Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year to everyone!!!

Dearest friends,

Wishing you lots of joy, health and fun in the New Year!

Much love and warmest wishes,
Veronica

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maidan 2004 - seven years ago:

 

From my Facebook page (which this blog has long become secondary to, unfortunately...):

200 photos seems like a lot (and I do have some more, but a FB album only allows 200, so I had to abide) - but I've actually got surprisingly few photos from Maidan, partly because my camera was broken much of the time, and I spent half the time sick back then, and also because it was just too awesome to be there, around people, etc., it was great to live in Kyiv during those two months... Anyway, the quality of these photos is kind of crappy (I'm a late-night person who doesn't know how to shoot properly in the dark) - but I'm feeling nostalgic for that time, and selecting and posting these photos has brought some relief... :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn does weird things to me. After spending a few hours listening to Arthur Meschian's songs and reading Mark Grigorian's posts about Yerevan and about his grandfather, an Armenian architect who, among other things, designed Matenadaran, I felt homesick - in a way I had never experienced homesickness before.

Suddenly, I was craving to look at all the old photos and papers stored back home in Kyiv, a messy and neglected collection, some of it packed into an ancient suitcase that I keep in my room, the rest hiding somewhere in the dark and dusty mazes of the so-called entresol, a space I've never really explored.

Home is where all this stuff is. A family history that's too sketchy and disorganized, that won't reveal itself unless someone talks about it. And my father's no longer around to talk about his part of this history. My history, too - but most of it out of reach now.

In Kyiv, I keep promising myself to buy a scanner next time I'm there, then sit down and go through as much of this paper and photo stuff as possible. But I never do this somehow. Part of me, I guess, is scared of attempting to connect with the family's past: what if I fail to connect - or, what if I find something I don't want to find there?

Here in Moscow, I only have a few photos of my father's father, and a few of my mother as a little girl. And I've a scanner here. So, to alleviate this unusual homesickness, I went ahead and scanned those few photos of Sergei Andreevich Khokhlov that I keep in the little pocket of my Dear Diary.

I don't know as much as I'd like to know about my grandfather. He was a very good man, everyone used to say. He died in 1969, unexpectedly, due to a surgery gone bad, at the age of 61. My father missed him very much, but he rarely talked about him - or maybe I just didn't listen well enough. I love to look at the photos of him: I find him very handsome. He had some Greek roots, according to my father (I wrote more about it here). He had nothing to do with tennis and was pretty upset when my father quit his studies at the Construction Engineering Institute after one year and switched to sports. For a while, he was furious, actually. He worked as a quantity surveyor (I had to look up the translation of the boring Russian term "сметчик": it sounds as boring in English). He was said to be the best quantity surveyor in Ukraine at some point, whatever that means. I had spent some time looking at his work-related papers - and also at his insanely detailed calculations for repairs in our two-room apartment (hilarious stuff, somehow) - and even though I don't understand anything about the field he worked in, I do understand that he was a very stubborn and meticulous person. And very independent. I find it moving. And I'm proud of him. And I'll try to write more about all this later. For now, here are some of his photos.

With my father - who looks Marta's age on the first picture and a little bit older on the second one, so this must be one of the last pre-war years, 1939 or 1940, but there's no way of knowing for sure, I guess:

My father and my grandfather

My father and my grandfather

At some party at our place in Kyiv, with my father's friends - gymnasts Yuri Titov, Boris Shakhlin and Larisa Latynina - Olympic and world champions (only these three are identified on the back of this photo in my mother's handwriting):

My grandfather and my father's friends

At work:

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And some miscellaneous photos:

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yulia Tymoshenko has been sentenced to seven years in prison today.

In the seven years since Maidan, the folks running this country - all of them, with no exception - have made a gazillion of outrageous, embarrassing, gut-wrenching, absurd mistakes, on every level imaginable. Unlike this year's Tymoshenko trial and today's verdict, however, most of these missteps had been a bit too local and a bit too minor for the "international community" to conclude once and for all that Ukraine was just too dysfunctional to be treated seriously.

Today, Yanukovych and his gang have finally succeeded in sending the clearest and the loudest message possible: we're a bunch of morons bent on ridding this country of whatever little common sense it's got left; we believe that the only reasonable way to rule this country is by chasing off all those who've got the guts and the brains; the rest of them are just the biomass that exists for the sole purpose of providing fuel for our Bentleys, Maybachs and Maseratis; we're thugs and proud of it and couldn't care less if you disapprove.

