Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Celebration of Russia's victory in WWII creates resentment and tension

By Aussiegirl

This is what happens when the only history you have to celebrate involves a lot of crimes against humanity. Besides, wasn't it the Soviet Union -- and not Russia that won this victory? Millions of Ukrainians and other nationalities who were under the umbrella of the "Soviet Union" died in that war as well, but I guess Russia always saw the "Soviet" Union as being the Russian Communist Empire.

Ian Traynor, writing in The Guardian has the story:

Russian victory festivities open old wounds in Europe

60th anniversary of Nazis' defeat is hit by boycotts and bitterness

As President Vladimir Putin gears up for the biggest spectacular of his five-year rule, Moscow and its former satellites in eastern Europe are mired in rancour and recrimination about the chapter of history they are about to commemorate.

Most central and east European leaders are due to join President George Bush, Tony Blair, the German chancellor, Gerhard Schr´┐Żder, and more than 50 heads of state and government in Moscow next month when Mr Putin will preside over lavish ceremonies to mark Russia's finest hour - the defeat of Nazi Germany 60 years ago.

The east Europeans, however, are heading to Moscow in anxiety and even antipathy. After all, Stalin's "liberation" of the space between Russia and Germany was a conquest that brutalised as well, entrenching the 45-year cold war division of Europe.

Poland, which was invaded and partitioned by both the Third Reich and the Russian army, and which saw its military and intellectual elite murdered by Stalin's henchmen, is deeply ambivalent about taking part in the Red Square parades. The Baltic republics, invaded first by Stalin, then by Hitler, and annexed by the Soviet Union at the war's end, are also divided, with two of the three presidents boycotting the ceremonies.

President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine is in two minds about going to Moscow.

The Kremlin, seizing on the events of 60 years ago as the brightest spot in Russia's dark 20th century, is unapologetic about the ravages its imperial rule inflicted on central Europe for two generations.

"There is Russia with its pride and its sense of history and then there is central Europe which is being more or less isolated, left alone with a very different history," said Janusz Reiter, a former Polish ambassador to Germany and director of Warsaw's Centre for International relations. "The problem is that this history is not only selective, it eliminates the most sensitive parts of Russian history."

Lithuania, according to the country's former president, Vytautis Landsbergis, is being asked to go to Moscow to "celebrate its own captivity".

"Unlike Germany, Russia has never recognised its responsibility for the war and the mass graves of the innocent," he wrote last month.

Such remarks are viewed as outrages in Moscow, given the 27 million dead the Soviet Union suffered in defeating Hitler.

The Baltic countries were trying to equate Stalin's Soviet Union with Hitler's Germany, a Putin aide told Russian television. "Of course, we cannot accept these blasphemous attempts to rewrite history," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

The mood of bitter recrimination has worsened in recent weeks with a string of pronouncements from Moscow that Mr Reiter characterises as calculated provocations.

Mr Putin directly attacked Poland's President Alexander Kwasniewski by name. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement on the allies' Yalta conference of February 1945, declaring that Poland should be "grateful" for the pact which divided Europe and erected the iron curtain.

Yalta is broadly seen in Poland as the burial site of postwar Polish sovereignty and independence. For the Poles "to complain about Yalta is a sin _ unconscionable", the Russian government stated.

More grievously, the Russian authorities have closed down a 14-year investi gation into the Katyn massacre of 1940, when Stalin's secret police murdered 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectual leaders and clergy.

Throughout the cold war, the Kremlin had blamed the massacre on the Nazis.

The Poles have launched their own investigation into what they term a war crime and an act of genocide. They demand that Russia hand over the historical dossier. The Russians refuse, saying that most of the papers are classified. Katyn, they add, cannot be classified as a war crime, since the Soviet Union was not at war with Poland.

The Polish parliament said last month: "Only the disclosure of the whole truth about the crime and the condemnation of the perpetrators can heal the wounds and lead to good relations between Poland and the Russian Federation."

The Katyn murders occurred in the wake of the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, reached in August 1939, a month before the Nazis began the war by invading Poland. The secret appendixes to the pact carved up central Europe between Berlin and Moscow. When Hitler invaded, Stalin seized eastern Poland and nine months later took the Baltic republics.

The Kremlin has never abrogated or denounced what is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, named after the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers. In the run-up to the Moscow parades on May 9, the Russians continue to insist that they were not at war with Poland, nor did they invade or occupy the Baltic countries, but "liberated" them.

Amid such entrenched differences over the past, the presidents of Lithuania and Estonia are refusing to travel to Moscow.

Mr Landsbergis warned that the world leaders in Moscow next month could end up "validating Soviet war crimes".

Khrystos Voskres!! Happy Easter for all my Ukrainian Orthodox readers

Ukrainian Greeting Card from the website All Things Ukrainian

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Deconstructing Putin's speech

By Aussiegirl

Robin Shepherd of UPI
handily deconstructs Putin's State of the Nation speech recently, in which he referred to the demise of the Soviet Union as one of the greatest geopolitical catastrophes of the 20th century.

Funny -- I guess Putin missed all those people demonstrating and celebrating in the streets over the fact that they were "free at last" of Soviet tyranny, and he conveniently forgot all those tens of millions murdered by Leninist/Stalinist communism -- a mere technicality.

The problem with Russia is that they have no history to look back on that is not a history of domination, oppression of others, dictatorship, murder, corruption and colonial imperialism of the worst sort. But yet they are obliged to see that very bloody history as their time of greatness and glory.

To them, at least so far, and to their rulers like Putin, it is only brute power that has any meaning. Words like democracy, freedom, equality -- these are merely code words that they use to fool the world into believing that they aspire to the same goals of liberty and democracy as other western nations do. So far, their history shows that they do not.

There have been brave Russians who strove towards those noble goals -- the Sakharovs, the Pasternaks, the dissidents and refuseniks of the 60's and 70's who tried to show Russia the way to the light. And they almost achieved it -- but at the last moment it seems not to be enough for the Russian character -- yet -- to seek those goals in and of themselves.

Because it has never been in the nature of Russia to value the individual -- the individual has always been just a cog -- a serf during the time of the Tsars -- and a nameless proletarian to be used, abused, arrested, or worked to death in a labor camp or collective farm, or simply shot and executed during communist times. How about the 7 million Ukrainians starved to death in an engineered artificial famine.

Until Russia learns this lesson -- that its glory and salvation lie in the empowerment of the individual -- and not in the power of the state -- it will be doomed to seek its glory in the present self-defeating pursuit of dubious deals with rogue regimes and bullying tactics of empty swagger and saber rattling.

It's a pity really, and in some ways a harder legacy to overcome than the legacy of the countries which Russia has historically dominated and oppressed -- countries such as Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics. Because these countries had noble histories they could look back on, and as in Ukraine's case, a history of a people who could never be completely subjugated nor exterminated nor repressed, they were able to carve out their chosen path toward freedom and democracy once they won their independence. Ukraine will eventually emerge all the stronger, because Ukrainians have thirsted for freedom for hundreds of years.

But because Russia has always been the dominator and not the dominated, Russia has confused the issue of state power and individual freedom -- and so far has always chosen the former. The Russian people who aspire to true freedom and democracy are going to have to wait, and new leaders -- new inspiring voices -- are going to have to emerge in order to capture the imagination of the people, and seize on something in Russia's history to look to -- perhaps its great literature -- Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol and others. It was they who pointed the way to true human dignity and the potential greatness inherent in the Russian people, and not the cheap thugs who have swaggered onto the world stage and bullied their way to "greatness".

Consider the following statement that comes close to the beginning of the speech: "The ideals of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy," said Putin, "have for many centuries been our society's determining values."

. . . Putin, one presumes, does at least have a cursory knowledge of the history of his own country. For several centuries prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, that country was ruled by the most illiberal autocracy in Europe. For seven decades after that revolution, it formed the core of the most repressive system of government of the modern era. So completely did Soviet rulers try to extinguish the spirit of freedom and democracy that analysts had to invent the term "totalitarian" to get to grips with a system for which shorthand descriptions such as "authoritarian" or "despotic" were simply inadequate.

We thus have our first clear pointer to what Putin really means when he refers to concepts such as "freedom" and "democracy." In his eyes, they are perfectly compatible with fiercely repressive government. Indeed, they are more than just compatible: they actually define the determining values of Tsarist autocracy and Soviet totalitarianism.

A little later in the speech, he attempts to create equivalence between the Russian and the Western path to freedom.

"For three centuries, we -- together with the other European nations -- passed hand-in-hand through reforms of education, the difficulties of emerging parliamentarism, municipal and judiciary branches, and the establishment of similar legal systems."

It was a "step by step" process, he said. Sometimes Russia was behind. Sometimes she was ahead. At his summit with President Bush in Bratislava in February, Putin joked to the media he was not "the minister of Propaganda". He has clearly missed his vocation.

. . .Concluding his speech, he referred proudly to the Soviet contribution to the defeat of Hitler. Russian soldiers he said: "Saved the world from an ideology of hatred and tyranny"; a fair description of the Third Reich but one equally fitting for the regime which helped defeat it.

So, any reference to the tens of millions who died at the hands of Lenin, Stalin and their cohorts? Not on your life, or theirs. They don't count. And neither, frankly, does anything that Putin says about freedom and democracy.

Robin Shepherd is an adjunct fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dear God!! How much death, grief and suffering can one nation endure?

These are edited excerpts published in The Guardian, from "Voices From Chernobyl", by Svetlana Alexievich, published by Dalkey Archive Press at $13.99

Chernobyl Land of the dead

On April 26 1986, the No 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power station blew apart.

