Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pidhajtsi in Wintertime

I thought that I would post some photos of Pidhajtsi in wintertime. I am playing around with using the FotoPages site for posting my photos, so click here to see more.

By the way, I am not doing much writing at the moment as I, in addition to having my hands full as everyone else with the holidays, am spending a lot of time catching up on reading that I have fallen way behind on: ya know, Ukraine blogs, journals, Ukraine-lists and e-poshtas, Kuzio and Kyiv Post articles, etc., all the usual culprits. I'm also making a huge push to finish both Robert Service's recent biography of Lenin as well as to get through Slavoj Zizek's 40 pp essay "Repeating Lenin" and all the commentary it has provoked (the essay has become an infamous and provocative attempt to look at Lenin's thought and revive a form of Leninism for the 21st century). Revival of Lenin is not a rallying point for me, but the essay is thought provoking; check it out here. (Note: those who hate intellectual discourse or Cultural Studies-eese, stay clear of this piece; you'll just make yourselves mad. However, it actually is a well done piece; Zizek is always an entertaining writer, if at times a bit righteous and overly flamboyant.)

More in the New Year. . .

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

World's Best Fortuneteller

My daugher Julija has already discovered her future profession. She is now offering consultations; however, she speaks in tongues so you will need a translator or to be fluent in Babieese.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Poverty of Spiritual Understanding

DETROIT - The conservative American Family Association said Thursday it will consider reinstating a boycott against Ford Motor Co. because the automaker plans to continue running advertisements in gay publications.

See full article here.


Thursday, December 15, 2005


Ethnic Dance Theatre presents the only all-traditional Nutcracker in town. See and hear authentic ethnic dance and music from Hungarian Transylvania, Franconian Germany, Siberian Russia, Central Ukraine, the Appalachians, China, Egypt, and Mexico. Klara is delighted with Drosselmeyer's gifts of dancing dolls: Ukrainian tin soldiers, an Appalachian clogging rag doll, Austrian music box, and a Hungarian nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s music (played on folk instruments) is adeptly interwoven with additional music from China, Egypt, Mexico, Bulgaria and more.

When: December 16-18, 2005, Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.
Where: Concordia University, E.M. Pearson Theatre, 312 N. Hamline Ave., St. Paul
The Nutcracker!

On-line demo:

$12-$25 Ticketworks (no fees!): 651-209-6689

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On the Road to a Doc, Part IV: Decay, Ruin, Neglect, Immiseration

(stills from videofootage from the town of Pidhajtsi, state of Ternopil)

"My mother used to work in a conservatives factory during Soviet times that employed over 100 people. After the collapse, the factory continued to work for some years, until it closed. It was said that the managers had a difficult time adjusting to the new environment, to market conditions, but everybody knows that what really happened is that they got rich by mismanaging their business. When the factory closed, they sold much of the equipment, and the conservatives section has never reopened. There was also a bakery and mill, that have reopened, but they are privately run and don’t employ as many people as they used to. Behind me is the building where they used to sell their products. This is a perfect example of the decline in the small towns of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, especially in Western Ukraine."

–Oksana Kolodnytska, 23 yr. old school teacher in Pidhajtsi who has a mastery of English and French, who is working on mastering Spanish, and who reads German, and who receives a $60/month wage that she shares with other members of her family, who survive mostly as subsistence and cash-crop farmers. She made this comment in English. She has never been outside of Ukraine.

The building in the background is the mill that was run down and then reopened as a private enterprise. The owners would not let me film inside.

Sunset over the fields during fall harvest this past Oct., 2005, in Pidhajtsi; try to make out the woman walking her cows.

A stencil that appeared in Kyiv around UPA day. The letters read UPA, the Ukrainian initials for Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which was an organization that fought both the German and Soviet occupations of Ukraine during WWII. UPA was active in Western Ukraine until the early 1950s. Many of those people descended from UPA veterans and supporters were for the OR. (Note: anyone who may think that UPA was an anti-Semitic institution, and who may think that many of the descendants of UPA veterans and supporters that became involved in oranizing behind the OR are in large part today neo-Nazis, simply needs to become better informed.)


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Promotion: Folk Dance Version of the Nutcracker

Greetings All,

I have been out of the blogosphere for a while, and will continue to be for the rest of the week more or less, as I have perfomance to do this weekend.