Anyway, I hope Tymoshenko's legal team "wins" the appeal, though even if they do and she's set free, I don't think there's much of what's known elsewhere as "opportunity" for the majority of the Ukrainian citizens at this point.

***

My apologies to the genuises from all over the world, who've been landing on this blog in droves today, searching for yulia v. tymoshenko hot pics, legs, pantyhose, leather, heels, ass, hot, sexy, young. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, your idol has been sentenced to seven years in jail today, so you better brace yourself for the long, gloomy meatless days.

***

By way of consolation - and just to indulge myself - here are a few pictures of Tymoshenko that I took in 2004 and 2006. Nothing too hot, just cute.

Dec. 26-27, 2004:

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Feb. 26-27, 2006 - across Khreshchatyk from the infamous Pechersky Court:

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March 19, 2006:

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***

Oh, and just when I was ready to publish this post, a comment from an anonymous reader from Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, came in - poetry inspired by Yulia Tymoshenko's sentencing, no less: beautifully cretinous, very relevant, written in mind-numbingly broken Russian, most likely translated from English with the help of Google Translate. The comment was meant for the previous post, which is too apolitical and personal to be marred with such crap - so I'll publish the poem here instead, along with its Google Translate back-translation. Enjoy! :)

Я зажечь горелку на плите
Благодарные иметь дорогой газ
Напоминая, когда не было газа
Сейчас пламя горит больше красного
Она уже не ожоги синий и желтый
Давно прошли это надежда оранжевого мерцания
Некоторые искры, кажется потушен
Не сжигать в течение семи лет.

***

I light a burner on the stove
Grateful to have expensive gas
Recalling when there was no gas
Now the flame burns more red
It no longer burns blue and yellow
Long gone is the hope of an orange flickering
Some of the sparks, it seems extinguished
Do not burn for seven years.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Had a lovely date with Kyiv. For much of the past three weeks, it was a demented city, and I'm glad that it has managed to pull itself together for me on my last full day here this fall. Thank you, Kyiv. I love you, in spite of all the shit.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Also yesterday evening, riot police clashed with the people from the pro-Yulia camp, spraying tear gas at the protesters at some point (Ukrainska Pravda wrote about it here; the Interior Ministry has confirmed the use of tear gas today).

It felt very weird to be there during the clashes. Only a few minutes ago, the angry elderly lady from the previous post was yelling at a guy who didn't deserve being yelled at - and now she was acting as a nurse, splashing water on a middle-aged man who seemed to have gotten very sick after a close encounter with riot cops. Only an hour or so ago, I was taking pictures at the pro-Yulia camp, a place full of somewhat eccentric but totally friendly people - and now there was all this pushing, pulling and screaming. It felt weird, and sad, and unnerving.

At the end of the video below, you can see some bottles being thrown at the cops, and then a tiny cloud of what looks like smoke appears briefly over the people's heads: I was filming from the other side of Khreshchatyk by then - and now I wonder if this is what tear gas looks like from a distance...

Yesterday evening, when Yulia Tymoshenko was expected to emerge from the court, her fans gathered to greet her and ended up blocking the passage in front of the court's archway, a rather narrow path between Khreshchatyk stores and the two camps, along which "ordinary" people uninvolved in all this politics were crossing from one side of the block to the other. Upon reaching the court, these unsuspecting pedestrians had to turn around and walk all the way back to the underground pass near Besarabka.

Everyone seemed not too happy about this situation, including at least one of Yulia's elderly fans, who was extremely angry with all these apolitical intruders. She told one man to go to Yanukovych for help, assuming that he was a Yanukovych fan - and he replied that he didn't give a damn about Yanukovych, thanked the residents of Donbass for "such a president" and explained to the elderly lady that he just wanted to reach the other end of the block. She was still mad at him, and her hostility forced him to this conclusion about the pro- and anti-Yulia camps: "A Zoo here, and a Zoo there."

This exchange was taking place while the Ukrainian anthem was playing in the background. It was still playing when the crowd - and the angry elderly lady - started chanting "Han'ba!" ("Shame!"). Later, they switched to the "Bandu het'!" ("Down with the gang!") chant.

