Archive for March, 2016

THE BIRD WOMAN

March 20, 2016

2016-03-20The Old Lady in Maidan NezalezhnostiThis morning the snow was falling on Independence Square (Maidan) in Kyiv. It melted as soon as it touched the pavement. The square was wet and almost empty. An old lady took remains of food out of her huge bags, crumbed them and fed the pigeons. She was murmuring something while dropping pieces of food on the pigeons’ black backs. The pigeons were many. They swarmed round the woman’s feet, fluttered up onto her bags, and then jumped down to pick the crumbs.

I watched the woman for some time. When she finished her job, she collected her bags, blessed the pigeons with the sign of the cross, turned round and went slowly away. I took a picture of her. The lonely woman shuffling away. What is not in the picture, is a patriotic song resounding from a loudspeaker from the other side of Khreshchatyk Street and the feel of a distant war hanging over the square.

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POLITICIANS AND STATESMEN

March 18, 2016

A politician looks forward only to the next election. A statesman looks forward to the next generation (Winston Churchill)

A few days ago I shared on Facebook David Cameron’s Easter message (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXweLOlDldY).

I like these traditional several minutes when the UK Prime Minister makes his annual Easter statement. Even if messages are similar from year to year, it’s good to hear the uplifting eternal truth about Easter as a time to celebrate the ultimate triumph of life over death in the resurrection of Jesus. I respect the leader saying openly and unequivocally (and, in the time of political correctness, courageously) that he is proud his state is a Christian country, and that he has personally experienced Christian kindness in his life. Having a global vision, he also realizes it’s his responsibility as a leader to stand for those Christians all over the world who are being persecuted and martyred for their faith.

For comparison, I browsed the Internet to see/hear President Obama’s Easter messages. I found one (though there may be more, of course) which was delivered at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast in April, 2015 (http://www.mediaite.com/online/the-real-problem-with-obamas-comment-about-less-than-loving-christians/ ). Significantly, Mr. Obama’s speech was far less high-flown. Moreover, it was low-keyed, and it was a talk rather than a speech. At first the President said he was a Christian, and as such, he was supposed to love his neighbor. However, as he put it, he felt concerned when he listened to “less than loving expressions of Christians.” A Freudian slip: Barack Obama didn’t say “less than loving expressions of other Christians.” Having said what he said, he dissociated himself from Christians in their entirety, casting doubts on the sincerity of everything he spoke about later, making me judge him more by what he did NOT say. And President Obama didn’t utter a word about the massacre of the Christians by Muslims in a Kenyan college that had taken place shortly before the White House Easter Breakfast.

One of the journalists commenting on Mr. Obama’s sarcastic remarks directed at the “unloving Christians” explained them by the President’s confrontation with the Republicans that had taken place some time earlier. I may agree with the journalist. But… wasn’t that the time of Easter, when ultimate triumph of life over death is celebrated in the resurrection of Jesus? The British Prime-Minister spoke about spiritual cathedrals, the American President remembered the political rubble.

BE PROUD TO SPEAK ANY ENGLISH

March 17, 2016

2016-03-17 22.03.51I dreamt I lost all my English Grammar textbooks. How shall I speak English now? How shall I use the 16 tense-aspect forms of verbs in the active voice and 12 forms of the verbs in the passive voice in the Indicative Mood and then, additionally, the present and past forms of the Oblique Moods, sometimes called the Subjunctive combined with the Conditional, to say nothing of the Imperative Mood when “Let’s… “ is followed by the tag question “…shall we?” or “Do…” is followed by “…will you?”, or “I” is used with the plural of “to be” (as in “…aren’t I”)?

I woke up and started gradually coming to my senses. I thought that I wouldn’t lose my favorite English even if I lost every English book I had. Linguists took care of such cases by grouping all possible varieties of English into Broken English, Foreign English, Non-Standard English, Global English, World English. English as Lingua Franca, Pidgin English, English as a Second Language, English as a Foreign Language, Baby English, Black English, Yellow English, etc. In perspective all Englishes will converge into Pan-English. No matter how poor my English could be, it would be categorized and I would be proud that MY English belonged to a certain category, and it would have an undeniable right to exist. I’m right, ain’t I? (though I must admit some puristic nit-pickers insist that “ain’t” ain’t a word because “ain’t” ain’t in the dictionary).

