Archive for April, 2008

Entry for April 27, 2008

April 26, 2008


Today is Orthodox Easter Sunday. The Ukrainian Christians honor the day Jesus rose from the dead following His sacrificial death at Calvary. There’s a story about a very special Easter Sunday that I read.

I don’t remember the place and the time of the event. However, it could happen in any totalitarian state — fascist Germany, stalinist Russia, the Italy of Mussolini or the Kampuchea of Pol Pot. Practically, all the inmates in a common prison cell had their families broken: their children were wandering the streets, the husband could be in one jail and the wife in another. There were about twenty or thirty men in the cell and about half a dozen of them were Christians who decided to celebrate communion on Resurrection Sunday. The non-Christians were rather sympathetic to that decision and they said they would talk quietly, because too dense a silense would draw the guards’ attention as surely as the lone voice of the preacher.

The Christian inmates had neither bread nor wine for the Eucharist. Even that fact, as their ad-hoc pastor said, was symbolic because in some way it signified the spiritual hunger and thirst of mankind. That was the communion of empty hands. The pastor held out his empty hand to the first person on the right and placed it over his open hand , and the same with others. “Take it and eat it. This is my body which is given to you. Do it in remembrance of me”, said the pastor quoting the Bible. Afterwards, all of the Christians raised their hands to their mouths receiving the body of Christ in silence. “Take, drink, this is the blood of Christ which was shed to seal the new covenant of God with men. Let us give thanks, sure that Christ is here with us, strengthening us .”

Finally the Christians stood up and embraced each other. In the silence that ensued one of the non-Christians spoke. His voice was low but clear: “Now I see what faith is.”

Entry for April 26, 2008

April 26, 2008

This article was originally posted at the address My American friend asked me to translate it for him into English


A real war is being waged in the capital of Ukraine. The soldiers in the war are young men, their victims are those whose skin is slightly darker than what you may usually see in this country.

The skinhead movement, which until recently was known to us only as “news from abroad”, has now been firmly rooted in the streets of Kyiv. Last year 35 foreigners were murdered. There have already been 5 murders this year (and these are only official briefs from the Kyiv battlefront about the war against the “aliens”). Among those murdered are Viktor Bendu from Sierra-Leone, Miebi Kunon from Nigeria, an Iraki refugee Rakhat, Josef Bunta, Morissa Dzhugashvili, Alexander Alaveranov from Iran. Human rights activists state that foreign citizens in Kyiv undergo attacks every day. Since the beginning of this year the situation has been aggravated more than ever. So, who are persecuting the foreigners and why is the “hunt” being done?

Incitement of ethnic hatred

Oles is an avid opponent of migrants and refugees in Ukraine. He denies that he is a skinhead. He says he is just a patriot who tries to clear his country from criminals. He claims that he is not involved in making violence any more, although last year he was seen at the head of Nazi marches in downtown Kyiv. Oles makes an open confession of his earlier “deeds” and speaks about his first contacts with the skinheads and the first pogroms in which he participated. He emphasizes that all that was being done from most noble principles.

“In the late 1990s I was participating in the pogroms of the apartments where immigrants from Africa used to sell narcotics. Myself, I confiscated the drugs, threw them in the toilet and flushed the drugs down”. Besides fighting for the health of his compatriots, Oles was also concerned with the whiteness of their skins. “If a Ukrainian woman walks with a dark-skinned guy with her arm linked in his, it is abnormal. The dark-skinned guy is an enemy. We do not want the brown-skinned to multiply (in Ukraine)”.

Bad luck had it that the Ukrainian girl Oksana Koba did not match the “ideology of color” professed by the young neo-Nazis. She had been dating Viktor Bendu from Sierra-Leone for nine years. This coming May they were going to get married and go to Viktor’s country. However, their plans were doomed to failure.

“We were going home in the evening’, explains Oksana, ‘when I heard somebody running behind. Two guys jumped ahead of me and started stabbing Viktor with a knife. He fell down at once. I was going to protect him by falling on him, but they pulled me away and kept stabbing him – in his head, his back and his belly – taking no notice of me.

When the attackers made sure that their victim was giving no sign of life they ran away. The next day the police caught them but that did not make Oksana’s life easier. She can neither stay at home nor go out. She feels depressed in the apartment, and she feels threatened when she goes outside.

