Thursday, July 31, 2008

On a less peaceful note, Mishah has posted some of the pictures of a wildfire near Çanakkale that we drove through underneath on our way to the coast. Here's one:

by Misha Smetana

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On a more peaceful note, here are a few images from Ortaköy, also taken Monday:

The last one isn't too peaceful, though, as it shows Turkey's PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking about Sunday's blasts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All pictures from today are here.


A few more notes.

- A friend whose parents live five minutes away from the street where the blasts occurred was in Sultanahmet last night and learned about what happened from a British girl whose mother called her from London, worried sick because some media were allegedly reporting that the tragedy took place in Sultanahmet. The friend asked his mother later if she had heard the blasts - she said she hadn't. Carpetblogger has more on "when to panic" about the fate of expats and tourists in Istanbul.

- It doesn't take a Turkish politics expert to decipher the energy of today's rally in Güngören. A diverse crowd, absolutely not aggressive, yet very determined, passionate. Lots of interaction along the way with those who were watching from balconies and sidewalks: a genuine neighborhood action, more like our Maidan in 2004 than anything I've ever seen in Moscow. In Russia, though, they bring flowers to the site of the tragedy, while here there were only a few carnations attached to flags.

- There was something like a minute of silence (with the recorded sound of ambulance sirens) at the end of the rally, but a group of young guys standing half a block away from where most people were obviously did not realize what was going on and continued chanting (judging by the sound, it was something rather aggressive). First, one man turned around and raised his hand in their direction, to get them to shut up, then many more people did the same, but when the guys finally figured it all out, it was too late. So, basically, the minute of silence didn't really work.

- An elderly man was sitting on a wooden stool in the middle of the pedestrian street, a hundred or so meters away from the site of the blast. There was a small wooden table in front of him - he was selling lottery tickets, despite it all. An elderly headscarved woman bought a few tickets from him. He took her money and looked the bills over, very carefully, to make sure they weren't fake. Business as usual, even in Güngören.


A few pictures:

A video from a neighborhood rally in Güngören - "Teröre Hayır" ("No to Terror"):

The timing was perfect - I arrived in Güngören just when the rally got to the tramway station, so I walked with them all the way to the pedestrian street where the blasts had occurred.

I understood what it said on the posters - "No to terror" - but I didn't understand the chants. Back at the hotel, I asked the night shift guy to translate for me: PKK featured a lot in the slogans. So much, actually, that it's really strange that I failed to catch it while there.

What's also really strange is to be a clueless foreigner - all of a sudden, I've understood how it must feel to be a foreign reporter when your fixer is not there.

More pictures a bit later. YouTube, by the way, seems to be blocked in Turkey, just like Wordpress was earlier this year (it's back now, which is nice), so I've uploaded this video on Flickr.
Went to Güngören in the evening today; here're the first three pictures, taken with my cell phone camera, as my Canon's battery died when I got to the site of yesterday's blast. Hope to post more pics later.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

1020 years since the adoption of Christianity:

Location: Kyiv, Velyka Vasylkivska St. (still referred to by many as Krasnoarmeyskaya - Red Army St.).

On the left: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the world's top Orthodox spiritual leader.

On the right: President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko.

Slogan: "Ukraine is heir to Kyivan Rus."


P.S. Here's a related item, from Michelle Knisley of Greetings from Kyiv.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kyiv - July 17, 2008:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Picked up my new travel passport yesterday, at last. Have a nice trip, they said. Thanks.

Walked up the hill to Zoryanyi. Past the police department where they weren't doing anything to help us find papa last year, until an order came from up above for them to get involved. Could've taken a bus to the Botanical Garden there, just like last year. Only this time I didn't.

Walked past the tennis courts hidden in the backyards across the street from Zoryanyi, where papa used to work occasionally. Told Marta about him, and about his tennis, and about all the kids he taught how to play.

- What's his name? - Marta asked.

- Igor. Igor Sergeyevich, - I said.

- And what's his name now?

- What do you mean? It's the same, it hasn't changed: Igor Sergeyevich.

And then I realized that I must've been talking in the past tense about papa - yego zvali instead of yego zovut. That there is one person, Marta, to whom I can talk about him in the present tense, to avoid the confusion, somehow made me feel better.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today is one year without papa. Feels like it all happened just a few days ago.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Trying to get my new travel passport is an ordeal that's been going on since March. I'm glad I need this passport only for our relatively visa-free travels to Turkey, that the Ukrainian state's torture isn't compounded by more torture at the hands of "Western" consulates.

Our bureaucrats work in a very schizophrenic way, the rules differ from one location to another, and everyone seems to take it for granted. There is one office where it takes weeks just to submit your paperwork, a true slaughterhouse, but there's also another one nearby where there are no lines and it takes about 20 minutes to get everything done. If only the first place had bothered to post more info about the second place in their lobby - because they are definitely getting more people than their colleagues at the other place. And, to make it all even more complex, I know someone who didn't have any problems at the first place and was surprised to hear my horror stories - but I ascribe it to some sort of random luck.

