Saturday, September 30, 2006

We are still in Pushcha Vodytsya; the view from one of our windows, the one facing the children's playground, is still ugly - mountains of sand and clay, kids playing war on top of them, and a few guys still working down in the pits, fixing something, speaking in Ukrainian, cursing in Russian (cursing more than speaking). But we do have hot water now, and life is beautiful.

Marta's best friend - Artyom, a 10-year-old boy from the apartment next door - told me that their makeshift football field down in the forest by the lake would soon have the real gates - made from those old pipes they are extracting and replacing right now. Artyom's really happy - and I'm very happy for him and the rest of the boys, too: all they do here is play football and talk about it. Just like the boys in Turkey.

***

Soon, there'll be lots of bitching and complaining about Kyiv on this blog: we are moving back to Bessarabka in two weeks (or even earlier, depending on the weather and the landlady's plans). And then there'll be even more bitching and complaining about Moscow, as we are moving there sometime this fall, too.

If it were completely up to me, I'd choose to stay here.

Friday, September 29, 2006



I think I saw it on the news yesterday and today - there are rallies against rises in utility rates, in Kryvyi Rih, in Kharkiv. But I was running back and forth between the kitchen and the TV room, so I might have missed something. Maybe they were showing archive footage. There's a piece in the Kyiv Post on the relevant legislation, but I'm too sleepy to understand anything in it... I need a clone badly.

I was in Babiy Yar yesterday, briefly. A few photos, nothing special, are here, a Global Voices translation here. Eavesdropped on an elderly Odesa man telling some woman why Jews lay stones, not flowers, on their graves. The menorah monument is well-hidden - I remember we couldn't find it in 1995, and it took me a while to find it this time. I haven't been to Babiy Yar since then. There're fights going on about building a decent memorial there, I heard - I don't understand why a makeshift football field and a huge unfinished construction are better... It's horrible to walk through the park, past all the young mamas with strollers, after re-reading about the massacre. And to see kids playing near the monument to the children who died there...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My mama has a fellow-grandmother friend at the sanatorium now - a very sweet teacher of Ukrainian, whose daughter pays around $2,500 a month for two rooms there. They do their laundry in the bathtub - and the way she mentioned it, I realized she didn't think it was anything extraordinary. Nothing horrible, definitely. The kids wear diapers, so they don't really get dirty often, she said. I'll never understand this. She and my mama are the same age, their birthdays are four days apart. They are considered "children of war" (WWII, that war) and were receiving a little bit of extra money from the state, in addition to their pensions. Up until now, they were, but Yanukovych returned and quickly took it away. Mama's new friend complained that she and her husband had counted on this money to help them pay for utilities at their apartment. Just think of it: one family, two generations - and their expenses...

***

I keep forgetting how much my parents' pensions are now. I'll ask tomorrow.

My friend Tanya spent part of the summer in New York, attending a Yiddish language summer school at NYU. At some point, she and her Belarusian friend, a grad student in Poland, decided to go to D.C. They took a bus from Chinatown (illegally operated by the Chinese and thus significantly cheaper) and landed in the capital's Chinese neighborhood in the middle of the night. They took a nap on a bench - dangerous, but they weren't aware of that then. The Belarusian guy wanted to see the Pentagon, so when the first joggers appeared, they asked for directions and eventually got there. Standing some 200 meters from the Pentagon, the Belarusian guy decided to take a picture. A police car appeared, blaring and all, and a black cop jumped out and demanded to see their IDs. Tanya's friend produced his, but when the cop asked for his birthdate, he suddenly realized he'd given him the wrong one, the one he was using to pay less when using public transportation in Poland. So he showed his second ID, with his real, older, age printed on it. The cop let them go in the end, even though he must've thought they were spies when they told him about all those foreign languages they could speak.

***

Tanya was so much better at telling this story, so much more fun. I wish she had a blog, but I can't talk her into starting one, unfortunately. She's got some truly amazing stories - like the one about observing the March 26 election at a prison outside Zhytomyr. Or the one from the third round of the 2004 election, when she was an observer in Kharkiv and sent one of the richest and most influential locals back home to get his passport. I really hope she'll write all these stories herself one day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I like what the beatroot wrote about Oriana Fallaci:

[...] Great woman? She may have been once, but by the time she died she was just a senile old racist. [...]