Viktor Bendu’s compatriots are scared even more. Sisi Mohammad, the head of the Sierra-Leonese community in Ukraine, explains that all of them have been scared to death. “When we go outside, we do not know, if we will return home. When I go to work, my wife and I phone each other a dozen times, because both of us are anxious for each other. Nobody can tell what may happen on the way.

“We will help you with …nothing”

The cruel murder of the immigrant from Sierra-Leone on March 8th is the latest proof of the disaster which our authorities have refused to admit for so long a time. However, of late our officials started being more and more accused of passivity as far as racism was concerned. When the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Yuri Lutsenko met the U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, he (Lutsenko) actually admitted that the problem exists.

Yuri Lutsenko:
“Frankly speaking, we usually qualify these crimes as “domestic, i.e. such that allegedly have nothing to do with ethnic hatred. However, I must officially admit that in Ukraine in general and in Kyiv in particular, there are a lot of teenager groups who practice racial intolerance”.

For a number of years already Tatyana Khorunzha, a representative of the International Communities Congress, has been trying to prove what the minister is admitting only now. For Tatyana and her colleagues it is a well-known fact that the police turn a blind eye to racism in Ukraine and qualify violence against foreigners as mere hooliganism

Ms Khorunzha: “The police are used to call such crimes “hooliganism”. As a matter of fact, not a single crime has been investigated and brought to court as the “crime committed from racial motives”. The reason may be that the state finds it awkward to consider such cases. But the authorities have to recognize the existence of the illness before they find the remedy. They should not deny the undeniable: namely, that racism has existed in Ukraine for quite some time already”.

According to human rights activists, the inactivity of the police creates the situation when the victims themselves have to prove they were attacked because their skin color is different. “We think the police have to investigate such cases effectively, they should take into consideration the victims’ statements and presume that every such case can be a racially motivated murder or attack. If their suspicions are confirmed, they should inform the procurator’s office about it. In this country only those who suffer from such attacks are trying to prove that the attacks were racially motivated”.

Late last year the Ukrainian president ordered that special troops for fighting skinheads should be formed at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and at the Security Service of Ukraine. However, Vladimir Polishchuk, the press-secretary for the Kyiv Internal Affairs Branch, says that the Kyiv police are not concerned with political or civic affiliations of citizens. What matters for the police is the crime committed and the respective article in the Criminal Code pursuant to which the criminal must be punished.

“Invisible Avengers”

Naturally, a skinhead cannot be called a criminal if he is not sentenced by the court as the one who committed the crime from racist motives. However, incitement of ethnic hatred or a verbal call for such hatred is punishable in accordance with the Ukrainian Law.

The Security Service of Ukraine stays away by saying that their job is to see that separate skinhead groups do not grow into an organized movement.

Yaroslav Dunayev, the head of the Ukrainian Association Against Illegal Immigration, knows better than the secret security agents that skinheads present even greater danger when they are not organized. Being an adherent of legal methods of fighting illegal immigration he explains that segmented groups are more dangerous than those who are organized by the Nazis. He remembers that when two years ago the Secret Service of Ukraine started capturing the neo-Nazi leaders, it was going to crush the skinhead movement. They failed in their attempt. Although the leaders are either imprisoned or just “corked”, there appeared “knuckleheads” who, presenting themselves as skinheads, keep mobbing one and all. As we may see, the struggle against skinheads resulted in their being out of control. Besides, the skinheads also grew in number. Things will hardly turn for the better in the future.

Yaroslav Dunayev says that there are about 10-15 “mobs” in Kyiv (a “mob” in current terminology is a spontaneously formed group of 5-10 young men) who “hunt” foreigners at nights. They do not plan their attacks beforehand but act according to circumstances. Their method is to spot a foreigner, to catch him and beat him. The police say the average age of those “racial soldiers” is from 14 to 22.

A living example of what has just been said is Denis. He is also a former skinhead, but unlike Oles, he came to us, the correspondents of the “Weekend,” with his face covered with a shawl. He is 18, with a three-year experience as a skinhead. He is registered by the police as one of the 500 neo-Nazis in Kyiv. He started taking part in early neo-Nazi marches when he was 14. Now he claims that he has left the neo-Nazi ranks.