Facing nuclear disaster on an unprecedented scale, Soviet authorities tried to contain the situation by sending thousands of ill-equipped men into a radioactive maelstrom. In an extract from a new book by Russian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, eyewitnesses recall the terrible human cost of a catastrophe still unfolding today.

When a routine test went catastrophically wrong, a chain reaction went out of control in No 4 reactor of Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, creating a fireball that blew off the reactor's 1,000-tonne steel-and-concrete lid. Burning graphite and hot reactor-core material ejected by the explosions started numerous other fires, including some on the combustible tar roof of the adjacent reactor unit.

There were 31 fatalities as an immediate result of the explosion and acute radiation exposure in fighting the fires, and more than 200 cases of severe radiation sickness in the days that followed.
Evacuation of residents under the plume was delayed by the Soviet authorities' unwillingness to admit the gravity of the incident. Eventually, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area in Ukraine and Belarus.

In the week after the accident the Soviets poured thousands of untrained, inadequately protected men into the breach. Bags of sand were dropped on to the reactor fire from the open doors of helicopters (analysts now think this did more harm than good). When the fire finally stopped, men climbed on to the roof to clear the radioactive debris. The machines brought in broke down because of the radiation. The men barely lasted more than a few weeks, suffering lingering, painful deaths.

But had this effort not been made, the disaster might have been much worse. The sarcophagus, designed by engineers from Leningrad, was manufactured in absentia - the plates assembled with the aid of robots and helicopters - and as a result there are fissures. Now known as the Cover, reactor No 4 still holds approximately 20 tonnes of nuclear fuel in its lead-and-metal core. No one knows what is happening with it.

. . .Wife of fireman Vasily Ignatenko
We were newlyweds. We still walked around holding hands, even if we were just going to the store. I would say to him, "I love you." But I didn't know then how much. I had no idea.

We lived in the dormitory of the fire station where he worked. There were three other young couples; we all shared a kitchen. On the ground floor they kept the trucks, the red fire trucks. That was his job.

One night I heard a noise. I looked out the window. He saw me. "Close the window and go back to sleep. There's a fire at the reactor. I'll be back soon."

I didn't see the explosion itself. Just the flames. Everything was radiant. The whole sky. A tall flame. And smoke. The heat was awful. And he's still not back. The smoke was from the burning bitumen, which had covered the roof. He said later it was like walking on tar. They tried to beat down the flames. They kicked at the burning graphite with their feet ... They weren't wearing their canvas gear. They went off just as they were, in their shirt sleeves. No one told them.

At seven in the morning I was told he was in the hospital. I ran there but the police had already encircled it, and they weren't letting anyone through, only ambulances. The policemen shouted: "The ambulances are radioactive stay away!"

I saw him. He was all swollen and puffed up. You could barely see his eyes.
"He needs milk. Lots of milk," my friend said. "They should drink at least three litres each."
"But he doesn't like milk."
"He'll drink it now."

Many of the doctors and nurses in that hospital and especially the orderlies, would get sick themselves and die. But we didn't know that then.

I couldn't get into the hospital that evening. The doctor came out and said, yes, they were flying to Moscow, but we needed to bring them their clothes. The clothes they'd worn at the station had been burned. The buses had stopped running already and we ran across the city. We came running back with their bags, but the plane was already gone. They tricked us.

It was a special hospital, for radiology, and you couldn't get in without a pass. I gave some money to the woman at the door, and she said, "Go ahead." Then I had to ask someone else, beg. Finally I'm sitting in the office of the head radiologist. Right away she asked: "Do you have kids?" What should I tell her? I can see already that I need to hide that I'm pregnant. They won't let me see him! It's good I'm thin, you can't really tell anything.

"Yes," I say.

"How many?" I'm thinking, I need to tell her two. If it's just one, she won't let me in.

"A boy and a girl."
"So you don't need to have any more. All right, listen: his central nervous system is completely compromised, his skull is completely compromised."

OK, I'm thinking, so he'll be a little fidgety. "And listen: if you start crying, I'll kick you out right away. No hugging or kissing. Don't even get near him. You have half an hour."

He looks so funny, he's got pyjamas on for a size 48, and he's a size
52. The sleeves are too short, the trousers are too short. But his face isn't swollen any more. They were given some sort of fluid. I say, "Where'd you run off to?" He wants to hug me. The doctor won't let him. "Sit, sit," she says. "No hugging in here."
On the very first day in the dormitory they measured me with a dosimeter. My clothes, bag, purse, shoes - they were all "hot". And they took that all away from me right there. Even my underwear. The only thing they left was my money.
He started to change; every day I met a brand-new person. The burns started to come to the surface. In his mouth, on his tongue, his cheeks
- at first there were little lesions, and then they grew. It came off in layers - as white film ... the colour of his face ... his body ... blue, red , grey-brown. And it's all so very mine!

The only thing that saved me was it happened so fast; there wasn't any time to think, there wasn't any time to cry. It was a hospital for people with serious radiation poisoning.

Fourteen days. In 14 days a person dies. He was producing stools 25 to 30 times a day, with blood and mucous. His skin started cracking on his arms and legs. He became covered with boils. When he turned his head, there'd be a clump of hair left on the pillow. I tried joking: "It's convenient, you don't need a comb." Soon they cut all their hair.

I tell the nurse: "He's dying." And she says to me: "What did you expect? He got 1,600 roentgen. Four hundred is a lethal dose. You're sitting next to a nuclear reactor."

When they all died, they refurbished the hospital. They scraped down the walls and dug up the parquet. When he died, they dressed him up in formal wear, with his service cap. They couldn't get shoes on him because his feet had swollen up. They buried him barefoot. My love.

. . . And what about the soldiers who worked on the roof of the reactor? Two hundred and ten military units were thrown at the liquidation of the fallout of the catastrophe, which equals about 340,000 military personnel. The ones cleaning the roof got it the worst. They had lead vests, but the radiation was coming from below, and they weren't protected there. They were wearing ordinary, cheap imitation-leather boots.

They spent about a minute and a half, two minutes on the roof each day, and then they were discharged, given a certificate and an award - 100 roubles. And then they disappeared to the vast peripheries of our motherland. On the roof they gathered fuel and graphite from the reactor, shards of concrete and metal.

It took about 20-30 seconds to fill a wheelbarrow, and then another 30 seconds to throw the "garbage" off the roof. These special wheelbarrows weighed 40 kilos just by themselves. So you can picture it: a lead vest, masks, the wheelbarrows, and insane speed. In the museum in Kiev they have a mould of graphite the size of a soldier's cap; they say that if it were real it would weigh 16 kilos, that's how dense and heavy graphite is. The radio-controlled machines they used often failed to carry out commands or did the opposite of what they were supposed to do, because their electronics were disrupted by the high radiation. The most reliable "robots" were the soldiers. They were christened the "green robots" [from the colour of their uniforms]. Some 3,600 soldiers worked on the roof of the ruined reactor. They slept on the ground in tents. They were young guys.

These people don't exist any more, just the documents in our museum, with their names.
I took my daughter and my wife to the hospital. They had black spots all over their bodies. These spots would appear, then disappear. They were about the size of a five-kopek coin. But nothing hurt. They did some tests on them. My daughter was six-years-old. I'm putting her to bed, and she whispers in my ear: "Daddy, I want to live, I'm still little." And I had thought she didn't understand anything. Can you picture seven little girls shaved bald in one room? There were seven of them in the hospital room ... My wife couldn't take it. "It'd be better for her to die than to suffer like this. Or for me to die, so that I don't have to watch any more."
We put her on the door ... on the door that my father lay on. Until they brought a little coffin. It was small, like the box for a large doll. I want to bear witness: my daughter died from Chernobyl. And they want us to forget about it.

Arkady Filin
You immediately found yourself in this fantastic world, where the apocalypse met the stone age. We lived in the forest, in tents, 200km from the reactor, like partisans.

We were between 25 and 40; some of us had university degrees or diplomas. I'm a history teacher, for example. Instead of machine guns they gave us shovels. We buried trash heaps and gardens. The women in the villages watched us and crossed themselves. We had gloves, respirators and surgical robes. The sun beat down on us. We showed up in their yards like demons. They didn't understand why we had to bury their gardens, rip up their garlic and cabbage when it looked like ordinary garlic and ordinary cabbage. The old women would cross themselves and say, "Boys, what is this - is it the end of the world?" In the house the stove's on, the lard is frying. You put a dosimeter to it, and you find it's not a stove, it's a little nuclear reactor. I saw a man who watched his house get buried. We buried houses, wells, trees. We buried the earth. We'd cut things down, roll them up into big plastic sheets. We buried the forest. We sawed the trees into 1.5m pieces and packed them in Cellophane and threw them into graves. I couldn't sleep at night. I'd close my eyes and see something black moving, turning over - as if it were alive - live tracts of land, with insects, spiders, worms. I didn't know any of them, their names, just insects, spiders, ants. And they were small and big, yellow and black, all different colours.
One of the poets says somewhere that animals are a different people. I killed them by the ten, by the hundred, thousand, not even knowing what they were called. I destroyed their houses, their secrets. And buried them. Buried them.

Vanya Kovarov
I'm 12 years old and I'm an invalid. The mailman brings two pension cheques to our house - for me and my grandad. When the girls in my class found out that I had cancer of the blood, they were afraid to sit next to me. They didn't want to touch me. The doctors said that I got sick because my father worked at Chernobyl. And after that I was born. I love my father.

