Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's so weird to be reading C.J. Chivers' piece on Beslan in Esquire (its first part is online, here) - a story written by a former Marine Corps captain, among other things - and then run into this New York Times' review of John Updike's new book, his 22nd, and learn, against my will, how little it seems to take to construct a fictional account:

[...] For his new novel, "Terrorist," however, he ventured onto the Web to research bomb detonators. He was fairly certain, he remarked recently during an interview in Boston, that the only detonator he could recall — the one that Gary Cooper plunges in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" — must be out of date, but he was also reassured to discover, as he put it, that "the Internet doesn't like you to learn too much about explosives."

While working on the book, Mr. Updike, now 74, white-haired, bushy-browed and senatorial-looking, also risked suspicion by lingering around the luggage-screening machines at La Guardia Airport, where he learned that the X-rays were not in black and white, as he had imagined, but rather in lurid colors: acid green and red.

And he hired a car and a driver to take him around some of the seedier neighborhoods in Paterson, N.J., and to show him some churches and storefronts that had been converted into mosques. "He did his best, but I think I puzzled him as a tour customer," Mr. Updike said. [...]

I like what Updike has to say about adhan, though:

"Arabic is very twisting, very beautiful. The call to prayer is quite haunting; it almost makes you a believer on the spot. [...]"


Chivers' Beslan story is difficult to read - not because of some truly unspeakable images that just don't go unless you talk to someone about them, but because it is not fiction and you know what the end is as if you were there yourself.

I'll write more, I hope, when I finish reading the piece.
Below is my translation for the Global Voices on this year's failed gay pride parade in Moscow:

This past Saturday marked the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia, and a number of people attempted to take part in a gay pride parade in Moscow - despite the ban by a city court and mayor Yuri Luzhkov's words from the day before: "As long as I am mayor, we will not permit these parades."

Orthodox Christians, Russian ultra-nationalists and skinheads attacked a handful of gays who showed up by the Kremlin to put flowers to the Unknown Soldier Memorial. Riot police detained up to 120 people that day, among them journalists and human rights activists, mony of whom now intend to file a complaint to protest their unlawful detention and harsh treatment.

LJ user mnog was at the scene with a camera and posted a three-part photo series - part one, part two, part three) - entitled "And You Call It A Gay [Pride] Parade?"

LJ user onair described the failed event this way (RUS):

Moscow is the world's only city where a gay [pride] parade took place in the absense of the gays themselves. That is, there were a lot fewer of them on Tverskaya [Street] yesterday than there are at 7 PM on any workday. [...]

LJ user lev4enko provided a short analysis of what happened (RUS):

[...] What took place on Saturday very much resembled a well-managed riot (unlike [the World Cup one on Manezh Square in 2002]). Every such event is, for those who inspire these marches (fascist marches, I mean), yet another training. And it's clear that they are preparing for the [presidential election] campaign of 2007.

It's obvious that since there was not a single object of attack, they were forced to satisfy themselves with attacks on journalists. [...] What remains unclear: why Moscow OMON [riot police] a) didn't interfere when the red-brown instigators were attacking journalists, b) why, at the same time, did OMON detain and placed onto buses those very journalists who were peacefully fulfilling their professional duty, and c) why did these same OMON detain fascists very selectively and in small numbers? Do the aggressive skins [...] and pseudo-patriots have a lot more rights to walk freely in the city's center than the generally peaceful sexual minorities with flowers in their hands? [...]

Aidar Buribayev (LJ user aidar_b), a Russian Newsweek correspondent who got detained on Saturday, wrote this about his detention - and about the march (RUS):


5. [...] spent all five hours at the [police] department. It was prohibited to sit down and lean on the walls. Neither was talking allowed, and cell phones had to be turned off.

6. First, they let the nationalist ideologue Krylov go, then - skinheads, then - the homophobes who didn't look like skinheads, then - gays, then - their defenders, and they kept us, journalists and human rights activists, till the very last.


8. It's the first time that I didn't understand what they detained me for. I was leaving the square, when the cops stopped me, checked my papers and dragged me into the bus. Somewhat strange.

9. Gay pride organizers consciously chose to escalate the conflict! They needed a loud scandal. I'm sure they did.

10. There were practically no gays and lesbians on the square. And if the gays were [too scared] to attend the march, this means they don't deserve equal rights with the heterosexual majority. Let them squeeze like rats around basements and clubs. [...]

Roughly a month earlier, on May 2, the same person (aidar-b) commented on his own homophobia (RUS):


I've always considered myself a homophobe, always disliked gays, and every time I could, I used the forceful [offensive slang synonyms for "gay;" three of them used in the original sentence]. Sometimes, I was beginning to worry that maybe I couldn't stand them so much because I myself was a latent [homosexual]?!

It looks like I worried in vain. I feel terribly sick of these homophobic pogroms; there's more and more greyness around.

A constructive discussion ensued between two readers of aidar-b's LJ:

mike67: All correct and normal. To recognize [gays] as people with equal rights, you don't have to love them. We should work not on lowering the levels of homophobia, but on rising the levels of tolerance.

schukina_irina: I agree. One thing left to do is explain to the Orthodox [believers] what tolerance is. The question is HOW?

mike67: Yes, this is a problem. I'm trying but with no results so far.

schukina_irina: You are trying? In what ways, if this isn't a secret?

mike67: In what way? Through conversations. By attempting to figure out the situation to an extent that would allow me to explain it to the people with various degrees of preparedness. This, unfortunately, is the only way I can do it. I don't have access to the serious mass media.

schukina_irina: Does it work? I'd join you even... I wonder how such people react to all this, what they do, whether it is possible to explain anything to them. Often, they are impenetrable. I'm even interested in this as a future sociologist.

mike67: It's totally okay to have discussions on it in LJ - especially taking into account that it's here that all new ideological trends will be developed, one way or another. As for the opponents' "impenetrableness" - I wouldn't be so categorical. We are all "impenetrable" when it comes to this or that. An average skinhead is possibly as concerned about things as an average liberal. That's why it's better not to think that we are better in some way. And if we think they're mistaken, we should fight not with the people, but with their convictions. Though it's hard to implement it all in practice. Sometimes it turns out to be impossible, but so what?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

School's out today.