“I joined them only because I believed that we fight to clear our country from foreigners. And I left them because they (the neo-Nazis) started enrolling in their organization all and sundry – mainly children from problem families. They enlist those who consume alcohol in their early age and who initiate violence and fights downtown”.

For all that, with Denis’ departure the number of skinheads is not going to dwindle. Just the other way round. For every “drop-out” there are no less than three new entrants who will see to the purity of the race. That’s the tendency, according to the police. It is predicted that the skinhead movement will start spreading from Kyiv to Donetsk, Sebastopol, Dnipropetrovsk and Yalta. It looks like law-enforcing bodies cannot cope with those who have shaved their heads.

The skinheads’ assembly points in Kyiv are usually the metro stations “Ploshcha L’va Tolstoho”, “Minska”. “Heroyiv Dnipra”, “Livoberezhna”, “Nyvky”, the place near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kyiv Politechnical Institute, Holosiyivsky Park and Hidropark. We ask our readers to be careful when you happen to be in those places.

Dmitriy Chizhov, the Weekend

Entry for April 22, 2008

April 22, 2008


For me April 22, 2008 will be as important in Ukrainian history as August 24, 1991 (the proclamation of the country’s independence) or November 22, 2004 (the first day of the Orange Revolution). April 22 saw the introduction of all-Ukrainian independent testing. Students of Ukrainian secondary schools underwent it instead of taking final exams as a prerequisite for graduation. Those students that pass these tests will be accepted to university. The Ministry of Education decided to introduce this new testing procedure to break the corrupted system of admission of high school graduates to higher learning instituitions.

It was in no way easy to implement this idea. Only yesterday — on the eve of the testing, which was announced three years ago! — the anti-Ukrainian media were howling about the prematurity of testing. Some unnamed specialists in the city of Dnipropetrovsk unearthed oodles of irregularities and inconsistencies in test questions and even the prime-minister added fuel to the fire by saying that the tests had been negligently compiled by the “previous government”.

I admit, there could also have been more mundane reasons involved: the “jeunesse d’ore” of school-graduating age, who had just been swilling beer for the last 4-5 years and who has influential parents, tried to effect the U-turn by pressuring their old folks into “behind -the-scenes” manuevering and using their clout. In this they were supported by all those who were negligent or simply slothful in their studies. It may sound unbelievable but the fact remains: a few phone calls from high-positioned parentage can reverse the top level decisions in this country!

Fortunately, the decisions were not revoked. I was really proud of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Lviv University and a larger part of higher institutions in Kharkiv for their resolute stand yesterday in support of independent testing.

You may ask, what the anti- or pro-Ukrainian position has to do with these developments. Sad, but almost everything in this country is measured along the “Ukraine vrs Russia ” lines . The connection is most clearly seen in this case too. The independent testing is Ukraine’s commitment within the framework of the Bologna system of education. Russia, unlike Ukraine, is NOT a part of the European High Education Area and Russia’s indepenent testing is NOT practised on the national (“federal”) level. Naturally, that arouses the jealousy of Russia and its stoogies in Ukraine. Hence, the anti-Ukrainian hallabaloo.

This evening I called a good friend of mine (a student in her last senior school year, whom I counsel in English) and asked her what was her impression of the testing. “For those who were learning properly the test presents no problem”, she said

“We have moved a rung up on the ladder to being more civilized”, I thought

Entry for April 18, 2008

April 17, 2008


“And you can tell the Council from me…I want another house where I can keep me pigs, not a little flat in a bloody high-rise block!”

Entry for April 16, 2008

April 15, 2008


In those days the world was just winding lanes, huge bushes behind the palisade and cottages bosomed in fruit-trees. There were also yards – practically non-existent nowadays. Pigeon lofts were in every yard. They were painted blue – for some reason pigeons liked blue lofts.

The best present for any boy was a couple of pigeons. By the end of summer the pigeon family increased several times. Some of the birds were reposing themselves on perches and some were hanging high in the sky – hardly visible immobile dots. The pigeons could stay up there for hours.

The three pigeon fanciers, already bald-headed and wrinkled-faced …. I see them as kids hustling about in the pigeon market in Kozhumyaky (the oldest part of Kyiv), buying, selling, exchanging the birds, knowing all the breeds and what those breeds are good for. I see their faces turned skywards when they forget everything which is “earthly”, and the tears streaming down their cheeks when one morning they discover the door of the pigeon-house broken and all their favorites taken.