Ivan Nikolaevich Zhykhov
Chemical engineer
We dug up the diseased top layer of soil, loaded it into cars and took it to waste burial sites. I hought that a waste burial site was a complex, engineered construction, but it turned out to be an ordinary pit. We picked up the earth and rolled it, like big rugs. We'd pick up the whole green mass of it, with grass, flowers, roots. It was work for madmen.
If we weren't drinking like crazy every night, I doubt we'd have been able to take it. Our psyches would have broken down. We created hundreds of kilometres of torn-up, fallow earth.

There was an emphasis on our being heroes. Once a week someone who was digging really well would receive a certificate of merit before all the other men. The Soviet Union's best grave digger. It was crazy.

Chornobyl means wormwood in Ukrainian

By Aussiegirl

And the third angel sounded,
and there fell a great star from
heaven, burning.
And the name of the star is called Wormwood;
And the third part of the waters
became wormwood,
and many men died because the waters had been poisoned.

The Revelation of St John the Divine, 8:11-12

Here is an excerpt from a much longer article about Chornobyl and its after-effects, which appeared in issue Number One, 2004, of the magazine entitled: "Welcome to Ukraine". Anyone wishing to subscribe to this outstanding English language quarterly can visit their website and see the covers of past issues and read the tables of contents -- or send an email to:artukraine.com@starpower.net.

Don't miss this harrowing first person account of a young student living in Kyiv at the time, and experience just a bit of the horror of what it was like to be forced to live in the monstrous, totalitarian hell that was the Soviet Union. The nuclear power plant at Chornobyl exploded on April 26, 1986. The effects are still being felt in Ukraine and Byelorus, which took the brunt of the radiation.

Take note of the formerly top secret government reports which showed that the authorities were well aware of the disaster and the extent of the danger to the population, and not only remained silent, but insisted that public celebrations of May Day go on as scheduled in Kyiv, which was being bathed in waves of dangerous radiation.

For Whom The Bell Tolls
ESSAY: By Myroslava Barchuk
Welcome to Ukraine magazine

In 1986 the Ukrainian poet Ivan Drach came up with a stunning metaphor "the nuclear lightning of Chornobyl has struck right into the genotype of the Ukrainian nation." Back in 1986, we in Ukraine, could not grasp the full extent of the disastrous consequences of the Chornobyl "nuclear lightning." The Chornobyl disaster was to become a moral category.

Like a chain reaction, it spread through our society, it delivered a devastating blow to the traditional Soviet principles and values, it exposed brazen, monstrous lies and barefaced cynicism of the Soviet system, and, eventually, Chornobyl turned out to be one of the causes that led to the ruination of the evil empire, and paradoxically, to making us free.

T.S. Eliot

April of 1986 stands in my memory for its unprecedented early warmth, pale, hot spots of sunlight on the ground near the building of my university, and poignancy of the first, unrequited love.

It was an exceptionally warm spring, with everything in bloom. April 26 was a Saturday, and a great many people took advantage of the sunshine. Children were let out of homes to play outdoors; PT classes at schools were conducted at open-air sports grounds; farmers went out into the fields; peasants dug in their vegetable gardens; young people went to the sandy beaches; mothers rolled out their infants onto the alleys of the parks; the old sat on the park benches enjoying the warmth.

The first official information in Ukraine about the accident at Chornobyl was published in the communist party newspaper Radyanska Ukrayina (Soviet Ukraine). It was a tiny piece, at the bottom of the page, saying that there was an accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power station and that the work to put things back to normal was underway; those who were injured in the accident were being given medical help; a government commission was set up to investigate the matter. Just a little problem that will be easily dealt with and not a hint of warning.

The next morning I was woken up by strange sounds that were coming from the street trucks, or rather water tanks, were moving along the street aiming powerful jets of water at the boles of the trees, washing sidewalks and the road. A vague sense of unease began to creep in. Later, there appeared columns of huge military trucks, their platforms covered with tarpaulin, with signs PEOPLE attached to them. These trucks rolled through the streets heading north.

It was only much later that we were to learn that the "PEOPLE" riding in the platforms of these trucks were young army conscripts, boys of around twenty years of age, who were sent to "deal with the consequences of the accident." Many of them were to die, saving the country from "the consequences." But on those days, right after the accident we just saw the trucks and heard their heavy rumble.

There were also many cars that were heading in an opposite direction, and they made very little noise - children and relatives of the communist party bosses and top Soviet apparatchiks were being taken to safe places in the south of Ukraine. A friend of my mother's who had "some connections in high places" called her on the phone and told her, "Shut all the windows, use only bottled mineral water, and take your daughter out of town as soon as possible." But he provided no explanation, letting us do panicky guesswork on our own.

On April 30, a well-known pediatrician appeared in one of the prime-time television programmes, and answering "an unexpected question" posed by a journalist present, said without any hesitation and very confidently that there was absolutely no danger for the health of Kyiv children. "Dear Kyivans, do not let yourselves become victims of unreasonable radiophobia [fear of radiation]! It's ridiculous to fear something which poses no danger at all! The radiation background is now lower than it was before the accident at Chornobyl!"
30.04.86, Top secret
Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic
Concerning the measures being taken in assisting the population during the work being done to deal with the consequences of the accident at the ChNPS (Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station)
The Ministry of Health Protection of the Ukrainian SSR is carrying out dosimetric control:
data available on April 30 1986 shows that in the city of Kyiv there has been a sharp increase in the gamma-radiation background from 50 micro-roentgen an hour in the days preceding the accident up to 1,100- 3,000 micro-roentgen an hour.
Besides, there has been observed [radioactive] contamination of samples taken from the open water reservoirs, [samples] of drinking water, of the soil, of the leaves, and of the animal fur in Chornobyl, Polissya and Ivankiv [administrative] Raions.
The highest level of [radioactive] contamination of upwards of 10,000 to 20,000 micro-roentgen an hour has been discovered in the samples of the soil, leaves and needles of conifers.
[in the original, this document is in Russian]
* Comments in square brackets [..] belong to the translator; in translating the official Soviet documents and quotations from the Soviet publications, the translator bent over backwards trying to render the peculiar Soviet style of writing as close to the original as possible but it is hard - nay, impossible - to adequately reproduce it in English.
In order to make it clearer to the reader what 1,100 - 3,000 micro-roentgen an hour registered in Kyiv in April 1986 actually means, I supply a quote from the newspaper Atomnik Ukraine which describes a radiation leak that occurred at one of the Ukrainian nuclear power stations two years ago:

"On February 16 2002 in the territory of the Khmelnytska NPS there occurred a leak of radioactive water from a crack in the pipe that connects the reactor section with the special water purification unit; 30 square meters of the ground were contaminated, with the level of gamma radiation being 240 MICRO-ROENTGEN AN HOUR! (that is, so many times lower than in Kyiv! M.B.) The contaminated soil that totalled 10 cubic meters was removed and TAKEN TO A SPECIAL RADIOACTIVE WASTE REPOSITORY. (bold itallics are mine, M.B.).

It took the then secretary general of the communist party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, the supreme ruler of the country in everything but in name, eighteen days to summon up courage and address the nation and the world with a message about the Chornobyl disaster.

Among the things he said were these words: We have come across veritable mountains of lies, lies of the most dishonest and vicious kind [promulgated in the West about Chornobyl] As far as the alleged lack of information [about the disaster] is concerned, it's not true that informationvhas been suppressed on purpose. There's been an actual political campaign launched [in the West] to accuse us of deliberate suppression of information -
From a 27 June 1986 order of the head of the 3rd Main Board of the Ministry of Health Protection of the USSR Yevhen Shulzhenko on "Tightening secrecy around the measures being taken to deal with the consequences of the accident at the ChNPS":
Classify as secret the information about the accident. Classify as secret the information about the treatment [of those who have been affected] and its results.
Classify as secret the extent and state of radioactive injury suffered by the people who have taken part in dealing with the consequences of the accident at the ChNPS.
From a 4 January 1987 telegram sent by the means of a special high- frequency communication service from the head of the 3rd Main Board of the Ministry of Health Protection of the USSR Yevhen Shulzhenko (telegram # 2; marked: Strictly confidential):
"The diagnoses connected with the injurious effects of the ionizing radiation include:
acute case of radiation sickness chronic radiation sickness body organs and tissues affected by radiation health hazards resulting from being exposed to radiation, such as leukaemia or leucosis which develop 5 to 10 years after the exposure to radiation of over 50 rads; skin cancer developing as a result of radiation exposure; adenoma of the thyroid gland that develops as a result of radiation exposure of more than 1,000 rads
Note: this document is allowed to be copied by those whom it directly

("Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die, salute thee!")

April in the Soviet Ukraine was a special month the time of preparing for "fittingly celebrating the great holidays of May 1, the International Day of Solidarity of the Working People of the World, and May 9, Victory Day" [victory over Germany in WWII]. Floors in schools and offices were polished; employees and engineers were engaged in washing the office windows, cleaning the yards, removing yesteryear leaves from the parks.
Flower beds sported portraits of "the beloved leader Lenin" slogans like "Peace-Labour-May," or "Long Live Communist Party!" Red-blue banners (the colours of the Soviet Ukraine).

Artificial blossoms of cherry trees and big flowers of garish colours were made in thousands to be distributed among the participants of the May Day civil parade that was to file through the main street of Kyiv Khreshchatyk, past the viewing stand with the communist party and Soviet bosses greeting them.