WORLD SPEECH DAY

March 16, 2016

According to UNESCO decision, March 15 will be the annual date for World Speech Day starting from this year. In ancient times it was believed that oratory skills could change the course of historical events and lives of peoples. The art of effective speaking was of considerable value in Greece as early as 5th century BC. Many Roman families sent their sons to Greece to have them trained by famous public speakers. Oratory (rhetoric) became a central subject in the Greek and Roman education system.

Eventual disappointment with the power of the word uttered may have caused the degradation of the mastery of public speaking. I don’t know any high school syllabus in Ukraine of which rhetoric would be a required course. Debating clubs are organized but they exist mainly due to dedicated enthusiasts. All the more reason to value those rare individuals who can appeal to people’s hearts and minds and win them into their way of thinking. They are usually persons whom you trust, like pulpit orators with uplifting sermons, or lecturers knowing their profession from A to Z and being able to present scholarly concepts clearly and persuasively.

300px-AndreevNDIn 1969 a provincial teachers’ training college in Ukraine was visited by a guest lecturer from Leningrad (the city known today as St. Petersburg). The lecturer’s name was Nikolay Andreyev, a senior researcher at the Linguistic Institute. Our dean told us, unwilling students of the last year of study, that it was a must for us to attend his lecture. Thus, we were bought to the stream, we were made to drink the water, but… we were happy about it after the very first sentences pronounced by Nikolay Dmitriyevich. The logic of his presentation, the beauty of scientific thought, the mass of ideas “disciplined” and streamlined by discovered laws of language development… I was charmed into linguistics. That may have been the first time when we had heard anyone speaking seriously about machine translation and the application of mathematics to the reconstruction of the early Indo-European protolanguage.

Professor Andreyev…his dazzled listeners… World Speech Day was to be introduced 47 years after.

The Road From Damascus To Yalta

March 16, 2016

In my opinion, the following Brian Whitmore’s article gives a most clear and reasonable explanation of the latest geopolitical move by Russia’s President Putin. The re-post is from the address:

http://www.rferl.org/content/the-road-from-damascus-to-yalta/27615080.html

by Brian Whitmore

March 15, 2016

Vladimir Putin has learned that being a global troublemaker pays dividends.

He’s discovered that being a big part of the problem assures that you are treated as a big part of the solution.

He understands that the politics of blackmail and geopolitical extortion can work wonders.

Before Putin intervened in Syria’s civil war nearly six months ago, Russia was internationally isolated, bogged down in a quagmire in Ukraine, and reeling from Western sanctions.

It was a regional rabble-rouser that was — justifiably — being treated like an international pariah.

And now, amid an apparent pullout after 167 days of air strikes?

Well, now it has a seat at the big table, alongside the United States, as co-sponsor of the Syrian cease-fire.

Syria wasn’t an end — it was a means to an end.

And Moscow is seeking to leverage its success there into more global clout, the lifting of sanctions, a free hand in the former Soviet space, and a revision of the post-Cold War international order.

For Putin, Damascus is just a stop on the road to Yalta.

In addition to killing 1,700 civilians, bombing hospitals, exacerbating Europe’s refugee crisis, and keeping Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime afloat, the Kremlin clearly thinks it has established a template in Syria to get what it has always craved: status as a global power presiding over a bipolar world.

Writing in Slon.ru, Moscow-based foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov noted that the intervention “resurrected Russian-American cooperation from the dead” and created the illusion that only the two “superpowers” can solve major international crises.

“The strategic goal of the Syrian gambit, to revive the bipolar format of Russian-American cooperation and rivalry for influence in the Middle East and the world that existed during the Cold War, has almost been reached,” Frolov wrote.

“It is obvious that the Kremlin would like to make Syria a template not only for bilateral relations with the United States, but also to develop new rules of the game in a broader sense, and in other regions, for example with respect of Ukraine.”

In fact, Ukraine will no doubt be the first place where the Kremlin will try to test what it believes to be its new-found leverage.

In a televised interview on March 13, one day before Putin announced the Syria withdrawal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appealed to Washington to team up with Moscow to resolve the conflict in the Donbas — presumably on Moscow’s terms.

“We know that Kyiv is heavily influenced by the United States, which actually controls everyday life in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

“I hope that the Americans are aware of the need to search for compromise solutions to ensure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

Leaving aside the fact that Lavrov’s comment is delusional in that it pretends that Russia is a mediator in Ukraine and not the aggressor, it appears to telegraph where the Kremlin is going next.