***

I also like what Andy of Taking Aim wrote about the Pope:

The Pope, apparently, should not be allowed to say that Catholicism is superior to other religions:

Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of one of Italy’s main Islamic organisations, the Islamic Religious Community […] expressed a fear that the Pope’s comments demonstrated a “Christian Catholic exclusivism” - a belief that Catholicism was superior to other religions.

In the words of Rebecca, who sent me the link - “He’s the POPE for gods sake - if he can’t think Catholicism is a superior religion, then the world has truly gone nuts”.


***

Somewhat belatedly, L'Shana Tova and Ramadan Mubarak to all of you, my dear readers!

***

Also, the second anniversary of the "egg incident" was mentioned in the news here today, somewhat belatedly, too. Turns out the guy who threw that egg at Yanukovych was the son of a university dean from Ivano-Frankivsk - economics department, I guess, but I may be wrong. The poor father had a heart attack after his son's adventure.

(Pora has the video of the "egg incident" - here.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'm really excited about my today's Global Voices translation - Notes on Montenegro and Transnistria - working on it has been fun and educating. The tagline could've been something like, While Serbia is shrinking, brotherly Russia finds ways to expand.

(I keep re-posting my GV stuff at my other place, Work Log. It's still very messy, though.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Old news by now, the finance minister's announcement about limiting newborn financial aid to those whose joint family income is less than 5,000 hryvnias ($1,000) a month - I guess they've reversed that decision now, Yanukovych has, earning a few popularity points for nothing, I'm sure.

What I find really interesting about it is the statistics:

Only about 5 percent of Ukrainian families have income of more than $1,000 a month. Finance minister calls these people 'rich.' The remaining 95 percent live on less than this.

This is just too fucking scary.

Of course, there's a fair number of people who don't bother declaring their incomes - and with the government's mood swings, it's probably the right thing to do, still. Unfortunately. It must hurt to suddenly find out that while you were helping the schmucks buy their fancy cars on your taxes, the schmucks have labeled you 'rich' and decided to save $1,700 (the newborn aid) on you, but not on your neighbor, who is getting paid under the table.

Another figure: in 2007, Ukraine is to have 453,800 new kids born. Not sure if it's a lot or not, and am too lazy to search for the birth/death ratio now.

***

Somewhat off-topic, but when we talked about the landlady's alcoholic husband, she said he hasn't had a job in 13 years, didn't want to have one, was saying that he was done working, kept saying it since he lost his savings after perestroika. I don't know what he did during the Soviet times - could have been the army... Even though I can't make myself feel sorry for the asshole, after watching him up close for three months, it's still sad to see how one can become demoralized and drag the rest of the family way down...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A diversion:





Not really a diversion, actually... The building in the back is the dorm where today's hot water calamity took place. Also, all these beautiful clothesline exhibits - they are also about water, indirectly...

I have to share this... Marta is asleep in her crib, the room's dimly lit, it's very quiet, I'm all alone. Then I go online, join the Global Voices staff meeting via IRC, and suddenly it's like the whole world is in our bedroom, all the voices. And then comes this feeling - that despite all these voices, I'm sitting in complete silence, and the only sound is the clicking of the computer, and Marta's breathing. And all of a sudden, a mad cat starts screaming outside - and I realize that no one besides me and half Pushcha Vodytsya can hear the beast, not a single person from the crowd whose chat I'm following. Internet is such a weird thing...

Monday, September 18, 2006

The landlady's husband showed up around 6 pm, stinking of vodka. I pointed that out to him and he was smart enough to turn around and leave, without trying to enter the apartment.

The landlady came some 15 minutes later, with a new pipe. My mother was here, so she opened the door and told the landlady about the drunk husband's visit. The landlady burst out complaining, said she couldn't bear it any longer - but couldn't divorce him, either. Then she left to find a plumber.

She returned with a neighbor - there's a plumber in every apartment here, but none is available right now, she said. The guy sweated quite literally over (and under) the damn pipe/sink/drawers mess for about an hour, discovering in the process that the cold water pipe was about to burst, too, so he replaced it. The landlady asked me to give him 20 hryvnias ($4) when he was done, and I was happy to.

