Küçük Ayasofya neighborhood:
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
For some reason, Kyiv smelled of timber today, and of spring. It rained in the evening. Unlike yesterday, I didn't have to wear my woolen mittens outside. The lack of color, typical of this time of the year, was difficult to bear (which is also typical - of me, at least). I didn't enjoy the quick walk around Lipki that I went on shortly before sunset - but somehow it feels great to look at the pictures I took during this walk. Maybe I'm just really starved for photography.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Kyiv is not what it used to be, which is sad. But sometime this summer I found a way to see it the way I love to remember it. All I have to do is walk around looking upwards instead of straight ahead of me, with some filters on/alarms off (e.g., ignore the ugly balconies and air conditioners stuck on facades, pretend there are just a few cars around, don't get mad when some jerk drives past you on a sidewalk). It works: Kyiv is still there, beautiful, lovable...
Thursday, December 16, 2010
On Monday, two days after the first pogrom, Marta and I went grocery shopping across the street. Moscow seemed unchanged. What caught my eye while we were waiting for green light was a young Central Asian migrant worker, who had a black ski hat on. One of the words on this hat was "олимпиада" (the Olympics), and I thought, "Wow, the 1980 Moscow Olympics, are they still selling this stuff?" And then I noticed two more words below "the Olympics": "Красная Поляна" (Krasnaya Polyana) - a place where some of the events of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are to take place.
My head is filled with those ugly pogrom images, and all those dirty chants, and those faces, and what I read online about it. But I haven't been around much lately, so a tiny part of me still doesn't believe any of it is for real. And I wish I could squeeze the rest of myself into this tiny part of me and live there. And somehow it helps to think about this gastarbeiter and his hat - it helps to pretend that I continue to stare at his hat, asking these questions: Is it a cheap fake hat that he bought at the market? Or did someone bring it to him all the way from Sochi? Or did he find it in a garbage container? Does he think it makes him look a little bit more like a Russian patriot? Does he think it makes him less of a target here? Or is it just a warm hat and he never thinks about it at all?
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 05, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
In between everything else (and that's A LOT right now), I'm reading this wonderful book about languages - The Unfolding Of Language: The Evolution of Mankind's Greatest Invention, by Guy Deutscher.
One of the first examples in this book comes from Turkish - an illustration of one of the "many exotic and outlandish features" of foreign languages (p. 2):
[...] The Turkish word şehirlileştiremediklerimizdensiniz, to take one example, means nothing less than 'you are one of those whom we can't turn into a town-dweller'. (In case you are wondering, this monstrosity really is one word, not merely many different words squashed together - most of its components cannot even stand up on their own.) [...]
I've already seen something similar in one of my (many) Turkish textbooks - which promises to teach you Turkish in three months, but just scared me away by providing the following two "monstrosities" in Lesson 1, Part 5, which deals with seemingly innocent "vowel harmony":
Являешься ли ты одним из тех, кого мы были неспособны изменить?
[Are you one of those whom we've been incapable of changing?]
Разве ты являешься одним из тех, кого мы не смогли европеизировать?
[Aren't you one of those whom we haven't been able to europeize?]
Two more quotes from Deutscher on crazy irregularities in other languages - hilarious, got me laughing out loud, which doesn't happen all too often now, and that's why I have to preserve them here, for future reference... :)
English (pp. 40-41):
[...] Native speakers may be blithely unaware of the chaos that reigns in the English verbal system; not so anyone who has had to learn it at school. Here is a rhyme I wrote in memory of my frustrations:
The teacher claimed it was so plain,I only had to use my brain.She said the past of throw was threw,The past of grow - of course - was grew,So flew must be the past of fly,And now, my boy, your turn to try.But when I trew,I had no clue,If mow was mewLike know and knew(Or is it knowedLike snow and snowed?)
The teacher frowned at me and saidThe past of feed was - plainly - fed.Fed up, I knew then what I ned:I took a break, and out I snoke,She shook and quook (or quaked? or quoke?)With raging anger out she broke:Your ignorance you want to hide?Tell me the past form of collide!But how on earth should I decideIf it's collid(Like hide and hid),Or else - from all that I surmose,The past of rise was simply rose,And that of ride was surely rode,So of collide must be collode?
Oh damn these English verbs, I thoughtThe whole thing absolutely stought!Of English I have had enough,These verbs of yours are far too tough.Bolt upright in my chair I sat,And said to her 'that's that' - I quat.
