Archive for June, 2014

AN IMBROGLIO OVER STALE BREAD

June 22, 2014

logoIn the days of yore I participated in the Kyiv Post discussion about the clash of cultures, as that clash was seen by the Americans’ and the Ukrainians’ attitude to the food they consume (it was bread that time). I was happy to have my answer recognized as the best one. Here’s the Editor’s final say about the results of the discussion, which may also be found at

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/lifestyle/an-imbroglio-over-stale-bread-6717.html

 

Dec. 21, 2000, 2 p.m.

Readers present alternative ways of using stale bread, but some do not consider throwing it away a crime the traditional Ukrainian view that even the moldiest crumb should be spared; Scott opined that it’s more practical to chuck the weeks-old brick and spend 10 cents on a fresh loaf. Our readers took up the argument, with the winning response coming from Vitaly Babych, who takes home lunch for two at Primavera.

If Scott buys a loaf of bread, it is his bread and he is free to do with it anything he likes – he can even play baseball with it. However, a person’s life in society presupposes a certain degree of feeling and acting along with other people. I am sure Scott’s Ukrainian friend who reproached him for throwing away the stale bread felt no less hurt than my American teacher-colleagues would have felt if I had not risen to my feet when I said the Pledge to Allegiance. Sometimes my wife buys a round of Ukrainsky when we haven’t yet finished the old bread. Resentfully, I keep chewing the old bread, throwing envious glances at the fragrant round that is waiting to be consumed (hopefully, not the day after).

Vitaly Babych

It is always easier to tell others what they shouldn’t do rather than what they should do. I strongly doubt that anybody buys bread just to toss it out later. But if you are an industrious housekeeper, a prisoner sentenced to life in prison or the owner of a rabbit (as I am; and bread is his favorite snack), you learn to appreciate the wonders of stale bread.

D. Slodkij

It seems to me that customs were created for making our life more complicated, such as all this fuss about bread. We toss out practically everything – food, clothes, letters that contain our private feelings and thoughts. We even toss out our politicians. Conclusion – whatever is put into the trash, can just as easily be taken out.

Vira Ilchenko.

I don’t like eating stale bread. However, I do understand that there are those less fortunate in this world who are not able to be so “decadent.” I always wrap up the bread and leave it by the trash container, so those who are forced to look for food can get to it without having to dig into the mire of the bin.

Wayne Gordon

I never throw away old bread. I keep it and use it as organic clay. Over the past five years my stockpile of bread clay has risen. This has prompted me to take up sculpture with great, if limited success. It is my goal to produce artistic replicas of all the places I have visited on my travels as a hearing aid salesman. So far I have created a particularly good Eiffel Tower from baguette-based clay, Buckingham Palace, The White House and TsUM on Khreshchatyk. I am currently working on a sculpture inspired by Mount Rushmore, except rather than American presidents, it depicts Ukrainian leaders. I am thinking of calling it “Mount Sneermore” because of the expression on the face of Leonid Kuchma. The funny thing is that it also smells like the politicians!

Alex Shaw

I support Lewis. I just wish that Ukrainians had the same attitude toward littering in public places as they do about throwing away bread.

Alex Nikolaenko

The thought of wasting any food should be a concern to all! Given Ukraine’s history of famine and war, this issue is embedded into the country’s culture. There are plenty of recipes that use stale bread as an ingredient. You can make excellent croutons for salads and soups, meat coating as well as stuffing for chicken and turkey.

Robert Reed

I tend to agree with Scott. It is not like I am some super consumer who throws away things as soon as they’re old. I support recycling as much as anyone. My mom never missed a chance to remind me of the starving children in Africa or the hard times in Finland after the war. However, if I am always finishing the old bread before starting a new loaf, I just end up constantly eating dry bread. I can’t see how stuffing myself with dry crumbs will pay tribute to the workers of this former “bread-basket of the Soviet Union.” I say, if it tastes like poo or harms your teeth, get rid of it! Try to optimize your consumption by putting half the bread in the freezer, or by buying smaller quantities as Anya suggested.