But if you think I have hot water now, you're wrong: I don't - because a pipe burst at the dormitory next door and they switched off hot water to everyone again today, trying to locate the damage and digging with the same old excavator again, in yet another spot. When it's gonna be back is anyone's guess.

***

The landlady cleaned the kitchen and washed the floor after the neighbor left, and I warmed up to her somewhat, and asked why she didn't pack up and leave to work in Portugal with her son, joining her relatives there and freeing herself from the alcoholic idiot. She said she was considering it - the husband gets drunk every day, and he doesn't keep silent, either, and sometimes, he's pretty violent, too, scares the shit out of their 12-year-old boy. I sympathized with her - up until she mentioned that she'd rent out this apartment to someone when she leaves Ukraine - at which point I began to sympathize with those future tenants...

Had to give her 10 hryvnias ($2) for the way back home... I mean, back to their dacha...

Two plumbers stopped by today, and the landlady took 30 hryvnias ($6) from me and disappered with one of them, while the other came back later, dismantled the kitchen sink, took out the damaged pipe and told me not to use the sink until he comes back tomorrow. Bastards, all of them. The landlady's cell phone is switched off. The pipe burst because it was old, one of the plumbers said. God, if only I hadn't decided to stay here for a month longer... All this would've happened to them, the landlady and her drunk idiot of a husband... And I wouldn't even know about it...

I've been granted a closer look at what it takes to fix a hot water pipe here: we had a minor flood at the kitchen Saturday morning.

The timing was terrific. I woke up around 8 am because the phone was ringing in the kitchen, but I couldn't get myself up because Marta had been noisy that night and I needed to recover some more. But since I was awake, I decided to call Mishah from my cell - he had just arrived from Moscow and was buying food and stuff for us at the store. We talked, the phone kept ringing, but I thought these were the landlady's relatives calling from Portugal or Italy, so why bother. I took another nap, and then it was time for Mishah to be here, so I got up and set out for the kitchen. I opened the bedroom door, expecting it to be freezing in the hallway, as I keep the windows open (not windows, but fortochka, how do you say that in English?). But the air that hit me was humid and hot, and I heard the water running, and I suddenly had this horrible image of water up to my knees in the kitchen, even though the floor beneath my feet was dry as I rushed there.

The kitchen was flooded, yes, but it wasn't too bad - the hot water didn't reach outside yet. The landlady's daughter had shown us how to turn it off in case of emergency when we just moved in, but that was three months ago, and the valves (?) were hidden behind all their shit inside the kitchen drawer, so I had no idea what to do right away. I dialled Mishah up, hysterically, but the number was busy - and then a moment later, he was ringing on the door. Perfect timing.

Poor Mishah had flowers for me, in addition to a bag full of diapers and food, but he had to drop it all and run to the kitchen to look for the stupid valve (?). His glasses soon became useless from all that steam, and we couldn't reach the landlady to give us directions, but then her daughter picked up the damn phone, and some five minutes later, the water was turned off.

Mishah's shoes were dying as a result; I was so distressed I was useless; Marta couldn't be left alone; so Mishah changed into slippers and was off to clean the mess. The flood killed many of the ants, and the remote corner of the floor finally got some washing, but other than this, there was nothing positive in the situation.

The landlady showed up pretty soon, bringing us the really bad news: it was the potato-digging season, and all the plumbers she knew were off to their gardens, storing up on food for the winter.

When I got into the bathtub later that morning and poured the first cupful of boiled water onto my head - again - I felt homicidal. (To those who haven't been following this blog recently, we didn't have hot water here from early August till September 6, and, to those who haven't been following this blog for the past nine months or so, I have a 9-month-old kid and boiling water to wash her is a pain in the ass, and I'm not even talking about myself.)

Sometime around 1 pm, a plumber showed up, unearthed by the landlady somewhere in the sanatorium (where she works as a cook at a private restaurant owned by some German or something - not sure if I've ever mentioned this here). The plumber looked miserable - skinny, stinky, smelling of pee, shit and alcohol, dressed in blue overall and tall, black rubber boots, looking sober until he began to speak, looking like one of my dear physicist friends - if this friend had become an alcoholic plumber instead of a physicist, that is, and stayed to rot in this part of the world.