It's been 15 years for me, mama dorogaya, and I don't have a single memory worth sharing...
And - yet another drunk sleeping at our playground on a Sunday morning. This one was scary - I didn't find the guts to take a picture of his face. It was horrible. And then so many people sit on the bench he slept on. And sometimes there are kids of some unsuspecting parents playing here. I do pity him, of course, but, to be honest, I'm a lot more nervous about all the germs that he carries.

I've posted 33 more photos into the Kyiv Day set over at Flickr (still can't make myself feel fully at home there for some reason...):

Sunday, May 28, 2006

While Moscow's Gay Pride failed to take place in a rather nasty way, we had Kyiv Day here. I'll post more photos from Andriivsky Uzviz soon; here're the first three:

Friday, May 26, 2006

Raisa Bogatyryova, #5 on Yanukovych's list (I guess), has quoted Roosevelt on Savik Shuster's Svoboda Slova today.

Yanukovych had an American adviser during the 2006 campaign. They used We Will Rock You tune on their campaign song.

For all I know, they'll be pushing Ukraine towards NATO soon.


How funny: Yulia has just told Bogatyryova that Regions of Ukraine and Bogatyryova voted in favor of sending Ukrainian peacekeepers to Iraq - which meant they gave their full support to a totally NATO initiative. Yulia's faction voted against it.
Remember I bitched about Roddom #25 in Moscow back in October? Two buildings were being built right next to it - crazy. But I was punished for ... I'm not sure what the punishment is for, but I've got it: I've spent the past 7 months or so next to a larger, messier and stinkier construction site. I'm so upset about it, I'm not even taking pictures. Today was an exception, though: there was a rainbow in between all the cranes (five or six of them now) and it looked, very briefly, not nice, no, but unusual in a nice kind of way:

Whoa, this is scary:

"It is important that corporations make a choice as to what type of blogging they will allow," said Alfred C. Frawley III, director of the intellectual property practice group at the law firm Preti Flaherty in Portland, Me.

More - here.


I wish I had a blog when I worked for that American NGO where we had to ride the lousy Ukrainian trains all the time. So much material lost. There wouldn't have been much to regret if they had fired me for writing a blog - or so it seems now.

This blog appeared two years after I quit.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

She's almost 6 months old, loves to sit, and even though in most cases I have to hold her hand or support her in some other way, sometimes she manages to keep balance all by herself!!!
More on how relaxed Kyiv is.

I was walking with a friend yesterday - he's a Moscow native but has spent the past decade living and working abroad; we met in Iowa City in 1996; he's in Kyiv for a few days now, his second time here, though the first time was 20 or so years ago.

A small rally was taking place by the gates of the presidential administration: supporters of Yevhen Zhovtyak, head of the Kyiv Regional Administration, whom Yushchenko fired later that day. My friend was surprised to learn that cops let ordinary people pass through Bankova even during a minor emergency like this; if he had been on his own, it wouldn't have occurred to him to even approach the blockpost.

On the way to the park, I told him the flag story - and this one as well:

A month ago, on April 26, the good-bye day of the previous parliament, I was passing by the Rada in the afternoon, with Marta, of course. When the MPs are on vacation or gone for the day, the cops and the military who guard the building let you pass right next to it and across the fenced off maidan at the park's edge. Sometimes they ask you to wait when someone's about to arrive - the way they drive, it's safer to wait, as one cop explained to me once.

This time, I wasn't really allowed to cross the street at all, I guess, but I pretended I didn't realize it and then talked the young cop into letting me pass on quickly and quietly. But I was stopped very soon again, before I reached the open space of the maidan: turned out I was on a collision course with Volodymyr Lytvyn, who had just become an ex-speaker and was probably taking his last nostalgic walk around the area. He was with a guy from his bloc whom I remembered from their campaign ads - and with bodyguards. I was with another cop, whom I had warned that if Marta woke up because of them all, they'd have to call in the troops to calm her down.

"Can I take a picture of Lytvyn?" I asked as we waited.

"What for?" he replied, rather amicably.

"Well, it's such a memorable day for him, the last one," I said.

"No, if possible, please, don't take pictures," he said, smiling. "You see, for as long as I've worked here, Lytvyn has feared someone'd kill him. So it's better not to do anything."

I felt it'd be mean to disagree.

When Lytvyn passed, I was allowed to proceed. Lytvyn wasn't inside the Rada building yet, and one of his bodyguards - his rear guard ))) - walked by me and - suddenly - said: "Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience." Very seriously, very politely, a very good-looking young man in a dark suit.

It was amazing: the conversation with a cop about Lytvyn's fears, his exemplary bodyguard.

It felt like Iowa City, I explained to my Moscow friend yesterday, using an analogy we can both relate to.

So relaxed it was almost possible to forget how they park and other shit. And even forgive them, temporarily.

And so unlike Moscow, it's making me proud.
On second thought, at least Yushchenko's son isn't there (though Yushchenko's brother Petro probably is). Andriy Yushchenko has been making trouble again, with yet another of his cars - some media report that he said some really inappropriate things to the Boryspil prosecutor, and then his bodyguard shoot the poor guy in the leg with a rubber bullet. All this on Tolstogo Street, very close to the University's Red Building.
Oh boy - not just Yanukovych, but his son as well...
Typical Ukrainska Pravda: a promising headline in allcaps, then two lines of totally non-controversial text - and that's it.


Verkhovna Rada of the fifth convocation has begun its work.

The session was opened by the head of the previous Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Lytvyn.