Now their blue caravel, plastered with announcements about courses of Italian (English, German…), apartments to rent, rooms to renovate, music lessons taken or given, plots of land to be bought etc, etc, is proudly floating among these high-rises. They must be very skillful skippers to pilot it into the 21st century.

In a moment they will turn round and look at you, and when you come nearer to explain that you decided to take a picture of them because you liked them and liked what they are doing, you will be surprised to see the blueness of their eyes. The color so much loved by the pigeons.

Entry for April 14, 2008

April 14, 2008


The Center for National Renaissance in Lviv is popularizing President Putin’s project of re-locating ethnic Russians from other countries back to Russia.

Late in March leaflets calling on the ethnic Russians to accept Putin’s invitation could be seen in Lviv. The leaflets were written in Russian and their message was “Your Motherland Is Waiting For You”

Traditionally deemed to be haters of the Russians, the nationalists sound very compassionate at that:

“Россия зовет! Родина ждет!

Русский человек, Родина тебя зовет! Пришло время тебе и твоей семье возвращаться на свою благословенную историческую Родину – Российскую Федерацию. Ты нужен России! Возвращайся скорей! Зачем жить в нищете и быть невостребованным на чужой земле? Нужно возвращаться и быть русским на русской земле”.

Russia needs you! Russia awaits you!

Russians! Your Motherland is urging you to return to your blessed land – the Russian Federation! Russia wants you! Come back soon! Say ‘NO’ the place where you stay in poverty with no call for you. The time has come to return and be a Russian on the native soil”

The decree #637 signed by the Russian president on June 22, 2006 is little known in Ukraine. Only some 40 families have moved from Ukraine to the designated regions of Russia in the Far East and Siberia since the decree became operative.

Feeling with the expats, the nationalists initiated a fund to assist the return of the Slavonic brothers to their Holy Land. The phone numbers of the Russian Embassy and Consulate are also given in the fly-sheets

Entry for April 11, 2008

April 11, 2008


The picture above is an announcement in the Kyiv metro about services for writing graduation papers, term papers, reviews, etc. The services are offered to university students who – for various reasons – are not able to prepare and turn in suchlike papers to their supervisors. What you are to do as a student is to phone those guys on the number indicated, tell them the theme of the paper to be written and after some time and a fee of about a hundred dollars you will get the sought-for study.

Whatever you classify this kind of activities, it’s CHEATING first and foremost. And this immoral value is flaunted in the face of thousands of people. Besides, the producers of the announcement boast their being 10 years in the market – the fact that, in their opinion, gives them presentability and the right to recognition and authority! Alas, much of the corruption is accepted as a norm in this society and even passes as a virtue.

The face of Socrates on the left of the announcement carries some implication for me too. Not an embodiment of wisdom as it was probably meant to be, but as the “gadfly” irritating the establishment with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness. A square peg in a round hole. His attempts to improve the Athenians’ sense of justice and morality caused his execution.

My feeling is that in a moment or two Socrates is going to pull out a whistle and start blowing at us through the centuries. Will he end up in the same way?

Entry for April 09, 2008

April 9, 2008


In his dynamically written (and interesting!) book about Modern American
English “Beware of the “Hot Dog!” 
the author Mikhail Goldenkov advocates the norms of colloquial English 
which are being used nowadays.  As an example of “natural” speech he gives the following 
Bob is a great guy. He never  blows his slack.  He hardly ever flies
off  the  handle. Well, of course,  he is  actually getting on, too.  But he
always knows how to make  up for the-lost time by taking it easy. He gets up
early, works out, and turns in early. He knows  how to get away with things.
Bob's got it made. This is it for him. He is a cool cat.
The author’s idea is that the above text is more preferable on the lips 
of a young American than a more traditional variant:
Bob is a calm person. He never loses control of himself, he hardly ever 
becomes very angry. Needless to say, he is getting older. But he knows 
how to compensate by relaxing. He rises early, exercises, and goes to 
bed early.Bob is successful, he reached his life’s goal. He is a good guy.