He found the pipe that burst pretty soon and mumbled that it's gonna cost us to replace it. Mishah said, Of course, we'll pay. I asked, How much? The plumber didn't respond right away, and I was expecting to hear something terrible, like, a hundred bucks.

Fifteen hryvnias, he said. Three dollars. That's for the pipe, and he also wanted to be paid for his work. Sure, Mishah and I said simultaneously.

But he didn't have a new pipe with him, in that funny bag with instruments, on a strap that seemed too long and made the bag look inappropriately hip, teenagerish. He had to walk 1 km to the warehouse and then back, so it'd be awhile, he said. We'll be waiting, we both said happily, do come back!

Then we waited a few hours and he never showed up. Turned out he talked to the landlady and she didn't bother to call us: he didn't have the pipe. Her husband was to go to the market and buy it, and then he'd come Sunday morning and fix everything.

The landlady's husband is a useless prick, a burden trying to look and sound like he's the boss here - only we've never seen him not tipsy and we've never dealt with him when it came to the rent money.

The landlady called in the morning and was upset to hear he hadn't arrived with the pipe yet. She accompanied him all the way to the tram's last stop, two blocks from here, and couldn't believe he ended up staying behind for a drink after she was gone. She was at work.

He did show up, looked at the damaged pipe, said the one he had was too short, and left, promising to buy another one and come back tomorrow. I didn't talk to him, but Mishah said he was drunk.

I was unspeakably upset to have to boil water for the morning wash again. I was terribly mad at the landlady's husband for coming here drunk, and I was as mad at her for trusting him. We asked her why she didn't get yesterday's plumber to finish what he started, or why they didn't ask about the pipe's length, but she didn't have an answer. I asked Mishah to tell her I wouldn't let her husband in tomorrow if I smell he'd been drinking, and only then did she promise to send a plumber instead.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. This zooming in onto how things really work here has been bad and I hope I'll be allowed to zoom out soon, to return to my sort of touristy distance, to my slightly cushioned-up position. If they keep coming back drunk and doing nothing, I'm moving back to Bessarabka next weekend, early. Fuck them. And yes, W., I am drained now, despite all the wonderful fresh air I've been getting here for the past three months. A good thing is that Marta isn't aware of any of it.

***

A brief note on the local prices:

Our monthly rent here is only $100 less than what we paid for a wonderful apartment in St. Pete in 2003-2004. Really hard to believe. We used to have a dishwasher there, even. Here, I'm totally grateful for a washing machine: if we lived in the sanatorium across the lake, we would have to handwash all our stuff - and pay at least $800 for 24 days there. Multiply that by four, at least. They feed you there, though, and clean your room, make your bed and all that. And you could swim in their swimming pool for free, before it closed for repairs. A "luxe" room at the sanatorium costs a lot more, I've been told by a woman whose son is about Marta's age. She stayed there all summer, used a $1,000 cell phone - and didn't mind handwashing all her and her kid's stuff.

Sunday, September 17, 2006



Marta is nine and a half (months), loves to stand, loves to learn how to walk - we call it "tip-top."

Mishah took this picture at the sanatorium's playground - my first thought when I entered it today was, "No drunk bum has ever slept here."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

For balance, here's a link to Yelena Milashina's recent piece (RUS) in Novaya Gazeta - There Are People Who Know It All.

I haven't read it, because to read it is to live through it all again, and I'm not ready now. Like Chivers' piece, it's about what really happened, the facts.

Here's a passage relevant to the previous entry about Litvinovich:

Even though Beslan residents have been reproached more than once in these years for profiteering from their grief, they have born the many months of the trial with dignity and have formulated the main questions that the investigators resisted answering so stubbornly.

Russia has memorized the names of two women - Susanna Dudieva and Ella Kesaeva - who were accused of being overly active and were insulted in the most cruel ways.

Normally, I'm on Marina Litvinovich's side - like, when they were demonizing her around the time of Beslan's first anniversary, when her name, along with the Mothers of Beslan, was turned into something like a curse. That wasn't fair - she was just making sure everyone could read the Kulaev trial transcripts, instead of relying on the media cacophony (though the trial materials are rather messy, too, but that's a different story).