On May 1 1986, when the direction of the wind had changed and the radioactive particles were carried out by the air currents to Kyiv, the civil parade was to take place as always. We, students of the University, "privileged," to take part in the civil parade were to gather at the university at 7 o'clock in the morning.

Three hours of waiting - and then together with "the celebratory masses," we were to march through Khreshchatyk singing patriotic songs, chanting even more patriotic and cheerful slogans, and waving the artificial flowers.

The morning was chilly and windy. We were not aware of the radiation (three days earlier on April 28 Swedish monitoring stations reported abnormally high level of wind-transported radioactivity and pressed the Soviet government for an explanation) that was carried by the winds from the north to Kyiv, passing through our homes, our bodies and our hearts - and then further to Europe - to Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Greece, Germany and even Great Britain. But we felt there was something wrong, a vague menace hung over the crowds.
The city, bright-green, young leaves, the rising sun, the banners fluttering and rustling in the wind. everything seemed unfriendly, alienated, even hostile. The coloured-paper "blossoms," all these slogans and posters looked incongruous, out of place. We shared whatever information we had gleaned from various sources - Voice of America, BBC and Radio Liberty broadcasts (at that time jamming of these broadcasts was particularly relentless and ferocious); hearsay; rumours.

Somebody said that those students who would leave the city, "succumbing to panic and fail to turn up at the exams will be expelled," no matter what the explanations of their absence would be; others said it was advisable to drink red wine, introduce iodine into the diet and avoid drinking milk.

We marched through the main street, through the waves of loud music and cheering and hurrahing; people were waving little flags, dancing Ukrainian dances, greeting the communist bosses on the viewing stand
The previous night, on April 1986, these people from the top echelons of power had been fully apprised of the radioactive situation in Kyiv (see document 1). Years later a German doctor who had treated Ukrainian children suffering from the cancer of the thyroid gland in the 1990s, told me that if the authorities had alerted the people right after the Chornobyl accident to the dangers of exposure to radiation and advised them to introduce the iodine homoeopathically into their diet, the number of cancer cases could have been reduced by at least half small quantities of "normal" iodine saturating the thyroid gland would have prevented the radioactive iodine from penetrating into this gland.

But the Ukrainian leaders feared Moscow's reaction to their "unauthorized" humanitarian action and not wanting to lose their posts and jobs they had kept mum and did not cancel the civil parade. And then they stood on the viewing stand, smiling and waving back, greeting to the unsuspecting people who carried small children piggy-back marching past them. As it turned out later, many children on that day were exposed to radiation much above the safety level.

False hopes breed shattered dreams

By Aussiegirl

This is what a shattered economy and corruption breeds in a country where people are unable to earn a decent living. This was one of the sore points Viktor Yushchenko addressed during his stirring inauguration speech - that Ukrainians are tired of having to leave their homeland to seek work abroad in order to feed themselves or their families -- and he promised to work to make this unnecessary.
According to the article, many Ukrainian NGOs are addressing this problem through awareness campaigns, etc. What a tragedy for these young women who only want to better their lives. I pray that the situation in Ukraine will improve so that we do not have to see this kind of situation in the future.

And what about the countries where these abuses occur? Is the UN (Ha!! You remember -- the UN whose own employees have been accused of rape and sexual exploitation!) putting pressure on these countries to actively pursue and eradicate these human trafficking and sexual slavery outfits?

And where are the feminists? Those privileged whiners who only seem to find discrimination in the editorial pages of the LA Times -- discrimination against white, educated, upper-class American women, that is -- you know, the ones who really matter -- to hell with all the women of the world who are REALLY being oppressed -- like in all those Muslim countries. Or perhaps our feminists secretly envy the ability to walk about in public in a burka -- would save them the embarrassment of exposing themselves for the bitter, spoiled, leftist hags they are.

Read more:

Lured by the promise of better prospects and quality of life, thousands of Ukrainian women have left their homes and families only to become victims of human trafficking.

While they're often promised work as waitresses, in stores, or as domestic workers, many young women are forced into sexual exploitation, usually to pay off the cost of their "migration." Stripped of their passports, threatened and abused, these women become trapped.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Ukraine is one of the main European countries of origin for human trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution. Although the exact number of victims is unclear, estimates indicate that since Ukraine's independence in 1991, as many as 11 million Ukrainian citizens have crossed the border to work abroad, usually irregularly. Thousands of these people became victims of trafficking.

Hark!! Do I hear the sound of distant Russian saber rattlings?

By Aussiegirl

Hmmm -- do I hear a few Russian sabers rattling? If Russia had its way they would lay claim to the entire former Soviet Union as their territory -- they just can't get over it -- and are always looking for ways to pressure and intimidate their former vassal states.

Now what do you suppose the Russian official meant when he issued this not-so-veiled threat: "If such an approach is unacceptable for the Ukrainian party, we will seek some other solution." Such as?

Russia refuses to recognize Kerch Strait area border with Ukraine

Russia refuses to recognize the border with Ukraine in the region of the Kerch Strait, a sign the parties have failed to make any progress in talks during the past one-and-a-half years.

Ukraine and Russia have been involved in the talks since October 2003, when the countries had nearly clashed over Kosa Tuzla, a small Ukrainian island in the strait that Russia had unexpectedly claimed.

. . .Control over the island is strategically important, as it gives control over the strait, allowing control over all ships that sail from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov and back.

Analysts said that Russia is concerned that Ukraine, which currently controls the strait, would let NATO naval ships into the Sea of Azov, making most of the southern territory of Russia vulnerable.

Ukraine pledged its strategic goal is to joint NATO, while Russia, apparently echoing a Cold War era, views the alliance as a military threat.

Igor Savolskiy, a special envoy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Russia believes there was no firmly set border in the strait between the former Soviet republics, and that's why the strait must be operated jointly by Ukraine and Russia.

"If such an approach is unacceptable for the Ukrainian party, we will seek some other solution," Savolskiy was quoted as saying by Unian news agency Tuesday. "But an administrative border between the former Soviet republics cannot be used as an orienteer for a possible border."

Ukraine is insisting that the border has always existed and is pointing to a number of maps during the Soviet era that clearly state that Kosa Tuzla is Ukrainian territory.

Russia refuses to extradite wanted Ukrainian

By Aussiegirl

Now isn't that special?

Russia balks at embezzler extradition
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, April 26 A former senior Ukrainian official accused of misusing and embezzling almost UAH900 million worth of state property has apparently obtained Russian citizenship and Russia refuses to extradite him, officials said Tuesday.

Ukrainian woman and others honored in Washington

By Aussiegirl

Read part of the story from Reuters:

Women from Morocco, India, Cambodia and Ukraine were honored on Tuesday night in Washington for their leadership in advancing human and economic rights for women in their home countries.

Latifa Jbabdi campaigned to reform Morocco's family law so that Muslim women are now considered equal to men in marriage.

Jaya Arunachalam helped start a bank for poor women that mushroomed into an economic empowerment movement.

Mu Sochua is one of Cambodia's leading advocates of human rights, working to stop trafficking, domestic violence and worker exploitation.

And Natalia Dmitruk, a sign-language interpreter for state-run television, helped spark Ukraine's "orange" revolution when she took a risk on air and informed the deaf community the recent disputed election was a fraud.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Kateryna Yushchenko's Address at the University of Chicago

When I asked the people, "is there anything you need?", they would answer, "Yes! Freedom."

Address by Kateryna Yushchenko
First Lady Of Ukraine
At the University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Good morning! It is wonderful to be back in Chicago. In the twenty years since I was here, the University of Chicago has always remained for me a symbol of the greatest of economic thought, a citadel of true science and research. My learning at Chicago changed the way I thought about economics, government and society, and guided me in all my subsequent endeavors, both in work and in life.

I came to you from Ukraine, a country of 48 million that is now known and respected throughout the world, a country whose people have demonstrated their deep desire for freedom and democracy, for a European economic and political system. The peaceful Orange Revolution changed the Ukrainian people, and it changed the landscape of post-communist Eastern Europe.

It was not always this way, however. It was during my studies at Chicago, in April 1986, that Chornobyl exploded. I remember sitting and studying a Finance text book, and seeing the news flash across television. I remember watching the news program "Nightline" in horror over what happened to my family's homeland.

But many of my fellow students could not understand my distress over the explosion of a nuclear reactor in a country far away. In fact, some of them did not even know that there was a country called Ukraine.
For decades, indeed for centuries, Ukraine was unknown. A part of the Russian empire, then the Soviet Union, its rich history, culture and tradition were hidden from the world. The world would be a better place if it knew more about:

- the glory of Kyiv Rus in the 10-11th centuries, when Ukraine was one of the most highly civilized countries in Europe;

- the great battles of Hetman Ivan Mazepa against the Russia Tsar in the 18th century;

- the poetry of Ukraine's greatest poet laureate Taras Shevchenko, who stood up against slavery;

- the fight for democracy and social justice in the early 20th century, which culminated in Ukraine's declaration of independence and formation of Ukrainian Republic;

- the tragic famine genocide of 1932-33, when all grain was forcibly confiscated and people were perishing at a rate of 25,000 per day, when Ukraine lost at least 9 million of its most productive population;

- the repressions of the late 30s, which wiped out Ukraine's intelligentsia;

- the courageous Human Rights Activists of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

In fact, when I was here at Chicago, few understood that the Soviet Union was already a shaky empire, with more than a dozen nations yearning to break free, with an economy on the verge of collapse, a society living in fear, and thousands of prisoners of conscience.

Then Ukraine along with all the other republics, declared its independence and abolished the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian people achieved what many generations of their forebears had vainly sought.

