31 December 2006

Bandura Evening

In the U.S. for the holidays, we were nonetheless treated to a fascinating piece of Ukrainian culture at a friend's holiday party. Two of the top Bandurists from Ukraine, Taras Lazurkevych and Oleh Sozansky performed a few Christmas carols to raise funds for their project described on a leaflet as:
"...the renaissance and development of the Kharkiv (Poltavska) bandura which has been almost forgotten in Ukraine. With the help of you kind koliada donation, it will be possible to complete a much needed bandura workshop in Lviv, Ukraine."
The brief performance was organized by Oleh Mahlay, artistic director and conductor, of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus (www.bandura.org). From his introductory words I learned that the bandura is an instrument unique to Ukraine. I was also interested to learn about a little-known Kobzar (Bandurist player) convention in 1934 where Kobzars assembled from all over Ukraine only to be arrested and murdered. The facts are only starting to surface about this horrible tragedy. Wikipedia mentions the event:
"In recent years significant evidence has come to light that an ethnographic conference for bandurists, specifically for blind kobzars and lirnyks, was organised in Kharkiv in December of 1934 which was attended by approximately 300 blind musicians who were subsequently arrested and murdered."
If anyone has any leads regarding this conference I'd like to explore it further. If anyone would like to help build the bandura workship in Lviv, please contact Oleh Mahlay at (www.bandura.org).

30 December 2006

Seventh-Kilometer Market (Odesa)

During a recent visit to Odesa we visited the famous “Seventh-Kilometer” open-air market. Located on the outskirts of town, apparently on the seventh kilometer of the Odesa ring road, the rynok encompasses 70 hectares that stretch as far as the eye can see. A crowded one and two-story tall city of improvised sales booths (numbering 16,000 according to Wikipidea) lies beyond an expansive set of surprising well organized parking lots, bus stops, and marshutka depots. In the distance, a hillside is covered with steel ocean shipping containers converted to retail sales booths creating a visual tapestry of maroon, dark green, and blue squares lined up like children’s blocks against the grey sky on the horizon. The booths are arranged in long rows separate by tiny aisles crawling with bargain seeking shoppers. Under the pretext of looking for a leather winter coat, we walked down an aisle of winter coat booths that was probably a kilometer long, only to turn and see yet another winter coat aisle of the same length, and another, and so on. We walked almost continuously for four hours within what seemed like one small section of the market. Our guide Masha, the Odesyt, estimated that we had explored maybe 5% of the whole market.

The booths vary in architectural approach from the garden variety steel frame covered with cheap canvas to actual mini, two-story buildings with floors, roofs complete with rain gutters, and lighting. On the hillside, the old ocean containers are opened at one end, a table is setup at the entrance, and voila one has a ready made store complete with inventory storage facilities. I am amazed at the display of ingenuity and resourcefulness evident in the way the booths are engineered. The way the inventory is stored in tiny spaces yet instantly accessible could be a lesson for any logistics warehouse manager. Standing in front of a booth with hundreds of buttons and other sewing accessories, for example, we ask for one of the belt buckles and the woman behind the table finds it instantly in her lattice of shelves, containers and labeling methods. Walking through the noisy, crowded aisles past the endless booths is almost akin to an athletic event. Periodically we make room for vendors pushing their home made carts aggressively down the aisle yelling out their ala carte menus. Hot tea, coffee, roasted peanuts, varenyky, hachipuri, lavash, lula kebab, and many other items are offered for a reasonable sum during your shopping process. The storekeepers fend off the December chill by smoking and sipping cognac from small white plastic cups. The glaring lack of garbage cans in the entire complex leads to collections of empty cognac bottles on the ground in small piles at the end of each aisle. The subsequently happy sales people often converge with each other along booth boundaries to pass the time as shoppers steadily stream past. The mechanics of the sales process, that have probably evolved very little in thousands of years, are in full swing. We pretend we don’t really need the item we're negotiating for and the store keeper pretends that he doesn’t really need to sell it. Then each side argues mightily to advance their position of disinterest while, in parallel, the price point is adjusted almost as an afterthought. I admired the inventiveness of a few of the store keepers who replaced the standard, plain awnings (typical for each booth) with colorfully patterned ones to help the shopper, and potential customer, remember the booth and possible return.

The cash based, unregulated free-market principles at play gave the market an certain energy attracting 150,000 customers daily. Products range from genuine (in my opinion), to third-shift products (unsanctioned product runs by official manufacturer subcontractors in the far east -- generally with cheaper raw materials), to out-right knock-offs. We passed through the sewing supplies section where fake Dolce and Gabana, Armani, Brioni, Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and Nike labels were on sale by the roll. When I took a picture the storekeeper smiled and asked why. We I replied that it was just out of curiosity he said "Takoho ne buvaye".