And German (p. 43) - via Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad, "an appendix entitled 'The Awful German Language'":
[...] Twain could not understand why, for instance, German rain should be a 'he', a German fishwife should be an 'it', and a German fish-scale a 'she'. So after a few more pages of rant, he went on to recount the following touching 'Tale of the Fishwife and its Sad Fate', purportedly translated literally from the German:
It is a bleak day. Hear the rain, how he pours, and the hail, how he rattles; and see the snow, how he drifts along, and of the mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor fishwife, it is stuck fast in the mire; it has dropped its basket of fishes; and its hands have been cut by the scales as it seized some of the falling creatures; and one scale has even got into its eye. And it cannot get her out. It opens its mouth to cry for help; but if any sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the storm. And now a tomcat has got one of the fishes and she will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a fin, she holds her in her mouth - will she swallow her? No, the fishwife's brave mother-dog deserts his puppies and rescues the fin - which he eats, himself, as his reward... [...]
Saturday, October 16, 2010
The "audit" scandal - crazy, in many ways, including this (Kyiv Post):
[...] When asked how much tax payers’ money was and will be spent on the U.S. lawyers and investigators, Plato Cacheris with Trout Cacheris law firm said “it was much less than the money stolen” and would not elaborate further.
In turn, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry also refused to reveal any details, calling it a commercial secret.
A senior government official told the Kyiv Post that $2 million in state budget funds had been spent on the first stage of the audit.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue, said the aim was to recover a sum up to 100 times larger than the firms’ fees.
The official added that two further stages of investigations are planned, which will cost roughly the same each.
“So far we have done what we needed to. But there is a high possibility the Cabinet will ask us to do some other things,” Cacheris told Kyiv Post.
[...] Kroll and Akin Gump are not new to Ukraine.
After the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, Kroll was hired in 2001 by then-President Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk to probe the case. In the end the firm issued a report saying Kuchma wasn’t involved, which was widely viewed an attempt to absolve him from suspicion arising from alleged discussions he had with senior officials about dealing with the journalist.
Akin Gump lawyers have also had experience working in Ukraine.
The firm’s lawyers have in the past defended Ukraine’s richest oligarchs and strongest Yanukovych’s backers – Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, and gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash.
At times these firms have pressured investigative journalists who write stories about both Ukrainian businessmen by threatening to file lawsuits against them. [...]
Thursday, September 30, 2010
[...] As for Moldova’s so-called Twitter Revolution, Evgeny Morozov, a scholar at Stanford who has been the most persistent of digital evangelism’s critics, points out that Twitter had scant internal significance in Moldova, a country where very few Twitter accounts exist. [...]
Yet, here's what Evgeny Morozov was writing at the time of the Moldova riots, in April 2009, on his Foreign Policy's Net.Effect blog (the post - titled "Moldova's Twitter Revolution" - has since been "archived," and, strangely and quite annoyingly, one is required to register to be able to read it, and this is why I'm quoting from my own GV post):
[...] Will we remember the events that are now unfolding in Chisinau not by the color of the flags but by the social-networking technology used?
If you asked me about the prospects of a Twitter-driven revolution in a low-tech country like Moldova a week ago, my answer would probably be a qualified "no". Today, however, I am no longer as certain. If you bothered to check the most popular discussions on Twitter in the last 48 hours, you may have stumbled upon a weird threat of posts marked with a tag "#pman" (it's currently listed in Twitter's "Trending Topics" along with "Apple Store", Eminem, and Easter).
No, "pman" is not short for "pacman"; it stands for "Piata Marii Adunari Nationale", which is Romanian name for the biggest square in Chisinau, Moldova's capital. [...]
Ever since yesterday's announcement that Moldova's communists have won enough votes to form a government in Sunday's elections, Moldova's progressive youth took to the streets in angry protests. As behooves any political protest by young people today, they also turned to Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the planned protests and flashmobs. [...]
The related posts on Twitter are being posted at a record-breaking rate - I've been watching the Twitter stream for the last 20 minutes - and I see almost 200 new Twitter messages marked with "pman" (virtually all of them in Romanian, with only one or two in English). In the last few hours there have also emerged several "smart" aggregators of posts on the subject, like this one - they have to contextualize what exactly is happening -- and this one for YouTube videos. Many blog posts are also being updated in real-time - minute by minute - check this one. There are also a plenty of videos on YouTube and photos, including those uploaded to Facebook. [...]