They are reading patriotic poetry and singing patriotic songs at the parliament right now. I mean, someone else is reading and singing, and they are all standing and listening, very solemnly. (Update: Nina Kryukova is reading Love Ukraine, a poem by Volodymyr Sosyura; Veryovka Choir is performing Prayer for Ukraine, composed by Mykola Lysenko.)

The new parliament is here. No coalition yet.

(They are gone to take an oath or something now.)

Yulia and her people are the most eye-catching: they are all dressed in white.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova are in Kyiv now for a 2-day GUAM summit - and my friends, Marta and I almost got detained by the police yesterday.

We were walking home from the park, the four of us plus Marta in a stroller, and we were at that little cute maidan in front of the presidential administration when we noticed that one of the two (I guess) newly-installed Ukrainian flags was rumpled and basically wrapped around the flagpole in an awkward way. One friend considered doing something about it - lower the flag down, straighten it out - and I was telling her it was probably not a good idea: I've spent too much time in Moscow, so yeah, I'm pretty timid.

Another friend, however, somehow slipped past me and was already pulling lightly on the flagstaff cord - and a few seconds later, the flag was on the ground.

No one came up to us at first. We stood there laughing, feeling like naughty kids. A cop on duty nearby didn't seem interested.

But then a young, solid, plainclothes guy walked out of the administration building and went to see what happened to the flag. Next, he approached us, looking somewhat angry. We explained to him - and to the lazy cop nearby - that we had just wanted to help, that it was actually good it happened Monday evening and not the following day when all those presidents and their entourage would be here - just imagine what a shame that would have been! He didn't seem amused or convinced: "Why did you have to touch it?" he kept asking rhetorically - Zachem bylo trogat'?

At one point he said this: "What if this is how it was intended to be? Why did you have to touch it?" I was so surprised to hear this, I even made a few steps in his direction: "Intended to be like what? Like a rag on a stick? The national flag?" He left it unanswered.

He walked back to the fallen flag, and we just stood there, looking and chatting. We weren't in much hurry to leave: we were waiting for another friend to join us in that area. But we were free - no one was holding us.

The plainclothes guy returned a few minutes later - and asked to see our IDs. I announced pretty loudly that, out of a Moscow habit, I even had my passport with me and that this would be the first time someone checked it here in Kyiv. He collected our passports and IDs and started to leave somewhere. We protested. We asked his title, but he refused to give us his name. I asked him if he needed Marta's documents as well, and he said menacingly, "Are you making fun of me?" - Vy chto, izdevaetes'?

Then we stood there waiting to get our passports back. I was getting a little bit nervous, imagining how I would have to feed the screaming Marta in a police department. But very soon the plainclothes guy brought out an elderly, high-ranking cop, plump and short, handed him our IDs, and the guy spent a while asking us the already familiar rhetorical question: why did we have to touch the flag? Not what our goal was - but more like why did we have to disrupt such a nice (and orderly) evening. At my friend he, a man with his roots deep in the Soviet Union, snapped at one point: "Initiative is punishable." To which she replied, laughing, "Oh, this we do know, thank you!"

Then they let us go. When we were outside the fence, we looked back and saw six or seven of them standing around the flag, trying to figure out how to get it back up.

I was so deeply in my Moscow/Belarus state of mind, concerned about our rights being violated and all that, that it took me a while to realize that they actually had every reason to detain us - because with so many presidents visiting, what seems like a prank - or, in our case, an accident - may not be what it seems, but something a lot more serious. And if you think about it this way, the cops and the plainclothes guys were way too slow and relaxed about it all.


Marta behaved beautifully throughout the ordeal, by the way.


Bankova is shut down today - the infamous fence is locked till 5 pm today - to keep the pranksters like us away, I guess.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A sign on Bogomoltsa Street, in Lipki.

It is in Ukrainian - and it's not. It's the Soviet language pretending to be Ukrainian. Feels like we're back in the 1980s.

Here's a translation attempt:

Pechersk District Administration in the City of Kyiv
State Administration
Center of Social Services for Families, Children and Youth


If you were a teen, would you like to go inside?

Friday, May 19, 2006

One of the texts in Gulnara Bekirova's book I'm reading begins with a mention of Aleksandr Zinoviev's homo sovieticus. Zinoviev died on May 10 and here's a link to his obit from the Economist (posted on the blog of Edward Lucas, the magazine's Central and East European correspondent):


He scorned Vladimir Putin's Russia, describing it last September as a “hybrid, a hare with horns”. Its ingredients, he said, were “hidden Sovietism, elements of Western values and the retarded feudalism of the Russian Orthodox church.”

Just got this from a friend (click on this image to enlarge):

While I'm at it, here's a link to another New York Times Ukraine piece - about the Sed'moy Kilometr market outside Odesa - From Soviet-Era Flea Market to a Giant Makeshift Mall:


Jeans for $9. Turkish suits, marginally stylish, for $60. Dior, Chanel and Armani are all a steal, if one harbors no complexes about authenticity. Speaking of complexes, there are no dressing rooms in shipping containers. Modesty, though, is in short supply, unlike anything else here, and men and women strip unabashedly in search of a proper fit.


It now sprawls over 170 acres. The largest shopping center in the United States, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., covers 96 acres, though all comparisons end there.

The market is part third-world bazaar, part post-Soviet Wal-Mart, a place of unadulterated and largely unregulated capitalism where certain questions — about salaries, rents, taxes or last names — are generally met with suspicion.


If only they had more pictures from there... (Or - if only I could go there and take pictures. If only I could go anywhere outside of Kyiv's center and take pictures...)


The piece mentions that the 7th km market has a website - - so I went there and downloaded the market's map:


By the way - all stories and stuff from our part of the world are now stored conveniently in Russia and the Former Soviet Union theme corner of the New York Times - here.
Two corrections on the May 12 New York Times piece on Ukrainian political circus - 6 Weeks After Ukrainian Vote, It's Unclear Who Won:

Correction: May 16, 2006:

Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday about the political disarray in Ukraine misidentified the man chosen by the previous president, Leonid Kuchma, to be his successor. He is Viktor F. Yanukovich, not Viktor A. Yushchenko, the man who ultimately defeated Mr. Kuchma.