Malin Ahlbeck

I don’t consider throwing away a piece of stale bread a crime. If food is unfit for eating, I find no other use for it then putting it into a garbage basket. About 15 years ago the problem of wasting food was solved easily. People would put food into a basket and send it off to a collective farm where it was used as cattle feed. People were praised for taking care of some farmer’s pigs and cows. I don’t have pigs in my apartment, and would prefer to keep chicken bones and surprise my neighbor’s dog.

Sergiy Mezhevych

I I am disappointed with Anya’s write-up on bread. I wondered why countries like Nigeria and China were referred to as countries with “starving” children. I just wondered why “starving” Ukrainian children, who are littered all over the streets of Kyiv, were not mentioned. Anya, take a trip out and educate yourself about Africa. Nigeria has had a fair share of its own problems as many developing nations do, but starvation is not one of them. It is very obvious that your knowledge of Nigeria is very shallow.

Mrs. Blessing Bisong

In cattle-breading nations such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, they treat cattle products with the same respect [as Ukrainians treat bread]. In these countries you must never throw away the last drops of “koumiss” (fermented mare’s milk) into the fire, because it is believed to cause cattle plague and other disasters. I don’t think English-speaking nations are much different. Everything in the world is much more interconnected than it seems, and we must be careful with the things we do not understand. Scott Lewis dislikes feeding pigeons and rats. As for me, I feel a great respect to those few animals that have managed to survive living so close to Homo sapiens, the most destructive, aggressive and waste-producing species on the planet.

Serguei Ignatov

As many Ukrainian kids, I have been brought up with deep respect for bread and those who make it. Since kindergarten I was taught that throwing away bread is a crime. Although there are many points of view, from an economical point of view, it is wrong to throw away bread. Plus, there are so many tasty things to cook from stale bread of any kind! There are cakes, toasts, kotleti, and stuffed loaves. People, use your imagination and you can save some money!

Marina Starodubska

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TEACHERS AND WHAT THEY TEACH

June 21, 2014

As I remember my student times, our teacher of translation could hardly be called a teacher in terms of methodology. We, learners of English, just sat at our desks, looked into our books and translated aloud English sentences into Russian as soon as a turn to translate came to each of us in succession. We were ten in the group and, with that kind of approach, we could easily calculate which sentence each of us would be translating from the text in the book. If he first sentence, then the eleventh, then the twenty-first… Or the second, the twelfth, the twenty-second, etc. It was technical translation and the texts were about machine building — presses, joints, shrinks, hubs that had to be heated and nut that were to be pulled.

All that was boring. However, the translation teacher was our favourite. When it came down to “deciphering” an English speech on the cassette or to formulating a Russian passage in English, he was unsurpassed. His English was “copper-plate”: clear, rational, and very authentic. In the times when an English-speaking foreigner was no more frequent in the streets of a Soviet city than an extraterrestrial from outer space, such people as our dear Mr. P. were of a special value. We attended his classes to enjoy his English and to learn from it.

During all the years since my graduation I have done hours upon hours of interpretation and have translated thousands upon thousands of pages. The themes were related to business, finances, medicine, politics, philosophy, IT technology, all kinds of official documentation, etc. Everything I translated or interpreted was “on the cutting edge” in any field of activity. Texts about milling machines or lift-slab methods in construction, which I, as a student, started with, seem as unusual now as an instruction on making wheels for a horse-drawn cart might be. But… when I open my first textbook in translation published 48 years ago and read that “a sag-tie is a member supporting a long horizontal member which would otherwise deflect excessively under its own weight…” (a sentence that I had to formulate in Russian), I understand that those sag-ties, and point-contact transistors, and lathes, and shapers will always be higher for me than any modern text which is “on the cutting edge.” Because they were at the origins… They were the first… Just as was Mr. P., an incompetent methodologist and a great inspirer.

DEDICATION

June 20, 2014

DSC04394bWhile looking through my books today I came across a hardback bound in black material. That was my daughter’s dissertation in economics. It had arrived from her university at our (her parents’) address a few months after she had graduated from her alma mater and started working in another country.