Anyway, I kept telling myself that no matter what else she is - or was - involved in, be it helping Kasparov oppose Putin or helping Putin come to power, it shouldn't be lumped together with her work at PravdaBeslana.ru, for that's a noble, very useful project, etc. But they - the media and individuals commenting on her blog - kept accusing her of making a name for herself off the suffering of others, using Beslan to promote herself. Those comments on her blog have always been quite nasty, very harsh, very silly, unfair.

But, following the fifth anniversary of 9/11, she posted a Beslan-related entry (RUS) that seems to have pleased all those assholes so much, they decided not to bark at her this time.

What she wrote is crazy: it's about C.J. Chivers' Esquire piece - how soft it is - "gladko vylizannyi glamurnyi geroizm" - I don't even know how to translate it, nor do I want to, really... Glamourous neatness or something... Neat, glamourous heroics...

Her point is that negative stories should be told, too:

There were ugly stories in Beslan, both in the gym and later, when they were sharing sorrow and grief and then some were fighting for money, apartments, jobs. How can one not tell about it?


I agree and I don't: everything should be told, but there have to be priorities.

For so many people, the Beslan Mothers are some crazy, regime-hating bitches, superstitious enough to believe that their kids can be revived (and how can you trust someone like this when they take the witness stand and claim that the blame isn't just on the terrorists, but on the law enforcement, government, etc.). They should shut up and go make more kids, replace the ones they've lost, as one famous/notorious Russian blogger wrote at some point. This year, Gazeta.ru quoted some Red Cross psychologist who seemed rather angry at Beslan victims - as if they were some spoiled kids who kept whining, despite all the goods and attention being given to them, wasted on them.

So yeah, the negative stuff does get reported - and it really helps to forget what those people have been through, and it really keeps everyone from thinking how this could possibly happen and how come no one but Kulaev and a bunch of cops have been put on trial, etc. And Litvinovich thinks there should be more of these distractions - and that they should be in Chivers' story, for some reason:

This is what I'm saying, that he's only writing about heroes. Which, of course, is very good, but not enough for objectivity. But he wasn't striving to be objective, he was just telling about people's good deeds.


I can't believe she wrote this crap. And this:

What I really believe is that the most terrible thing that happened in Beslan wasn't the terrorist act itself but what happened to some people afterwards.


All this moralizing. She's probably back on Putin's payroll. Or she's gone nuts. (See, now I'm one of those anti-Litvinovich assholes myself...)

It's so sad, I'm not even mad. Part of me wishes she were more specific, provided some examples, wrote her own version of Chivers' story... She mentions that her friend, Yelena Milashina of Novaya Gazeta (I guess), is considering writing a book about it... Still, it's making me sick...

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm so terribly busy and my internet is so terribly slow. Last week, when I did have some free time, I started another blog - a pseudo-blog - where I plan to dump all my Global Voices translations and other work: Work Log, a supplement to Neeka's Backlog. It's still a mess, but I hope to make it look nice by the end of this year. I guess I've figured out how to squeeze a picture into the header - and I do love the picture I've picked: it was taken here, in the neighboring village of Gorenka. Very happy about that. The reason for this extension is that I'm actually doing some work now and have got plenty of stuff already, and the backlog is the place for the "unsold" stuff, so it seems pretty natural that I should have a repository for those work-related pieces. I also needed a distraction, some boring mechanical work like finding my way through html and css... The url is 'smetanka' - I would've had 'smetana' instead, the last name of my husband and our daughter, but it's already taken. Which reminds me: there's this really funny commercial on Ukrainian TV now - Smetana President, the sour cream. You have to be a Smetana - a Ukrainian Smetana at that - to fully appreciate the sound of it, of course. So yeah, Smetana President, and I'm sick of politics, and am insanely busy. And it's Indian summer here now, lovely. Hope you're all doing great, too.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I have to admit it: I've totally lost interest in Ukrainian politics. I'm not even sick of it anymore. The only time I was, slightly, happened about a week ago, when I heard that Vyacheslav Pikhovshek would be back on air Sept. 18 with his Epicenter show on Channel 1+1. It's not shocking after Kivalov has become a PM, but still. Or maybe it's Pikhovshek's face that made me sick - he's gotten really ugly since the last time I saw him, not a TV look at all. I hope they've slotted his show for the time when most of their viewers aren't eating their dinners.