Here is a promotion of EDT's folksy version of the Nutcracker; check it out this weekend if you are anywhere near the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. See what I wrote about EDT here (and scroll down to the bottom to post "New Links Section: Folk Culture Corner"), and/or check out the company's website here.

OR EVEN BETTER YET, CHECK OUT A PREVIEW OF THE SHOW HERE (all the music was recorded live).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 3 of OR: Stills of Pidhajtsi Demo

Below are photos of an OR demonstration in the town of Pidhajtsi, about which I have written many times on this blog. It is a small town of pop approx. 4,000 (or up to 7,000 if you include the immediately surrounding villages of Halych, Stare Misto, and Sil'tse) that is located in the state of Ternopil, and is appox. 35km from the town of Berezhany (pop approx. 25,000) and 75km from the city of Ternopil (pop approx. 250,000), and is 40 km from the town and castle of Halych. Thus Pidhajtsi is in the heart of Halychyna (Galicia), and is perhaps one of the most representative of places indicating what Galician identity and heritage are all about. Many of its inhabitants will claim that Pidhajtsi is the heart of Galicia, which makes it a perfect place from which to talk about so-called "West Ukrainian Nationalism" and the role that it played in the OR.

The Pidhajtsi region or county was one of Ukraine's most fiercely pro-Yushchenko regions, which is witnessed by the fact that it had the highest voter turnout and most votes for Yushchenko in all three rounds of the election fiasco of 2004. Also, people from Pidhajtsi who were in Kyiv during the OR like to claim that their's was the first, giant-size poster proudly proclaiming where its barers were from to appear on Independence Square, which further suggests the fierceness of support for change that came from this town. (That poster is now in the town museum.) The people of Pidhajtsi have long suffered some of the highest rates of unemployment, some of the lowest rates of higher education, and therefore some of the highest poverty rates, and along with most of Western Ukraine some of the most disasterous infrastructrual problems in all of Ukraine. (Click here and scroll to the bottom to "Ukrainian Weekly Article About Pidhajtsi," for the piece I wrote about the collapse of the gymnasium in Pidhajtsi a month before the elections in 2004.)

All of which is to say that the people of Pidhajtsi, along with those of the rest of Western Ukraine in general, have suffered from a much greater degree of post-Soviet neglect by comparison to the people of many other regions of Ukraine; which also means that their fierce patriotism has mostly to do with the fact that they have more to gain through economic change than most anyone else.

And by the way, Western Ukrainian poverty is not due to the fact that, as some have stated in a totally unfounded claim, that Western Ukraine was Yushchenko's own little fiefdom that he ruined through his fondess for neoliberal or Milton-and-Thomas-Friedmanesque economics. Yushchenko, as head of the national bank for years and PM for one year, has more or less never directly controlled Western Ukraine. Furthermore, as national bank chief in the 1990s, he actually helped to stabilize the situation in Ukraine in general by doing his part to bring hyperinflation under contol; as PM he saw reforms that resulted in state workers and pensioners getting paid for the first time, for some in months, and for many in years. Whereas Yushchenko did his part as national bank chief and briefly as PM to inact reforms for the benefit of the country as a whole, Western Ukraine's deeper immiseration relative to the rest of Ukraine is due to the neglect of authorities and oligarchs whose attention has been focused elsewhere. It was totally false for anyone to have ever argued that a Yushchenko presidency risked spreading the ruination of the Western regions to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, a number of Western leftists completely swallowed this anti-Yushchenko propaganda of Ukraine's eastern-based oligarchs. These Western leftists bought this bit merely as stooges of their own ideologies, which is a really sorry situation, since those who supported Yanukovych in Ukraine did so in largepart because they too are victims of poverty, misinformation, and the authoritarian control of the eastern oligarchs over their regions. The real risk, which still looms as Ukrainians head for the very important parliamentary elections, is that the post-Kuchma oligarchy will deepen its control, resulting in an ever worsening state of generalized neglect and ruin throughout the country. Once again I repeat here that one could wrote a book along the lines of What's the Matter with Kansas, and call it What's the Matter with Donbass? and ask the important question of "Why do people vote or support those forces that work against their own, long-term, best interests?

I have a longer peice on the role of so-called "West Ukrainian Nationalism and the OR" in the works; for now enjoy these photos.

One other point: the OR happened throughout Ukraine and not just in Kyiv. I hope the series of three photo posts I have done here (this one, and the two below from Berezhany and Ternopil) helps to illsutrate how important this is to keep in mind. . .