Correction: May 18, 2006

Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday about the political disarray in Ukraine misidentified the man chosen by the previous president, Leonid Kuchma, to be his successor. He is Viktor F. Yanukovich, not Viktor A. Yushchenko. And a correction in this space on Tuesday misidentified the person whom Mr. Yushchenko defeated. It was Mr. Yanukovich, not Mr. Kuchma.

I'm so sick of this coalition-building stage that I can't force myself to read the actual piece.

It can't be more fun than the corrections, I'm sure.
Otto Pohl has posted about the deportations of the Crimean Tatars - here.


Also, an AP piece on today's commemoration (in the Kyiv Post):

30,000 Crimean Tatars rally in Ukraine marking 62nd anniversary of deportation

May 18 2006

(AP) Thousands of Crimean Tatars marched in the capital of Crimea on Thursday to mark the 62nd anniversary of their deportation from the Black Sea peninsula under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, a forced exile that lasted almost half a century.

"On this day, we remember those who died in foreign lands and those who struggled to return to their homeland," Mustafa Djamiliev, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or Assembly, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The anniversary was being marked in solemn flower-laying ceremonies in Kyiv and a big march of some 30,000 in Simferopol, a Crimean Tatar group said.

The Crimean Tatars, a Muslim Turkic group, had inhabited Crimea for more than seven centuries. In 1944, Stalin accused them of collaborating with the Nazis and ordered the deportation of some 200,000 - about 70 percent of Crimea's population at the time.

Over a three-day period, officers from the Soviet secret police came knocking on their doors to read Stalin's deportation order, victims recalled. Many were given just 20 minutes to pack their belongings and climb aboard freight trains for the long journey to the Central Asian steppe. It was primarily women, children and the elderly, since the Tatar men were serving in the Soviet Army at the time. However, later, Crimean Tatar men were kicked out of the army and also forced into exile. Many families ended up separated.

According to different estimates, between 15 to 46 percent of those deported died of famine and disease.

The Tatars were not allowed to return to their homeland until around the time of the Soviet collapse of 1991. More than 250,000 have returned, where they now make up 13 percent of the population in Crimea. Djamiliev said that about 100,000 still live abroad.

Unemployment is high among the Crimean Tatars today, and many live in grim conditions in villages that lack basics such as water, natural gas and roads. Djamiliev complained that Tatars are still not officially recognized as a nation that was deported. They also lack schools where they can teach their children in their native language, he said.

Ukrainian authorities under President Viktor Yushchenko have pledged to restore Tatars' rights. But Tatars complain the promises remain unfulfilled and in recent years they have encountered difficulties in obtaining citizenship, finding jobs and getting back their land. Additionally, they said there is no regular dialogue between their assembly and the president.

"We have heard a lot of statements but have not seen any concrete actions," said Refat Chubarov, deputy head of the Mejlis.

On Thursday, Yushchenko pledged again to solve the problems of those deported as he participated in a ceremony in Kyiv at a memorial to victims of Stalin's regime.

Crimea remains a potential ethnic flash point for Ukraine. Low-level violence is frequent between Crimean Tatars and ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, who refuse to relinquish land they were given after the Tatars' deportation.


I really wanted to translate something from the book I'm reading now - Gulnara Bekirova's Crimea and Crimean Tatars in the 19th-20th Centuries - Mishah bought it in Moscow. But it's bad to pull things out of the context, and the alternative is to translate it all, which is impossible.


My last year's posts:

- Mustafa Jemilev's interview in Ukraina Moloda

- Mustafa Jemilev's RFE/RL interview

- Stalin's monument in Livadia

- censorship of Crimean Tatar literature - I have to quote it again:

In May 2004, an exhibition of Crimean Tatar samizdat was held in Crimea's capital, Simferopol. Here's a passage on it (in Ukrainian) from

From the official literature that began to be published in the Crimean Tatar language in the 1960s, censors used to painstakingly delete any mentions or even associations with Crimea, including the mountains and the sea.


I apologize for posting all this "used" stuff...

This is our backyard, too. A couple of days ago. The guy fell off the bench shortly after I took the picture. Very theatrical.

I've been planning to write a piece called Planet Besarabka since 2002 - but I got bogged down hopelessly in the first few paragraphs. Maybe the title's wrong: the immensity of it all, is it really possible to squeeze everything into one piece?

From my balcony at night, I used to watch really interesting scenes down at the playground - like a theater spectator. I really can't wait to write about one or two I took notes on.

And I would never allow Marta to live in that room facing the playground: it'd teach her to curse before she learned how to talk.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm not sure what made me think about it - perhaps a group of teenage boys that I saw at the park today, all dressed in the same white t-shirts - a coincidence and the weather, not a plan, most likely. But all of a sudden, it occurred to me that a fake, Komsomolish movement like the Russian Nashi couldn't happen in Ukraine. It must have been Kyiv's idyllic - apolitical - atmosphere, so typical of the month of May, so relaxed - and the somewhat nightmarish memory of last year's Nashi rally: all those tired, hungry kids, so far away from home, stuck in Moscow for no obvious reason, waiting for their buses to depart.

(the rest of the series - 50 photos - is here)


What if Yanukovych, not Tymoshenko, becomes prime minister - is there going to be another Maidan? I doubt it.

I've just sent Mishah these pictures of Marta (and one more) - and suddenly it struck me: I have to write emails to keep in touch with my own husband, again. I mean, he wasn't my husband then, but it's irrelevant. And now I sort of feel it's my duty to send him Marta's pictures - to let him have a tiny fraction of the fun I'm having. This arrangement definitely sucks, but I have to be patient: I'm not going back to Moscow in summer. No way.