Later, however, Morozov revised his position (again, the quote is from another of my April 2009 GV posts):
[...] 3. It really helped that even non-technology people in the U.S. and much of Western Europe are currently head over heels in love with Twitter. It's really good that the Moldovan students didn't organize this revolution via Friendster or LiveJournal (which is still a platform for choice for many users in Eastern Europe). If they did, they would never have gotten as much attention from the rest of the world. [...]
Honestly, I find this fixation on the "tools" a bit frustrating. "The rest of the world" seems to be more concerned with whether it was correct to call the events in Moldova a "Twitter Revolution" or not; what actually happened on the ground at the time of the riots and later seems to be of minor interest.
I wouldn't blame "the rest of the world" for it too much, though: after all, the mess we are capable of producing it often too difficult to follow, too irrational, and too "local."
For the same reason, it's our own fault, too, that "the rest of the world" chose to focus on Yulia Tymoshenko's braid, legs and ass after Maidan was over: we just don't make sense otherwise. Even to ourselves.
As for Iran, which is also mentioned in Gladwell's piece, Michael Jackson's untimely death contributed to the thinning of the "rest of the world" crowd in summer 2009 as much as anything else.
"The Orphans' Revolution" seems to be a much better term for what happened in Moldova in April 2009. Here's what Dumitru Minzarari wrote back then:
[...] Their protests were labeled the «Orphans’ Revolution» because under the Communist government close to a third of Moldovan citizens (their parents) went abroad to earn money for a living.
That is another face of Moldovan protests, where kids got into streets because their parents betrayed them and their European dream proved to be a fake, because “EUROPE DOES NOT NEED MOLDOVA”. [...]
And, Twitter or not, the "orphans" are still there, unfortunately.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Irpin, a town 15 minutes away from Kyiv.
They still have the 3rd International Street:
And Sovnarkom Street:
And Karl Marx Street:
And the Ukrainian and Rebel Song Festival is taking place in Irpin right now - Haydamaka.ua - an event that's making some Party of Regions folks feel extremely paranoid:
The venue for the festival is the local Victory Park:
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I took this picture from a cab a few days ago - a banner on the building of the Ukrainian People's Party on Shevchenko Boulevard, calling to dispose of education minister Dmytro Tabachnyk - send him to the trash bin. The banner's been there for a long time, I guess, but I've been more or less ignoring our "big" politics since the winter election, never had it in me to bother photographing it. But this time we were waiting for the green light right next to this building, so I quickly opened the window and took the picture, just in case.
The cab driver - speaking in Ukrainian, not Russian - asked me whether I really thought that a trash bin was where Tabachnyk belonged. Yes, I said. The driver continued: What about the education minister before Tabachnyk - who was it, by the way? - was he any better? I told him that if we were talking about Ivan Vakarchuk, then yes, he was better, a lot more presentable. The driver didn't seem to share my view. I assumed he was a Party of Regions fan and explained to him that Tabachnyk, among other things, was actually hurting whatever remained of his own party's image, by saying and writing things that made it appear as if the party represented some regions of Ukraine and not others. He even hurt the feelings of his comrade, Hanna Herman, I added, when he said all those things about Western Ukraine, where she is originally from.
I almost forgot about this conversation, but saw this item (RUS) on Korrespondent.net today - Volodymyr Yavorivsky's comment (UKR) on Tabachnyk's latest fart (RUS), which seems to target writer Yuri Andrukhovych more than anyone else - and decided to make a note here.
Yavorivsky, who is a BYuT MP, calls Tabachnyk "a politically sick person" and a foreign "agent" - and makes a special note of Tabachnyk's ethnicity:
[...] The worst thing is that this is done by a representative of the Jewish ethnicity. I'm surprised that the Jews themselves aren't protesting and demanding his resignation. Because he is casting a shadow on all the Jewish people. Every Ukrainian today knows perfectly well what Tabachnyk - who is pretending to be a peaceful rabbi - really is. [...]
Nothing's changed since I last paid attention: as before, most of our politicians, regardless of the political force they belong to, are so much better at making idiots of themselves than at moving the country in the right direction.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Ten years since Georgy Gongadze's disappearance today.
Yuri Kravchenko, who is said to have committed a suicide in 2005 by shooting himself in the head twice, is in the news again, as the one who ordered to kill Gongadze (UKR).
A few months ago, I found a tennis magazine near my mailbox, picked it up and ran into a piece about an "international" junior tennis tournament that was launched in 2008 in Kravchenko's memory by his daughter and a charitable foundation named after him.
Kravchenko Cup. This past spring, the tournament was held for the third time, just outside Kyiv.