(once again, these are all stills from video footage)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Day 2 of OR: Stills of Ternopil Demo

(stills from video footage)
Above and below are shots along the way from the bus station to Theater Square in the center of Ternopil.

Most of the following photos are from Theater Square in the heart of Ternopil.

Scenes as I walked from the square to my relative's apartment. . .

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In Remembrance of 1933

This past Saturday, November 26, was the official day of commemoration of the holodomyr, about which you can read here for more details. In short, the term "holodomyr" is what Ukrainians use to refer to the 1933 Stalinist Terror-Famine in Ukraine, the North Caucasus, and Central Asia during which 5-7 million were killed in Ukraine and 1-2 million were killed in the other regions.

My maternal grandmother was a little girl as the famine raged in, and many people dropped dead on the streets and paths of, her khutor not far from the city of Poltava (a hutor is a settlement smaller than a village; a hamlet).

Below is a photo of the "monument" to those who died in 1933 that now stands in Kyiv. It is beautiful, but I also find it rather disappointing.

Why is it so small in size? [Note: Monuments and memorials in the former Soviet Union tend to be rather grandiose; there is a reason for why this one is an exception.] Why is it located in such a discreet, inglorious place? That is, it is discreetly tucked away to the side of the St. Michael's Cathedral complex, on a busy plaza with other monuments around, and a lot of business going on. It is not a solemn locale, and the area does not force upon the viewer of this memorial a mood of shock, terror, terrible awe, rage, nor sadness. It is too busy. Too many people getting married on the square before it; too many people rushing about from one cathedral to the next, or quickly heading from one or both of the nearby Cathedrals down Desjatyna St. to Andrijivskyj Uzviz, etc.

7 million people were killed during this event. The Ukrainian-speaking countryside of central and eastern Ukraine was turned into a partially Ukrainian, partially Russian, and most definitely surzhyk speaking area, in large part due to this event. This was an event of enormous cost to Ukrainian culture. Something that shows the true magnitude of what was lost in 1933 should be in place. This is NOT it.

The statue itself is beautiful. Really beautiful. I want it reproduced on a much larger scale. Borrowing from the Vietnam Wall, I want a series of walls with 7 million dots or something in the place of the long-forgotten names (it will never be possible to get all the names) at the base of the enlarged version of this beautiful statue. I want an eternal flame. I want a chapel or prayer center, and places to light candle sticks, etc. I want to feel like I am entering a truly solemn and holy place, a place marking how close the nation came to loosing a chunk of its soul. I want to feel safe to cry there. I want to see people go there and cry or be contemplative.

In short, what I want is for Ukraine to become more truly open to its history.

Some words from my baba (from an interview I recorded with her in English with one of my brothers around, who does not know Ukrainian):

“We were called kulaks because we had it, two cows, and we kept the village tractor. It was decided over and over again that we should keep it, tractor, by people in our village. My father was man who knew fix it, and others would come him from other village to ask for help to fixing their tractor. But soldiers came, took everything from us. My mother, she tried to hide some food behind the stove (the large, clay-tiled stoves that function as a radiator for heat) but the soldiers, they just find it, and when they did, they beat my mother. . .jak I cried it! It was just terrible; I was so young, so young, but I remember it, everything. . .”

“We know our neighbor was eating the children. That’s what we thought. So my mother, she used to make us to go to cellar. We'd stay, all day; we only can come out at night, when there was no light in house.”

“The hunger was terrible, I remember how. . .jak we were children. You know, we would cry it and cry, and my mother, she did everything she could. There was soup of mice and rats and leaves, and just of anything. We all survived it, but other families, they just died.”

My maternal grandmother’s khutor was called Chetverylivka, and was not far from city of Poltava. It no longer exists. My grandmother’s maiden name was Chetverylo; her family, and my ancestors from her side, is most likely descendent from those whomever had founded the settlement, which probably was a Cossack settlement.

Just nine years later she would be kidnapped from her khutor and whisked off to Germany, where she initially worked as a slave (what is a “forced laborer” if not a slave?) in a munitions factory making bombs for the German war effort. She was later transferred from Germany to Belgium, where she was at the end of the war, working the land of German colonists in the area who nonetheless had treated her well.

Every step of the way, she had numerous brushes with death. To this day she is devote in her faith because she believes God watched her and protected her in her youth. I would like to take her someday to a real monument commemorating some of the things she suffered.