In the end, we found the perfect winter coat (factoring in our suspicions that it may be a knockoff), conducted the requisite negotiation, bought some parsley and dill from a passing vendor and left the Seventh Kilometer as satisfied customers.

23 December 2006

ICTV - Freedom of Speech Show

ICTV 22.12.06 Svoboda Slova

lutsenko standing at the podium being questioned by Kinakh, Symonenko, Chornovil, Lytvyn, Shufrych etc:

"...as soon as we returned deputy immunity we returned large scale corruption
the level of corruption now is unprecedented.

the divisions in Ukraine are false.
the current government is using false divisions to rob the country.

i don't want to lead a party, and i have been offered to run one..as everyone knows (alluding to Nasha Ukraina)

i am going to the people
i will circle Ukraine
we don't need colors.
we need blue and yellow.

ukraine is united by laws and by fairness. it is time to start talking about these things no?

i want to go to the people. it may work, it may not. but this corruption has to stop. i want Ukraine to be a country where one can walk around without security and not fear for their safety.

to Taras Chornovil: Tarase you and i did stand at the barricade against Kuchma, with your father as well. I remain there, against any kuchma, and you Taras went over to the same forces you fought earlier.

i can guarantee you that the majority of socialists think the way i do.

re: yulia timoshenko, you call her an opportunist, but she gave a budget that helped people. that doubled their salaries. yours only increases it 7%. 7% with tariffs up 350% percent. you have declared war on the people in each household.

you continue to say the country is divided
a divided country is easier to steal from.

you continue to say that you are defending us from NATO. you think NATO will be ok without us?

today all actions are in motion to make the Ministry of Internal Affairs an administrative resource again.

Kuchmism is back. It's all back. The same words, the same criminal schemes...but it won't work because Ukraine is not the same. Ukraine is different after the events of 2 years ago. If we Ukrainians have to go back to the streets we will go back to the streets. If we need drums we will have drums again.

20 December 2006

Thank You iTunes

Since I live in Kyiv my means of keeping up with music is most commonly Apple's iTunes (online) Music Store. The occasional visit to scan the new releases makes me feel somehow youthful again. Not anymore. Now that Apple has so generously decided to keep track of my preferences and my purchases in their databases, I have earned the distinction of being offered "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round - by Barney" upon arrival at the site. Please. Is there no escaping that androgynous purple monster?

29 November 2006

Parmesan Trattoria

This new restaurant serves mainly Italian fare as the name suggests. Located at the top of Andriyvskiy Uzviz, across from St. Andrew's Cathedral, Parmesan provides a small, cozy yet modern atmosphere. It has a good selection of wines and an interesting menu. I've only tasted the Tortellini with Raw Ham Prosciutto (77 uah) and I have to say it's the lightest, most delicate and tasty Tortellini I've ever had. With business guests from Germany we arrived at 10:30 pm on a Tuesday evening. The restaurant was still fully staffed and cheerful. The service was exquisite and the kitchen remained open as long as we liked without so much as a comment from the wait staff. Certainly worth a try. I'll be back. Parmesan Trattoria, 34B Andriyivsky Uzviz, +380 44 278 54 45, cpkorsar@svitonline.com

"Orange Chronicles" (Screening in New York)

The "Orange Circle" will be screening Damian Kolodiy and Peter Zielyk's documentary film "Orange Chronicles: A personal journey through Ukraine's Orange Revolution" on Tuesday, December 12th, in New York at the Anthology of Film Archives (32 2nd Ave at 2nd St.) at 7pm. Tickets are $10 (no advance tickets). From the flyer:

"Damian Kolodiy arrived in Kyiv on November 16th, 2004 and remained in Ukraine for all of the nation's historic Orange Revolution. From Kyiv to Donetsk to Odesa to Lviv, Kolodiy's documentary 'The Orange Chronicles' examines the watershed event through the poignant observations and personal interaction with Ukrainians on all sides of the debate."
For more information email: OrangeDoc@gmail.com or visit www.orangechronicles.com

Holodomor: An Act of Genocide

Yesterday, 28.11.06, the Verkhovna Rada historically passed a law declaring the Holodomor as an act of genocide. This is a remarkable step for Ukraine and significant win for President Yushchenko who went out on a limb by "demanding", not "requesting" that the VR vote as such.

Along the same lines, below is my reply to the email from Peter Dickinson, What's On magazine. I am indebted greatly to Marko R., Sev O., Dr. Jurij B. for quickly and concisely educating me about the Holodomor. In the end, I have come away with an abundant understanding of how little I know about the Holodomor and Ukrainian History in general. I look forward to expanding that knowledge. Several books about Holodomor, Stalin, etc. have been recommended to me. I plan to explore these and welcome any historical reading suggestions. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Dickinson,

Thank you for your reply and the clarification of your position.

Regarding your response, I believe that your characterization of the issue as a dichotomy “At core the issue is whether these people were murdered because they were Ukrainians, or because they were peasants” only confuses the issue. The people were targeted because they were Ukrainian and they were peasants.