I leafed through the pages, looked at the graphs and tables. I also read through the glossary of terms: absolute political distance, negative/positive enduring regime change, trade openness, unconditional probability of a growth take off, etc. I thought about the result of long years of hard work our daughter had gone through. I didn’t understand much about the graphs or charts, but the title pages were quite clear: the names of the prestigious university and her dissertation director, also the acknowledgements with words of thanks to her advisor, colleagues and friends. Yes, my wife and I take DSC04398cpride in our children. Each of us might have had to live two lives to achieve what our children have achieved. “You know, “I said to my wife, “my feeling is that it’s me who wrote this dissertation and received a PhD from The George Washington…” – “No wonder”, answered my wife, “our daughter, probably knew how we would be feeling. Have you seen the dedication?” Page 4 of the dissertation contained only one sentence: To my family.

FIRST? GREAT? SMALL?

June 18, 2014

President Poroshenko’s first name is Petro (Peter). Before him there were two Leonids (Kravchuk and Kuchma) and two Viktors (Yushchenko and Yanukovych). For this reason the present-day President is sometimes facetiously called Peter the First, which is the Slavic name of the czar known in the West as Peter the Great. However, I have strong doubts that  the Ukrainian Peter will do as much for Ukraine as his 18th– century  Russian counterpart and namesake did for Russia.

So far Mr. Poroshenko’s promises thundered out in his inauguration speech remain the ‘pie-crust made to be broken.” Absolutely no steps to stem the spread of the Russian aggression have been taken. A Ukrainian correspondent spoke to rank-and-file soldiers in the war-zone and what the soldiers said might be interesting for the President – if he would like to know what is the mood of the army.

Yes, Mr. Poroshenko addressed the Ukrainians right after the military aircraft with 49 people on board had been shot down. But the army expected more, namely – the imposition of the martial law in the East of Ukraine, which would make it easier for them to fight the enemy.  Instead the President had uttered some incomprehensible phrases about the army’s counterattack.  That counter-attack sounded as ridiculous in the ears of the military as the President’s earlier promise to gain victory over the rebels by the end of the week (just the time when the aircraft was shot down).  The soldiers complained about stupid orders when the command may be first given to capture the enemy’s position and then the troops are ordered to retreat and the position which had earlier been freed, is again taken over by the enemy.

One other important moment: for more than 20 the Ukrainian army had continuously been weakened and made ineffective by the pro-Russian rulers of Ukraine. When things started getting hot this year, ordinary people began collecting money to rebuild the army, and many young people who had served in the army (often as conscripts) volunteered to form resistance groups and fight the terrorists in the East.  However, if volunteers are involved in a battle with the enemy, they sometimes do it in isolation, and the regular army troops may not be ordered to assist them, even when the volunteers are surrounded and suffer losses. It looks like treachery, doesn’t it?

Other questions asked by the soldiers were: why does the President want to introduce the ceasefire? Any lull in military activities only helps the terrorists to rearrange their troops and prepare for further actions. Why these negotiations with the Russians, if the Russians are waging the war against us? Why does the Ukrainian government keep meeting its obligations under military contracts and delivering military equipment (made at Ukrainian plants) to Russia?

Why? Why? Why…

There may be one answer: it’s because our powers-that-be (whatever their first names) are either traitors, or amateurs, or wrong people in their places, or they do not care, or they are just …too small for big things.

CENTRAL UKRAINE… PROVINCIAL CITY…

June 17, 2014

???????????????????????????????Again I am here, in the city where I spent the best years of my life… Again, the trees are very green and thick in their greenness, and they reach well over the fifth floor where my flat is.  And the sky is very blue and very high. A kind of a southern woody plant is blossoming right into my window. I don’t know the name of the plant – a sycamore? a plane-tree? or maybe a Hippocrates’ tree? I don’t think the name matters a great deal as long as big and heavy clusters of white blossom mix with the high blue sky right before my eyes.

Almost every time when I come to the city, I go to ???????????????????????????????the place where the city was started about two and a half centuries ago. Once I lived here with my family. Looking at these low houses on both sides of the narrow lanes, you can imagine how it was at that time – in the middle of the 18th century. Czarist soldiers were settled here after they had retired from their military service. Up the street there was their hospital (it has remained a hospital until this moment). Next to the hospital there was a church and a cemetery. I do not remember the church (it exists no longer), but I remember the cemetery, which was razed at the time when I was in my teens.

