Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two more spring days left. March was too wintry. April was too crazy, too sad. May was so good, so amazingly good. Up until the day Henry died.

Pictures of the flowers don't help at all.

These ones reflect my current mood better:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just trying to get my mind off some things, trying real hard...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Had to listen to this half a dozen times before I finally stopped crying...

And the three men I admire the most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died...
A dear friend died unexpectedly in Kyiv this weekend, and it's hard to think of anything but him right now. Henry... He was so full of love, so full of joie de vivre that it feels awkward to feel so sad thinking about him now...

But to know that he's not coming back, that we're never gonna see him again is unbearable.

Some of Henry's family and friends gathered tonight at the bar where we all used to hang out. One friend shared a picture with me. I wish he hadn't. On one of the tables, there was a framed photo of Henry. Not Henry, but a framed photo of him.

And I spent some time tonight searching for some of my pictures of Henry, and I did find a few, but I won't post any of them here. I just can't.

But, as a tribute to one of the most wonderful people I've ever known, here's an unrelated photo from St. Pete in 2004 that I ran into while looking for his pictures. It is so full of sunshine, love and joie de vivre that I hope Henry would've liked it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saw a "little blue bucket" (sineye vedyorko) on a car for the first time yesterday. Its location is a bit unorthodox, but it's still pretty conspicuous. (Underneath the Mitsubishi logo, this car also carries a V-Day Ribbon sticker that says "Remember.")

(GV roundups with various related links are here, here, here, and here.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Via Taras of Ukrainiana, yet another video of our dolt of a president. In this episode, Yanukovych says 'demilitation' instead of 'delimitation':

Translation by Taras:

Yanukovych: Of course, we have issues of quite some principle that we’ll have to work on. For example: the demilitation of our...uh...of our sea borders.

Please note how Medvedev reacts by moving his index finger. He sure has a fun job: first, he gets to listen to the lovely performance of the Russian anthem by the Syrians, then he gets to watch the wreath attack Yanukovych, and finally he gets to hear our great defender of the Russian language actually speak this language.

To avoid repeated humiliation, Yanukovych minders should probably consider getting TV channels to dub the president's speeches, or do voiceovers. Because he really is hopeless.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Syrian comrades' rendition of the Soviet/Russian anthem, performed during Medvedev's visit to Damascus last week:

Normally, I'm allergic to this tune, but it's so comically off-key here that I couldn't resist sharing it... :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In 2008, I wrote about Metin, the bartender from the wonderful hotel at the Aegean Coast that we've been staying at for the past couple of years. Metin reminded me of my grandfather - and that's all I know about him. I'm not sure how I ended up writing a message mentioning Metin to one of my friends tonight, but I did, and this message is about something I like to talk a lot about in real life, so I'll re-post parts of it here, just because.


A few years before my father's death, I discovered that we had some Greek roots somewhere on my father's side. I discovered it accidentally - was looking at my grandfather's photo - my father's father who died in 1969, before I was born, before my parents were married - and it struck me suddenly that his face was so not Slavic. Funny, because I was used to his face and it had never occurred to me before that he looked too beautiful, too dark for a Russian that he officially was... :) So I asked papa an obvious question - obvious for Ukraine: "Papa, do we, by any chance, have some Jewish ancestors?" And he responded so untypically softly - and somewhat vaguely: "No, as far as I know, not. But we do have some Greeks down there somewhere." And that was it. I didn't pay much attention then, didn't really care. And then it was too late, no one left to ask for more information...

One year after papa's death, we were at the Aegean Coast, and there was a bartender at our hotel, Metin, and the moment I saw him, I told Misha: "He looks exactly like my grandfather." And I spent two weeks staring and smiling at him, and on the last day, I took a picture of him, and asked his name, and back in Moscow we compared his picture to the picture of my grandfather, and Misha - whose eye is perfect, you know - said it was almost scary how similar they looked. And that area of Turkey is very complex ethnically - all the "population exchanges" with Greece in 1923, and Lesbos is 6km away, etc. - so who knows what Metin's roots really were... And I took it as a sign, as a tiny message from papa...

Sometime around the second anniversary of papa's death, I was at a bookstore here in Moscow - and Charles Aznavour's book, a Russian translation, basically jumped right at me from the stand, and I bought it, because Aznavour was one of my papa's favorite singers - partly because he reminded papa of his father, my grandfather... Amazing, isn't it? I took it as another sign, another tiny message from papa... One of the first texts in that book was about being a grandfather - which only re-confirmed my feelings...