Another point I've realized I have to make: I don't want to use Mishah as an excuse for my not replying to emails and not writing here, but I will - because he is part of the reason. Writing to him is the priority, and it's also like keeping a journal, and then there is the Global Voices writing and translations, and then I end up with so many unanswered letters and week-long gaps on this blog...

To all of you who haven't heard back from me but still stop by here for some reason - please please please forgive me! I feel very, very guilty for not writing and can't do anything about it. It's not that I don't want to or have nothing to say. I just can't.

(Whisper: will it possibly get better, now that I've dumped all this guilt out in the open?..)
May 18 marks the 62nd anniversary of the 1944 deportations of the Crimean Tatars.


I've stumbled on Mustafa Jemilev's bio: the current leader of the Crimean Tatars was born Nov. 13, 1943.

My head has quickly translated it into this: he was roughly Marta's age - around 6 months old - when the deportations began.


Some resources:

- Crimean Tatars on Wikipedia

- Home of Crimean Tatars - KIRIM TATARLARNIN EVI


- International Committee for Crimea (ICC)

- Surgun (Deportation) on ICC

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Three more pictures from today - of people sitting around, enjoying a hot, summerlike day...

Girls with cellphones in Mariinsky Park

A crazy street preacher and a guy with a smiley t-shirt :)))

Readers, at the alley with a view just off Velyka Zhytomyrska (BZh)
They were playing Ukrainian folk music and dancing to it on Khreshchatyk today. Beautiful music, and those who danced had something Ukrainian on them - one girl was wearing a really nice plakhta over her jeans (but I don't have a picture). It's very embarrassing to admit it, but from a distance I somehow thought the music was Irish...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Today, on Khreshchatyk, there was a social services parade, with a little orchestra, cheerleaders, and kids and adults in wheelchairs:

Friday, May 12, 2006

I've just bought 33 tulips for 11 hryvnias ($2.20) here at Besarabka. Three flowers for 1 hryvnia. From a babushka who wanted to get to the train station early, so that she could sit, not stand, in the elektrichka back home.

An online friend's mother is applying for a position of the English-language editor of the Ukrainian government portal. He writes that "she was given a questionaire, where some topics require rather public input in general, and [English]-speaking community in particular."

Here's where your help's needed:

What is wrong with the content now?

What could be done to improve?

What things are missing?

What type of information might be suitable for the format of the
govermental portal and be of interest to the English-speaking community?

The deadline is too soon, unfortunately - on Monday morning. But it'd be really cool if you could send in some of your ideas. Thanks a lot for your time!
It's always a possibility, of course, that there's no crisis, that it's made up by Crimea's Russian competitors in order to get more Russian tourists go to Sochi instead of Yalta. You never know.

But those photos of the traffic jam, you gotta be a Hollywood director to stage something like this.

And why would Ukrainian channels scream to the whole world about it when the tourist season is about to begin? We've all got something to lose there.

Or maybe they are making some sounds, but it's me who's not listening...

Or maybe there is a crisis, only no one gives a shit - Crimean Tatars aren't blowing themselves up like Chechens, so why waste time on them?


It's difficult to form a more or less unbiased opinion when the news is so scarce.

On the one hand, there're papers and forums with Russian Russians and Crimean Russians getting hysterical about Crimean Tatars: reading them, you'd think we've got Taliban over there.

On the other hand, there are people like Mustafa Jemilev (with all that Soviet dissident history behind him) and Refat Chubarov (born in Uzbekistan in 1957, lived in Crimea since 1968, studied in Moscow to be an historian/archivist, worked in Latvia - but when you hear him speak Ukrainian, you'd never guess he's not Ukrainian). It's hard not to respect these people. And then there're the wonderful Crimean Tatars I met in 2000 - journalists, lawyers, charity workers. And one trait they all seem to share is they're not full of hatred.

So when I write about Crimea, I'm biased in favor of the Crimean Tatars.

As with any bias, I may be wrong. But sitting here in Kyiv and hearing what I hear (very little, actually) from all sides, this appears to be the only choice.
According to, they unblocked the highway around 3 am, but the Crimean Tatars' cars remain parked off the road near Partenit, and the atmosphere's still tense.

I wanted to catch it on Channel 5 news, but there was nothing at 11 am - a gas explosion in Lviv region (no casualties, just some property damage in a village), and the release of Milinkevich, and that jerk Ahmadinejad. I turned the TV off after that.

I watch TV sporadically, and I'm sure there is some Ukrainian channel that's covering the crisis - it's not 1986 anymore, right?..
Looks like we're in for some mess in Crimea. Too late for me to translate anything, so here're two reports in English.

From the Soviet Russian TASS:

Insurrection actions by Tatars cause transport havoc in Crimea

11.05.2006, 22.20

SIMFEROPOL, May 11 (Itar-Tass) - Hundreds of holidaymakers and tourists in the highly popular seaside resort zone on the southern coast of the Crimea missed their flights in Simferopol airport and trains at the Simferopol railway station Thursday because of an action of protests by the Crimean Tatars, who blocked the major highway between Yalta and Simferopol.

In Feodosia, the Crimean Tatars disrupted construction of a monument to the St Apostle Andrew. A picket put up near the site where the monument is located compelled the authorities to begin dismantling its elements. More specifically, they had to remove the Cross.

This campaign of insurrection is officially timed for the 62nd anniversary deportation of the Crimean Tatars, undertaken during Joseph Stalin's rule, but the main demand the participants of this year's protests are making is to give the Tatars plots of land on the southern coast of the Crimea, a place extremely popular with holiday makers from most parts of the former Soviet Union.

And from the Ukrainian Channel 5.

Crimea: Road blocks prevent Tatars from marking deportation anniversary

Trouble in Crimea. On Thursday, Crimean Tatars marked the 62nd anniversary of their forced deportation by Moscow with an automobile rally. Nearly a thousand cars left Simferopol to drive to Partentit – a village on the southern shore between Yalta and Alushta.

