Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm reading Roksolyana by Osyp Nazaruk, a fictional account of Hürrem Sultan's life, written circa 1929 (UKR, available online in .txt format).

Interesting to learn that Crimean Tatars' female slave trade didn't really affect Ukrainian nuns:

[...] For even the wild Tatars respected the nuns and stepped out of their way with reverence, calling them "the girls of the wondrous [gâvur] Prophet who died on the cross." [...]

Also, interesting to learn that Ukrainians back then believed that Tatars - "the dirty monsters" - were "born blind, like dogs."

On a different note, Marta has a friend here whose dad happens to hate Turkey and the Turks - possibly, because he's very patriotic or something, he sort of explained to me today. We were talking about real estate in Istanbul, and, for some reason, he felt it necessary to make this disclosure. At the same time, he spoke of Moscow with awe, so I guess he meant some kind of a Pan-Slavic patriotic feeling, not exclusively Ukrainian. Then again, he spoke of Greece with awe, too, so maybe it's the Orthodox Christian thing. Or both. I didn't bother asking him to explain some more, because people who believe that "patriotism" is about hatred really bore me. It's kind of funny, though, that his daughter is spending much of her life with a nanny who is half-Uzbek, quarter-Tatar and quarter-Bulgarian, and whose son's father is Jewish and daughter's father is German.

Anyway, while I was writing all this, I got reminded of this story:

Customers help stamp out Turkey's sex slaves

By Meriel Beattie in Ankara
December 28, 2005
The Independent

An unlikely hero has emerged in Turkey to rescue victims of forced prostitution: the brothel customer.

While the country's security forces are hardly renowned for their attention to human rights or sympathetic treatment of women, they have been chalking up impressive successes in finding and freeing trafficked women from brothels.

In the past six months, 100 women - mostly from Ukraine, Moldova, Romania or Russia - have been rescued from sex slavery and Turkish police have broken up 10 trafficking networks.

There are two reasons for these results. A charge-free hotline was set up in May by the UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for women to call for help. It is staffed by multi-lingual operators who try to pinpoint where the women are - and then send in the police.

But the second, more unexpected, factor is the chivalry of the Turkish brothel client. Since the hotline started, 74 per cent of tip-offs have come from men: customers who have learned to spot the difference between a professional prostitute, and someone who's been forced into it. [...]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More sanatoriy interiors:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Misha's father was buried on Wednesday - may his soul rest in peace.........

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Marta and a really tall cactus :)

Pushcha Vodytsya has this dreamy feel about it that's been somewhat hard to find elsewhere in Kyiv lately.

As anywhere else, you have to be in a dreamy mood to sense it, of course. If you aren't, you'll end up seeing little else but garbage and neglect - just like anywhere else.

The downside of this dreaminess is that there doesn't seem to be a single decent place to have coffee or beer here.
Some more sanatoriy interiors:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Self-portrait :)

...taken in a marshrutka at the edge of the village of Moshchun... :)
A public bathroom at the sanatoriy:

And a detail of a Ukrainian-made hand dryer there - called Rushnychok, "a little towel":

Might take a while to figure out how it works: it is so not automatic, you actually have to move a tiny sort of a lever to the left to switch it on and then to the right to switch it off...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I've accumulated too many pictures from Pushcha, Gorenka, and a village called Moshchun, but, as always, don't have enough time to post them. Didn't have internet yesterday, too...

Here's another random Gorenka pic:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A well in Gorenka:

P.S. Here's the same well - and the same house behind it - three years ago:


P.P.S. Looked through my 2006 Pushcha Vodytsya and Gorenka pics, decided to make this post slightly longer - because, like the house and the well, some things are getting better and some are getting worse...


This building had burzhuy - 'a rich bastard', more or less - written on it in 2006 (I probably do have a picture of it somewhere, but not on Flickr). I'm not going to transliterate the newer message here, the one above burzhuy - a rough translation is enough: "You're a dickhead." It sounds harsher in Russian, of course. Hundreds of people, including kids, are passing this centrally-located building every single day as they walk and ride to and from Gorenka in marshrutkas and in their own cars. It's kind of funny that many of them would probably act offended if you used the word zhopa ('ass') in front of them, and yet they seem capable of tolerating this derivative of the famous Russian three-letter curse. Also, imagine having to pass this building every day with a kid who has just learned to read...


Speaking of kids and reading, and things that are improving - sort of, kind of - here's a picture of the gates of the Gorenka school in 2006:

And in 2009 (please note that the school is located a kilometer or so away from the cursing building):

Here's my quick translation:

You should love the book - it's a source of knowledge.