Holodomyr survivor, Ostarbeiterin, my maternal Baba: I want to tell you in commemoration of this day how much I love you, and how deeply I respect you, especially for the way you have preserved your ability to laugh and to make others laugh against the greatest of odds. You truly understand that life is beautiful. The magic you have in your soul touches everyone who comes into contact with you in the most profound of ways, and you have helped nourish within me that ability to keep sight of the light that will always be my guide. Thank you Baba Omaha (what my siblings, mother, father, and I call her because of where she made her life in the US).

Afterthought a day later: although there are those nutcases who claim that the famine did not even happen, or that it was not as completely devastating for the peasantry of central and eastern Ukraine as the historians of the holodomyr claim it was, most people agree that a famine did take place, and that a lot of people died to devastating effect on Ukraine. What they disagree on is how and why it happened. Nonetheless, whether or not you think that it was

a) a famine that was the accidental result of poor policies that, once it was underway, was taken advantage of as an instrument for the deliberate killing off and pacification of either a people or a class (which of course is another debate, whether the target of the killing really was "the Ukrainian people" as such, or more specifically peasants or an imagined class of peasants), or

b) a deliberately planned terror-famine or genocide from the start, or

c) was merely the result of poor policies that had horrifying consequences which nonetheless were not the result of the Soviet government having had turned the crisis into a deliberate genocide, or

d) was merely as the result of poor weather, etc.,

is not the point still that millions died tragically? Should this tragedy not, whatever one considers its causes to have been, be memorialized in any real or significant manner?

Making every fourth Saturday in November a day of commemoration is a huge step in the right direction.

And another note: I personally do consider it a genocide, or even better put it was linguicide, whether the intention was to kill off much of and to tame a nation, or more narrowly to kill off an imagined class. My grandmother says that she had very infrequently heard Russian before 1933. Officials and soldiers speaking Russian had been to their village, and she remembers not understanding them as a child. She also remembers that the amount of food her family was alloted in the months after the government decided to start feeding people again did not depend only on her parents' work on the newly collectivized land, but also on her and her older siblings' progress in Russian language lessons. She also recalls having a bar of soap stuffed into her mouth for refusing to speak Russian and thus for speaking only in Ukrainian at the school. She was a little girl then, in the heart of the Poltava region, where today many people speak a strong mixture of both Russian and Ukrainian instead of the pure Poltava dialect of Ukrainian that was still widely spoken in my grandmother's time, and which became the foundation for the literary language and the official national version of Ukrainian. 1933 transformed this countryside in the most brutal and unnatural of ways. There was no natural gravitation toward the Russian language; the history of this change is drowned in blood and tears. It was linguicide, if not also cultural genocide.

But Ukrainians should refrain from using the term "holocaust;" to my mind that term is best left in reference to what happened to the Jews of Europe. They deserve their own term. The holodomyr, although just as sinister in its engineering (I am of the a) persuasion as listed above) and massive and terrible, it did not kill off almost the entire population of Ukrainians as did the holocaust nearly killed off all the Jews of Europe.

Call them both genocides to acknowledge their similarities, but give them two different, specific names to summarize the specific differences, of which there are many. . .

The Significance of Nov. 26 in Ukraine

November 26, 2004 was Day 5 of the OR, and on this day the Orange Revolution took a rather precarious turn, with the announcement from Yushchenko of the start of negotiations with authorities. It was a Friday last year, and he came to Independence Square to explain the purpose of the negotiations—to win from authorities promises for a rerun of the runoff, with no administrative resources involved, no meddling, no falsifying, and with total openness. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell? Are people demonstrating to demand from authorities another day at the polls, or are they demanding that authorities admit that Yushchenko already won?" This was not the first, nor the last, time that I have felt frustrated with Yushchenko’s gentlemanliness toward the oligarchs. Read here (scroll down to "Is Yushchenko Too Chummy With Old Power?") and here what I have written regarding Yushchenko's gentemanliness. But most importantly, lots of other people were, at the time, likewise bewildered by this twist of events. Both wings of PORA! condemned it. Graffiti appeared in Kyiv and elsewhere that read "No Compromise!"

"No Compromise!"

The graffiti in this photo is hard to read; it was written on a wall blocking a construction site across the street from the Ukrainian Home in Kyiv.

