Photos from and of Ukraine
By: Stefan Iwaskewycz

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Friday, 29-Sep-2006 21:34 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Babyn Yar

main soviet-era memorial
main soviet-era memorial
main soviet-era memorial
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the left-hand shift-key was recently ripped from my laptop by one curious little girl and i haven't yet fixed it; it is not my regular style to write without capitalization. . .

at the end of september, 1941 began the massacre at babyn yar, which continued throughout the nazi occupation of kyiv--you can read more about it here at wikipedia, just to scratch the surface. i finally made it to the site of this massacre last month. as usual, when it comes to seeing how tragic and traumatic events of the past are handled/commemorated/memorialized-in-monuments in ukraine, i was quite disappointed. what does it say about a nation's relationship to its past when people are allowed to make campfires, hang-out, party, etc., on the very grounds of a mass murder? there was no solemn feeling to the site--for example, there was nothing like the heaviness and spirituality of visiting a former concentration camp site. whatever of that feeling was there i brought with me, and thus it was present at the site mostly just from within. externally. . .well, there were the monuments, but when i approached the monument specifically to commemorate kyiv's jews that died there (a large menorah), i saw a bunch of young, kyivan punk rockers hanging out on a bench, drinking and laughing within a few meters of the monument. right behind the jewish monument was a christian one (a large cross) to which the kids having a nice afternoon were in equal range. i then walked down the ravine along a path that i think was the one told to me by a local friend--a history buff--who had said that if i went that way, i would walk right on top of the very earth where the massacre occured. there, on what should be regarded as hallowed ground, i discovered a campfire and shashlyk being cooked by other locals. it was a saturday, indeed, a day to relax with friends. such campsites were scattered all over the ravine. as i stood there thinking or just feeling about the massacre, a jogger ran by. because of all this, all the memorials/monuments felt to me superficial at best.

of course, there are lots of reasons for all of this. the soviet government downplayed the significance of the massacre and of the site, and people got used to it just being there without much or any specific relevance. without government support in maintaining the site as a hallowed place, and in the context of poverty/shortages and authoritarianism that breeds indifference/apathy, it is very easy to understand how such a site--truly a beautiful area perfect for how locals do indeed make use of it today--would come to be used as it is today.

but i would favor a change of orienatition/attitude toward the site.

see similar thoughts as per the holodomyr here

Sunday, 3-Sep-2006 11:34 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Opening of Memorial to Vyacheslav Chornovil, Kyiv, Aug. 23, 2006

Site of New Chornovil Memorial
Yanuk and Yushchie
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Go to to read my comments about the opening ceremony.

Sunday, 25-Jun-2006 14:30 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Julija Foto Backlog

Jani 2006 in Latvia Blue Eyes 1
Jani 2006 in LV w/Mama
Jani 2006 in LV w/Tato
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Notes to some of the titles of these fotos of my daughter from various points of her first year:

Jani is a Latvian term for Summer Solstice. . .

Skandinieki is a Latvian folk choir in Latvia. . .

Julija used to sleep with her fist in the position pictured below, which is a symbolic way of telling someone off in most Eastern European cultures, but which is not quite as strong as the American middle finger. . .

"Vow-vow," though being the sound Latvian dogs make, is Julija's current word for all animals. She currently lives in a 4th floor apartment in Riga, across the courtyard from which lives the vow-vow (in this case, a cat) pictured in the photo below. Julija is constantly talking to and screeching in joy about this vow-vow.

Thursday, 13-Apr-2006 23:52 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Immigration Rights Rally, Sun., April 9, 2006, in St. Paul, MN

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Reports say there were 40-50,000 at this rally in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota which is the Twin City of Minneapolis (Minneapolis and St Paul are like Dallas/Ft. Worth).

Immigrants are revitalizing America.

Samuel Huntington et al are simply wrong.

Immigrants (legal or illegal) have revitalized many an inner city neighborhood in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Hmong, Somalian, and Latino efforts have, so far, spared some of these areas from the yuppie-gentrification version of urban renewal.

