Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Movie being made about Holodomor, and book wins prize

Photograph by Alexander Wienerberger, 1933

Starring British Actor James Norton, the movie titled 'Gareth Jones' will tell the story about a Welsh journalist who told the world about what was going on in Ukraine under Stalin.

And Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum has received the Lionel Gelber Prize for her book 'Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine'.

Perhaps now the world will understand the differences between Russia and Ukraine. And Putin, re-elected in a landslide victory in an election in which there was no credible opposition, will be squealing on his throne.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Four years since Russians invaded Crimea

On the 22 February 2014, President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting with Russian security services to discuss extrication of deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych from Ukraine. Putin reportedly remarked that "we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia." 

On the 23 February, pro-Russian demonstrations were held in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. On the 27 February, masked troops without insignia took over the Supreme Council (parliament) of Crimea, and captured strategic sites across the peninsula. The pro-Russian Aksyonov government took control, conducted the Crimean status referendum and declared Crimea's independence on 16 March 2014. On the 18 March 2014, Russia claimed Crimea and began full scale occupation, including forcible takeover of many businesses. Strategically, Russia needed Crimea to maintain a fleet in the Black Sea. But as Crimea is not connected to Russia by land, delivering goods and services was hugely problematic logistically. 

The Russians have since begun building a bridge from the easternmost point of Crimea across the Kerch Strait to connect Crimea with Russia. The Crimea Bridge is actually a pair of parallel bridges -- one for vehicular traffic, one for rail.  In January 2015, the multibillion-dollar contract for the construction of the bridge was awarded to Arkady Rotenberg's SGM Groupunder by the Russian Federation. It will span the Strait of Kerch between the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea and the Taman Peninsula of Krasnodar Krai in Russia. The current connection is by the Kerch Strait ferry between Port Kavkaz on the Chushka Spit and Port Krym.

Construction of the enormous span commenced May 2015. The vehicular bridge is projected to be completed December 18, 2018.  The rail link will follow at the end of 2019.

From @Crimea on Twitter:

"Today, February 26, the fourth anniversary of the occupation of Crimea by Russia.The result - 430 cases of human rights violations, 64 political prisoners, 16 abductions and 15 deaths. In addition, total destruction of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian identity. But Crimea will be free!"
Read more here (in Ukrainian).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Notes on immigration

A childhood friend has posted this on his Facebook page, which I am re-posting here. My mother wrote down her story and it sounds very similar. My family were in a DP camp in Italy and were almost prevented from coming to the States because the doctor thought my mother might have TB. She did not and my father "convinced" the doctor that she did not in a rather interesting way. They came over on the Queen Mary through Ellis Island like so many millions of others. My family name is etched on a plaque there. They were sponsored by my aunt and uncle in Philadelphia and in turn sponsored my aunt and uncle who were sent to Australia first instead. Those were dark times, filled with the light of hope. 

These are dark times, but the light is burning out.

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.