I don't really feel Greek because of this discovery - the little that I know of the Greek politics kind of scares me, actually - but I do feel that it explains something about me, about why I'm drawn to certain places, people, languages, and, above all, the spirit, why I could never resist it. And the fact that I hate our winters so much... Then again, on my mother's side, we have some mysterious French ancestors, too - as mythical as these Greeks, no info on them whatsoever, except for a few half-forgotten mentions and the dark, not-too-Slavic looks that two of my grandmothers had, something which my mama somehow hadn't inherited at all - obviously, due to her very blond Czech grandmother, my great-grandmother... :)


My grandfather, Sergei Andreyevich Khokhlov:

Metin, the bartender from Kanara Hotel:

My father:

And what I wrote in 2008:

I can see not just my grandfather in [Metin], but my father as well. His smiling eyes. It's crazy, because I could never really understand what my father and his father had in common. And now I do.


P.S. A soundtrack to this post - Artur Meschian's Yerkir Hnamya ("Ancient Land"), a beautiful Armenian song - some of you may not see the connection, but it's enough that I do:

I want to have quick access to these videos, so I'll post them here. This kind of comic relief is something many Ukrainians need right now. Can't be just me alone, right?

Yanukovych, Medvedev and the wreath:

As I wrote elsewhere, it reminds me of something out of a 1980s French comedy - I keep thinking of 'Nevezuchiye'/'La Chèvre' with Pierre Richard and Gérard Depardieu... :)

Also, I really liked how one of Kyiv friends put it on Facebook, "The little Big Brother comes to the rescue of the big little brother"...


Surkis picking his nose, then wiping his hand on Shufrych:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Last weekend, as we were waiting for our trolleybus near Luzhniki, I took a couple of pictures of one of those buses that commute between Moscow and the North Caucasus: I mentioned them in a 2007 post - and in this year's post-subway bombings post...

The two guys are pasting a sign announcing that this particular bus would be leaving for Makhachkala, Dagestan - some 1,000 miles from Moscow - on that very same day. The bus, parked at some distance from the huge and surreal makeshift bus station inside the Luzhniki compound, used to belong to Biuro Podróży Bartuś, a Polish travel agency located on ul. Niepodległości - Independence Street - in the town of Pszów. For some reason, I find this geographic aspect fascinating...
A vendor selling flower bulbs at a Moscow farmers' market yesterday:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm a biologist's daughter, and sometimes I wish I grew up a gardener. But we don't even have a dacha, damn it.

Some more pics from Aptekarsky Ogorod (and there'll be more, because I can still feel the smell of these flowers as I look at these photos, and it's making me happy):

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moscow, May 9:

A trolleybus driver in Moscow:

Monday, May 10, 2010

I took a ton of flower pictures at Aptekarsky Ogorod (RUS) today - very therapeutic...

Victory Day in Moscow: no pictures of Stalinists this year. Fuck them and their Stalin. No pictures of the veterans, either, unfortunately: saw only one today - lonely, with flowers and medals, she was climbing up the stairs at Park Kultury underground pass, stopping every now and then to catch her breath. Tons of people; many of them drunk; others just happy; striped ribbons everywhere; lots of those absurd, fake war-time khaki field caps; adults acting childish, excited about the fireworks. There were even some proud Ukrainians in the crowd, with a flag - and with Lisa Simpson on a t-shirt.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saturday, May 01, 2010

This freak - a regular at springtime communist gatherings - passed by our house today, reminding me that tomorrow is May 1:

The picture above is five years old, but the crazy lady looks the same, just a bit older, and dresses as idiotically. Marta, however, went "ah" and "oh" and "wow" when she saw her: pink tights, pink ribbons on her pink hair, and a pink backpack - a new one! - with some Western cartoon characters on it - don't remember which ones, should ask Marta, perhaps, when she wakes up - maybe she remembers.

I'm tempted to go and take pictures of the Stalinist clowns in the morning - but it is morning already, so I'd rather sleep in - or take Marta to the swimming pool instead. I've seen these nuts before, more than once, so why waste time on them again.

I'm kind of curious, though, whether all the Kremlin's recent anti-Stalinist messages will find some sort of a reflection at the communist rallies today. Five years ago, the freaks with Stalin's portraits seemed useful to the regime as a sort of a warning to the general public: see, this is what the alternative to Putin is like. Now, with the reset button and all, they may somewhat screw up Russia's friendly and civilized image that the state-run channels are trying so hard to highlight.