(Pikhovshek's return isn't surprising if you take into account what Oleksandr Rodnyansky was saying about him a year ago, in an interview to Ukrainska Pravda.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hot water's back! Hallelujah!

My mama, not an internet person, read about Kondopoga in a Kyiv daily paper - Gazeta po-Kievski. I was telling her about my yesterday's translation, and she said that, according to the article (nothing special, but available online, in Russian), kavkaztsy were planning "a second Beslan" at their internet forums. For balance, I had to tell her what I saw in the Russian forums and blogs yesterday.

Tonight's Global Voices translation is way too huge to post on this blog - so here's the link.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I'm looking for something to translate tonight, and there's much stuff on what's going on in Kondopoga, and I keep running into (mostly half-literate) bloggers who think physical extermination of non-Russians/non-Slavs/blacks/black-assed/kavkaztsy/southern guests/foreigners in Russia isn't a bad idea.

August 30 Bolshoi Gorod has a very good piece on Beslan by Yekaterina Krongauz - Krest Beslana, in Russian.

***

September issue of the Russian Esquire has "The School" by C.J. Chivers in Russian, translated by Artyom Osokin.

***

In English and not on Beslan, but by C.J. Chivers, a piece on kadyrovtsy and torture in Chechnya, with videos attached, in the New York Times - In Chechen’s Humiliation, Questions on Rule of Law:

[...] Few people have yet compared the current disorder with the end of the brief period of Chechen autonomy, in the late 1990’s, when rebels and foreign Islamic mercenaries operated terrorist training camps in the forests, and when Islamic courts sentenced criminals to execution by firing squads, which were broadcast on Chechen television news. But Mr. Kadyrov’s police and security forces, known as kadyrovsty, are staffed mostly with uneducated young men, some of whom have been fighting for years, including many former rebels who have changed sides.

Recent videos of their conduct, provided to The New York Times by outraged Chechens, show an unsettling pattern.

[...]

What has made several recent cases different is that many of the kadyrovsty, unsophisticated gunmen who have had little contact with the world beyond Chechnya, have acquired cellphones with small video cameras and have casually, even gleefully, recorded their own crimes.

The video sequences are then shared, multiplying as they swiftly pass from phone to phone. [...]


***

These three pieces alone should make the world collapse, it seems, but no, life goes on as usual.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Things they hang out to dry here, again:



Here's some more on Ukrainians in Portugal and Italy:

From March 15-18, 2006, Ukrainian World Congress president Askold S. Lozynskyj visited Ukrainian communities in Portugal. Some two hundred thousand Ukrainians reside in Portugal, essentially all new arrivals over the last seven years. Only one third have legal status. The composition is gender equally diverse, children, average age in the late thirties, highly educated. Their lines of employment range from desk administrative positions to construction and taxi driving. In March 2005, a treaty between Ukraine and Portugal took effect regarding migrant workers, affording opportunities to procure workers’ visas for not more than one year with extension possibilities pursuant to contract with a Portuguese employer. The treaty provides for full protection and security afforded to indigenous employees. However, statistically, few have arrived pursuant to this treaty.

[...]

The stark movement of Ukrainians to Italy, temporary or not, can be explained by several factors: lax border control by Italy and propensity for corruption, job opportunities particularly for middle age women as caretakers of the elderly who dominate Italian society, periodic legalization amnesties and easy transport via cars and buses as well as airplanes. A legal and illegal network of busing from Ukraine throughout Italy from Naples to Milan provides facile legal and illegal transport for humans, parcels and money.

[...]

