about the mess and his responses were all of the type 'Moya khata z krayu, nichoho ne znayu' ('My house's at the edge of the village and I prefer not to get involved.' I ended this conversation by wishing him to have his useless ass fired real soon.

***

It's very frustrating to have to live like this, but at least drivers let you cross the street here - they stop (most of the time) even when there're no streetlights. This is what sets us apart from Moscow and St. Pete.

Here's a link to photos from yesterday's rally in St. Pete:

http://blogik.livejournal.com/206818.html

Comments are so full of hatred, I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday. Those of you who don't read Russian are very lucky. Savor your ignorance. I've posted this here for the record, not sure why, really. Definitely not for translation.

I keep thinking of the time when I worked for a newsletter about foreign students at the University of Iowa: how boring, peaceful and naive much of what we had to write about was. A similar publication by foreign students in Russia would read like frontline reports. I'm not kidding.

Via Marina Litvinovich's LJ and Putin's official site, kremlin.ru (in Russian): monthly payments to families with children in Leningrad region have been increased from 81 to 351 rubles per child - from nearly $3 a month to nearly $13. In Ukraine, a new mother would receive almost $900 the first month, and then $70-$80 every month for the next year or so. The total should be $1,800, I guess. Very, very nice, thank you.

(Leningrad Oblast is the official name of the area surrounding St. Petersburg. I don't know why it hasn't been changed. Also, back in 2002, if you wanted to go to Nijniy Novgorod by train, you had to buy a ticket to Gorky, which is what Nijny used to be called in the Soviet times. I've no idea if this is still so.)

I'm really exhausted. Marta refuses to nurse on my right size and she also refuses to eat from the bottle when I pump. Left side only. Maybe because this is where we met when she was born - they put her on my left side. Or perhaps she doesn't like the right side because she spent the last months of my pregnancy there, inside, with her head up, right underneath that breast. And she seems to be teething already: I stayed up till after 2 am last night while she was asleep - silly me - and then she woke up at 3 and was absolutely unconsolable for the next three hours. Then she let me sleep till 8:30.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Marta last Thursday, at 4 months and 1 week:

Really hard to get back to writing. Seems like I have nothing to say.

***

Here's a link to a translation on Belarus I did last Friday on Gobal Voices.

***

Kyiv is so nice now that the weather's nice. We did have snow on Friday, though, and that was shocking.

***

In politics, everyone's waiting for Yushchenko to pick coalition partners.

On Savik Shuster's Svoboda Slova on Friday, Bezsmertnyi and Zvarych were giggling at what Tymoshenko was saying, and it didn't look good. It looked like she's got a bigger dick and they know it, but since they're in power and she's not, they're using their time there to humiliate her - while they still can.

And Tymoshenko wasn't prepared to answer an obvious question from, of all people, Communist leader Symonenko. He asked about all those Kuchma guys on her bloc's list - he did name the names, but I don't remember any except Zhevago - and she told Symonenko he himself was the main Kuchmist ("sam durak" type of answer, Mishah said: something like, "me a fool? no, you're a fool!"). And then she moved on to something else and ended it all with a vague, "You shouldn't doubt their integrity because they're accountable to me personally" type of thing. Not convincing at all. I would've liked to hear about each of those guys: why they are worth it - despite their past political affiliation. Perhaps, there isn't much to tell and they aren't worth it. Or too much to tell, but all of it would prove Symonenko right.

And Symonenko incorporated a little bit of Orthodox Christianity into his speech: he asked Bezsmertnyi to bring him the 'good news' (blagaya vest'; don't remember what exactly he wanted to hear about, wasn't listening too carefully to him), alluding to the holiday of Annunciation (Blagoveshchenye) that was celebrated that day. I can't stop being shocked by how skillful the Communists are at exploiting the really short memory of some Ukrainian Christians (one of my favorite examples of such exploitation is here). And Bezsmertnyi inserted this tiny bit into his reply: "I'm not Archangel Gabriel to bring you the good news."

Anyway, we're all waiting for the news of the coalition, good or bad.