The author also says that at English language departments of Russian universities mostly classical literature is taught (Oscar Wilde, Earnest Hemingway, Graham Green, W.S. Maugham, Jack London) to the detriment of more recent literature. I quote:

The language of classical writers (same Maugham) is understood by the Americans for the time being, but believe me, the one who is a witness to this situation, that even clergymen do not speak that way nowadays. It would not be altogether bad to incorporate in the curriculum books of more recent writers, postmodernists, “angry young men”, i.e. all those who in the post-war years were contributing to the development of English. Like Stephen King, say. It would be both interesting and useful…

The decades that followed the first and second world wars were marked by turbulent processes in the cultural and social life and could not but influence the language. And the rock-n-roll boom of the 1950s brought to the surface the language of lowlife and disseminated it on both sides of the Atlantic

I am also in favor of introducing elements of “lowlife English” (slang and jargon among them) as well as the works of Stephen King in the curricula. I am in favor of students of English understanding the English as it is spoken by Africans, Japanese, French people, etc. So much more that as an interpreter I deal with ”off-English” in 90 percent of all cases. HOWEVER, I’m strongly convinced: that kind of English should be taught on the receptive level only – to be recognized and understood. But it should hardly be activated by a foreigner. At times I am horrified at how some Ukrainians imitate the Americans making their own phonetics as unintelligible as possible. By mumbling their way through English, by using expletives of the type “like”, “cool”, “by gosh!”, “wow!” they are more of Catholics than the Pope of Rome! But …that which is permitted to Jove is not permitted to a bull. A learner of English (and all foreigners are learners of English!) should aim at using COPPER-PLATE CLEAR, RICH AND FLEXIBLE English. Call it Royal, classical, old-fashioned, call it as you like, but as soon as you speak the language absorbed from Oscar Wilde, Earnest Hemingway, Graham Green, W.S. Maugham, Jack London, you will be a cut higher than a native English speaker nurtured on rock-n-roll songs and their vocabulary..

In his speech at Oxford Diocesan Conference in 1864 Benjamin Disraeli, a British politician, novelist, and essayist, who served twice as Prime-Minister, said: What is the question now placed before society with the glib assurance which to me is most astonishing? That question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence those new fangled theories.

I’m also on this side – the side of literature, philosophy, arts, history, etc. as vehicles of language learning. The angelic side…

Entry for April 08, 2008

April 7, 2008


A few days ago my colleague, who is “collecting” her vacation trips, asked me, if I had been to Malta. “No”, I said, “but my son has” – “But your son is not you!” she exclaimed.

For my wife and me our children are the extension of our own selves. With them we travel to Malta or Australia, teach at a university in England and do our PhD in Washington D.C. Just as some twenty-thirty years ago when we went with them to the seaside, to picnics, learned English, discussed school events, and had family readings of Ukrainian humor round the kitchen table.

The tables are turned now. When our son returned from a linguistic conference in Sidney and brought a boomerang as a present, I started flying it with no less gusto, than my son was once blowing a policeman’s whistle which I brought to him from London when he was still a kid.

A slight digression: Sometimes nouns, normally used with the article in the English language, may have no article if a more global meaning is to be imparted to the noun (often in titles). Good examples are Earnest Hemingway’s story “Cat in the Rain”, John Braine’s novel “Room at the Top” or W.S.Maugham’s “Theatre”. An English grammar also says that “nouns expressing relationship do not take the article when used by members of the family” (e.g. “I’d like to see Mother”). I guess it’s also because there’s much more behind the words “Mom”, “Dad”, “brother”, “sister” than their dictionary meanings suggest.

So, if you have a closer look at the picture of the lady with the white tulips in the background, you will notice us, her parents, standing next to her amidst the American spring. And the name of the picture is “Daughter”. There’s no article before the noun.

Entry for April 05, 2008

April 5, 2008


As a little kid I was dreaming of possessing a toy-gun. I could stand for hours at the street-corner watching a traffic policeman with a big holster on his hip. Practically, all the boys in our yard had toys that turned them into almost real men. They had either a gun, or a submachine-gun, a sword or a saber. Those things proved very useful in daily war-games which we arranged by splitting into two teams – “ours” and “the Germans”. Since the stick, with which I was armed, was not considered sophisticated weaponry, I had to put up with lower ranks conferred on me and no medals awarded.

I was crying for some kind of armament, but my Dad, who usually used to humor me and pander to my wishes, would become sullen and uncommunicative every time he heard me whimpering for my heart’s desire.

Now I know why. He had just been through the War.

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