Archive for June, 2012


June 30, 2012

In its recent review of the British press the BBC Ukrainian Service predicted a rather gloomy future for the country which, alongside with Poland, is hosting Euro 2012 football championship. When translated from Ukrainian into English, the quote reads as follows: “It looks as if another crucial incident will be enough for Ukraine to desintegrate altogether.” Those who read Ukrainian may go to   Being surprised at the illogicality of the conclusion as it was presented in the Ukrainian variant, I searched for the original article, which is  at  The author Paul Hayward comments on the political situation in Ukraine in the context of Euro-2012. Referring to the article by James Meek in the London Review of Books, who, in his turn, mentions that quite a number of Western political leaders are boycotting the matches in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, Paul Hayward writes: “a swamp of corruption and sub-Putinesque authoritarianism,” Ukraine does indeed feel as if it is one bad incident from a crackdown.“ I gave a sigh of relief: Ukraine’s future is not hopeless, after all. The word crackdown, which was understood by the BBC observer as desintegration, or collapse (probably, confused with crack up) means only “to take punitive measures, enforce strict obedience to law regulations.” Cf. the examples from Webster’s Dictionary: <the government cracked down on violators>, or  <Because of the gambling  the police are starting to crack down>.

It is a recognized fact that the English of the Ukrainians ranks, euphemistically speaking, “somewhat below the average.” At the International Airport of Boryspil a sign may invite you to have your hair done at a “Hairdresser Saloon”, which for me is associated sooner with a cowboy brawl in an American tavern rather than with a beauty salon. Or, how about a lady in her forties on Khreshchatyk who is wearing a T-shirt with the inscription ”Too Cool for School”? However, a BBC journalist has no right to such howlers.

Having written all that, I remembered Mark Twain, who used to take it all in good fun and once remedied a similar situation with his famous phrase: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”


June 16, 2012

Things and people become often more attractive and meaningful when viewed in a broader context. The Earth looks beautiful from space, but a person who finds himself in the center of a natural or man-made disaster in any part of this planet, will hardly agree with the aforementioned beauty. Likewise, in some situations it would be better to have more general knowledge of a person than to be put into possession of their personal data. I was, to some extent, disappointed when the Internet informed the EURO-2012 followers that the six-year-old, who was so genuinely jubilant about the goal scored by the Ukrainian team (see my previous blog), has a concrete name and that his father is a parliamentarian. Two years ago the father changed his original political party affiliation described on the ballot paper at the time he had been elected. Usually, such defections are done in the Ukrainian parliament because a huge sum of money (millions of dollars) has been offered to the defector, and the turncoat receives a bad press. With this knowledge about the father and son, hundreds of Internet comments made a dead set on the boy saying that he will become the same renegade as his dad, or sniping about the price of the tickets for the VIP-box where the boy was sitting.

I keep looking at the boy “from space.” I like his innocence and the spontaneity of his emotion. Besides, what is very meaningful for me, while being interviewed by a Ukrainian-speaking journalist the boy was answering in Ukrainian (his mother wasn’t able to speak it). And what a pretty mistake the boy made! When asked who had scored the goal, he answered it was TARAS Shevchenko (the greatest Ukrainian poet), confusing the name with that of ANDRIY Shevchenko, the top footballer.


June 12, 2012

Before yesterday’s match against Sweden the Ukrainian team had statistically been the second-worst team in the EURO-2012 final. Quite understandably, the whole of Kyiv partied late into night after Ukraine’s well-deserved win of 2:1. I was kept awake in what ironically could be described last night as the city’s “bedroom community”: the district was filled with roaring of motorbikes, honking of cars, cannonading fireworks… Even those who are unimpassioned by football may enjoy the moment when a six-year-old boy jumps with a shout of delight throwing up his arms with the national flag after Andriy Shevchenko’s goal:

I wish I had the enthusiasm of the fans or the genuine rejoicing of that child. I wish I could identify with the victory and take pride in my country too. However, there seems to be some anomaly with me: amidst the gleeful tumult I cannot forget the injustice committed against the ex-premier and her current imprisonment.  I see the faces of those who were removing the waste round the nuclear reactor years ago and now have their “Chernobyl” pensions cut by half. I hear desperate voices of salesmen in the market whom the police are kicking off because the salesmen didn’t agree to pay the bribe to those who administer the market. I experience a feeling of injury (almost as sharp as physical injury) every time when I see the Ukrainian culture ruined and the language discriminated against…

I tried to look back for some parallels that would illustrate my condition. I think I have found an analogy: the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. With the German team being on top in those days, the Jewish people or Romani (Gypsies) in that country were not particularly enthusiastic about 89 German medals.


June 10, 2012

Modern Tower of Babel

Although English is the official language of the island nation of Papua New Guinea, only 1-2 percent of the population actually speaks it. Over 820 languages – 12 percent of the world’s total – are spoken there.

Largest country with no farms.

Singapore  is just one big city. It has no farms other than the occasional window-box garden. Monaco and the Vatican lack farms, too, but Singapore is the largest of the three city-nations.

Most educated nation!