***

It feels good to be writing again. I hope I'll be able to continue. Thank you all!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'm busy and very tired - hence no writing here. Hope to be back soon.


(Photo from our children's clinic - the more we go there, the more I dislike it...)

Monday, April 03, 2006



Zaur Tutov, culture minister of Kabardino-Balkaria, was picking up his daughter from a dance class Saturday night - and was severely beaten by Moscow skinheads. Before the press got involved, the law enforcement people weren't too eager to look at the attack as one inspired by nationalism, ethnic hatred, etc. - even though there were several witnesses who heard the attackers yell about 'Russia for Russians' and 'Moscow for the Muscovites.'

Elkhan Mirzoev, an NTV correspondent of Azeri descent, was on a subway train Sunday night when a group of drunk skinheads entered the car at Park Kultury station. One of them sat down next to Mirzoev and began explaining why he - a non-Russian, a Caucasus native, etc. - shouldn't be living in Moscow. Then he poured beer on Mirzoev's head. Mirzoev hit him once and received a severe beating by the whole group in return. He was thrown out of the train at Okhotnyi Ryad station, right underneath Kremlin.

***

Now the general prosecutor's office is involved, but I doubt much can be changed for the better at this point, even if they jail a few worthless, brainless, murderous jerks. There'll always be many more.

I don't even think that subsidizing sports schools, etc., to keep all those hyperactive, poor kids off the streets, would change anything now. Maybe in the long run - but is anyone really bothering about it?

***

I was watching Kusturica's Life Is A Miracle the other day: the dreamy guy in the movie - the main character - said there wouldn't be a war in Yugoslavia because the majority were normal people. And suddenly I understood how it works: something terrible is done to a normal person or his/her family member, and the normal person gets mad and takes revenge. Multiply this by a few thousand and you get a minor civil war.

***

I'm still getting over the murder of that 9-year-old Tajik girl that took place in our neighborhood in St. Petersburg in early 2004. I don't think I ever will. I couldn't make myself go outside for something like a week then - because I felt sick at the thought that one of those murderous shitheads would pass me in the street. Or their dumb-cow mothers.

Quite a bunch of foreign students - Asian, African - have been killed or beaten since then in St. Pete and elsewhere in Russia. I never really write anything about it here - but it doesn't mean I do not notice what's going on. It's more like I don't want to touch shit and make the stench even worse. What's the use?

My today's post on Global Voices:

Post-Soviet bloggers continue a good old Soviet tradition of coping with reality and expressing dissent through political jokes (politicheskiye anekdoty) - seemingly innocent stuff that's not really fit to print in a repressive society and is unlikely to make it to state-owned TV in a country like Belarus. Below are some jokes (all translated from Russian) that appeared on Belarusian LiveJournals during and after last month's protests against the rigged presidential election.

LJ user vadea posts a joke about the absurd and paranoid atmosphere in Belarus:

Two KGB officers are traveling on a train and telling each other political jokes.

- Hold on a second, I'll change the tape, - says one.
- Don't bother, you can copy from mine later, - says the other.


LJ user chernidar shares a joke that used to feature former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma during the 2004 Orange Revolution; the recycled version is, of course, about the Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko:

The president [...] is walking through a forest and gets lost. He sees a boy:

- Little boy, could you show me the way out of the forest? I'm the president, I'll reward you with a Hero's medal!
- I'll ask my mama.

An hour later:

- Uncle President, and will you give me a postmortem award?
- Why postmortem?
- Because mama said that if I showed you the way, she'd kill me!


LJ user morreth posts another one on how Belarusian people feel about Lukashenko (aka known as Bat'ka, 'father'):

One day Bat'ka is driven through a village in his limo. They run over somebody's pig. Bat'ka, an honest person, stops, gives his driver $100 and tells him to find the killed pig's owner and apologize. The driver leaves and isn't back until two hours later, dead drunk. Bat'ka yells at him: "Are you crazy?" The driver replies: "I haven't done anything wrong: I took the money, put the pig into the sack, placed it on my back, walk down the village street and yell - Dear people! I'm Lukashenko's driver and I've just killed this pig! - and suddenly they're all running towards me, with tears of happiness in their eyes, and start pouring me drinks, one after another..."