They were blocked on the only road across the mountains leading to Yalta. Local residents and some Cossacks reportedly stopped the Tatars. Mykola Koniev, the mayor of Partentit, said his town will be unable to handle seven to eight hundred Tatar cars. The Tatars meanwhile said that their intentions were to peacefully mark the beginning of Stalin’s deportation of nearly a quarter million people off the peninsula in1944. On Thursday, numerous complaints from tourists who missed their trains and flights because of the road blockage were reported.

And photos - from the Russian NTV:

And, again, from Channel 5:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Michael of The Glory of Carniola writes about a poetic way of fighting unlawful parking.


Mishah and I are totally prosaic, all because of Marta and the stroller, I think.

Unless, of course, you consider what Mishah recently did as artistic: he put a stone on some asshole's dirty old truck, as a warning - and if you think about it, it did look like an installation...


No photo of the stone, but here's the truck:

He parks there regularly, and Mishah lost patience the second time we had to get on the road.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mishah was buying salo at Besarabka Market yesterday - for a Moscow friend who's originally from Ukraine, too, so she knows what good salo is.

Most of my photos from the market turned out blurry - because I can't stand salo, I guess.
Holidays are over, Mishah's gone back to Moscow, the weather's horrible (rain, wind, +7 C), and Marta seems to be sick, since last week actually...

She has a little bit of a dry cough at night and her breath sounds like light snoring every now and then. She did have low-grade fever a few days ago, just once: 37.5 C (99.5 F), but she doesn't have a running nose - nor is it plugged. Before these symptoms appeared, she was making this funny sound all the time: it sounded like RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR but was actually made at the back of her throat, perhaps due to the excess of saliva. It was a fun sound to make and to listen to, but she's not doing it anymore. Apart from the cough and coarse breath, she seems to be totally fine, and this is why I'm not calling the doctor. Well, I'm not calling the doctor because the doctor's a hysterical bitch and I don't want to buy half a drugstore of antibiotics just because she tells me to. That's what happened to a friend of mine recently. I've been given another doctor's phone number and I'm planning to call her today/tomorrow - but I really hope it'll all pass by itself... I am worried sick.

A set of May 9 Kyiv pictures is here - on Flickr (!).

36 pictures so far, tomorrow I'll add the rest.

Upd: Sorry, I was half asleep when I was posting this yesterday night... I've corrected the link.

Upd 2: All 65 photos are posted now. Enjoy!
My May 9 translation on Global Voices:

Russia, Ukraine: Victory Day

On May 9, former Soviet states marked the 61st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII. Veterans and troops (as well as ultra-nationalists and Stalinists) marched in Moscow, Kyiv and other cities.

LJ user drugoi has posted photos of Moscow veterans and Russian ultra-nationalists. In the veterans' set, the self-made poster held by a woman in the first photo reads: "Glory to our fathers" (RUS).

One black-and-white photo of a veteran has been posted separately by drugoi and carries this note (RUS):

Last year, two people showed up from his 931st infantry regiment. This year, he hasn't found anyone. His grandson held a placard with the number of the battalion, regiment and division on it, and the infantryman stood leaning on his grandson's hand and cried like a child.

LJ user warsh has also posted a set of Moscow veteran photos titled "The Victors." In one photo, three elderly women (two of them with medals, one in WWII uniform) hold a poster, which reads (RUS): "May 9: How good that the dead cannot see what you have done to my country."

Marat Guelman, a well-known Moscow gallery owner and LJ user galerist, has been posting reproductions of works dealing with war by contemporary artists from the former Soviet Union: war (an LJ exhibition)-1 and war (an LJ exhibition)-2 (RUS).

LJ user maceda has written about her granfather (RUS):

May 9

My grandfather was drafted in 1940. They served three years then. The war began in 1941. After four exhausting years of the [Great] Patriotic War and liberation of Europe, grandfather wanted to return. But he hadn't returned his debt to the motherland yet. He had to "finish" the two obligatory years of the service that he had been drafted into as a 17-year-old kid. Seven years total. In this time, his village had been burned down, the fellow villagers who survived had escaped, his parents and brothers perished. And grandfather was left with nothing but wounds, orders and medals.

He didn't like to recall the war. and was never telling anything. Neither to his children, nor to his grandchildren. He gave his orders and medals to his sons, and they carelessly lost them, exchanged, gave away. "These are trinkets," grandfather used to say, "and I'm not a German shepherd at a dog show." All that was left were ribbons, which could say a lot about wounds and awards only to those who knew. "For those who understand," grandfather would say as he was getting ready for a parade [...].

May 9 was always a Day of Remembrance to him. Definitely not a Day of Pride. And I can't even imagine what his face would look like if they tried to get him to take a georgievskaya lentochka (ribbon of St. George) in the street, if he saw these dirty and dusty striped bows on car antennas, or flirtingly used as belts on jeans, or tied to bags, or even to the ankles of tipsy gals who are incapable of telling the difference between a ribbon of St. George and a Beeline logo [...].

"For those who undestand..." The feeling of shame is the greatest when you are ashamed for someone else, not yourself. But on the other hand, I'm even glad that grandfather is no longer here to see it all.

Happy Victory Day, grandpa.

LJ user tima, in this year's Victory Day post, has linked to what he wrote last year (RUS):

Twelve glasses of vodka

Good Holiday to all of us.

I can't keep myself from writing this. I don't remember is I wrote this last year or before that. But it doesn't matter. This should be written every year.

I don't remember how to cry anymore, don't remember when I did it last time. Today, my mama will do it for me - she lost all her brothers and sisters during the war, all nine of them. The eldest brothers in the army - near Smolensk, near Oryol, near Kiev. Several of them died of illnesses and the lack of medical care. Some she lost to hunger and cold. Two elder sisters were hung in the center of their native town, and before that they had been raped by the Germans in front of everyone. One of them was lucky - she lost her mind and no longer understood what was going on.

My father turned out to be lucky compared to mama. Of his four brothers and sisters who lost only half - two of them. And his own father. Who went to war at the end of October and was killed almost right away near Rzhev. My only uncle was born an orphan, fatherless.

