Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veselka in NYC a popular night time hangout

It's a long time since I've written in this blog but I just had to share this. It seems everyone has discovered Veselka, the Ukrainian restaurant that's been the centre of Ukrainian life in the East Village of Manhattan for my lifetime. What a great thing to have gone to NYU and had both Veselka and Orchidea close by. The Ukrainian Church across from McSorley's on St. Mark's Place was en route. The Ukrainian butcher shop was down the street. And the Ukrainian Museum was next door. The food there was extraordinary in my youth. I would alternate between pyrohy, varenyky and plyatsky, always Uki style with plenty of sour cream, although they catered to all Eastern European tastes.

As an adult, when I worked in Manhattan, I'd periodically shoot down there to Second Avenue for a fix of varenyky with potatoes and cheese. When I worked in New Jersey, I made the annual Easter trek to Manhattan for the Easter lunch staples from the butcher: ham, kobasa, kabanos, and that earthy dark rye bread. Lunch at Veselka was a must.

Orchidea, the bar, is long gone. But Veselka remains an institution, now discovered by all the neighbours as the source of ultimate comfort food 24/7. And it gets 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor. How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timothy Snyder on the destabilization of Europe and fall of democracy

Image result for on TyrannyImage result for BloodlandsOn March 3, Timothy Snyder, historian and author of books on Stalinist Russia and tyranny, has delivered a disturbing but very insightful lecture about Russia's role in destabilization of Europe. His conclusions are important for anyone analyzing what is happening across Europe today and how we got here.

In his remarks delivered during a  conference entitled “Ukraine, Russia and the EU: Europe, a Year After Crimea Annexation” held in Berlin on March 2, 2015, Snyder examines the tactics used in Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine -- annexing Crimea and starting a war along Russia’s border -- against the backdrop of European history.  He specifically examines the history and memory of World War II. He also looks at how Russia is trying to alter the memory of the aspects of the history that are most disturbing.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Eurovision coming to Ukraine in May 2017

Jamala at Eurovision 2016

As the deadline for entry looming on March 13, the world is wondering if Russia will show this year. With Eurovision set to be staged in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, in May, the political statement from last year's defeat might be an insurmountable hurdle for moscow, where lawmakers and a leading pop star are calling for Russia to boycott the competition. The Kremlin has said it believes there could be security problems for Russians in Ukraine. Following Ukraine's victory at the 2016 contest in Stockholm with the song "1944", written and performed by Jamala, which was thought to be a thinly veiled protest against Russia's annexation of Crimea, a coup of sorts showing European support of Ukraine in the conflict has caused Russia some consternation.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Happy Birthday, Taras Shevchenko

On the 9th of March in 1814, Taras Shevchenko was born in Moryntsi but his family moved back to the ancestral village of Kyrylivka (now village of Shevchenkove, Zvenigorodsky region, Ukraine). His ancestors were Cossacks involved in the uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries. He was an accomplished artist and an even greater writer. His Kobzar collection of poetry is the most famous book in Ukrainian. My tattered childhood copy remains with me in my library in Ireland today. In honour of Taras, I will read a poem today. RIP.

Taras and pals. Taras in the hat. 1859.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Hallelujah in Ukrainian

Beautiful. Great to hear Алелуя not Hallelujah! Lovely iconostas and vyshyvka in the background.  Leonard Cohen's masterpiece sounds lovely in Ukrainian. Nice choir arrangement, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bitter Harvest: New Movie About Holodomor

Holodomor is the genocide committed by Stalin in the 1930s in which 10,000,000 Ukrainians were starved to death. Stalin forced collectivization of their lands,shipped the food to Russia, then took away their identification papers; not only were they starving, they couldn't leave. I'll have to see the film, but the reviews are pretty awful.

Article in the Huffington Post

Review in the Irish Times

A review from the UK

Winter on Fire

In the run up to this year's Academy Awards, if you have not seen Winter on Fire yet, it is worth viewing on Netflix. Evgeny Afineevsky's documentary is about the unrest in Ukraine in 2013-2014 during which time they ousted the Russian-backed President Yanukovich. What became known as the Euromaidan, with student demonstrations supporting European integration, grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. It was nominated for an Oscar last year. The BBC reviewed it favorably.

Academy Awards, USA 2016

Best Documentary, Feature
Evgeny Afineevsky
Den Tolmor 

Toronto International Film Festival 2015

People's Choice Award
Evgeny Afineevsky