A joke about the election results, from LJ user macsim_by:

[Head of the central election commission] Yermoshina enters Lukashenko's study and says:

- Aleksandr Grigorievich, I've got two pieces of news for you, good and bad. Which one should I begin with?
- The good one.
- You've been elected president.
- Okay, and what's the bad one?
- No one has voted for you.


A joke on the violent end of the March 25 rally, from LJ user geroi:

During the demonstration that took place in Minsk, 500 women, elderly people and children have attacked and hurt 2,000 riot police with snowballs and air balloons. "We assembled for action as ordered, drew our shields close together, and attempted to gently push the protesters away with our riot batons. But they rushed at us violently, as animals, and started beating me on the helmet with flowers, on and on and on, bastards," one of the victims said and began to cry right away.


From LJ user mirilde, a joke from the tent camp on Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk:

Lukashenko wakes up in the morning, goes into his study and addresses his own portrait on the wall:

- So, Aleksandr Grigorievich, what are we going to do about the situation?
- Ah, nothing special: we'll just switch places with you.
- In what way?
- Very simply: I'll be taken down, and you'll be hung.


Finally, a joke about embellishments and lies broadcast by the state-controlled TV in Belarus, from LJ user kurt_bielarus:

Lukashenko has died. A devil greets him and gives him a tour of Paradise. Everything's very righteous-looking there, dignified and calm: birds are singing, flowers are blooming, various decent people are talking to each other. No zest whatsoever.

Lukashenko begins to wonder: and what is it like in Hell? The devil says, "You can see it for yourself!" and shows Hell to him. It's very lively there, beautiful young women are walking around, and life's in full swing in general. Lukashenko gets excited and cries, "I want to be in Hell!"

And finds himself in boiling water right away.

He cries to the devil: "But where is everything that I've seen - girls, fun?"

To which the devil replies, smirking: "I - just like you - have my own [Belarusian TV]!"

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A wonderful resource: Soviet political jokes, translated into English. Here's one:

When Nixon visited the USSR, Brezhnev showed him a Soviet phone of the latest technology in which it was possible to call Hell. Nixon called the Devil. The conversation cost only 27 Kopecks.

Upon returning to America, Nixon told everyone about the Soviet marvel. But as it turned out such a phone had been invented in America a long time ago. Nixon again called Hell, but this time the conversation cost 12 thousand dollars!

Nixon, understandedly upset, cried, 'But in the USSR a phone call to Hell costs only 27 kopecks!'

'Yes sir, but there it was a local call.'


And one more:

A person is walking along the street in one boot.

'Have you lost a boot?' a passer-by asks.

'On the contrary - I've found one!'

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Marta is 4 months old today!!!!!!!!!

This is an interesting site - Freedom of Choice: it reveals the price of this election for each party (in Ukrainian only, unfortunately; its English part is very outdated).

The list of overall expenses (in US dollars) is here, and the money spent on political advertising (in hryvnias) is here.

It's overwhelming.

If I understand it correctly, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc has spent $131,721,692 on this campaign (at various levels); Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine $121,207,286; Yulia - $93,465,614. All parties' total is $788,878,405.

It's nothing, of course, compared to what used to be Mikhail Khodorkovsky's personal fortune ($15 billion or so), but it's still quite a waste for a nation that pretends to be impoverished and all that.

(Just noticed it's April 1 already - but alas, this info isn't a joke.)

Shufrych, Vitrenko, many others - I wish they had some faraway country of their own to run.

All this noise about the recount, it's disgusting. Maybe some of those who are demanding it are right, I don't know, but the bazaar they're making out of it is terrible. Where were they in 2004?

And I hate to see Pora/PRP's Kaskiv in that crowd - even though he's pretty much silent and even though Savik Shuster has asked him this question: how come you guys got 8-something percent for the Kyiv City Council and just 2.65% for Rada from the Kyiv voters? It's a good question.

They should all get themselves a separate country, make Savik Shuster their president and leave us alone. Or maybe I should just turn off the TV. The election's over.