But 13 years of independence did not bring Ukrainians the economy and society of which they had dreamed. Instead Ukraine gained an international reputation as a corrupt state where several oligarchic clans governed a passive population.

When the people of Ukraine came to the streets in November, they were not only rejecting the brazen election fraud and the campaign of lies that had stolen their choice for president. They were not only decrying the blocked roads, closed airports and locked halls that kept the people from seeing candidates. They were not only protesting the assassination attempt against my husband. They were demanding a new form of society, a new future for themselves and their children.

Ukrainians had had enough of a corrupt political system that benefited a few families at the expense of millions. They were ashamed to be earning the lowest salaries and pensions in the post Soviet Union. They did not want to travel to foreign countries to work in degrading jobs to earn enough to support their families. They wanted a fair chance to receive an education, and an opportunity to work in their fields.

They did not want to pay bribes to corrupt bureaucrats at every level. They did now want to have the shortest life span in Europe. They did now want to be subject to biased and tendentious media reports dictated within the walls of presidential administration.

In the thirteen years of Ukrainian independence, a new civil society had been born. A burgeoning if distorted free market had bred a new middle class. Increasing access to information had shown them the great differences between their society and economy and those of their neighbors.
And, not least, a strong, honest, organized opposition showed them, that there was a way out of their current morass. Throughout 2004, my husband and his colleagues crisscrossed the country, speaking before tens of thousands, urging them to get up off their knees, if only just a few centimeters, and demand change. They had confidence in the people, they respected the people, and the people reciprocated.
The Orange Revolution was an explosion of hope. It brought together young and old, students and pensioners, workers, farmers and intelligentsia into a united whole. They fought the old system not with anger, hate and bullets, but rather with positive feelings. With music, art and laughter. The Ukrainian people did not ask the world whether they could join Europe - they proved to the world that they were Europeans.

My children and I were at the Orange Revolution every day. It was a once in a life time experience - it was something the Ukrainian people witnessed once in a millennium. Hundreds of thousands of Kyivites offered their homes to demonstrators from other cities.
Six hundred doctors donated their time, and pharmaceutical companies contributed medicine. Dozens of restaurants brought free food to the people daily. Business people contributed tents, blankets and clothes. When I asked the people, "is there anything you need?", they would answer, "Yes! Freedom."

When protestors from the opposing side came, they were met with warm food, warm blankets and warm words.

From the stage, I saw a sea of hope-filled faces and intelligent eyes. And I realized that no matter what happened, the people in front of me would never again be slaves to a system. They had changed, and the country had changed with them. These were special moments in the life of my family. These were special moments in the history of our country.

The leaders of the Revolution and the people of Ukraine took great risks to bring Ukraine to where it is today. Now it is time to try to fulfill their hopes. This means;

- Creating a competitive free market economy that encourages the growth of small and medium sized business and that sees the role of the state as a facilitator not a hindrance to business;

- Wiping out corruption at all levels of the bureaucracy and in all regions of the country and bringing the economy out of the shadow;

- Establishing a civil society based on tolerance to all religious beliefs, nationalities and languages;

- Encouraging a humanitarian society based on charity and caring for one's neighbor;

- Radically reforming the health sector, so Ukrainians have access to skilled doctors in hospitals equipped with the latest in medical technology and medicines in order to deal with such problems as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and cancer;

- Addressing a legacy of social of social ills, from homeless and exploited children, to family violence, to drugs and alcohol, to the trafficking of women abroad;

- Integrating the disabled into society;

- Investing in science and culture, to allow the talent of Ukraine to flourish within its borders and to contribute to the world body of knowledge and art.

I want to thank the United States and its people for supporting Ukraine in this important journey it has begun. I was born in America, and grew up believing in her values of democracy, freedom.

I am proud that the Ukrainian people have embraced these same values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am proud that they have set an example of peacefully change, which can be emulated throughout the world. Our freedom is our strength.

Palm Sunday or Willow Sunday

By Aussiegirl

Today is Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians. In the Ukrainian church we call it "Willow Sunday". Since palms were not available in Ukraine, willow branches were blessed during the service. I remember that at the end of the service the parishioners would greet each other by tapping one another lightly on the shoulders three times and saying, "The willow taps you, not I, in a week it is Easter." (Verba bye, ne ya byu, za tyzhdyn Velykden) Of course as children, I remember really taking great pleasure whacking all my playmates and chasing about the church grounds -- we all did. A happy and blessed Palm or Willow Sunday to all my Orthodox friends and readers.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI holds his first press op

By Aussiegirl

Even though I didn't manage to get up early enough to watch it live, TIVO to the rescue enabled me to watch Pope Benedict's first press conference, or more properly, his first Papal audience with the press.

He took the stage before a huge auditorium filled with journalists (and reportedly not a few members of journalists' families) to thunderous applause and prolonged cheers.

This is such a happy and humble Pope. He has charisma galore, of a very sweet nature, which seems to make him extremely approachable. One feels that one would be instantly comforted and cheered to be in his beaming and gentle presence.

After some introductory words by one of the Cardinals, the Pope read a statement in Italian, English, French and German. He could well have included Spanish, which he also speaks fluently, but confined himself to the first four. He thanked all the assembled journalists for their hard work under difficult conditions, and commended them for enabling the world to participate in all the momentous events that have taken place in the past few weeks. He stressed the importance of the media in reaching humanity across the globe with a powerful message. He was interrupted several times with cheers and applause, to which he reacted with a sense of genuine surprise and gratitude.

At the conclusion of the audience, he led the assembled crowd in reciting the Lord's Prayer -- many in the audience were seen to be saying the words with him.

It seems that this Pope has decided to make abundant use of the mass media as his means of communication, a fact he stressed over and over. I think this Pope will surprise us, and I think that in his own gentle and spiritually humble way he will have a powerful effect on the world, just as his predecessor did in his own way. He is comfortable talking to journalists, and has repeatedly over the years happily engaged in extended question and answer sessions with reporters. He obviously plans to make this a vital part of his ministry. Perhaps since he is not as young as Pope John Paul II was when he took over the office, he will reach out in this way rather than subjecting himself to the rigors and stresses of frequent overseas travel. In many ways, he will reach more people this way, as even when he travels, there are only so many people that are able to turn out to see him at a distance.

I am amazed, as a non-Catholic, but still as a Christian, how profoundly these events of the last few weeks have moved all of us. The world is in genuine need of spiritual renewal -- we need figures such as the Pope to inspire and to lead us back to the light, back to the realization that life without faith is an empty proposition. The world is obviously hungry for the message. And this humble "toiler in the vineyards of the Lord" may be just what the doctor ordered. God speed Pope Benedict, and protect his health.

Interested parties may want to set their VCRs or TIVOs or simply get up early tomorrow morning to watch the Pope's official installation ceremony, which will be aired at approximately 5 a.m. EDT. Check your local listings, folks.

Fiet "Lexicon Recentis Latinitas" liber maxime divenditus?

By Aussiegirl

Brush up on that high school Latin, pueri puellaeque, and start reciting your declensions. According to the BBC, the Vatican is not only bringing Latin back into use but is releasing an up-to-date Latin Dictionary -- Legite:

The work, called Lexicon Recentis Latinitas, offers Latin translations for everyday words which originated many centuries after the ancient language went the way of the Romans.
In their day, Rome's rulers might have benefited from a "telephonium albo televisifico coniunctum" - or video telephone - to stay in touch with distant parts of the empire.

Credited with building the world's first roads, the Roman creation has become the bane of the modern motorist's life in what the dictionary calls "tempus maximae frequentiae" - or rush hour.

With the popular pastime of pitting humans against humans - or lions - in the Colosseum a central feature of Roman life, contestants might have found a use for "usus agonisticus medicamenti stupecfactivi" - or taking steroids.

However, gladiators suspected of using performance enhancing drugs might have been investigated by the "publicae securitatis custos internationalis" (Interpol) or even the "officium foederatum vestigatorium" (FBI).

Friday, April 22, 2005

When in Ukraine speak Ukrainian -- why is that so controversial?

By Aussiegirl

Get out the hankies -- the BBC went in search of Russians who feel bad that people speak Ukrainian in Ukraine. Imagine how unfair!!! Why, the next thing you know, in France people will expect you to speak French. Or in England people will expect you to speak English.

The Russians seem to have forgotten that they are not the colonial masters in Ukraine any longer. And Ukrainians who have been persuaded to speak Russian in preference to their own language should think about what that implies.

In Ukraine Russians are free to speak and write in their language to their heart's content, unlike the hundreds of years of Russian domination when people were forbidden to speak, read or write in Ukrainian, and were imprisoned and even lost their lives as a result of doing so. Luckily for the Russian speakers, Ukrainians do not behave in this barbaric way.

But you live in a free and independent Ukraine now, which has its own language. Get over it.

My native language was Ukrainian, and I was taught in English, first in Australia, then here in the United States. So what? I learned to speak two languages, which was only to my advantage. So? Learn to speak Ukrainian -- maybe little Oleg will grow up to hold an important job in Ukraine -- and be able to converse in two languages -- that is if he and his mother and others like them stop whining and playing the victim card and get busy studying.

Read the story here:

It is a difficult lesson for Oleg Tikhomirov.

The teenager is being taught Ukrainian. It is the official language and everyone studies it.

But like all the children in his class in Kiev, Oleg's native language is Russian.

His family is part of the 30% of the country who say that Russian is their mother tongue.

"I think the worst thing is to introduce Ukrainian language using force and to take away choice from people," says Oleg's mother, Irina Tikhomirova.