To imagine what it's been like to live and work on Khreshchatyk for much of this past summer and for much of this month, please watch this video at least five times in row, with the volume all the way up - and then imagine hearing all this constantly, over and over again, on weekdays and on weekends, from 9 AM to 8PM, for three months in a row, and also imagine hearing lots of music - Ukrainian songs, some of them good, some not so good, but all of them absolutely awful when played simultaneously - in between live speeches for your right ear and pre-recorded speeches for your left ear. (Just kidding. Or not.)

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Yulia Tymoshenko's trial - its final stage - has resumed today, and I spent some time in the evening walking around the pro-Yulia camp - and rushing past the fenced-off anti-Yulia camp.

The difference between the two is striking.

The pro-Yulia camp is an exhibition of all sorts of posters, political folklore and various hand-made items, all praising Yulia and making fun of Yanukovych and his bunch. You can walk all you want there, you can talk to people as much as you wish (though I felt better just taking pictures). Quite a lot of eccentric types are hanging out there, and the majority seem rather aged. Tired, too, but who wouldn't be, after a day spent in such a horribly noisy environment.

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The anti-Yulia camp is populated with young flag-waving human robots. I know this because I can see them from my window - but these guys are invisible to those who just walk past their stretch of Khreshchatyk. Their flags and anti-Yulia slogans is all you get to see up close. A few of them stand by the entrances to their space - and they don't look like people eager to explain their presence on Khreshchatyk. And even if they were, I don't think it's physically possible to talk to them: their monstrous sound equipment is too close, and getting as far away from it as possible is the only thing you wish for. I've a feeling that these guys are preternaturally tireless - and brainless - but I'm probably just biased against them (as many others who work and live next to their camp are).

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***

I also have a few videos of the clashes with riot police at the end of this first day - maybe I'll post them later tonight, maybe not.

***

All of today's photos are here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How wonderful it is to find myself at a place where there's plenty of fresh air, no politics, very few people, no noise, lots of flowers and enough space to walk for hours: Pirogovo/Pyrohiv, the open air museum of Ukrainian folk architecture...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Most protesters at yesterday's rally by afgantsy, chernobyltsy and others looked like people who probably didn't own computers and definitely did not organize through Facebook or any other social networks.

There was no dance, song, music or pre-recorded speeches at this rally; there were many fatigues and medals, and at least one "Thanks to Donbass residents..." t-shirt.

The rally also included a rather successful storming of the Rada building (I, of course, missed it, but here are some photos and video from Ukrainska Pravda) - and this storming inspired the MPs to wait a bit with the legislation that would've cancelled benefits for the groups of Ukrainian citizens that the protesters represented.

It took just a few days for that lonely bunch of hunger-striking chernobyltsy by the Presidential Administration to evolve into a much more impressive entity. "Ты никому не нужен" ("No one needs you"), a line that seemed to be begging to attach itself to the image of that tiny, irrelevant group last week, has been replaced with "Никто, кроме нас" ("No one but us"), the Marines' slogan that one could hear occasionally by the Rada yesterday (as well as the name of an organization that seemed to be behind the protests: Всеукраїнська громадська організація «Ніхто крім нас» (НКН).

Here are all the pictures that I took:

Monday, September 19, 2011

One of the many things I totally do not understand about Kyiv is why the Chocolate House in Lypky has been so neglected for the past 30 years or so.

They started holding various events there sometime last year (including an exhibition of some of Ilya Chichkan's works, which looked awesome in that setting - I do have a few pictures somewhere, should try to find them), and that's great - but not enough.

Right now, for example, there's a small theater puppet exhibition (and some of those puppets are truly great) - but one of the rooms is filled with drawings done by some 11-year-old girl - and I've absolutely nothing against her, but it seems like such an odd place to exhibit a kid's work...

Below are some of the interiors, puppets and kids' drawings (more photos are here):

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

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I keep thinking of Kyiv's size, of the fact that there are nearly as many people in this city as in the whole country of Croatia.

And at Georgi Gongadze's memorial yesterday there were many people - more than last year, I've been told.

Two hundred or so, including journalists, according to TSN.ua.

Surreal.

The day before, crowds of football fans flooded Kyiv's center on their way to the Dynamo Stadium. Thousands of them, it seemed.