???????????????????????????????Since the Maidan victory in Kyiv  last winter the city has noticeably changed. It has become more pro-Ukrainian and more patriotic. A couple of monuments to former communist leaders have been knocked down and the free pedestal in the central square is used to commemorate those who died in February fighting against the hateful regime of Yanukovych. One of those who was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Maidan was a local citizen. Now the street which earlier was named after a top KGB functionary bears his name.

A feature that strikes the eye is the blue-and-yellow ???????????????????????????????colors which you see now and then. Electric poles, fountains, bridge railings are often painted in the colors of the national flag. Small flags are fixed on the tops of cars, bigger banners may be seen displayed on balconies or in windows. When I arrived in here the day before yesterday, the first person I met when I got off the coach, was a young man wearing a “vyshyvanka” – a shirt  embroidered in the national Ukrainian pattern. You would like to have a vushyvanka too? No problem – there’s a firm here that will make them specially for you within a couple of days.

???????????????????????????????When Viktor Yanukovych became President in 2010, he appointed his “overseers” from Donbas  all over Ukraine. On my last visit here, the odious names and faces (the “city elders from Donbas”) were teaching from billboards what to do and how to arrange life in the city they had never lived in before. Now they are gone, but their faces and names are brought together by the city community onto one common billboard and the stamp “persona non grata” is affixed to each of the portrayed.

However, every cloud has its silver lining. Once the dwellers of a block of flats where I live complained to ???????????????????????????????an “overseer” about their living conditions:  poor water supply, shabby pipes, unsatisfactory central heating… Trying to be helpful as much as he could, but being unable to meet the request, the overseer “presented” them with a bench to sit on at the entrance to the building. Fearing lest the bench might be stolen in the night, the dwellers kept it in their flats for a few days, and after they had bought some cement and had found a couple of hands to dig up the pit and embed the bench in concrete there, they felt almost happy. Now the Big Brothers from Donbas are gone, but the bench remains – for old grannies to sit on and to talk about politics.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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EFFECTIVE TACTICS

June 13, 2014

pieToday Presidents of Ukraine and Russia had a phone talk. The Ukrainian President extended his good wishes to Mr. Putin on Day of Russia, which is celebrated on June 12. I suspect that the Russian national holiday might have been the main reason for Mr. Poroshenko’s call – not the fact that (also today!) several Russian tanks had crossed the border into the Ukrainian Donbas. The blah-blah talk about closing the border has been going on for three months here in Kyiv, but things haven’t budged an inch. As regards the country’s well-being and defense, all Ukrainian governments and presidents have been traditionally helpless and impotent. The present-day Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. Avakov, a.k.a. ‘facebook general”, tweeted about the Russian tanks crossing into Ukraine. I have always thought that the task of our military was to defend the country rather than observe and register the penetration of foreign troops. A suggestion I read on the Internet was to stop the Russian tanks from breaking into Ukraine by setting up a red traffic light permanently lit up at the border crossing. Why not? The tanks may stay before the red light for some time, and then, unable to stay too long, they are likely to turn round and return to Russia.

The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU is going to be signed on June 27. However, if things go on like this, it may be signed by the Ukrainian President already “in exile.”

It must be admitted that President Poroshenko gathered the top brass after the news about the Russian tanks invading Ukraine. I think that being the owner of the largest confectionary manufacturer Roshen (the “chocolate king”) he offered a ‘pie-in-the-face” tactics to embarrass and humiliate the Russians. Let’s follow the latest news from the East to see how effective it will be.