. . . "I think the Ukrainian language is still hugely under threat," Mr Yushchenko said in a newspaper article shortly after being elected.

"The previous administration didn't think there was a problem but if we lose our language we lose our culture."

During Soviet times people were taught to speak Russian. It was only after independence that Ukrainian became the official language here.

. . . "Many people have never learnt to speak Ukrainian and they find life difficult. We want equal rights for Russian-speakers," says Mikhailo Illarionov, from the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine.

Flicking though a pile of black and white photos at his home in Kiev, Yevhen Sverstyuk looks back at more repressive times.

The Ukrainian author picks out pictures of himself and fellow prisoners. In the 1960s Yevhen wrote a book in Ukrainian. He was punished by the Soviet authorities and spent 12 years in a labour camp in Siberia.
"The Ukrainian nation has been fighting for their native language for centuries. People have even died in the struggle to use the Ukrainian language," he says.

Curmudgeonly musings on a rainy day

By Aussiegirl

Check back tomorrow, folks, for more news, musings, poetry, history or literature -- or whatever I find or am in the mood for -- these past few days have been hectic and even bloggers are deserving of a day off now and then -- no???

Meanwhile -- just a few random musings and thoughts:

The Russian ambassador to Ukraine (I'm too tired to look up his name today -- check back tomorrow) has stated that since Stalin was Georgian, Ukrainians should therefore not blame Russia for the Genocidal Famine of 1932-33 which murdered over 7 million Ukrainians -- but -- we should blame the Georgians!!!

Wow -- and here's me thinking it must have been George Bush's fault! Who knew? I can't even bring myself to take this bit of condescending and insulting twaddle in any way seriously. Ukrainians are more than accustomed to this sort of dismissive imperial talk from the Russians, who evidently think they still live in a world where they control the vertical and the horizontal. Don't touch that dial -- do not attempt to change the channel -- you are tuned to the Twilight Zone of Russian insanity. The man is obviously mental, and so is the regime he represents.

Now, moving along.

Miroslava Gongadze is currently in Ukraine meeting with various officials in relation to the investigation into the murder of her journalist husband, Georgyi Gongadze, of which you have read much on this blog. I will have more of her interviews tomorrow, but one thing that struck me was her overall impression of Ukraine after having been in the United States for 4 years -- which was depressing. She isn't sure why -- but it struck her when she landed at the airport and had an encounter with the customs agent. She said she had hoped to hear something like, "Have a pleasant stay in Ukraine" in Ukrainian -- instead -- she heard the same insolent tones that she was used to hearing in the old days-- and in the Russian language.

Get a clue, people, PR is the name of the game. Don't you want people to travel to our beautiful Ukraine now that they have heard so much about the Orange Revolution? Now that the whole world finally sees Ukraine as something positive? Who wouldn't like to travel to the ancient city of Kyiv to visit the great cathedrals and monasteries, and see for themselves the "Maidan", the Independence Square that they heard so much about? If so, a few little touches make all the difference. Courtesy, helpfulness, the sound of Ukrainian greeting them. Instead of surly Russian, with the typical unhelpful and dour expression of the old, dark, Soviet days. How can you strive towards the west when you do not know how things are done in the west -- or do you not care? I think I'm just tired today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"The Glory of the Olivetans" -- Another of a series of articles by BonnieBlueFlag

By BonnieBlueFlag

Saint Benedict
"Gloria Olivae" The Glory of the Olivetans

By BonnieBlueFlag

Prior to the Papal election, I researched and read all that I could find on the Catholic Cardinals that might coincide with Saint Malachy's prediction of "The Glory of the Olives" (Gloria Olivae).

Most others who had an interest in determining if St. Malachy was correct once again, believed that the reference to the "Olives" had a connection to the Jews. Evidently, an olive branch is considered to be a symbol for the Jewish people.

Therefore, the next Pope might be of Jewish descent. Yes, there was a Jewish Cardinal who would be among those in the Conclave, Joseph Cardinal Lustiger, of Paris. His mother had died at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the war.

In my early research I discovered that Jose Cardinal Policarpo of Lisbon, had attended Christ the King Seminary in Olivais, Portugal; and a number of years later he returned to serve as the rector of the Olivais seminary. These small bits of information seemed to have potential in meeting with St. Malachy's "The Glory of the Olives."

To complicate matters, there was another prediction made by Saint Benedict himself, that "The Glory of Olives" Pope would come from the Order of Saint Benedict, also known as the "Olivetans." St. Benedict foretold that this Pope would lead the church during the beginning of the apocalyptic prophecy, given to a gathering on the Mount of Olives by Jesus.

A review of all the Cardinals revealed only one who belonged to the Order of St. Benedict (O.S.B.), Paul Augustin Cardinal Mayer, O.S.B., who was presently 93 years of age. I felt sure that the college of Cardinals would select an older man as the next pope, because Pope John Paul II's 26 years had been one of the longest reigns of any pope. However, it seemed certain that Cardinal Mayer's age of 93 was a little older than would be practical.

So, as the Cardinals went into the Conclave, there didn't seem to be a great deal of evidence that St. Malachy would continue to be as accurate as he had been in the past.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger appeared to be the favorite, and there were rumors that he had a sizable number of supporters on Monday before the first vote.

As much as I hoped that Cardinal Ratzinger would be the next Pope, it also meant that St. Malachy would be incorrect in "The Gory of the Olives" prophecy. Cardinal Ratzinger was not a member of the Order of St. Benedict, he did not seem to be of Jewish descent, nor had he attended the seminary in Olivais, Portugal.

Yesterday, when they announced that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected to be the next Pope, I was at once joyous and disappointed. The man that I had hoped to be named as Pope had been, but I was a little sad that St. Malachy and his papal prophecies would now be tossed aside.

I continued listening to the radio intently, for the new Pope's name to be given. The radio news anchors talked over the top of the name, and then began to mispronounce the Latin words over and over again, oblivious to the fact that they were making me crazy.

Finally, the name became discernible, Pope Benedict XVI. My mind went racing back over St. Benedict's prophecy, but I knew that Cardinal Ratzinger did not belong to the Order of Saint Benedict. Of all the names to choose, he chose Pope Benedict XVI, it set my mind to spinning to say the least.

All afternoon one pundit and religious expert after another began to compare this known conservative to Pope Benedict XV. According to them, Pope Benedict XV was a moderate, so they felt that this new conservative Pope was trying to send a message that he intended to be a moderate.
Well, so much for the pundits. Grasping at straws as usual just to fill air time.

Once I was able to get back to my research on now Pope Benedict XVI and The Benedictine Order; I realized that his choice had nothing to do with the ineffectual (and sometimes corrupt) Pope Benedicts that had gone before him. This man had a great admiration for the Benedictine monks and their work in maintaining Christianity in many parts of the world.

In the mid 1800s King Ludwig I of Bavaria founded the St. Boniface Benedictine monastery in Munich. He then purchased the Andechs Monastery (which had fallen into ruin) to be used as a farm to support the St. Boniface Monastery, where eventually 130,000 books and works would be housed in the Library. In 1943 during W.W.II, the St. Boniface Library was hit during a bombing attack and destroyed. However, about 25,000 books had been saved by moving them to the Andechs' Monastery in Bavaria.

Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger grew up knowing the Benedictine monks who labored at the Andechs' Monastery, and the Benedictine religious who cared for the St. Boniface Library in Munich.

In 1998 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presented his new autobiography, entitled "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977" to the press at the Kloster Andech Monastery in Upper Bavaria, just a stone's throw from where he was born and raised.

Cardinal Ratzinger received the St. Benedict Award for the Promotion of Life and Family on April 1, 2005, in Subiaco, Italy; where St. Benedict had lived as a hermit for three years, before he began his work in founding the Benedictine Monasteries.

In less than 24 hours, Pope Benedict XVI, has already renewed global interest in St. Benedict, the Benedictine Monasteries, and "The Glory of the Olivetans."

Written by BonnieBlueFlag

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam!!! You read it here first!! Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger named Pope!!

By Aussiegirl

You read it here first!! Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been named the successor to Pope John Paul II -- he has chosen the name of Benedict XVI.

I'm sure BonnieBlueFlag will have plenty to tell us about the previous Benedicts and what his choice of that name may denote.

I am very pleased, and somehow, I must say, I had a feeling that he would be the choice.

How exciting it was to see the white smoke come out -- and feel the excitement mount as we waiting for the color to possibly turn grey and then black, as it had done yesterday. But the smoke stayed persistently white, and as the excitement of the crowd grew more and more palpable people began running towards St. Peter's square from all over Rome. At last the bells started to peal, removing the last vestiges of doubt. The cheers were deafening as his name was announced and he slowly emerged wearing his Papal robes.

There will be more coverage of these historic events later on UT, and more background. Do check back.

Ukraine may not renew Russia's lease on it's naval base at Sevastopol

By Aussiegirl

According to Kommersant:

"Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced yesterday that the status of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol needed to be reconsidered. Two days earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk put it more plainly. He said the period of the Russian fleet's stay in Sevastopol, which under the agreements, lasts only until 2017, would not be extended. Kiev is in a hurry to get rid of the Russian bases, because they are an obstacle to Ukraine's accession to NATO and the EU. Yushchenko proclaimed a policy for joining these organizations during the election campaign. "

Video of Yushchenko banquet

For anyone who wants to see a video clip of the April 6th banquet in honor of Viktor Yushchenko in Washington, D. C., here's your chance.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals and great friend of John Paul II, presides over the Mass.