Only those nations that have their own national schools can be strong in spirit. - Kyrylo Stetsenko


Study, and read, and learn from foreigners, and do not disdain your own. - Taras Shevchenko

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Strays in Pushcha:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why we are here:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In Gorenka, today:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Marta and I are in Pushcha Vodytsya, staying at the sanatoriy where we used to just take walks three years ago. We were here for the fresh air and no garbage then, and we are here for the same things now. That, and the proximity to Kyiv, to my mother.

It's very different to be actually staying here, though. There is nothing terrible about the place, but too often it seems as if half the staff here are paid to pretend we're still living in the Soviet 1980s, and to act accordingly - and the decorations are Soviet, too. Most rooms look the way they must have looked 25 years ago - only there haven't been any major renovations since then, and they never meant to be cozy - relative coziness was probably reserved for the Intourist hotels only back then. What might have looked impressive to someone totally average in the 1980s - if only they allowed average people in here back then (they didn't, this was a place for the Communist Party's high-ranking farts) - now looks and feels ghastly and pathetic. Quite a few average people are allowed to see it now - and what would have sort of awed some of us then, sort of freaks us out now. Looking at all this today, it's hard not to be struck by how, you know, humble the lifestyle of the Soviet Ukrainian "elite" used to be - if this was the best, what did the worst look like? A rhetorical question, of course, for there are still plenty of memories and reminders of the low-end Soviet lifestyle. Now, it is, of course, possible, to have a computer guy set up wifi internet in your shabby sanatoriy room, which is amusing - and very nice.

Here are some of pictures from the room we stayed in the first night - the wallpaper looks a bit too psychedelic for the 1980s, but who knows:

And here are a few pics from our current room - the wallpaper looks quite authentic here:

Yes, but the air here is amazing, and I'm willing to ignore the things I've just written about because of that. Sort of.


Here's Marta squeezed in between a pine tree and an oak that have grown like two loving cousins - different but very close - one of my favorite spots three years ago:

And here's me, photographed by Marta:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A cab driver story. An asshole cab driver. Just a rant, actually.

Saturday night, around 10 PM, Livoberezhna neighborhood. A few cabs are parked near a bus stop, drivers away somewhere, but come running back to their cars when they see us approach. We tell them how much we're willing to pay, they discuss it briefly among themselves, and one of them gets into his car. He's young, too skinny, with very short brownish hair - guys his type all look the same to me somehow.

I'm in the front seat, Misha and Marta are in the back. The car begins to move, and the wind begins to blow into my right ear. My first thought is I haven't shut the door properly, and since we are driving slowly, I open it and then shut it again, a bit more forcefully than the first time.

Then I realize that the window is rolled down a tiny little bit, so the wind isn't the door's fault, and I apologize to the driver - but he's already half-screaming, half-whining at me: Why the hell do you have to shut the door like this, it's a new car, just half a year old, couldn't you just leave it be, don't you see the window is open, etc.

I try to reason with him: But what's gonna happen to your car - is it made of cardboard or what?

Nah, he's still hysterical: It's not some Volga, you shouldn't have shut the door like this, period.

(For the record, the car's a Daewoo.)

We drive on in silence for the next three minutes or so. Soon after we get on Brovarskyi Prospekt, the guy begins to speed like crazy. The car in front of us is too slow for him, so he drives up real close to it, nearly bumps into it actually, and flashes his lights to chase the slow driver off to the right. The incoming traffic is real close to us on the left, and for a few moments, until we pass that other car, things are just way too fast for me to bear.

I know it's bad to distract drivers from driving, so I try not to yell at the idiot: What you've just done, don't you realize that the damage could've been worse than just losing your damn door? Like, much worse?

He doesn't feel he's done any wrong: I've been driving for nine years! That slow jerk, what am I supposed to do, wait forever?

I remind him of a child passenger in his back seat. He tells me he's got a child, too.

I more or less yell at him and order him to slow down and drive like a normal person.

For the rest of our trip, he obeys.

The more I think about it, the more furious I get. For a number of reasons that I'm not gonna write about here because they are obvious.
Three more from Rusanivski Sady:

A rusty old Moskvich, must have grown roots by now next to somebody's house...

A neat way to dispose of your garbage in the middle of the street...

Something 100-percent cheerful, at last...
Rusanivski Sady, again:


Rusanivski Sady: