Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Revolution in Ukraine

Posted: 25 Feb 14
Updated: 19 May 14

Today (Monday, 19 May 14) I received this provocative comment from TR: 
As the Yale historian put it whose article I recommend:  “Speakers of Russian in Ukraine have a lot more freedom of speech than speakers of Russian in Russia.”

4 March 14
As the newest revolution in Ukraine continues to evolve, I could not help but think of my first trip to Kiev in 1988. It was at the millennial celebration of the conversion of the Russian Empire to Christianity and before the fall of the Soviet Union just three years later. 

Two poems came to mind immediately. The first, titled "Forest Dream Remembered", was written in 1973 on the eve of departing Moscow at the end of my first visit to Russia. (See above illustrated timeline.)

Forest Dream Remembered

My pilgrimage at last complete.
The mount is climbed.
Dark clouds once far above
Glide silently below.

To my surprise this peak is broad!
A castle’s built upon it,
And “...swords ‘to plowshares”
Near an ancient fortress
Makes me cry.

But so many here before me!
Some with words of virtue,
More with sounds of greed.
Do they dilute my quest?

Or is this not the place I seek?
Where golden tones
Once pierced my sleep?
Has she I met so long ago
not heard my song
Nor know I've come?

Such foolish youthful questions!
I return unto my own
To wait an outer answer,
And if my hope is true,
I’ll come again
Next time to inner chambers.

23 Sep 73 
(Op. 28)

"And swords to plowshares..."

 This 1973 poem asks: "Or is this not the place I seek...?

That question was answered 15 years later in a second poem Liahonagrad, written to capture first visit impressions of historic Kiev.

I believe that the pain, suffering and determination of those "crowds of faces shining" (third stanza) during the 1988 millennial celebration are manifesting today as an example for the world of what it means to experience "deeper democracy".

It was extraordinary to see unarmed Ukrainian Orthodox priests stepping bodily into the breech to protect unarmed protesters! Completely opposite from the Church that oppressed the Russian and Ukrainian people in the early 20th century, which led to the Russian Revolution-civil war and which produced an even more onerous and repressive government, which government eventually collapsed under its own unsustainable weight. 

I pray that men and women of courage and conscience will prevail! 

This for me is personal, which is in a third poem written the year prior to Liahonagrad and in anticipation of the trip to Ukraine with my year-younger brother.


We of your exiled sons
Come seeking roots
Beyond our Celtic ones
And older silent fears

Like Viking guests
With Slavic souls
We seek now whole new worlds
To heal our blindness

We would learn of you
And sing new songs

Long Beach
March 1987

6 March 2014,
Russia has invaded the Crimea! By bringing in troops to take over both airports and blocking the country from other country arrivals by special unmarked forces. What a bold chess move on Putin's part! Only a self-preoccupied fool would do such a thing at this time! Obama responded at this point in having a 90 minute phone call, which Putin has largely ignored... Putin has been playing these geo-political chess games long before this one by having earlier (2008) invaded Georgia. But that was when George W Bush was manning the chess board and lost that game miserably. Nevertheless, as events unfold, the rhetoric from Moscow continues to interfere with and distort the perception of reality on the ground in Kiev. I hope the rhetoric from Washington is more responsible and truthful. Hard to tell. I can only hope that Putin's Napoleonic posturing will help strip the hypocrisy on our side of the world in America, because he's eventually got to deal with his own.

Where is the global chess board anyway? Kiev? Or, should it be moved to a better global place, such as Berlin? Or, God forbid, the UN in New York? Certainly not Moscow or Washington!

7 March 14. I wrote to my cousins in eastern Ukraine, whom I last visited in 2007:
It is hard for us in America to know what is really going on in your country these days. The news keeps changing daily. How are the changes in government affecting you?

With concern, Zhenya

8 March 14. A young cousin in Kharkhov replied:
Dear Evgeniy Nikolayevich!
We are all right! Ukraine has problems but they don't affect us directly.