SLEAZY SEE-SAW

June 8, 2014

 

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The underlying idea of John Pilger’s article In Ukraine, the US is dragging us towards war with Russia (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/13/ukraine-us-war-russia-john-pilger) published in the Guardian almost a month ago is that the U.S.A. “masterminded” the “fascist” coup in Ukraine in a geopolitical attempt to overpower Russia and reduce its influence in Eastern Europe. My impression was that the article was a translation of some Russian article from the Kremlin-controlled media. Firstly, I was surprised by the unfounded label “fascist” attached to the Ukrainian rebels. Every political movement has its extremists, but the share of the far-right element in the Ukrainian last winter’s uprising is insignificant, which was clearly demonstrated by the presidential election last May. The author echoes the Russian propaganda which implies that anybody speaking Ukrainian and opposing the ousted pro-Russian President Yanukovych is a “fascist.” On the other hand (according to the Russian agitprop), if the regime wages an undeclared war against another country by sending armed troops in there and if it explains this action by the necessity to defend the Russian-speaking people there (the historical parallel with the capture of the Sudetenland by Hitler in 1938) it can’t be fascist. To say nothing of the Goebbels-like hogwash daily poured into the minds of sympathizers with the regime, like fake videos or bogus posts on Facebook.

Secondly, the legitimately elected Yanukovych would never have been ejected from the presidential armchair by force, if he had not deceived the Ukrainian people the moment he had jumped into that chair.  He thought that the very fact of having been elected gave him the carte blanche to make a U-turn from his promises. His pre-election mottos “I will hear everyone” and “Improvement: already today” were remembered each time when the corrupted police terrorized the people in provincial towns and villages, when tax-inspectors broke into offices demanding cash from businesses (though all the taxes have been paid) and the shout “Cash down!” was nothing but a government-sanctioned robbery), when kangaroo courts could frame up charges against anybody who did not fit in (including the former premier), when the  government trumpeted about “stable” prices while, in actual fact, the prices were growing day by day, when the traffic in the capital city was stopped every morning because motorcades with the head of state were given green light for him to get to his place of work, when the history of the 20th century again started being measured by the Stalinist measuring tape, etc.

Yes, Yanukovych was elected legitimately because people believed a stronger hand was needed to put the house in order. The democracy of the voting in 2010 was also explained by the “weak hand” of then “namby-pamby” President Yushchenko.  However, the parliamentary election that followed in 2012, after two years of Yanukovych’s presidency, with its machinations and violence, was far from being free. The last straw was Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a widely publicized Association Agreement with Europe. People were simply stunned when after months of vociferous statements of the type “We are a part of Europe”, their President – without any explanation – said “No” to the Agreement. Students, the most world-oriented part of the population, were the first to demonstrate. Their protest was brutally suppressed… The Maidan – the Revolution of Dignity, as we called it – followed…

Yesterday, in his inauguration speech President Poroshenko said he was ready to sign the Agreement (“A poised pen is in my hand”). This morning I read the explanation of the Foreign Minister of France who said the European Union was not yet ready to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine. He advised that Ukraine maintain good neighborly relations both with the EC and Russia.

Once President Reagan called the Russians “sleazy.” “Sleazy” can be not only the Russians.

 

 

 

NEGLIGENCE OR BETRAYAL?

June 5, 2014

turchinov11413When I read or hear the news about the war in the East of Ukraine, I experience pain and shame. The interim president had military fatigues made for himself and is posing with binoculars from every other Ukrainian website, while the border with Russia remains as porous as it was three months ago when the first groups of Russian infiltrators started coming into Ukraine. Now 15 to 20 thousand foreign militants are said to operate in the two regions in Eastern Ukraine.

Practically every day there’s information on the Internet about some Ukrainian troops being surrounded by pro-Russian terrorists. The troops are not allowed to attack: they have the right only to defend themselves. All pleas for help on the part of the Ukrainian soldiers are ignored, no military assistance from other units is given. The latest example: after having been attacked for more than 24 hours, a detachment of Ukrainian soldiers actually surrendered. It retreated leaving all the weapons to the enemy.

The other day one of the Ukrainian units in the East was visited by parliamentarians form Kyiv. The video of the visit was uploaded on the YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDkASKEwnuo ). The impression is rather depressing. The soldiers were mobilized about 2-3 months ago. Some of them had never served in the army and had never shot guns. Now they are given UAH 1,300 (a little more than USD 100) of monthly allowance which they use to buy food in neighboring villages. They have no water to wash themselves. Drinking water is scarce and, if any, it can hardly be drunk at all – so dirty it is.

