Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On May 18, the day that marks the 65th anniversary of the 1944 deportations, a group of a few dozen Crimean Tatars spent some two hours walking around Kyiv's Lipki neighborhood, squeezing themselves, their flags with black ribbons and their banners through the cars parked on sidewalks, distributing leaflets with info on the deportations to the passerby - but getting little to no attention from most people. It's Kyiv, of course: the past four years have taught many people here to ignore all kinds of political rallies, especially such tiny ones. Zero attention from the authorities is as typical - but, all things considered, it seemed a bit more disappointing on that day.

First, the Crimean Tatars walked to the Rada, where they didn't get to enter the little maidan in front of the Rada building. They didn't make it to the Presidential Secretariat, either, because the street leading to it was full of the newly-jobless gambling business protesters. On the way back to their base by Kabmin, where they'd been protesting for the past few weeks, they stopped to chant "Shame on the government!" in Ukrainian and Russian, but only a few cops stationed to guard the Ministry of Finance, one of the Rada buildings and the cars parked in between, seemed to be their audience.

Back by Kabmin, they held a memorial prayer for the dead. A few people spoke about the deportations and the problems they've been facing since their return. Then they resumed their honking and chanting, calling Tymoshenko, demanding her personal involvement in resolving the land conflict. Six people - four men and two women - had been on a hunger strike for a few days by then, and, as far as I know, they still are.

Here are some pictures from May 18 (the whole set is here):


I spoke with two elderly women that day. One of them was 7 years old in 1944, and she barely managed to keep herself from crying as she was telling me some of what she remembered from that time. We talked about the more recent history, too: the Soviet dissident movement and the Crimean Tatar role in it. Both of them also spoke of the hardship and humiliation they've been subjected to since their return to Crimea: three families living in one little house, their children unable to start their own families; problems with employment; a lack of Crimean Tatar schools; hostile and biased attitudes towards Crimean Tatars in general.

Some of the problems they mentioned affect just about everyone in Ukraine in one way or another, but this should not serve as a justification for ignoring these problems - definitely not in Crimea.


Later that day, I talked to a friend who seems to know a thing or two about Crimea. Part of the reason these people are being ignored by the authorities in such a spectacular way, I was told, could be the somewhat marginal status of the NGO that's organizing the protests. According to my friend, this group has plenty of popular support in Crimea, but due to their proactive role in the fight for the land and a number of other factors, including religion, mainstream Crimean Tatar leaders appear reluctant to publicly associate with them, and that, among other things, could explain why they aren't getting much response from the authorities in Kyiv.

I've no idea how much of this is true: need to stop reading about the Soviet dissident movement and instead educate myself on the contemporary Crimean Tatar politics. I do know, however, that these people explain their current presence in Kyiv by the fact that the government is doing nothing of what it promised to do to resolve the land conflict - and that sounds perfectly credible to me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A small memorial event at Maidan in Kyiv on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the 1944 deportations of Crimean Tatars:

I re-lit a few candles that had been lit by someone else before me - it was too windy to keep the candles burning:


And here's a small fragment of Ey Güzel Kırım, sung beautifully by a woman you can't really see in this very low-quality video...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

By now, I do have doubts about Lutsenko's Germany scandal: way too much politics, too few facts presented.

We're watching Savik Shuster's soap opera right now (of course), and I don't understand why they can't get someone from the German police and/or Lufthansa - someone who was directly involved in the incident - to talk live about it. Where are those people? Do they exist?

Instead, we have to listen to Nestor Shufrych, who claims that he has never tasted alcohol in his life, and to others, who share their assumptions and recall various negative Lutsenko- or police-related episodes that are more or less irrelevant to what happened at Frankfurt airport. Hanna Herman mentioned Anton Chekhov's gun when she was talking about Lutsenko's fist on his election campaign posters. Another Party of Regions guy said that Lutsenko had threatened to ruin the coalition by withdrawing 20 of his people should BYuT and Lytvyn vote in favor of his resignation.

Later, there was a Germany-based Ukrainian journalist who talked about the case and attempts to cover it, and she did shed some light on it all, though not too much: no video exists; and it's up to Lutsenko and his lawyers to make some of the case papers public.