Russia is going to take Crimea. And it looks like Ukraine can not do anything to prevent it. It looks like Ukraine has no government now.
But it's quiet outside (in the street)...

Best regards, R...
10 March 14.
I surely agree with Jeffrey Sachs' "Next Steps in the Ukraine Crisis" editorial in today's New York Times! The US and Europe MUST NOT take military action, despite Putin's bald-face military incursion into Crimea. This is an historical pivot point that must be solved by diplomacy and international law and NOT BY FORCE. The Ukrainians can do this from the grass roots up, not corrupt governance down. They rightfully got rid of the cynical and unfairly "elected president", who then looted their treasury and fled to Russia. The whole world is watching with baited breath. As a diaspora Ukrainian via my late father, I believe his kinsmen and women can rise to the task! Give us a functional example of how an enlightened citizenry can choose wise leaders, who can teach even my America a lesson in wisdom and integrity. This is to say nothing about teaching Russia's Putin anything.

12 March 14
I received today a message from another cousin in Ukraine. He does not speak English, but does look at this blog. For him here is the Russian translation of my poems above (in the same order). 


Мое паломничество
наконец завершено.
Покорена вершина.
Те тучи мрачные,
что когда-то были далеко в вышине,
теперь внизу безмолвно проплывают.

К моему удивлению,
этот пик широк!
На нем построен замок,
и «…мечи на орала» –
близь древней крепости
заставляет меня плакать.

Как много люда разного передо мною здесь!
У немногих на устах слова добродетели,
у многих – жадности.
Не размывают ли они мой поиск?

Или это не то место, что я искал?
То место, где золотые ноты
когда-то сон пронзили мой?
Неужели та, что встретил я так давно,
так и не услышала мою песню,
не узнала о моём прибытии?

Такие глупые, детские вопросы!
К себе я возвращаюсь,
ждать извне ответа,
и коль верна моя надежда, –
я приеду вновь,
в следующий раз ко внутренним покоям.

23 сентября 1973 г. 



С первого взгляда
я знал,
что это то самое место,
и все прочее померкло.

Больше, чем древняя красота,
много больше, чем то, что я видел раньше –
её спадающий, цветущий покров,
с его бескрайними, зажжёными свечами,
тот, что обёрнут в мантию лазури и
увенчан куполами золотыми.

Больше, чем древний мир
так часто за эту тысячу лет низвергнутый
то ордами восточными,
то Запада мечами,
и всё же вновь сейчас шумящий
улыбчивой толпой.

То был тот тихий страх Господень
что в душу мне пробрался, и унес её…
Я видел те серо-зелёные холмы,
то сказочное древо – возрождённым,
что умереть не может, не должно.

Освещённая, милая моя,
когда с тобой я
пою свою песни,
я знаю, что ты дом мой слышишь.
И твой узнаю лучше я
когда вернусь ещё раз

а потом ещё,
и много, много раз потом…

май, 88



корни твоих сынов-изгнанников
приходим мы искать;
искать их глубже корней кельтских,
и глубже страхов, старых и немых

как гости-варяги
с славянскою душой
сейчас мы ищем новые и совершенные миры –
на исцеленье нашей слепоты

мы о тебе узнáем –
и песни новые споем

Лонг Бич
Март 1987 

13 Mar 14... having posted this last poem in Russian, I realized that the date and place coincided with the Sister City project between Sochi, Russia and Long Beach, California. I was a mayoral appointee to that committee. Who would have thought back then that the Olympics would some day be held in Sochi?! I had an awful time getting good press for that project at the time, given the politically conservative territory in southern California and its fear of Soviet intentions. Those fears are resurfacing now that Putin is carrying out military maneuvers around Ukraine and Crimea. This thing is going to backfire on Russia if Ukraine can keep its cool. There is a great deal of international support growing for Ukraine as it struggles to keep its head above water.

Ukraine, keep cool! May your faces shine. Don't let fear rule.