My most recent problems have to do with our local registration person, who seems to have forgotten to enter me into some citywide database when I got my new internal passport. Or perhaps that was an act of revenge - I'd never brought her any chocolates to thank her for doing her job (an explanation offered by a savvy neighbor).

After running around for half the day today, I've finally understood why I'm against making Russian a second state language: everything works terribly here anyway, and it's easier to teach a few million state employees to fill out forms in Ukrainian, rather than burdening our already messed-up system with more regulations and forms that the change would sure require.

On a different but somewhat related note, my today's cab driver was from Iran, has lived in Ukraine for the past six years, spoke very decent Russian, and when I mentioned the wonderful Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, who died at the age of 32, he mentioned Lesya Ukrainka - who didn't live too long, either - and his admiration for her. I was very, very pleased, because I adore Lesya, and it didn't matter to me at all that our conversation about her was in Russian.

A very hot day today, and Khreshchatyk was beautifully empty. Gidropark, on the other hand, was packed:

Will try to post more pictures later.
I have this rather sleepy set on Flickr - Made in Ukraine. Here're the three latest additions:

The last item - Bob Marley earrings - is my favorite, of course, even though I don't think they were made in Ukraine. But I bought them at Andriyivsky Uzviz for 25 hryvnias ($5.50).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Flower vendors in the underground pass on Poshtova Ploshcha, re-using paper cups from a McDonald's nearby:

Had to look up the English word for vasilyok/voloshka - cornflower.

Cornflowers and daisies.
One more photo - St. Andrew's Church and construction nearby:

This, more or less, is what Kyiv has turned into.

Kyiv is marking 900 years of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery now (and, at the same time, 1020 years since the adoption of Christianity in Kyivan Rus).

At St. Michael's today, it seemed as if they were preparing for a huge church-sponsored beer festival - or the other way around: a huge church festival sponsored by the major beer producers.

It looked very surreal - and embarrassing.

And it sounded pretty awful, too: the cursing of the sweaty construction workers, mixed with the beautiful God, have mercy on us streaming out of one of the windows of the refectory of St. John the Divine (which was used as a gym in the 1970s, by the way).

I have to admit that I did not see a single beer can/bottle there - but at least five brands were represented in various non-beverage forms: Rohan, Chernihivske, Obolon (tents, truck), Baltika (car), Staropramen (chairs).

(P.S. And Slavutych - the truck is that of Slavutych, not Obolon. Which makes it a total of six brands.)


And then I ran into this couple of church-goers - and just couldn't get my eyes off them:


All 20 pictures from my walk around St. Michael's are here.
Planet Besarabka:

Some jerk stood in the middle of our backyard, next to the playground entrance, taking a leak - in complete darkness. But our only street lamp is a naughty thing: it keeps going on and off, so when he was halfway through, the poor idiot found himself in the spotlight, with a cigarette stuck between his teeth, his dick in his hands, and his friend standing nearby, cracking up. He was laughing, too, later. At one point, as he was walking away, he turned around, looked up, shook his clenched fist at the lamp above (it was still on) and called it suka - a bitch.
Our paradnoye/podyezd in Kyiv:

Some of my nightmares still end here, on this staircase, by this elevator shaft. The ones in which I'm being chased and can't escape.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hard to explain why I'm posting this clip from Sergei Parajanov's "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" now, at 4 AM Friday night - one thing led to another, and on and on and on... One of the reasons is I miss Ukraine...

Friday, July 04, 2008

In between everything else, I'm reading Olga Allenova's book about the Second Chechen War (in Russian). Actually, it's a collection of her stories published in Kommersant over the years of Putin's rule, interspersed with rather brief personal reflections. A heartbreaking reminder, if anyone needs any, of what this period has been about.

I've been following Allenova's work in Kommersant-Vlast for a while now, and am very happy she's got a book out. Her Chechnya stories remind me of those by Anna Politkovskaya, and she is as courageous and as human as Politkovskaya was. Only much younger: she was born in 1976.

I also wish I were reading Allenova's reportage right after I finished Yulia Latynina's thinly veiled fiction about the North Caucasus mess.


I was reading Allenova's book at the playground today, while Marta was busy in the sandbox. A pregnant woman sat down on the bench next to me, to watch her son play nearby, and soon we were talking about kids with her, eventually moving on to other subjects.

It turned out she grew up in Grozny, left the city in 1994, shortly before the nightmare began, but her parents have lived through the first war. She identified herself as an ethnic Russian, even though later she told me of her Ukrainian grandfather, who was born in Vinnytsya region, and of her relatives in Kyiv. She said she was trying hard to stay away from all things Muslim, because of what she and her family had been through in Grozny. She sounded determined in a weary kind of way when she talked about it. She didn't sound hateful, the way many Russian bloggers do. She blamed human rights folks for not being there for Chechnya's "Russians" - but didn't mention the Russian state's similar neglect. She asked me about Yanukovych and laughed when I told her about his favorite Russian poet, Anna Akhmetova.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Marshrutka driver in Moscow:

(One of his Kyiv colleagues is here.)


Post-Euro 2008 Moscow, a local way of saying, "Ми разом, нас багато, і нас не подолати":

"As long as we're united, we're invincible."