I meant to write about it here, but kept getting distracted. Today, I decided to google it, and here's their site - http://kravchenko-cup.com.ua/ (RUS).
Two sentences about Kravchenko from the text on the tournament's history (it is making me sick to try translating the rest - and today it would be a sacrilegious thing to do):
[...] A statesman who was used to thinking globally, Yuri Kravchenko understood that in order to eliminate crime, much attention had to be paid to the development of sports. He thought that it would help thousands of children to follow a healthy and happy path. [...]
I love this blog dearly, but keep cheating on it.
Tumblr is where I am most of the time now.
I moved there after all my iPhone Twitter apps started acting up, refusing to let me in. I still have no idea why it happened. At some point, I lost my patience and deleted them all. I used TweetDeck for a while, but it kept crashing, so I deleted it, too. I continue to post on Twitter occasionally from my computer. But when I'm not home, I post my iPhone pictures on Tumblr. These posts are automatically mirrored on Twitter and Facebook. And there's a sidebar Twitter feed on this blog as well.
I can't figure out the commenting system on Tumblr - I don't think there is any - but that's a minor problem, I guess.
I sort of hate this chaos, but can't do anything about it. And I really enjoy my new freedom from the 140 characters limit - an addiction.
Some of the places where I might be when I'm online but not here:
- Global Voices Online
- Work Log
Saturday, September 04, 2010
My GV translation of a Beslan survivor's story...
Russia: Beslan School Siege Survivor's Account
Agunda Vataeva (LJ user agunya) was a 13-year-old girl about to begin her ninth-grade studies on Sept. 1, 2004, the day when she, her mother and more than 1,100 others were taken hostage at School #1 in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. She survived the three-day siege. Her mother, a teacher, didn't. Of the 334 hostages who lost their lives six years ago, 186 were children.
Agunda is a 19-year-old college student now. In the past three days, she has posted three installments of her recollections (RUS) of Sept. 1-3, 2004, on her LiveJournal and Radio Echo of Moscow blogs.
She writes this in the introduction to her first post:
While at the hospital, right after I got a notebook [computer], I began writing down what I remembered of those three days that I spent as a hostage. Six years later, I'd like to publish the notes I was writing then, [when the memories were still fresh]. [...]
On the Echo of Moscow blog, this Sept. 1 entry has been viewed 7,554 times and has generated 55 comments so far.
Agunda begins her account with the description of a festive yet ordinary morning, warm and very sunny, her walk to school with her mother, the final preparations for the welcoming of the new school year, and her casual chat with friends - which was suddenly interrupted by shooting:
[...] I turned around and saw three boys running towards the exit, and behind them a man in fatigues and with a thick black beard. He was running after the boys and shooting in the air. I thought: "Someone is making a bad joke, must be a prank or perhaps yet another drill." These thoughts vanished as soon as the shooting started from all sides and they started pushing us towards the boiler house. We were all huddled together. Trampled flowers, shoes and bags were strewn on the asphalt. [...]
Agunda and a couple of her close friends found themselves trapped in the school gym, together with hundreds of other hostages:
[...] People were panicking, we were hysterical. To quiet us down, They got one man up and threatened to kill him if we didn't fall silent. We were trying, but the fear and the panic prevailed. A gunshot was heard. They killed him... this is when the silence set in, dead silence, literally. Only the children's crying and screaming interrupted it. [...]
Soon enough Agunda's mother was allowed to join her daughter:
[...] We immediately started asking her what would happen, whether they would let us go or not. [...] Mama was talking very calmly, saying that everything would be fine, that we would be rescued. But as I looked at her, I knew that even Mama didn't know how it would all end, she was just calming us down, as her students, as kids. Kids - we were nothing but the scared kids then. [...] In a situation like that, even the most mature ADULTS were turning into cranky kids. [...]
Some more details from Day 1 of the siege:
[...] A gunman walked by, then stopped abruptly, [...] looked at Madina [Agunda's friend] and got very angry. He threw some jacket to her with these words: "Cover your shame!" She had bare knees, and, frightened, she covered herself right away. I felt a little bit better after this. "At least, they aren't going to rape us," I thought.
Time went by very slowly. It was hot, terribly hot. We took off all the clothes we could take off without looking indecent. There was little space, we sat on a bench. [...]
[...] It was around 8 PM when it started raining [...]. We sat by the broken windows and were catching raindrops with our mouths - this is how thirsty we were. Mama kept covering me and the girls with her jacket, but I kept getting out to get some rain. I felt so good - I think it's the best memory from that hell. [...]