The community is structured but not centralized with regional and local associations such as the Christian Association of Ukrainians in Italy, the Association of Ukrainians in Italy, Ukraine Plus, Association of Ukrainian Women and Association of Ukrainian Women Workers. The contemporary community leadership actively has sought and established relations with municipal authorities, trade unions, international organizations (Red Cross, International Organization for Migration, the latter in the area of human trafficking) and the media. Several communities boast of a Saturday/Sunday Ukrainian school program with facilities provided by local government officials and organizations. Text books are brought over by the teachers themselves from Ukraine. Ukraine’s Ministry of Education has been less than helpful. Aside from general legalization, the greatest need is a treaty between Ukraine and Italy regarding the logistics of receiving an Italian pension upon return to Ukraine. [...]


After reading this, I don't really understand why we need to join the EU. It seems like we're already there...

Just for fun, I've googled "Ukrainians in Portugal" - and found plenty of stuff.

I apologize for assuming that most of Ukrainians work there illegally - many do have permits, it seems:

There are an estimated five million Ukrainians employed abroad, chiefly in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Ukrainians moved to Portugal in part because some of them learned Portuguese fighting anti-colonial wars in Africa; Portugal and Ukraine in February 2003 signed an agreement that will allow some of the estimated 200,000 unauthorized Ukrainians to become legal seasonal workers.


Hot water update:

After spending all Thursday digging and polluting the air with that stinky excavator, the workers didn't show up on Friday at all. Not surprising: hangover caused by the last day of summer, or perhaps they were waiting for the new pipes to arrive. No activity yesterday, but to work on Saturday is a sin, isn't it. Then, in the evening, we go outside, and the basement door is open, and there's this smell coming from downstairs: very damp, as if someone had been taking a very hot shower for at least a week, using dirty water and no soap or shampoo, and keeping the door shut all that time. We asked the neighbors and learned that those idiots dug everything up because it was the only way for them to find the pipe that burst. They didn't find it, despite all the damage they caused to the playground and its environs. And then on Saturday, hot water was found in our basement, so much of it, you could basically swim down there. Well, not that much, but up to our neighbor's knees, we were told. No one seems to have any idea how the water got there. And they've been threatening to turn the cold water off. And there's no hot water in the rest of the buildings now, two or three of them that had it all this time.

Our landlady is originally from Western Ukraine and has relatives in Portugal and Italy. They call this number every once in a while, asking for her. I assume that, as most other Ukrainians - tens of thousands of them, right? or millions? - they work abroad illegally. Now, I'm not one of those Ukrainians who like to preach how bad and immoral it is to live anywhere but in Ukraine - and who live elsewhere themselves. But this no-hot-water situation has gotten so desperate, I feel like screaming: dear governments of Portugal and Italy, please deport all those wonderful Ukrainian construction workers, etc., as soon as possible, because these motherfuckers who've stayed only know how to drink and curse, it seems, and they'd sooner tear our building down than find where the fucking leak is! Please send our skilled ones back!

I'm kidding, of course. Almost.

The kids love this mess, by the way. They are running around the pits and mounds, chasing each other, playing war, and they've also found clay there and are making sculptures. It's not 100 percent bad, you see.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Here's my September 1 translation for Global Voices...

Russia: Beslan Anniversary; Day of Knowledge

For LJ user yume_yami, a 14-year-old high school student from St. Petersburg, September 1 is, above all, the first day of classes; she posts a picture of herself at today's Day of Knowledge ceremony at her school and writes (RUS):

Tada-datam) It's happened) I did survive it.

Everything went as usual, we sung the anthem, we remembered Beslan, and despite small troubles such as tight shoes, it didn't cause much disgust. My tights got ripped, though, bastards, at the same time and at the same spot as Victoria's. We made a wish)

A couple of newbies didn't get her Majesty's attention, as they had nothing interesting about them. I was told that I looked like an angel. Cuttttie)

[photo omitted]


***

For 41-year-old Rimma Polyak - LJ user rimona, Moscow - September 1 will never be the same again, after what happened in Beslan two years ago (RUS):

[...] Two years ago, at one wonderful forum (which no longer exists) one wonderful person proposed this: each of us should write a post for September 1. I liked the idea and wrote this text, which fit my mood then.

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[...] September 1 isn't just one day of the calendar, it's a special date, it's the day on which the new school year begins. And if the real New Year is a holiday night, a joyful anticipation of the [New Year's] eve, a hope for pleasant changes - the school year's first day is the morning that is followed by a long row of work days, it's the end of the vacation carelessness and the beginning of the responsible and orderly labor.