Russia will try to leverage the momentum from its Syrian gambit to get a final settlement in Ukraine that preserves Moscow’s influence in the Donbas and gives it a virtual veto over Kyiv’s political direction.

It will try to force the West to forget about Crimea and get on with business as usual.

That, of course, is how things work in the Kremlin’s preferred world order. Might makes right; rules don’t matter; great powers rule their spheres of influence and decide the fates of smaller nations.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the journal Russia In Global Affairs and chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, all but declared the post-Cold War order dead in a gloating March 8 commentary in the official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

“Twenty-five years of trying to build a new world order have vanished into thin air,” Lukyanov wrote.

“Once again, just like in the previous era, the real bosses remain Moscow and Washington, with no one else having the power or capacity to make important decisions and to start to implement them.”

This is, no doubt, premature. But the Kremlin is moving closer to making it a reality.

 

March 15, 2016

THE CITY WITH MANY NAMES

Somewhat earlier I wrote in my blog about the battle of names suggested for the city of Kirovohrad in central Ukraine. Kirov, in whose honor the city was renamed in the 1930s (after the city had possessed a few other names), was Josef Stalin’s associate, but according to the “de-communization” law, place names loaded with communist ideology must be substituted with other names as decided upon by the locals. The business moguls of Kirovohrad, probably thinking themselves to be heirs of the money bags who ruled the city when it had the name Yelisavetgrad in czarist Russia, have draped today’s city with billboards inciting the inhabitants to return to the name “Yelisavetgrad” (Yelisaveta was the czarina of Russia at the time when the city was founded in 1754).  The local Russian Orthodox Church and quite a number of vociferous “mankurts” (as people with obliterated historical memory are generally called in Ukraine) joined the campaign. The Russian media are spluttering with delight trumpeting about the Ukrainians wishing to return into the fold of the “Russian World.” I feel sad that those who are “not much of Ukrainians” keep living in the cultural field of the worst Ukrainian enemy forgetting the names of their countrymen they could be proud of. I am also sure that parents of those thousands who have been killed in eastern Ukraine with Russian weapons in the last two years do not support the “pro-Yelisavetgrad” hysteria.

I have translated a short speech delivered by the Ukrainian writer Vasyl Bondar. He lives in KIrovohrad, although he avoids using the name and calls Kirovohrad the “city with many names.” The speech was given at a pro-Ukrainian rally at the monument to the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko on March 9 (Shevchenko’s anniversary) and it shows the importance of Taras Shevchenko’s role in present-day Ukraine, as well as the invisible war of ideas, cultures, political attitudes and passions here.

2016-03-15Bondar5th March, 2016

The city with many names

Today we are honoring the Father of our Nation. We lay flowers at his pedestal and open up our hearts to him. We remember the agony of his feelings when he meditated on his predestination and addressed us wishing that those who were born in captivity would never “grow up” if they made God angry by putting God’s name to shame.

We always open up to Taras Shevchenko in matters of principle. And the matter of principle for our city dwellers today is to grow a spine, to hold out and not to bend under the avalanche of utter hypocrisy which is being crammed into our heads by the adherents of the so-called “historical name” to be assigned to our city. Tomorrow (isn’t it a disgrace to do it on Shevchenko’s Memorial Day?) they are going to arrange public consultations under patronage of the city mayor about renaming the city the Russian way. It’s going to be yet another attempt to pave the way towards our dishonor, servility and slavery – and all that being done to the accompaniment of the Muscovite religious zombies with their alien faith, all that being supported by “statements” of the city freemen or signatures of half-educated turncoats from the local Pedagogical University.

However, things won’t go their way. There won’t be any come back to either Yelisavetgrad, or Yelisavet, or any other “-soviet.” Winds of change are blowing across Ukraine in the 21st century. A different generation has been born under the bright stars and blue skies of our freedom.

Today, as never before, groans from the past are roaring in our ears. Those are the groans of millions of our grandfathers, great-grandfathers and our many-times-great-grandfathers murdered by Moscow. They had gone through unheard-of humiliations and massacres on the part of foreign intruders, and we see their imploring eyes with a silent appeal not to let the colonizers commit abuse again. “We won’t allow abuse to be committed,” respond the young Ukrainians.