On Wednesday, 13 Mar 14, 4:32 PM  Cousin Igor wrote from Ukraine (my translation):
It is not surprising that what is happening in Ukraine is not clear or understandable to you in America.  There is much that we do not understand here in Ukraine. 
But I am convinced that the causes of the current mess and unrest in the country lie with today's leaders. After all, it is they who during the Yanukovych presidency openly called upon the people to take up weapons in Maidan. As a result, the Yanukovych regime was overthrown quite easily. The example was contagious. And this scenario today is being used against the new districts in Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea. The methods are the same. They have the same goal: to take power. They do not think about people. They only want to seize power. This is my opinion.  
Much of what is reported by the media information is untrue.  The hot spot is now Crimea. How that will play out is not known. Time will tell. 
Vicki’s husband [Vicki is Igor's granddaughter] drives his car every week to work in Simferopol. He says no problems have yet arisen. In Melitopol, everything is calm. That's all I can tell you today.  
P.S. Eugene, I check the contents of your blog. I do not understand much, though interesting. I wonder about and admire your stormy activities. Sometimes I think that we live in parallel worlds. I wish you success in all that you're doing.
17 March 14.
And so Crimea has had an election where more that 95% voted pro-Russian for independence from Ukraine. The Tatars boycotted the election. Don't yet know how many Ukrainians actually voted. This seems like old Soviet times with similar election results back in style! I wonder if it will actually last among the people? Am also not sure how international election monitors have assessed the fairness of these election results. We may never know the truth if Putin moves fast to annex Crimea. He's playing speed chess at present. The West's counter moves seem weak.

I also understand there are plans by Russia to build a bridge between the eastern end of Crimea and nearby Russia proper. That will seal the fate of Ukraine by having it literally swallowed by Russia, which is something Putin is clearly relishing to taste!

Remember, remember: this is about the whole of Ukraine, not just Crimea. Vladimir Putin knows that. Ukrainians know that. And we must not forget it. There is nothing we or the Ukrainian government can do to restore its control over Crimea. The crucial struggle is now for eastern Ukraine. If the whole of Ukraine, including the east, participates in peaceful, free and fair presidential elections on May 25, it can survive as one independent country (minus Crimea). It will also be back on an unambiguously democratic, constitutional path. In everything the EU and the West does over the next two months, that should be our first priority.
This sounds like wisdom to me! And to it I say Amen! The May 25 elections must be protected at all costs, which means international monitors with impeccable credentials must be permitted to observe and to comment openly and freely.

On 23 November 2012, I wrote:
I was greatly excited by the Orange Revolution of 2004 in the country of my father's birth. But I have been greatly disappointed in how it has stumbled since, exemplified by last year's imprisonment of Yulia. My hope for Ukraine is that, despite such inevitable stumbles of a new democratic republic. the Ukrainian electorate are now awake enough not to allow it to descend again into despotism as it was during the Soviet period. That I can voice this disappointment and caution from my home in America is an indicator that this hope is not in vain. May your country be blessed by courageous voting citizens electing wise, humble leaders.
On 26 March 2014, I wrote:
I would say the same thing (as on 23 Nov 12), despite Putin's unwise move into Crimea. May Ukraine citizens stay cool and wise. To my family in Ukraine I say: You are not alone in the world. Many powerful forces for good (despite some obviously less benevolent ones) are at work in America and elsewhere to give you the moral and substance support you deserve. You have an historic opportunity to be a Light for fairness and equality to the world!

On 28 March 2014, I wrote to cousin Igor:
So much has happened since you last wrote, even though only two more weeks have passed. Is Vika's husband still driving to Simferopol without problems? How about Kharkov? Zaparozhe? Melitopol? Minsk? What can you tell me? Do you have good access to international and local news? How is your morale? Do you feel safe? With continuing concern… Zhenya
On 29 March 2014, Igor answered:
Zhenya, there's a lot of information on the networks about what is happening in Ukraine. I can only say that in Melitopol life is peaceful and proceeding as usual. If not for television, we would not know anything different. Vicki's husband was last in Simferopol on March 20 before problems in the Crimea had occurred. I am sure that we will not be having problems. Thank you for your concern, but there is no reason to worry.

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