In the end, people were willing to give Yushchenko the benefit of a doubt--at least he did not call off mass demonstrations, but just asked that no one do anything to escalate the situation (recall that just the day before, Moroz and Tymoshenko had suggested that the opposition may start erecting barricades around the city and might attempt to storm government buildings, etc., if authorities did not show any sign of cooperating with them). ARE PEOPLE AS WILLING THIS TIME to give him the benefit of a doubt? Or is the memorandum with Yanukovych (another compromise with Yanukovych) just far too compromising a compromise? To my mind, it seems like it is for most of his supporters in Ukraine, and so he has backed himself into needing Tymoshenko again. . .

November 26, 2005: Every last Saturday in November in Ukraine is the official day of remembrance of the holodomyr (the Terror-Famine that killed 7 million Ukrainians in 1933, and 1-2 million more in Central Asia). My maternal grandmother lived through the holodomyr, and I have over the years been recording her remembrances on tape, writing them down, and someday will seek to publish her words somewhere. See next post for more.

Then on a personal note, my paternal grandfather died on this day in 2002, 1 ½ years before I would come to Ukraine for the first time. It was amazing to be in Ukraine last year, on the two year anniversary of his death on a day in which I was able to actively participate in what can be thought of as the Great Awakening of the Ukrainian people--the realization of which he had dedicated his entire life. He was an active supporter of OUN/UPA as a young man in Ukraine; he then dedicated his life in the US to raising money to actively fund and support various institutions and organizations struggling for Ukrainian independence and freedom; and in his final years, he funded construction of three Greek-Catholic churches (one, in his home village of Sil'tse, for which he was the sole funder; another in Pidhajtsi for which he was the principle funder; and another church in L'viv to which he donated, but was not the principle funder). I wonder what he would have felt, had he been alive to see me go to Ukraine and experience the OR, and I wonder what he would think about the situation now, one year later.

Mykhailo Iwaskewycz (on left) Recieving Thanks in the mid-1980s

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One Year Ago, Day 1 of OR: Berezhany Photos

One year ago today, I was in Berezhany, the nearest large town to Pidhajtsi (by comparison; Pidhajtsi area has approx. 7,000, while Berezhany's pop. is approx. 25,000).

You can read what I have written about that day here (scroll down to post, "The Orange Revolution in Rural Ukraine: Part I, Berezhany) and here (post entitled SENT NOV. 22; more photos over there, at the bottom of the post).

Below are stills from my video footage of that day one year ago:

Meeting in the center of town, with 3-5,000 in attendance.

Procession begins from the center of town to the county administration building not far away, where a daily picket took place throughout the OR. Please take note of the mixure of happy and angry faces in these photos. . .

Procession to the county administration building

Speaking out at the County Administration Building

Angry shout of "Shame! Shame!" The whole crowd joined in, and you could feel its collective anger, frustration, and rage resonating in your bones and sinews.

Man happily saying to my camera, "It looks like we won't let them get away with it this time! Shame on them!"

Above and Below: People feeling empowered. The OR, whatever the critics of it say, was the beginning of a sense in Ukraine that the people can put their hands on the levers of power, if they are organized. Whatever reasons the US had to back the pro-democracy movement (there were plenty of self-interested reasons for it to do so), it could all backfire, or not work out for the US. There is now a solid grassroots movement in Ukraine that, having been baptized by fire during the OR, continues to be a thorn in the side of the authorities--who now are those of the YuGov. One year ago was about the Ukrainian people, more so than the Grand Chessboard.

B-t-w,Leopolis, from whom I got the YuGov coinage, has done a good job of pointing all this out, too, in some excellent posts to his blog:

1) here and scroll down to the post whose title begins "american felt boots, drugged oranges, . . .etc."

2) here, the first post at the top

3) And read here (first post again) for general commentary on the matter of what I label Whose Revolution Was It?

In general, most of his posts from the days of the OR last year are quite interesting (I personally didn't know anything about blogging at the time of the OR, so I am myself just now catching up on some homework. . .)

Kids on the stairs to the country administration buildings. . .they called me up to them

The view from the kid's spot on the stairs

There were about 6 or so kids standing there, all holding eggs, all waiting for the head of the county administration, the man responsible for the falsified vote in the Berezhany county, to come out!

Singing "Shche ne vmerla Ukrajina," the national anthem, as the demonstration ended. The plan was to retun the next morning at 7:30 AM, so that the picketers would be there for the start of work day.