The name “Yelisavetgrad” would be an abuse. Anyone who is pure of heart – be they from the Ukrainian steppe of from the woody Volyn, from the Black Sea area, or from the capital city of Kyiv – all of them will say to you: I prefer to live in democratic surroundings, and I don’t want the name of the city to remind me of czars, or their stooges, or of all those who kept the freedom-loving Ukrainians in harness. The mayor and the local city council made up their minds to connive with those who cultivate the national oblivion. We address them: you have been elected by the people and appointed to serve the people. Why are you lying low at the moment when the dead seize the living? Are you waiting for the situation to unravel on its own? Or do you need this land only to suck profits from? That is why we are asking you the question once asked by Taras: Are you glorious Cossacks or are you ignominious swineherds? And it will be better if we ask this question today, rather than our descendants will hurl it at you tomorrow.

There’s one single piece of advice to be heeded and to be lived by: keep your spine straight, Ukrainians, and don’t bend before the enemy! Taras is looking at us and there’s hope in his eyes.

 

The original of Vasyl Bondar’s speech:

 

Батька нації вшановуєм, кладем квіти в ноги памятнику, кланяємось, звіряємось Шевченкові, як і він колись мучився своїм призначенням та звертався до нас сьогоднішніх,народжених у неволі.
Один у другого питаєм:
Нащо нас мати привела?
Чи для добра? Чи то для зла?
Нащо живем? Чого бажаєм?
І, не дознавшись, умираєм,
А покидаємо діла…
Які ж мене, мій Боже милий,
Діла осудять на землі?
Коли б ті діти не росли,
Тебе, святого, не гнівили,
Що у неволі народились
І стид на тебе понесли.
Завжди звіряємось Шевченкові у найголовнішому. Найголовніше сьогодні для мешканців нашого міста – зберегти хребет: не зламатись, не зігнутись під навалою тієї несосвітенної облуди, якою нам напихають голови так звані прихильники «історічєского названія» нашому краю. На завтра (який глум – в день пам’яті Шевченка!) вони під парасолею міського голови планують проведення громадських слухань. Аби вчергове зазомбованими псалмами чужої нам віри, московської, аби заявами зманкуртизованих почесних громадян міста, аби підписами недовчених істориків-пристосуванців педагогічного університету мостити нам дорогу у ганьбу, у холуйство, у рабство.
Але так не буде, як вони хочуть. Повернення до Єлисаветграда, Єлизавета, Лисавета, Лісапета і Савєта – не буде! Бо сьогодні над українською землею віють інші, ніж у ХVІІІ чи ХІХ столітті, вітри. Сьогодні виростає в Україні вже друге покоління, народжене під ясними зорями й блакитними небесами нашої свободи. І сьогодні, як ніколи, нашим вухам доноситься стогін-благання тисяч і мільйонів убієнних Москвою наших дідів, прадідів і прапрапра… Вони зазнали нечуваних принижень і пускань крові від чужинців-колонізаторів і очі їхні з потойсвіту безголосо волають: не допустіть наруги! Не допустимо наруги! – брунькується той заклик предків у душах юних українців.

Єлисаветград – це наруга. Кожен щирий серцем зі степу чи Волині, з чорноморського узбережжя чи стольного міста Києва скаже: я хочу жити в демократичному національному середовищі, аби назва міста мені не нагадувала царів чи їхніх прислужників, які тримали «вольнолюбивого хохла» у покорі.
Міський голова і міська рада вирішили потакати національному безпам’ятству. Ми звертаємось до керівників області: вибрані народом і призначені на службу народові – ви чого принишкли у кущах, коли сьогодні мертві хапають за ноги живих? Вичікуєте, поки воно все саме собою вирішиться? Чи вам ця земля потрібна лиш для того, аби множити собі статки? Тому вустами і Тараса Шевченка, і гідних його нащадків кортить запитати (без образ, але образно): «То ви козаки чи свинопаси?» Козаки чи свинопаси? Краще ми сьогодні запитаєм, ніж запитуватимуть вас нащадки завтра і позавтра!
Одна нам рада і порада: не згинаймось, братове сучасники, і не прогинаймось! Тарас дивиться на нас обнадійливим поглядом.
5 березня 2016 року, місто з багатьма іменами

 


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