Lutsenko is very angry about the treatment of his ailing son by the German police - rightly so, I guess. And he's mad at the Party of Regions for claiming that Andriy Klyuyev had paid for his son's surgery (which cost Lutsenko €4,000). But he also repeated what he said about the children of politicians after his fight with Chernovetsky: that they - the children - should not be dragged into politics, no matter what. He didn't mention the Sicilian Mafia this time, but repeated that he had defended Yushchenko's son, and Tymoshenko's daughter, and Chernovetsky's son - and I'm afraid he genuinely believes that this is the right way of doing things.

Someone brought up Vitaly Klitschko's recent encounter with the German border officials (amazing, but both his and Lutsenko's scandals took place at Frankfurt airport) - and then they moved on to a brief discussion of the fate of our zarobitchany.

Pandora's box opened - and closed right away.

A charming young woman from Lviv - a student, not a labor migrant - talked about being detained and humiliated on her way back home via Poland. She was almost crying as she spoke about another Ukrainian woman she'd met in her cell - who was being starved by the Polish border guards.

The story did not generate any memorable responses.

Somewhat later, Lutsenko read a few paragraphs from last year's Dzerkalo Tyzhnya story about mistreatment of zarobitchany in Europe (here it is in Ukrainian, Russian, and English).

I'm not sure what the point of this reading was. Possibly, Lutsenko wanted to make us believe that he and his son were just like those zarobitchany - people with no rights, etc. Maybe he meant something different. I don't know.

But I hope Shuster will do a show on zarobitchany one day - and will invite some real people, not the bullshitting politicians. Because, unlike what some of them believe, it's not Lutsenko who's ruining Ukraine's image abroad when he misbehaves. What ruins Ukraine's image abroad is the existence of those millions of Ukrainian laborers who've been chased out of Ukraine to look for work elsewhere - and our bullshitting politicians are at the root of the problem.

Back to Lutsenko: I feel that both scenarios are credible - he could have been wrong and he could have been right - and at this point I don't really care which one they'll end up picking.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crimean Tatars - and, possibly, some others - are currently protesting in front of the Cabinet of Ministers' building - have been there since April, I was told:

I noticed them accidentally on May 12, but it was past 6 PM already, so they were done for the day:

Some of their slogans:

"Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers is to blame for land conflicts in Crimea."

"Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers is causing social tensions in Crimea."

"Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers, start helping the peoples of Crimea already!"

"Yulia Vladimirovna, take the bureaucrats out of your ears - HEAR THE PEOPLE!!!" and "Yulia Vladimirovna, take the bureaucratic blinders off your eyes and see the problems of the people."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My camera's battery died when I least expected it, so I went back home to recharge, to have lunch and to upload the pictures from my May 9 walk:

81 of them - here.

Below is a quick tour:

Our Stalinists have their own Stalin-like persona, of course:

And this must be their idea of Jesus:

And our Communists and Socialists - Petro Symonenko and Oleksandr Moroz - are, of course, taking all the credit for the victory:

The very few old veterans still alive look very moving, everyone is congratulating them:

But, unfortunately, they get somewhat obscured by Lenin, Stalin and their followers - who, in their turn, get somewhat obscured by our ordinary people, which is good:

The Holodomor Memorial looks as if there has indeed been some serious mismanagement of funds allotted for its construction:

The Afghan War veterans are remembered as well today:

And here's my very favorite picture of all - it has little to do with May 9, I guess, except that the guy was standing right above me as I was cooling off in the shade at the WWII Memorial compound, and he agreed to have his picture taken, though he didn't sound all too friendly:

The Baba - the Motherland - is still there, of course:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Plastic bags from the Party of Regions' Kyiv branch:

"THE TARIFFS SHOCK: From June 1, utilities will be two to three times as expensive."
Spring on Khreshchatyk, a different angle:

Weather forecast isn't too good for the next few days, so I guess these four pics will be the last in my Kyiv: Spring series:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Just can't help it - my Kyiv: Spring collection continues to grow...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Best time to be in Kyiv:

Finally, here's what spring looks like at Maidan and Khreshchatyk:

Fifteen more pictures are here.