It's been nearly 20 years since I [last] felt like this about September 1. Only once, before the second grade, I spent my whole summer break waiting impatiently for the first school day. I so wanted to put on my school uniform again, to hold my textbooks, to see my teacher and classmates again. But by the third grade, I began to think of the return to school with sorrow, like everyone else, and I dreamed for the summer to last longer.

And here I am, at last, with school years behind me. With the high school diploma, I acquired the long-awaited freedom from the rhythm imposed by September 1. From now on, it's just one of the 365 days of the year. What a pleasant feeling it was to remember about this every time I saw school children with their flowers, in a hurry, and the concerned teachers, and college students and professors - all those who continued to measure life in school years. For me, the year began on the night of January 1, just like in the carefree early childhood.

But time went by, and suddenly my daughter was starting school. And again the study/vacation rhythm was forced onto my life. And again September 1 became the dividing line at the end of each summer, reminding me of the need to mobilize and, after the relaxing rest, to devote myself for the whole year to school problems, early risings, homeworks, nightly reminders that it's time for bed, meetings with teachers - and all that for a long, long time...

And then there'll be grandchildren, and again September 1 will become the calendar's main day. And I'll be waking the new girl up in the morning, take her to school, live through all her problems and concerns, and look forward to vacation time together with her...

(August 31, 2004)


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And in the morning, September 1 happened in Beslan. And my elegiac text began to look bitterly ironic to me, an unnecessary and absurd detail next to the Beslan tragedy.

Why am I writing this now? To be honest, I don't know. Perhaps because September 1 is forever tainted with blood for me now, a little bit? Or because this day will never be carefree and happy for me anymore?

But maybe it'll all change with time and carelessness will reappear?

I'd love it to be this way.

I'd love not to be afraid for the children, for the loved ones, for myself.

God willing, this will not happen again.

All those who died in Beslan will be dearly remembered! And may those who lost their loved ones there be granted strength and courage!..


***

LJ user abstract2001 - Marina Litvinovich, founder of PravdaBeslana.ru (Truth of Beslan) website - was in Beslan on September 1 (RUS):

Came back from the School. The women's howling doesn't stop inside the gym.
Heartbreaking.
The sun is burning, 37 degrees [Celcius].
Everything is melting.
Tough.


A few days earlier, abstract2001 cited Beslan casualty figures (RUS) and causes of death, drawing on the newly-published study by Yuri Savelyev, member of an official parliamentary commission and an explosives specialist:

The mournful count.

112-116 dead people - were carried out of the gym burned. They burned to death because of the fire that started from the first shot from the outside and because the HQ's order to extinguish the fire came 2 hours and 20 minutes later.

106-110 dead people - the overall number of people who turned into hostages for the second time and died in the south wing, in the dining hall and classrooms in the additional building. Most died as a result of coming under fire from weapons of random destruction (RPO-A [flamethrowers], RShG, RPG, etc.) and tanks.

Total: 218-226 hostages

Terrorists did kill (or finished up):

18 people - men who were killed on Sept. 1, 2004.
12 people - servicemen from Alpha, Vympel and the [Ministry of Emergency Situations].

Total: 30 people

Overall total of the dead: 331 people, of whom 12 were servicemen.

A question: who is to blame for the death of the majority of the hostages?[...]


And here is part of abstract2001's exchange with one of the many fellow-bloggers who bothered to comment on the post:

revoltp: It's easy to answer such a question. The blame is on the terrorists. But if you pose the question like this: who besides the terrorists is to blame for the hostages' death? - the answer will be more complex. But the best question is how to prevent this from happening again. What can be improved. Who did well and who did badly.

abstract2001: Right. Only to answer [these questions], it's necessary to find out who did [what], how and why. And if the officials don't have a desire to find out - then there won't be an understanding of what is to be done. [...]

Friday, September 01, 2006

Marta is 9 months old today, really hard to believe, mashaallah. I haven't made any pictures of her today, not yet, and she's busy sleeping right now, so here's an August 20 picture I can't resist - on which she's busy sleeping, too:

We may get hot water back, after all. Not sure how soon, though, and - no wonder it took them so long to get started - it's such a major undertaking...