And yesterday, a bunch of people walked slowly uphill from Maidan to the Presidential Administration building, with candles, chanting occasionally. A bunch that seemed both numerous and tiny, depending on what you compared it with. Angry honking from an asshole cab driver riding behind this group - a needless reminder that there were way more people in this huge city who couldn't care less.



(A few of my pictures from the event are here.)

While still at Maidan, I eavesdropped on a TV journalist carefully correcting an elderly woman she was interviewing: "Yes, but perhaps low pensions in Ukraine isn't what has brought you here today?"

Up at Bankova, as the names of the 63 journalists who lost their lives in the 20 years of Ukraine's independence were being read, Kuchma's ex-guard Mykola Melnychenko was rambling about something, looking very important, in front of a bunch of TV cameras.

A few dozen meters away, three or four Chernobyl liquidators lay on the ground, hunger-striking, irrelevant.

"Ты никому не нужен" - "No one needs you" - read a stencil near St. Sophia's Cathedral that I took a picture of earlier that day. Exactly.

"No one needs you"

Friday, September 16, 2011

The pro-Yulia camp - and a Georgi Gongadze Sep. 16 memorial poster - on Khreshchatyk:

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The anti-Yulia camp (all those flags on the other side of the street):

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A very realistic photo of St. Sophia's Cathedral (and if the only thing you see at first is someone's shiny Toyota parked on a sidewalk, that's because this photo is, as I said, very realistic - Kyiv is full of nice, shiny cars that drive and park on sidewalks):

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Kyiv is also full of riot cops now (partly due to politics, and partly due to a Dynamo Kyiv football game today, which we have managed not to lose thanks to a Croatian player on our team) - here's a photo of a grey bus used for their transportation (and a boy waiting to cross the street):

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And finally, a short video, in which some guy in a car parked on the sidewalk is calling for Ukrainians to unite to fight the totalitarian regime, while others are thanking the residents of Donbass for a moron of a president (a complete video and photo report on the ugly mess that took place at and around Maidan today, see this piece in Ukrainska Pravda; some background in English at The Next Web here):

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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To make the transition from the wonderful island of Vis to the Besarabka nuthouse a bit more bearable, I've decided to re-read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, one of my very favorite childhood books.

I've always remembered Durrell's descriptions of the Greek island of Corfu: mention an olive grove to me, for example, and even now I would still immediately think of his book.

But six years ago, in 2005, when we first went to the Assos/Çanakkale/Küçükkuyu area, which is relatively far from Corfu, but is still totally part of the same ancient, amazing land, I realized something funny: as a child growing up in Ukraine, where it rains pretty often in summer, I could never imagine a land so dry - and it turned out that all those images from Durrell's book that I had kept in my mind all those years had to be sort of re-painted, desaturated, once I found myself in the more or less actual setting of the book.

I think I first realized it when we took a walk from our friends' house, located above a mountainous village, down to the sea, passing some of the olive groves along the way. I remember looking at the olive trees and thinking: so sturdy, they seem to grow out of rocks and are capable of withstanding powerful winds - and there's no emerald green grass growing anywhere around these trees, or anywhere at all here...

Back in the Ukrainian village where I was reading Durrell's book as a kid, there was a river, and the grass covering its banks was indeed emerald green - and so lush. And even though we used to spend many of our summers back then in Crimea, in Sevastopol, a land that's probably as dry as the Mediterranean, my mind somehow chose to cling to the more "northern" imagery, found nowhere in Durrell's book, obviously.

I've been thinking of this curious perception error all these years, including this summer on Vis. And now that I'm finally re-reading Durrell's book, I first see my initial, childish, picture of the place, the wrong one, the greener one - and then, as vividly, I see the real picture, so familiar to me now as well, so dear. And so beautiful, in a totally different kind of way.

(I really like Storify.com - helps make Twitter a little bit less of an abyss and a maze...)

Monday, September 12, 2011



It took Vimeo forever to process these seven minutes of the cacophony outside, filmed from inside our room in the early afternoon, with a couple of windows partly open.

The quality's awful, but - just for the record.

I know that no sane person will have the energy to watch this thing, and I've no energy to edit it, or to explain what they are yelling about Yulia Tymoshenko, her gas deals with Gazprom, her debts to Russia and other evils - after a day like this, I can't really hear myself think.