Cardinal Ratzinger: Pastor, Pianist and Theologian

By Aussiegirl

Like many of us who are not Catholic, I have nevertheless been following the selection of a new Pope with great interest.

Among the candidates who have caught my eye is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, who is mentioned in BonnieBlueFlag's excellent summary just below.

There are several facts about him which have captured my imagination, and so, as a non-Catholic, I suppose I might say he is my favorite and the one I am rooting for.

According to this short biographical sketch, Cardinal Ratzinger is not only a humble man who lives in a small apartment near the Vatican and walks daily to work, encountering patiently the appeals of parisioners with complaints about their parish priests and other local concerns, but he plays the piano, and has a preference for Beethoven. Now, as an amateur pianist, with a preference for Beethoven myself, (along with Chopin, it must be added), that instantly made me feel a certain kinship with him, for certainly he must sense the spirituality in the music of Beethoven, who himself said his music was inspired by a higher power, and who felt thoughout his life that he was close to God at every moment. He is also, according to the short biography, one of the few Cardinals who is a professional academic theologian.

Just by coincidence, the other day I happened to be leafing through my copy of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, by Stephen Barr, and noticed a reference to Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in the first few pages, along with a quote from the Cardinal's book, In the Beginning.

I thought it would be interesting to quote the relevant passages from Barr's book which deal with the Cardinal's ideas on the subject of the church and science.

In Chapter 2, entitled: Materialism as an Anti-Religious Mythology, Barr summarizes what he calls the anti-religious myth that is contained in many books and theories. It goes something like this in my paraphrase:

Religion is the fruit of ignorance. Ignorant people, because they have no explanation for natural phenomena and do not understand how the real world works, resort to superstitious explanations which rely on mythical beings and occult forces. Thus we have Zeus and the other gods who are responsible for thunder, etc.

True knowledge, i.e. science, is based on reason and experience, on testable hypotheses and reproducible experiments which explain natural phenomena. Religious beliefs rely on sacred texts and the authorities of ancients or of holy men and thus are unreliable and unscientific. Ultimately the conflict between science and religion is one of reason vs. dogma.

The defining moment in the conflict between reason and religion was the trial of Galileo before the Inquisition. It is clear that in that contest science won -- and religion lost.

As science has progressed to explain more and more of the wonders we see around us, religion has become more and more unnecessary. Science relies on observation and its theories are put to the test, while religion relies on invisible entities which have never been proven to exist and increasingly have been shown to be irrelevant. No one has found a soul, no one has seen God, or angels, devils, Heaven or Hell.

Thus as science has moved forward there is less and less room for religion, as the gaps in man's knowledge of the universe about him displace the necessity of otherworldly explanation. Religion was meant to explain that which was unexplainable to ancient man, and now as the facts become known, religion has become more and more unnecessary.

Science relies on the "known", while religion relies on the "unknown", the unexplainable, the mysteries -- in short -- on the irrational.

Barr continues with the words:

"It is not too hard to show that most of this fairly standard anti-religious caricature is based on misunderstandings and bad history. In the first place, it is important to emphasize that the biblical religions did not originate in pre-scientific attempts to explain natural phenomena through myth. In fact, the Bible shows almost no interest in natural phenomena. It is certainly truth that biblical revelation, both Jewish and Christian, has as a central part of its message that the universe is a creation of God and reflects his infinite wisdom and power. However, the scriptural authors evince no concern with detailed questions of how or why things happen the way they do in the natural world. Their primary concern is with God's relationship to human beings, and with human beings' relationships with each other.

In other words, the religion of the Bible is not a nature religion. Indeed, one of the great contributions of the Bible, which helped clear the ground for the later emergence of science, was to desacralize and depersonalize the natural world. This is not to deny that the Bible is overwhelmingly supernatural in its outlook, but that supernaturalism is concentrated, so to speak, in a being who is "outside" of nature.

(This following sentence has a footnote to Ratzinger's book)No more were the Sun or stars or oceans or forests the haunts of ghosts or gods, nor were they endowed with supernatural powers. They were mere things, creations of the one God."

Barr adds that it is not an accident that as traditional Christian belief has weakened in Western society in the last few decades there has been a recrudescence of belief in the "occult".

On pages 60 - 61 Barr further quotes directly from Ratzinger's book:

"The theory of entropy, the theory of relativity, and...other discoveries...showed that the universe was, so to speak, marked by temporality -- a temporality that speaks to us of a beginning and an end, and of the passage from a beginning to an end. Even if time were virtually immeasurable, there would still be discernable through the obscurity of billions of years, in the awareness of the temporality of being, that moment to which the Bible refers as the beginning -- that beginning which points to him who had the power to produce being and to say: 'Let there be...,' and it was so."

Papal Observations - Another in a series by Bonnie Blue Flag

By BonnieBlueFlag

This morning the Papal Conclave officially began with a special Mass, during which the men prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit in the selection of the next Pope. On this first day of the Papal Conclave there was a first vote taken in the afternoon, which was followed by a cloud of black smoke signaling that the new pope had not as yet been elected. Tomorrow and every day thereafter, there will be two ballots in the morning, and two more in the afternoon, until the next pope has been decided upon.

The Cardinals have had nine days since Pope John Paul II's funeral to talk among themselves, and to get to know each other in person, or by recommendation.

While many in the general public would like to see a successor with the outgoing personality and characteristics of Pope John Paul II, that is almost an impossible quest. The new Pope might be similar in many respects, but we can never hope to duplicate someone as unique as John Paul the Great.

There will be 115 Cardinals in attendance, but all 117 eligible Cardinals will be voting. Cardinals Sin and Rivera are too ill to travel to Rome.

Going into the Conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger does seem to be a leading contender to fill the Papal vacancy. He is rumored to have approximately 50 votes as the election begins.

Cardinal Ratzinger represents a very conservative view on the future direction of the Catholic Church. And, if he does indeed have 50 votes at this time, that could be a very good indication, that the Cardinals may be split into the same two camps as the rest of the world seems to be at the moment. Conservative vs. Liberal interpretations of church doctrines and how best to serve the church faithful.

Cardinal Ratzinger is seen by many as an extreme, and may therefore be unelectable as any kind of a compromise, thus he may become a pope maker rather than the pope.

Other Cardinals with a more conservative or traditional view on the future of the church would include: Cardinals Lustiger*, Biffi, Bertone, Ruini.

Cardinals who are more Liberal, and firmly believe that the changes made in the church by Pope John XXIII after Vatican Council II, should be continued and that there should perhaps be a Vatican Council III would include: Cardinals Arinze, Sodano, Martini, Danneels.

A compromise candidate could be Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, fluent in a number of languages, well traveled, but has done many years of pastoral work. Conservative on moral issues, more moderate on social issues.

Another compromise candidate could be Cardinal Jose Da Cruz Policarpo*, of Portugal. A moderate who is not well traveled, but he could provide a bridge between Europe, South America and Africa.

*Cardinal Policarpo has a strong potential regarding the "Glory of the Olives," foretold by St. Malachy.

*Cardinal Lustiger is of Jewish decent,
which could also be the fulfillment of the "Glory of the Olives" prediction.

BonnieBlueFlag's Best Guess-One of the Following:

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (France)

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Germany)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Italy)

Cardinal Ivan Dias (India)(Compromise)

Cardinal Jose Da Cruz Policarpo (Portugal)(Dark Horse)

Online Betting in Ireland as of 4/18 Afternoon:

Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 3-1

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (France) 11-2

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) 11-2

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy) 7-1

Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Brazil) 8-1

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (Italy) 9-1

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras) 12-1

Cardinal Angelo Scola (Venice) 20-1

Cardinal Jose Da Cruz Policarpo (Portugal) 20-1

Cardinal Camillo Ruini (Italy) 20-1

Written by BonnieBlueFlag

Oedipus Redux and then some

By Aussiegirl

A fascinating article in the Independent reveals that hundreds of ancient papyri that were previously so decayed as to be undecipherable are now being read thanks to new infra red technology. This revolutionary find may include long lost works by the great ancient Greek writers such as Sophocles and Euripides, as well as possible new gospels dating back to the time of the earliest ones written. The impossible is becoming reality as many of the texts have already been deciphered, translated and read, leading scholars to call the new development a classical Holy Grail.

Stay tuned, classical literature lovers, this may be the find of the century. Imagine that of the 120 plays Sophocles wrote, we only have seven currently. Now, if they could only dig up Herculaneum and find a possible entire ancient library buried there, we may yet rewrite history completely.

Be sure and read the whole article as there's loads of juicy information:

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".

Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford, described the new works as "central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries".

Professor Richard Janko, a leading British scholar, formerly of University College London, now head of classics at the University of Michigan, said: "Normally we are lucky to get one such find per decade." One discovery in particular, a 30-line passage from the poet Archilocos, of whom only 500 lines survive in total, is described as "invaluable" by Dr Peter Jones, author and co-founder of the Friends of Classics campaign.

The papyrus fragments were discovered in historic dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus ("city of the sharp-nosed fish") in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. Running to 400,000 fragments, stored in 800 boxes at Oxford's Sackler Library, it is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world. The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ("Progeny") by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.