Originally, hopes for the improvement of the situation were laid upon the election of the new President. The president-elect called the ongoing war an anti-terrorist operation and said that any anti-terrorist operation should last no longer that several hours. Now hopes for the better are pinned on the President’s inauguration to be held on June 7…

soldiersI wonder what kind of military tactics would our officials use and what dates would they set if their own children were soldiers in the Ukrainian East?

HAPPINESS IS WHEN YOU ARE NOT SHOT AT

June 1, 2014

This morning I came across an article by Yevhen Shybalov, a Mirror Weekly correspondent in Donetsk, and translated it into English to post it in my blog:

 

Donetsk

We quickly got used to living in the war time. So quickly that this quickness is even scary.

Our children do not wake up at night, when shots are heard. They keep sleeping. They have accustomed  to shots.But we, adults, wake up. We begin looking around to see if everyone is safely back home. Only then we  know that we can sleep on.

Our dreams are dreamless. We sleep to get a rest before a difficult new day. The day that may be the last in our lives.

The children … The children have become quite different. They are small adults now. They stopped being naughty. Now they are quiet and obedient.

When they hear a plane in the sky, they get out of sandboxes, jump off the swings, collect their toys and run home.

When explosions are heard, they take us by the hand and look upwards with surprising calm. They wait for our instructions. They have started to understand that the war is about following orders.

Puplis do not shirk school to hang out with friends. Neither do they gambol in the schoolyard anymore. After school they stay in their classrooms waiting for us to come and to take them home. We come. Sometimes we even run to take them  – when there’s news that armed men were seen in the school neighborhood.

The kids think that we, their parents, know what they should do, and that everything will be all right.

We do not know. We just learn. We learn to live in the war.

“The bus is going only to Panfilov Avenue. Further, there’s gun-fight”, reports the driver through the loudspeaker in a matter-of-fact voice. He has already learned how to make such announcements.

Here are a couple of lessons for all of us.

 

Lessone One: stay at home if there’s no special need to go out.

We have learned not to go for a walk or to cinemas, or cafes. We do not stay in public places longer than it is necessary. Our routes are now strictly functional: our place of work, our home, an ATM, a shop.

Simple shopping and other pleasures of consumer society are no longer for us. Buying things is no fun. We buy only the most indispensible products and that is according to a list prepared beforehand. And just for survival.

And you must be always fast doing everything.

I must get back home before dark. You never know if the curfew has been imposed or not. That is why it is better not to be out at night. The night is the time of war. It’s the time when predators of the concrete jungle go hunting.

We have forgotten what traffic jams and rush hours are. The streets are empty. Only rare passengers use public transport in the daytime.

Unemployment seems a tragedy no longer. On the contrary, any opportunity to stay at home is like happiness. Fortunately, we do not go hungry at the moment. We do not have to go outside in search of a meal.  It’s good to stay at home. Water, light and gas are supplied without interruption. At least, the supply is not worse than it has always been.  Sort of strange (considering the war conditions), isn’t it?

Life has moved into our yards. But every foray beyond  the boundaries of the square squeezed between panel apartment buildings is a lottery. It turns into a far and difficult hike with no guarantee of return.

In the evening once crowded alleys and squares turn into Silent Hill – very much like a horror-survival video game of the same name. There’s a barely perceptible flavor of danger everywhere.

Lesson  Two: stay away from people with weapons.

People with guns are messengers of death . Their own death or death of other people’s. They just draw death to themselves.

This lesson was hard to learn.

Basically, we are peaceful people. We were raised on thrillers, on books filled with pathos and heroism, and on the video games where death is not terrible, but is only good and with special effects.

Barricades , armored vehicles on roads, gunners on the streets , helicopters in the sky… That was a novelty, and that was interesting.

A woman was said to have received accidental injuries because of her curiosity. In the evening she went on to the balcony to have look at the “fray”  through binoculars . Because of the binoculars’ optical glit she was fired at with a mortar or a grenade launcher. Who were the shooters is not exactly unknown.

Later we realized that at the place where death is sown there’s no accuracy.  A random bullet or a shell fragment can reach everyone.

On Wednesday, May 28, three civilians were killed in Donetsk and ten were wounded in Slovyansk. It’s only within one day. And on the eve, another three were killed in Slovyansk and one  in Mariupol.

