Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So, according to Korrespondent.net (RUS), street cleaners in Kyiv will now be making $400 a month. I've just posted a GV translation of some reactions to this piece of news.

On the one hand, you'd think that this is totally natural for a city with so many fancy cars driving around (and parked on sidewalks). On the other hand, you'd think it's kind of annoying for a country where doctors, teachers and just about anyone else are barely surviving on their "average nominal salary" of about 170 euros a month (or living off bribes, shamelessly).

I was making much less than $400 a month nine years ago, when I returned from the States and was tutoring kids in English. Then I spent a year and a half living on this new street cleaner's salary when I found my American NGO job: I started with $300 a month, got a $50 raise - ha-ha! - a few months later, and then another one at the end of the first six months, and that was it for the rest of my time there. I kept a favorite student of mine, too, tutored him till he finished school - but by then, it was no longer about the money.

At this American NGO, we once spent about $2,000 for hotel, food, drink, gifts and other expenses in less than a week in Luhansk, a nightmare trip to a nightmare city. So it wasn't like we were being starved there, no. And, as far as I know, the U.S. staff salaries differed from those of the "locals" - which didn't really make me jealous, except for when someone kept spelling the word "anonymous" as "annoynamous" and I had to clean it up for him. And then once we were talking to some "small businessman" in a Ukrainian region, and he said he needed $300 to make his business work, and that just blew my mind away somehow: if we stayed in Kyiv, or skipped our dinners on a few trips, and then donated the money saved to this guy, he'd have a BUSINESS running, but here we were, nodding and taking notes (or doodling, as some of us often did)... Our work, of course, resulted in some people being sent to the States to learn stuff, all expenses paid, which was totally awesome, but I don't think that particular guy got selected - because he didn't seem to want to learn, he just needed the goddamn $300 to be able to get started, and we weren't some microcredit place or something...

Not sure what I'm trying to say here. I hope to spend some time in Pushcha Vodytsya this summer again - I'll report on the garbage situation once I get there. Who knows, maybe the street cleaning field will now become so competitive that it won't be as futile to call the Obolon district administrtion to complain about the garbage as it was last year.


  1. I look forward to more pictures of P.V., your last ones rocked, seriously.

    Along with the garbage situation there, I expect that you will keep us informed on the status of the clothes lines as well. To do less would be shirking your duty to your faithful readers.

    Seriously though, if I ever strike it rich, I would like to visit places like P.V. some day. Until then, I suppose I will just have to settle for your photos.

    One question, I noticed that very few of your photos of P.V. had people in them. Is that because you don't find people interesting subjects for photography or because the place is practically a ghost town?

  2. Doesn't it occur to people that it's not the $400 a month salary for streetcleaners that is the problem?

    The problem is all of the people who are at the mercy of the government in Ukraine for their salaries.

    In other words, the people are at the mercy of a government which is run by a few thug oligarchs who hire people to set salaries.

    It is a system which is largely still controlled by apparatchiks.

    One example - doctors. Why shouldn't doctors be allowed to open private clinics and offices?

    Ukrainians, and people in other countries, were very good at getting around the sovok system via bartering and bribes.

    That is very entrepeneurial.

    Seems to me that all of that energy could be put to good use and good work through private enterprise.

    If people got together and got rid of the oligarch system in Ukraine, instead of complaining about street sweeper salaries, seems to me that would be better.

  3. Jason:

    Thanks SO MUCH for your praise. As for the lack of people in the photos - it has do to with me, of course: I'm so preoccupied with Marta, I'm taking pictures differently now, have become sloppy, and sort of dreamy, and often can't resist the urge to escape, if not the place, then the people, if not in reality, then in my photos. :)

    To Elmer:

    But what makes you think doctors are not "allowed to open private clinics and offices?" They are and there are plenty private practices all over the country. The problem is many people cannot afford to use them. Another problem is you never know if they are good or bad - often, no matter how much you pay, quality and integrity aren't there - and one can't blame "the oligarchs" for that.

  4. Not too long ago I saw an article about a private clinic that tried to open in Western Ukraine.

    It was shut down, under the pretext that private clinics are not allowed.

    Where do the thug oligarchs go for medical treatment? To Austria, Germany, etc. - everywhere but Ukraine.


    Other businesses may open, but they may be subject to certain "taxes" from people who are not in the government, if you know what I mean.

    Try to open and run a business in Ukraine, outside of the thug oligarch sphere.

    Tell me what the results would be, Neeka, if you're not a Microsoft or Volvo or Mercedes or an outfit that can take the hits or deal with the massive corruption and thuggery that exists in Ukraine.

    I'd be interested to know.

  5. Oh, that was part of my point, Elmer: I can't imagine what it takes to open a small/medium business in this country - all the bribes you have to pay, all the legal pitfalls that are there to aid the fuckers to extract those bribes. People who manage to get through that are heroes. And, somehow, it's hard to blame them for agreeing to play by the rules introduced by the corrupt bureaucrats.

  6. Neeka, isn't that the whole point?

    Do you and the rest of the Ukrainian people want that to continue?

    You obviously do not, judging by your comment. And yours is a blog that can get the word out.

    You can't just stop at saying "well, they're a bunch of fuckers."

    Chernovetsky's daughter still gets to buy a Lamborghini, Yanuk goes to Spain to get a simply cartilage operation, Moroz still acts like a delusional schizophrenic, Kuchma puts on a big show for his smelly daughter's wedding, and nothing changes.

    And by the way, it's not the fact that Chernovetsky's daughter bought the Lamborghini that's the problem.

    It's the fact that he is using government to enrich himself and his friends in order to do that.

    Just like a bunch of other thug oligarchs. And Yushchenko is absolutely right - corruption, and that whole mess, is the debilitation and the ruin of the country.

    This is a time when everything is out in the open about Ukraine's system. All of the boils, and carbuncles, and pustules, and bacteria-filled blisters.

    Moroz is just one example.

    But this is a time when people should feel MOST optimistic, because it's all out in the open, and VERY CLEARLY so.

    And you have Tymoshenko, and Lutsenko in the lead, along with Yushchenko, telling people what should be done about it.

    In Ukraine, people are ready to shoot the street-sweepers for getting a raise.

    I am glad they got a raise. Everybody has to put bread on the table.

    But it's not the street-sweepers that are the problem.

  7. Elmer, my hands are kind of full right now. Also, some people are simply not born to lead others, and I happen to be one of them. I'd rather travel, and, in a way, this is what I'm doing, and I'd like to continue while I can.

    But I've a question: what do we do about Yushchenko's son? Should we just ignore him and the cars he's driving? Or should we pretend he has nothing to do with his father? Kyiv is a small world, everything is indeed out in the open, and because of that optimism often proves to be a really fragile thing there.

  8. What do you want to do with Yushchenko's son, and why does anything need to be done about his son - I don't understand.

    What do the cars owned by Yushchenko's son have to do with anything?

    Are you suggesting that by taking away those cars, that somehow government in Ukraine will change?

    If you are suggesting that his son got those cars by some nefarious means, that's a different matter.

    Some people have suggested that Yushchenko's son got cars, and money, and an apartment, in order for people to "have access" or to "influence" Yushchenko.

    But noone's been able to explain that to me clearly.

    If that is indeed the case, however, then it points out the need, more than ever, for "cleaning the temple," as Yushchenko himself said.

    You need to explain to me what you mean, please, Neeka, by the reference to those cars.

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