Oxford academics have been working alongside infra-red specialists from Brigham Young University, Utah. Their operation is likely to increase the number of great literary works fully or partially surviving from the ancient Greek world by up to a fifth. It could easily double the surviving body of lesser work - the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day. "The Oxyrhynchus collection is of unparalleled importance - especially now that it can be read fully and relatively quickly," said the Oxford academic directing the research, Dr Dirk Obbink. "The material will shed light on virtually every aspect of life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and, by extension, in the classical world as a whole." The breakthrough has also caught the imagination of cultural commentators. Melvyn Bragg, author and presenter, said: "It's the most fantastic news. There are two things here. The first is how enormously influential the Greeks were in science and the arts. The second is how little of their writing we have. The prospect of having more to look at is wonderful."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sounds like a good idea

By Aussiegirl

According to Interfax

Yushchenko is appointing Bill Gates to a Ukrainian investment council:

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has been granted accession to the Ukrainian consultative council on investments based on a decree signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Pentagon plans to cooperate with Ukraine on missile technology

By Aussiegirl

The Jamestown Foundation has
an interesting article on U.S./Ukrainian cooperation in the field of missiles and missile technology.

In the wake of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's state visit to Washington April 4-6, U.S.-Ukrainian military cooperation could make significant progress in missile defense cooperation. The presidential joint statement agreed "to work together on missile defense, including beginning negotiations on a framework to facilitate such cooperation and closer industry-to-industry collaboration."

Missile defense may appear tangential to U.S.-Ukrainian military cooperation, but high-level advocacy exists on both sides. This is not surprising, because significant commercial, military, and political interests are at stake for both sides in the missile business. The United States hopes to glean useful ballistic missile technology and hardware and tie Ukraine to Western export control norms. Ukraine is looking to boost a key industry and improve its prospects for joining NATO.

Stalin and the depths of evil

By Aussiegirl

Leon Aron, of the American Enterprise Institute, pens a devastatingly chilling review of two new books on "Stalin, a Biography", by Robert Service, and "Stalin and his Hangmen", by Donald Rayfield -- a must read in tomorrow's Washington Post Book Review section. My only quibble with the review, or perhaps the books themselves, is that the Genocidal Famine or Holodomor is referred to as "the peasant holocaust", with no mention of Ukraine.
It is Ukraine which suffered between 7 and 10 million dead, not just "peasants" in general. Can we finally dispense with this offensive word "peasant", and find a more useful and less insulting term? The word connotes ignorant disposable and undifferentiated masses of unwashed and illiterate people who are less than human. If African-Americans can take exception to the word "negro", which was at one time the common parlance, and not simply an epithet, then surely modern Ukrainians and others can take exception to this insulting and demeaning word. Just the other day a combative guest on a discussion show insultingly referred to another guest with whom he disagreed as "you ignorant peasant!" He obviously thinks it is a term of insult, and so do I. If it is simply a matter of a term of convenience, then I am a proud peasant too, and the daughter of peasants, and the grandaughter of peasants. But I have digressed -- do read the whole devastating and mind-numbing review.

Here's a sample from the review:Death and the Dictator:

Stalin seems to have internalized, then embodied and built on the most truculent, pitiless and aggressive components of Lenin's credo. The connection between Bolshevism and Stalinism and between Lenin and Stalin -- the nature and extent of which used to be hotly debated by scholars and the world's left -- emerges here as something natural and organic. The only man other than Lenin whom Stalin was ever reported to have genuinely admired was Hitler. "What a great fellow!" Stalin told a fellow Politburo member after learning of the 1934 purge of the Nazi brownshirts known as the Night of the Long Knives: "How well he pulled this off!" (When we both were college students in Moscow in the 1970s, Khrushchev's grandson Alexei Adzhubei told me of his grandfather's reminiscences about a high-level Nazi delegation arriving in Moscow in the late 1930s to learn more about setting up and running concentration camps.)

Three years later, after painstaking preparation, Stalin launched his own vastly wider and bloodier internal war for total supremacy. Within the two years of what would be called the Great Terror, at least 1.5 million people were arrested and at least half of them executed -- mostly party and state leaders, engineers, intellectuals and military officers down to the regiment level. This rate of elite extermination was not to be repeated, but the systematic mass terror that started with the birth of the Soviet state would continue unabated until Stalin's death. Millions more were arrested, imprisoned, tormented in the gulag or shot.

Nor was the Great Terror the single most intense slaughter in Soviet history, as Donald Rayfield estimates in Stalin and His Hangmen, his searing and beautifully written chronicle of state-sponsored murder. That grisly distinction belongs to the 1929-33 "peasant Holocaust," when between 7.2 million and 10.8 million villagers died during "collectivization," or the elimination of personal ownership of land, tools and livestock and the forcible pooling of these into a "collective" property held de facto by the state -- a process aimed in particular at the class of formerly well-off farmers known as kulaks. (Stalin later told Churchill that collectivization cost 10 million lives.) Families were arrested, herded into cattle cars, driven for days without food or water, then unloaded in the frozen tundra or swamps and left to die without food or shelter. Other kulaks were simply evicted from their homes in the middle of winter -- men, women, nursing babies -- and wandered until they froze or starved to death, with everyone else forbidden, on pain of sharing their fate, to give them a blanket or a crust of bread. Most victims perished in the famine that followed the requisition of grain for sale abroad.

. . .Rayfield, a professor of Russian and Georgian at the University of London and the author of a very fine biography of Chekhov, manages to make this abstract and often unimaginable evil feel close and real. Layered with subplots and striking vignettes and filled with voices (both the victims' cries for help and the commissars' orders for more killing), the horrid saga acquires texture, color and an immediacy that will mesmerize readers almost despite themselves. One marvels at the sheer mastery of craftsmanship that has made this relentlessly depressing, often repugnant material into such a compelling tale.

Yushchenko urged to prosecute Soviet crimes against humanity

By Aussiegirl

The following press release by the UCCLA (Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association) calls on President Yushchenko to prosecute Soviet war criminals to expose the crimes of the Soviet era. This is a most important step if the people of Ukraine and also Russia wish to move forward and acknowledge and openly air the manifold crimes against humanity committed by the communist regime of the Soviet Union. Without such an airing the younger generation, and even the older one, risks falling back into dangerous patterns of thinking about and viewing the former regime.

My mother tells me that she only really learned of the horrors and truth of what had been happening in the Soviet Union after she emigrated and began reading uncensored accounts of what took place and talking to survivors of the gulags and prisons. When she lived there she and others knew it was dangerous to speak out. People knew about the famine, but were forbidden to speak or write about it. They knew that their neighbors and friends and family "disappeared" on a regular basis, but no one ever knew what happened to them. They did not know of the gulags. Although there were rumors, most people were afraid to discuss such things with their most trusted friends or neighbors, because even children were indoctrinated to inform on their parents.

As a result of there having been no purging of the former criminals of the Soviet regime, many Ukrainians and Russians are still not fully aware of the crimes committed by the communists. This also explains why many Russians nostalgically long for the days of Stalin and Brezhnev. They are in many cases ignorant of the extent of the abuses, the tortures, the gulags, and the executions -- they only remember that Russia was a great power, and they long for that prestige once again.

Similarly in Ukraine, many Ukrainians are simply still uninformed about the true extent of the crimes perpetrated against the Ukrainian people by the communist regime. After the war, Germany waged an intensive de-Nazification program, declared the Nazi party illegal, and prosecuted war criminals. Unfortunately a similar undertaking did not take place in Ukraine or Russia. People were eager to move on and forget the past. The Communist party, instead of being exposed as a genocidal criminal enterprise, became just another benign party, competing with all the others in "free" parliamentary elections. Just imagine a Nazi freely campaigning to become the new Chancellor of Germany under the Nazi flag, and representing a new and revived Nazi party. The German people -- and the world -- would not stand for it. Why should we stand for it in the former Soviet countries, which lost millions upon millions of its citizens to this evil ideology.

We must never forget the fateful words of George Santayana, "Those who do not know history, are doomed to repeat it."


An international campaign aimed at having Ukraine's president, Viktor Yuschenko, establish an official Commission of Inquiry on Soviet War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine has now begun.

Thousands of postcards addressed to President Yuschenko are being sent into Kyiv from around the world, asking for Ukraine's new government to establish an official commission that would determine the nature and extent of Soviet war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Ukraine between 1917-1991.

Organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and enjoying the support of other Ukrainian organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, Poland, Estonia, France, the United Kingdom and Ukraine itself, the project is timed to coincide with the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, commemorated on 8 May.

Speaking about this international initiative, UCCLA's chairman, John B Gregorovich, said:

"After the Second World War a major effort was made to bring Nazi war criminals to trial, and fittingly so, given that Ukraine lost more of its people than any other nation in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Unfortunately, no comparable effort has ever been made to identify and prosecute the individuals who were responsible for communist atrocities on Ukrainian lands - before, during and after the war. Many millions of Ukrainians perished during the genocidal Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine, the Holodomor. And millions of others were enslaved or murdered for resisting Soviet tyranny.

Today some of those responsible for these crimes against humanity are still alive, living not only in Ukraine, but in Russia, throughout western Europe, in Israel and North America. We have insisted, consistently and over many years, that all war criminals found in Canada should be brought to justice in our country's criminal courts. We also believe that those who ravaged Ukraine should be identified and punished, before it is too late. We call upon President Yuschenko to establish a Commission on Soviet War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine.

And the rest of the world can help Ukraine purge itself by ensuring that no place remains a safe haven for Soviet war criminals. There should be no statute of limitations, anywhere, that prevents such persons from being extradited to stand trial. Ukraine's Orange Revolution offers us a welcome last chance to see justice done. With this campaign we offer President Yuschenko a mandate to do just that."

For more about the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association go to www.uccla.ca
For an interview please contact Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, UCCLA's director of research, (613) 546-8364