Immigrants, especially from Latin America, have brought with them not only traditions of community but also of community organizing. This rally was a sign of their strength, integrity, and organizing prowess. In St. Paul, in the neighborhood that has become known as Area del Sol, the main drag has been renamed Cesar Chavez St. This is the kind of revitalization that folks like the eminent Harvard Prof. Huntington do not like. (I am picking on Huntington because he has written that immigrants these days bring with them the corruption and authoritarianism of their home countries to these shores and thus are ruining the social fabric of the US.)

This was also Palm Sunday, a day signaling rebirth for many and it was nice to see a lot of people carrying palms with them at the rally. Awaiting a new Jesus?

What will Pharisees in Washington do vis-a-vis this growing movement for social justice?

These are the largest civil rights demonstrations the US has seen since the 1960s. Very inspiring.

Wednesday, 8-Mar-2006 20:16 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Ukrainian Carpathians 3: Sheshory 2005

Road to Sheshory from Kosiv-Kolomyja Highway
Typova stara khata
Midway to Sheshory from highway
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One day last summer while I was visiting with Anna and her family again for a couple of days back in Jabloniv, Anna and I were bored and so decided to go to Sheshory. There is a very touristy restaurant there called, you guessed it, "Arkan," that she wanted to show me. The road to Sheshory breaks off the main highway between Kolomyja and Kosiv about halfway, so we hitched a ride to that spot and then walked the few kilometers the rest of the way to Sheshory, passing through some other villages along the way. This was last September, and you can see how rainy it still was. It rains and rains all summer in the Carpathians, or at least in this part of them. The mountains you see here are just the front ranges of the Carpathians, while Sheshory is right at the base of the front range.

When we got to the restaurant, Anna was a bit dismayed to see that the band playing was that of some colleagues of her father's--I guess she wanted to be anonymous there, mostly because she had been there a month earlier with her boyfriend Petro, and now she was there with me!? Village life and gossip--it is still very unusual for men and women to be friends, particularly in Ukrainian villages. Or rather, it is mostly rare for a male and female who are friends to hang out one-on-one rather than in a group of their peers. Everything we were doing looked like a date to the eyes of an older generation. . .

I recognized the lead violinist of the band as the best virtuoso player I have yet seen in the region. He is a quite unusual fellow, hard to follow in conversation. He recognized Anna. At the restaurant, the musicians move from table to table, at each of which they will play a few tunes in return for which they, of course, expect money. At the restaurant, they don't play in the authentic village style, of course, but rather in the "bourgeoified" style of most dance and music troupes that people today confuse for real folk music (they play at the restaurant in what we authenticity-enthusiasts in the Ethnic Dance Theater call the "Sovietski Bullshitski" style). That is, the music and dance you see and hear most of the time at diaspora concerts and hear on most so-called folk music CDs is "prettified" (by ballet and too much music training) for presentation on the stage or the CD; i.e., it's quite removed from the real thing. This area is a popular retreat place for urban Ukrainians who themselves also don't know the authentic Hutsul village style. One of the musicians told us that a Kyiv byznesman once dropped on them a $100 bill! At any rate, this troupe can play in the authentic style as well, as I heard them do so a year prior, in the summer of 2004, at the Kosiv Ivana Kupala festival. Again, once I get my videoblog going, I will post both their performance at the festival and here at the restaurant.

Anyhow, this violinist started doing some antics while playing for us, as he recognized Anna. I should have photographed him as he sat in a chair close to Anna and placed his violin bow between his legs in an erect, phallic manner while continuing to play the violin and starting to chant, in rhythm to the music, some pretty raunchy stuff. Anna blushed, we paid them some money, and they moved on to another table. I finished my 300g flask of horylka (was a bit in a drinkin mood, as I often am while in Ukraine!), she her wine, and we then started to walk up the road to the highway in the dark until we were lucky enough to get picked up by the last run of a local Marshrutka heading toward Kolomyja, and hence in the direction of her village.

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