Closer to lunchtime, by the way, They tried setting up a TV in the gym (to entertain the hostages with newscasts, obviously), but [it didn't work]. They told us that, according to the TV reports, there were 354 hostages. We felt [...] outraged. [...]
Throughout the night, we took turns sleeping in couples for an hour. While Madina and I sat on the bench, Mama and Zarina slept on the floor. An hour passed, and we'd switch. [...]
In the Sept. 2 entry (9,626 views, 92 comments on the Echo of Moscow blog), Agunda writes, among other things, about the hostage-takers' phone conversations, their demands (which included withdrawal of the Russian troops from the neighboring Chechnya and recognition of its independence), the visit of Ruslan Aushev, ex-president of the neighboring Ingushetia, and the resulting release of "11 nursing women and all 15 baby children" - an event that revived Agunda's hopes.
The account of Day 3 of the siege was the hardest for Agunda to write about - and is the hardest one to read:
[...] It was the day I remember best, and for too long these memories were causing me pain, keeping me from writing them down. [...]
As of now, this Sept. 3 entry has been viewed 16,185 times and has 178 comments on the Echo of Moscow blog (and these numbers continue to grow).
Agunda describes her own and other hostages' exhaustion, thirst and despair:
[...] All this time, Zarina's cousin, a first-grader, was with her, and she was very worried about him. On the third day, he was extremely weak and kept asking for water. Somewhere, she got some urine, in some broken cheap box, and she was giving it to him in small portions, wiping his and her own face with it. I couldn't overcome my squeamishness, or perhaps my thirst wasn't bad enough to drink this. [...]
Around 1 PM, Agunda writes, the hostage-takers announced that the Russian troops would withdraw from Chechnya and, if that information were true, they would start releasing the hostages soon:
[...] This was when I felt like crying for the first time in these three days, because there was some hope now that we would get out of there. And then... I just lost consciousness, and when I came to, the roof was burning over me, everything was falling, people were lying all around. The first thing I saw when I got up was a burning and burnt corpse of one of the terrorists, [...]. They started yelling that the ones who were alive should get up and get out of the gym into the hallway. I don't know why, but Mama and I got up and walked off. [...] By the door, I saw something that I still think about when I think about the terrorist act... I saw the body of a little, skinny girl, and when I looked above her neck, I realized that I just didn't see the upper part of her skull [...]. It was the most horrifying moment, and it was then, I guess, that I realized that this was all happening for real. [...]
The next few minutes brought another explosion, and more carnage and horror. Agunda was severely injured, but she was still capable of moving. Her mother wasn't:
[...] Mama was lying nearby. "My leg," she said. "Leave." I'll never be able to forgive myself for having obeyed her, for turning around and leaving. I don't know what it was. Where this betrayal came from.
I crawled to the broken window on all fours. There were some stoves by the window, and I reached the window sill. On one of these stoves lay two corpses of undressed, emaciated boys. They looked like brothers. Their eyes... [...]
I was one movement away from the street when my leg slipped into some hole. I could barely feel the leg at that point, couldn't find it, kept dragging it, but nothing came out of it. Our local militia and the soldiers were already waiting for me down below. They were yelling to me: "Come on, the golden one, come on, little sun!" But I couldn't. This feeling of weakness and hopelessness made me cry. For the first time in three days I was crying. But then I somehow pulled myself together and managed to free the leg. [...]
Agunda goes on writing about how she was taken to the hospital, how she learned about her mother's death. She writes about her friends and teachers who did not survive. She writes about living with the pain:
[...] People are still dying because of the consequences of the terrorist act. People are still reliving these events over and over again. I haven't told you even half of it, I guess. Memory is an amazing thing: one tries to forget everything that's bad, horrible, painful.
[...] I'm telling you my story. All that happened, happened in my dear school, with the people I love, and I think I have the right to tell you about my pain. What I used to call life back then was taken away from me. [...]
The people of Beslan are trying to let the truth be known. We aren't too good at it. The investigation has been going on for six years already, but it hasn't moved a bit. All the questions that we had then, remain today. [...]
Many bloggers have linked to and quoted from Agunda's posts in the past few days. Many people have written to let her know that they remember what happened six years ago and that they feel her pain and the pain of other survivors. According to some bloggers (RUS), however, neither President Dmitry Medvedev, nor PM Vladimir Putin, has issued any statements regarding the sixth anniversary of the Beslan tragedy. And on Sept. 1, one of Agunda's readers left this short comment (RUS) on her Echo of Moscow blog:
Will Putin's daughters read this?