With 50 percent of its population having graduated from high school and then gone on to at least one semester of college, Canada easily has the most educated population of any nation on Earth. It is followed by Israel at 45 percent and Japan at 44 percent.

Go Jump in the Lake!

With over 3 million lakes, nine percent of Canada is actually fresh water. Canada is the home for over 60 percent of all the lakes in the world.
The biggest desert nation.

With 99% of its vast territory country covered by the Sahara Desert, the oil-rich nation of Libya is one of the most arid places in the world. In some regions, decades may go by without a single drop of rain.

The least peaceful nation

A nation with no government and on-going conflict between the many warlords that rule over its ruined cities, Somalia is a land of constant war. There is no law, no police, no army. It is basically dominated by street gangs who constantly compete for control of ever-shifting turfs – and who send out pirates to terrorize shipping off the African coast.

Most drugged nation

Producing a whopping 95 percent of the world’s opium, not even 10 years of occupation by American forces have slowed down Afghanistan’s illegal drug industry.

Most of the world’s oxygen

Siberia is home to approximately 25 percent of the world’s forests – filling an area larger than the continental United States, making Russia the largest converter of carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen

The Most Christian Nation

Surpassing even the United States and famously devout Poland, a higher percentage of citizens of the Philippine Islands regularly attend church than anywhere else in the world.

How low can you go?

If, indeed, global warming increases, the country most likely to disappear beneath the waves is the Maldives Islands. With an average height of around six feet above sea level, their nation is the lowest on Earth.

Most overweight nation …

With over 95 percent of its population overweight, the small island nation of Nauru is by far the most over-weight country on Earth. Its obesity epidemic is primarily attributed to the importation of western fast food that coincided with an increased standard of living in the 20th century due to the global popularity of its phosphate exports.

More sheep than people!

With only about 3,000 human inhabitants, the Falkland Islands, a British territory off the coast of Argentina, are home to approximately a half-million sheep. Not surprisingly wool is the major export.

Least likely place to meet your neighbour

At 4 people per square mile, Mongolia is the least densely populated country on Earth. Compare this to the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong that has the highest population density in the world with 340,000 people per square mile.

The land of no rivers

Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it?For a country as big as Saudi Arabia there has to be at least some sort of flowing water. Well, there isn’t. Most of their fresh water comes from desalinization plants or underground reservoirs. There is not a single river, creek or brook in the entire country.
Youngest population

Generally the world’s youngest country is determined by calculating the portion of the population that is younger than 15. Presently it is Niger that holds this distinction with roughly half of its population having barely reached puberty – 49 percent.

Most diverse country

In almost every category – religions, ethnic groups, cultural groups and even climates – ranging from the tallest mountains in the world to the deepest tropic jungles, India claims to be the most diverse country in the world.

How long until nobody’s left?

With a natural increase in population of minus .8% annually, Ukraine is in danger of becoming an empty nation. Because of its extremely low birth rate and high mortality rate, between now and the year 2050, Ukraine is expected to lose around 30% of its population.

Nobody’s home!

For a variety of reasons, including a poor economy, the island nation of Malta has had the highest emigration rate of any other nation. There are now more Maltese living abroad than those who reside within the country itself.


June 10, 2012

The law adopted in its first reading by the Ukrainian parliament on June 5 will halt the spread of the Ukrainian language and elevate the Russian language in this country. For me, passing of the law ranges with corruption, treachery, extreme egotism, politically motivated imprisonments, return of Stalinism, secondary education eviscerated and higher one primitivized – things so much common in Ukraine nowadays.

Ukraine is hosting EURO-2012. The championship is the red-hot topic at the moment. Personally, I associate the latest parliamentary voting with how Euro 2012 is being viewed and handled here, much of which is overpowering, bullying, kicking, coining money, barefaced lying, etc.

The battle over language issue and rooting for the home team. Seemingly unrelated events are generated by the same mentality: blind hatred, pushy attitudes, high-handedness, a desire to crush, overwhelm and, eventually, to triumph. Once I happened to travel in the metro with soccer fans who were returning from the match that had just finished. There was lots of shouting and tooting, and the picture of a drunken fan pounding with full force on the door of the car is very fresh in my mind even now.

Whatever the calamities, I know that I will survive with my Ukrainian. Nobody will deprive me of my right to know and use my native language. As in a beleaguered fortress, I have enough of Ukrainian printed matter in my home library to withstand the siege of soullessness. Of late I have discovered an interesting Italian writer – Carlo Carretto. Being a Catholic, he ran away from the Vatican’s clericalism and stayed for 10 years in Sahara working there as a meteorologist, being out of the spotlight and out of the rat race. In 1964 his book Letters From the Desert  was published in Italy and became an immediate success. Quotes from the book may be found on the Internet. In another book I, Francis, Carlo Carretto writes: “…Do not believe in the reform of your Order. Believe in your personal reform.”

FYI: the pig that is supposed to predict the results of the EURO-2012 football matches is now popularly known as “Viktor Fedorovich”, which is the first name and patronymic of the Ukrainian president. Just a finishing touch to what I have just written.

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