Since the beginning of hostilities seven children were wounded. Their age was from four to seventeen. Fortunately, no one was killed.

We have learned this lesson. The streets get instantly empty if a file of military men appears there. Or if the “republicans” are on a stroll. Or if a four-wheel drive with no license plates and full of bearded camouflaged guys is rushing off somewhere.

People with guns have a varied life. They split into groups. They form strange alliances, which turn to be unstable and unpredictable.

First they stand together at checkpoints under one flag. Then they call each other “looters” and “traitors” and begin fighting — sometimes with the Ukrainian army and sometimes with each other.

They seem not to remember from where it all started. But they cannot stop anymore.

Death is chasing them. However, they may escape it and, instead, we may be easily trapped by it. That’s why it’s better to avoid them.

 

Lesson Three: Trust no one. Never.

We have learned to keep our opinions to ourselves. Once we loved to argue and to carry our point loudly. We loved chatting, joking and defending even the craziest ideas.

Now we ponder every word. Especially, when we talk  with an unfamiliar person. You never know how the person will react. Will he rush to the nearest patrol shouting, ” Grab him, this is Bandera ” (a Ukrainian nationalist)? Will he strike you in the face with the words: “Receive, you bitch of a (Russian) separatist “?

It’s better not to test. Better to remain silent.

It sounds crazy for us when we hear on TV the words “negotiations” and “social dialogue”. The dialogue with whom? With us? We will not talk . We have learned that silence is a key to safety.

The last remnants of trust are destroyed by your close and own. It’s good if your friends and relatives follow the same views as you do. It’s good if you know who is with you and who is against you in this war.

But this is rare. A carelessly spoken word, like a match, starts up a fire of ugly quarrels. Family ties are broken, an old friendship is shattered.

And the children look, quietly and sadly, from a corner at adults screaming and cursing.

But they (the children) do not cry. They have learned not to. Or have they forgotten how?

We trust public and official reports no longer. Especially the reports, which tell of peace and security.

We have realized that security can be only temporary. And the peace was before. There’s no peace any more.

We telephone our friends or just the people we know: “Look, I have some job to do in your part of the city. Do they shoot there?” – “There was some shooting in the morning, but itseems quiet at the moment.” – “Aren’t the roads blocked?” – “The checkpoint is in its old place. There are no new ones…”

With those whom we distrust a little less than others, we share something special. The information which is the most important and the most necessary.  About shops and ATMs which are still working. And again about roadblocks.

Or about the curfew:

“ So, is it still on or not?” – “God knows!”

The police are distrusted more than anybody else. Earlier we feared them, but regarded them as representatives of the authorities. But who are they now?

My friend is having dinner at home. There’s a knock on the door. A woman neighbor appears before him, tears rolling down her cheeks. “ My husband has been taken! Those with guns were on to someone, and he tried to defend the guy. So they led him to the Security Service office. What shall I do? Could I call the the police?”  To call the polce is nonsense. There are more chances if you call the terrorists’ friends and ask them to help with the release of the man. To call the police leaves no chances at all.

Now we just do not understand who are these strange people wearing that stupid blue uniform and calling themselves “police” . They are said to be paid by the state for “maintaining law and order” and “ensuring” the safety of civilians.” Funny ..

However, there may be some use from them.  Just the same as from white mice on a submarine — they are the first to begin suffocating when there is lack of air there. When another shootout is about to happen in Donetsk or when new pogroms “in the name of the (pro-Russian) Republic” are organized the police are the first to disappear from the streets. It means it’s time for us to flee too.

 

We take great efforts to preserve remnants of humaneness in us. We do not break into stores opened by crowds of looters. We think it’s shameful. But we don’t do it just because our families are not yet on the verge of poverty and hunger.

Those with a queasy conscience may rail at themselves for being silent at the time when the word might have changed something. The most honest admit that they were stupid when they thought that their idea of ​​happiness was a sufficient enough reason to grab the weapon.

We still try not to fall into chaos.

But… we finally have found something that unites us all. Whatever our tastes and preferences are: All of us, hiding it from each other, look into the starry sky at night, through curtained windows. and pray, “Lord, may all this be over soon …”

 


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