The total of 12. Out of 19, including grandmothers and grandfathers.

Happy Holiday to everyone.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There's a new LJ community - ru_borzhomi )))

Victory Day in Kyiv... More pictures later.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Saw this heart-ly couple in the park today )))))

A typical morning in our backyard: some guys are sleeping off their hangover at the kids' playground. It's always been like this, though some years are worse than others.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My today's translation for Global Voices:

Russia: Ban on Georgian Wine and Water

Beginning today, Russia has outlawed Georgian sparkling mineral water Borjomi, a health product that many ulcer patients have been relying upon since the Soviet times. Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief health inspector, has ordered the ban allegedly due to the discovery of a batch containing fake Borjomi. A few weeks earlier, Onishchenko restricted imports of Georgian (and Moldovan) wine - allegedly on health grounds, too. It is widely believed, however, that the embargo is politically motivated. Both mineral water and wine are Georgia's most famous - and biggest - exports, and the ban is expected to have a severe impact on the country's economy.

LJ user plushev, a Moscow-based radio journalist, has been documenting (RUS) his hunt for the "disappearing" Georgian goods:

April 15, 2006


Disappearing Goods

Aha, in addition to Georgian cognac, I now have to manage to buy a box of Borjomi. Interesting, but it is often recommended by doctors. Now, from the point of view of [the Russian Consumer Goods Inspection], they are killer doctors, definitely. The likes of Onishchenko [Russia’s chief health inspector] work to increase my stocks.

In summer, they'll find harmful substances in Moldovan apples, and towards winter - if the situation doesn't change - in tangerines. Needless to say, apples from Transnistria and tangerines from Abkhazia would be deemed ecologically safe.


altist72: I've been to Ashan [Moscow shopping mall] today: the wines department looks very funny.

prosvet: Hm, don't they sell French wines in Ashan? Also, Vichy St. Yorre is better than Borjomi ;o)


plushev: If I understand it correctly, to compare Vichy and Borjomi is like comparing Chablie and vodka. Besides being two different drinks (Borjomi is a health product, mineral water rich in various salts), they are also in different price categories. [...] I haven't met a single doctor who was recommending Vichy water.


drugoi: I wonder what wine they are serving in Georgian restaurants now? [...]

plushev: Nothing's changed in the restaurants. I suspect that those who've managed to take the wine off their shelves, took it straight to the restaurasnts with substantial discount.


bizam: You are joking, and Borjomi relieves my stomach ache. Nothing but Borjomi. Now all that's left are pills... :-(

azh7: We're fellow victims... Will have to stock up on it today.

bizam: A box won't last long to save me. I need 1-2 liters a day.

azh7: I also drink up to four plastic bottles...

April 18, 2006



Have been to Ashan, pure entertainment, especially in the wines department: my impression is that someone played a wild game of bowling at some shelves - where the Georgian and Moldovan wines used to be. But not just this. There were just two (!) types of Russian wine. [...] Borjomi is still there, but I didn't have space for a whole box, of course, and took only three bottles, just in case.



svetosila: "There were just two (!) types of the Russian wine." I wonder which ones. Maybe there's some homespun truth in their names?

plushev: I was in a hurry, didn't catch the names, sorry.


svetosila: Under these circumstances, it'd be fitting [to have wine] called "Smile" (there used to be such wine or some other alcoholic beverage). I've never had enough courage to try it.

One of the saddest childhood memories - a provincial bookstore where all the shelves are filled with one (AND THE SAME) book.

May 5, 2006


They've done it faster with Borjomi than with cognac. I've managed to buy some, but not much. And today there's nothing left, not in the stores I had time to check in, at least.

But some bootleg [Borjomi] has been delivered to the Echo [of Moscow radio station].


sdanilov: [...] Soon they'll be editing out scenes with Borjomi and Georgian wines from the Soviet movies - as an alien, unfit for our time, form of "product placement."


mcavity: In Krasnodar [...], there's no Georgian but plenty of Abkhaz wine - on the shelves in the "Russia" department - with labels of horrible quality, as if made of torn newspapers. Borjomi is still there.


sivilia_1: [...] What's next? Soon we'll probably be using nothing but Soviet... Russian, that is... stuff, despite its quality, as in the "good" old times.

May 6, 2006


There's still time

Borjomi can still be bought in stores and drugstores, I've stocked up on a few more bottles. [...] It's interesting, by the way, that even at the time of worsening of the relations with Latvia, [the Russian Consumer Goods Inspection] didn't think of [Latvian] sprats.


ailon: Latvian economy wouldn't have been affected by a sprats import ban as much as the Georgian economy is affected by the wine and Borjomi ban.
A recent Global Voices translation:

Russia: Stories From a St. Petersburg Hospital

LJ user aneta-spb, a St. Petersburg journalist of Belarusian descent, is busy taking care of her 21-year-old son now, who is in the hospital with a broken spine. Below is the translation of some of aneta-spb's hospital notes (RUS) - taken in the city that, among other things, will be hosting a G8 Summit July 15-17.

Both aneta_spb and her son were in Minsk during the presidential election and the protests that followed, and she covered much of it on her blog and in other media.

April 30, 2006:

A person who was safe and sound after the March 19-25 events in Minsk, stumbles on a flat spot in St. Petersburg and gets a spine trauma. [...]

He is in Maximilianovskaya [hospital], and it's necessary to visit him. Not that I'm needed there all the time - he gets tired himself, gets sleepy. So sad - he couldn't wait for spring and now he'll have to spend two weeks lying on his back and then two weeks lying on his stomach... This is what we've been told, though there's only been one x-ray done and a doctor on duty looked at it then, on Friday evening. Saturday, Sunday, Monday - there'll be no doctor. I don't understand how this can be - a spinal injury, three days is too long!

I made cutlets yesterday and went to visit him.

This is not the worst hospital. It doesn't stink in the room, at least...