As for the music, at first, there's their idiotic anthem, which I must've heard at least 50 times today and as many times yesterday, and then, at the end of this video, there's some Volodymyr Ivasyuk with Ya Pidu V Daleki Hory from the pro-Yulia camp - and some beautiful Ukrainian signing from the anti-Yulia camp - but they both sound predictably horrible when played simultaneously...

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Finally, I've opened the windows and recorded a little bit of the sound that has been coming non-stop, from around 9AM to around 8PM, seven days a week, since early July or so, from the anti-Yulia and pro-Yulia camps right across the street from us.

Nearly five minutes of Oleh Kalashnikov's recurring pre-recorded speech (and here's a rather cute picture of him) and his organization's anthem - and some Ukrainian choir music in the background, from the pro-Yulia camp.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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There's a little shop up the street from us, and its elderly owner is an unfriendly woman whose face is like a fist with unsmiling lips, unsmiling eyes and a potato of a nose on it. We were buying ice-cream from her a few days ago, and she tried to guess where we were from by the language we were speaking.

Czechs?

No. Well, not really. Ukrainians.

At some point, I told her how lovely Croatia was.

She spoke Croatian to us, but I understood her response: yes, it is beautiful, but it is hopeless here, no opportunities.

I tried to protest: but Komiza is such a wonder, a paradise on earth, raj na zemlji.

And she said, with muted anger: right, come here in winter and see - there is nothing.

And I said that I understood exactly what she meant. Because, somehow, I did. Though I would still prefer to spend my winters here, by the sea, than in our part of the world, no matter what.

And then I thought that perhaps it was winter, not all those idiotic politicians, that was actually to blame for so many of our problems.

And I also realized that I would've probably heard the same desperately gloomy opinions on winter from the locals of the Aegean Coast of Turkey - more than once, during the three or four of our wonderful summer visits there - had it not been for the impenetrable language barrier between us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too tired to write much now, but I really wanted to share these photos of the lovely place that we are staying at here in Komiža: Insulae Apartmani (the Facebook page is here). We spent the month of July here and have just returned after two weeks at another place for the rest of our time on Vis. It's the coziest and the friendliest place in the world!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

For the first month in Komiža, we stayed at Insulae Apartmani, a wonderful place run by wonderful people. At the beginning of high season, we moved to another place, just a couple minutes away, and now we are about to move back to Insulae for the remaining three weeks here. Packing and moving isn't too much fun, but change is exciting, especially for Marta. Below are some pics from this second place, which is also very, very nice:

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Keep forgetting to mention that Marta now has a photo blog - Marta on Otok Vis: photos she's taking here, selected and posted by me.

:)

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We are still on the island, and I'm too far behind with posting photos.

To jump-start myself, I've compiled images of the island's lovely doors, windows and miscellaneous dwellings:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Misha and I got married on July 15, 2005 - and the last time I saw my father was on July 16, 2007.

July 15 is supposed to be a very happy day, and I was doing my best to feel happy yesterday, tried very hard to fend off the sadness, to postpone it for just one day.

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Today, a swallow flew into one of our windows in the morning, crossed the room, nearly colliding with me, and flew out of the window on the other side of the room. It didn't seem to panic - maybe it wasn't the first for it here - and I thought it was a good sign, because birds are cool.

I went for a long walk in the afternoon, up a mostly narrow path high above the sea, where the hot air is filled with the amazing smell of rosemary and pine trees, and the views are incredible, and there are no people around.

The two-hour walk was both exhausting and invigorating. I wish I didn't hate hats and wore one on this walk. But I never do. That's my only regret.

I kept thinking about papa, about his long last walk somewhere in the forest and in the fields, in the summer heat, lost, four years ago.

I kept thinking of how good it was to know where I was and where I was going to and why, to know the way back, to know that Marta and Misha were waiting for me at the beach, to have my cell phone with me, just in case. It was good to remember that I had the keys to our apartment with me, and that I had to turn around and walk back eventually because of that. It was good to know exactly who I was, to remember my name, age and all, as well as today's date, despite some lightheadedness caused by the heat.

I felt grateful for all this routine knowledge that kept me safe during this walk.

And I hoped, the way I always do during my marathon walks, that my father was somehow there with me, in awe of all I was in awe of.

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