A room for five people, one bed's empty. Gloomy men of various ages lie either with broken legs suspended or simply on their backs. In the room for those who can't move, there's no bell to summon the personnel. The door is wide open and this is understandable. First, to yell and be heard in case something happens (this, I guess, is problematic, however - the post is far away and the nurses' room is all the way around the corner); second, it works like air conditioning. No way to open the window - because they can't move. And because one bed is underneath the window and the person there can catch a cold.

Mityay has just recovered from a severe cold, he has running nose and cough, and it hurts him to cough. I went to ask the nurse for some nasal drops and [a cough medicine]. I was ready to pay for this "service." But they don't have any drops or syrups. They also don't have any camphora alcohol to prevent bedsores. But I've got it with me. As well as a cup, a spoon, toilet paper (thank God, they have sheets - in the children's hospital [...] they once made us bring that, too).


What shocked me. I used to be a nurse in the neurosurgery department. [...] Beds were the same, bedside tables were as inconvenient, there was the same lack of everything. Including the personnel - people worked in two places at the same time. But... In the mornings we were going from room to room (pardon me for being prosaic) with a jar of water with manganese solution [...], washed the patients, wiped them to prevent bedsores. Nurses didn't relax at work, to smoke a quick cigarette in the bathroom was considered luck and rest. No one was giving me tips [...], but my patients' relatives, on departure, often gave me chocolates, sometimes a can of caviar, flowers - and I used to take it because it wasn't a bribe, it was real gratitude.

And here...

Still, while I worked in neurosurgery, I was also an intern in what's now called Mariinka. They had a different approach there. They didn't preoccupy themselves with bed sheets, for example. In Polenova we used to wash sheets at night (there were paralyzed people there, defecating right underneath themselves). In Kuibyshevka their principle was - if there are no clean sheets, they can do without clean sheets.

But now, I think, idleness has been given a complete carte blanche. No funding, small salaries - so they can sit around and do nothing. No funding - they can do without camphora alcohol and without doctors on weekends...

And the bedside table! A person who can't move will not be able to reach for its drawer to get what he needs!

Not long ago, our healthcare officials were saying on the radio that hospitals have all the medicines and if something's not available, the hospital will reimburse the patient's relatives if they bring a receipt...

I would have hung [those officials] on the first tree - or placed them in this [hospital] room...

But for now I have to work on Mityay's recovery. I feel helpless - what can I do - there's no doctor till May 2...

May 1, 2006 (1):

In the Soviet time, I was an in-patient at the traumatology department [...]. In general, the hospital was no better. A drunk doctor, lazy nurses. In our room for people who couldn't move, an old woman with a broken hip died - she had bedsores, she rarely had visitors, it smelled bad in the room. The old woman lied dead for a few hours before my classmates came to visit me and went looking for the staff. I wanted to smoke very much, and when I did light up under the blanket, the other old women said, "Go on smoking, daughter, let there be human smell in here at least..."


Now we are told to bring not just our own cup but a SPOON, too. Why? Because if they were giving their own spoons, they'd have to WASH them afterwards. And now, theoretically, it's the patient's visitors who are doing this. But visitors aren't staying 24 hours in [the traumatology department] - the patients here aren't recovering from strokes... Relatives come at dinner time - and wash the spoon. And it'll stay unwashed for breakfast and for lunch.


May 1, 2006 (2) - in this entry, aneta_spb has posted pictures of her son and others in the hospital:

This is a hospital in the center of St. Petersburg. [...] The patients' sad faces - and it's not a hospice, it's people with broken legs or backs... Bedpan and a cup with urine test - next to the food products.

And the orange balloon that Mityay is blowing - it's not a revolutionary project. It's a recommendation of my Belarusian sister (she, of course, meant balloons of any color, but I didn't find the blue ones in nearby stores and bought some orange): it's necessary to blow balloons or rubber toys to ventilate the lungs to avoid hypostatic pneumonia.


May 2, 2006:


Yesterday, a male nurse, a pretty active one, by the way - he even enters rooms and advises relatives on what medicines to buy [the hospital does not provide medicines] - he said an amazing thing. I asked why [female] nurses wore dirty shirts over white robes and visited patients only if, according to these very nurses, "they pooped on themselves or called." The male nurse said, "They are our golden reserves! If she quits, do you expect me to empty bedpans?.." (I think that this "golden reserve" - aged over 60 - can be easily intimidated by a perspective of losing her job.)

But here's what's really funny. He showed me a guy from our room and said: "He calls me at my post from his cell phone if he needs a nurse, and I go and look for the nurse, and then she takes away his bedpan..."

This is something, people. To call a stationary phone from your cell phone - you're spending your money on it (in addition to all other hospital expenses). The way it works: you call this male nurse from your cell. He looks for the nurse in a dirty shirt who sleeps or eats peacefully in some corner...


Thank you all for moral support.

Here's a moving story, by the way. Azerbaijanis from a store in our building basically forced me to take a carton of juice and dessert - for Mitya: "Such a good boy, here is from us to him. How can it be: some drunk fool falls and doesn't get hurt at all, and to the good ones such trouble happens..."
Really hard to get back to writing.


Thanks to Olga and Bart, I now have a Flickr Pro account! Spasibo!!!

And - a huge thanks to all who've offered help!


With this new account, I may get more inspired about my photo backlog than I am about writing right now.


May 2, 2006 - One of the first wonderful, sunny days this spring. A day off, too, and - magnolias are blooming in the "old" Botanical Garden.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Really sorry for this silence - I'll be back very soon!

(Photo from our May 3 walk: Mat'-Rodina/Motherland/Baba statue, which also houses a WWII Museum, a very interesting place, now that I'm no longer required to go there for my high school Soviet history class.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Marta's 5 months today!!!

We wanted to buy me a flickr account but we can't pay because their goddamn system doesn't receive payments from either Russia or Ukraine.

Anyone's got any suggestions?

(I'm so disappointed.)