Although the communist authorities decided that famine was not a practical tool for repression of Ukrainian nationalism in urban areas, repression in cities was well underway in the form of discrimination, repression of Ukrainian language schools, books, Ukrainian churches, mass imprisonment, executions, and deportation to Gulags (cf. released NKVD/KGB archives). Is being tortured to death in the city, for political reasons, somehow less horrifying than being starved to death in the countryside?

Historians can argue whether or not the primary aim of the Holodomor was political repression of Ukrainians, clearly there were other elements and objectives in play as in any war, genocide, or jihad. However, the fact that other elements were in play does not negate the genocidal component of a specific nationality being destroyed.

If applying your suggestion of a dichotomy to WWII would you argue that there was no genocide against Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, etc.. because WWII was motivated by other objectives (economic for one)? WWII happened for many reasons but these factors do not negate the fact that Jews and others were specifically targeted because of who they were.

Stalin’s targeting of nationalistic peasants in Ukraine more severely than nationalistic city-dwellers doesn’t lessen the fact that they were targeted for their nationalism. The fact that this nationalism coincided with a revolt against communists and collectivization doesn’t lessen the genocidal aspects of the man-made famine.

Israel Charny “Century of Genocide” has said that it is easier to prove doubt and win than it is to prove what really took place. Those that exclude the Ukrainian Holodomor from discussion limit the discourse on genocide and risk succumbing to a “selective perception of evil”. The VR in its historic decision yesterday decided not to be among the deniers, minimizers and obfuscators of genocide that assault survivors one more time. By legally declaring the famine a genocide they have truly taken a pro-Ukraine step. My congratulations.

Best regards,


27 November 2006

Answer from Editor of What's On Regarding Holodomor

The following is an answer to my letter to the editor (see earlier post).
Dear [Petro],

Thank you for writing in and sharing your thoughts on last week's editorial. As you may have ascertained I try to use the weekly editorial spot to encourage discussion of issues which I consider to be of importance to today's Ukraine, and judging from the response I have received in the past few days that has certainly been the case this week. As a long-time writer on Ukrainian issues and qualified historian I am well aware of your arguments, much as I am familiar with the tactics employed by the Yanukovich administration when dealing with such core issues, but neither suggests that my position on the Holodomor is not the correct middle ground.

I agree with your statement that Stalin clearly targeted Ukrainian villages, much as the regime targeted villages in Russia, the Caucasian region and elsewhere during the collectivization period. That is accepted historical fact. However, the debate here is essentially one of semantics. If, as you seem to believe, it was a racial genocide specifically targeted against ethnic Ukrainians, this begs the question of why ethnic Ukrainians in the cities did not suffer widespread starvation and why the famine was limited to the rural population. At core the issue is whether these people were murdered because they were Ukrainians, or because they were peasants. It is an admittedly ghastly question, but one which the nature of these genocide declarations forces us to address. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that they died because they were part of a peasantry which the Bolsheviks had earmarked for destruction. In my opinion this also constitutes an act of genocide but given the body of evidence which has now come to light it is intellectually dishonest to argue that this genocide was racial in nature or targeted the Ukrainian people as a whole.

I appreciate that this is an extremely emotive issue and would not seek to offend anyone's sensibilities or sense of grief and desire for historical justice, but do believe that the best way to achieve closure and build a better Ukraine is through an honest and open appraisal of the facts. Please feel free to share this response with your email circle. I would welcome further comment on the Holodomor issue and may even consider publishing a selection on the subject.

Best regards,
Peter Dickinson
This puts me in research mode. Since, essentially I'm a business guy selling widgets, I've delved off into uncharted waters. I clearly need to answer the following issues for myself if not for anyone else.
"...this begs the question of why ethnic Ukrainians in the cities did not suffer widespread starvation and why the famine was limited to the rural population. At core the issue is whether these people were murdered because they were Ukrainians, or because they were peasants..."

Incredible Go-Karting in Brovary

About a half-hour from the center of Kyiv, on the left-bank in Brovary, there is a huge shopping center, bowling alley, movie theater, and Go-Karting center called "Terminal". The building is gigantic and its interior design is very similar to Ultramarine (by the Train Station). Probably built by the same folks. The Go-Karting race tracks (there are two of them) are indoors and professionally built with imported, spring-reinforced sidewalls. The age minimum is 14 years old or 12 with an adult (with height minimum as well). It's not cheap at 80 uah per person for a 15-minute race. Helmet, driver's coveralls, gloves, and a printout of your lap times and race results is included. Hat's off to the helpful staff and their seemingly effortless, professional organization of the actual Go-Karting which helped make the whole evening excellent. The restaurant overlooking the track serves up some above average fare and the service quality was excellent. Drive east, Metro bridge, past the last Metro stop (Lisna) and then towards Chernihiv after leaving the Kyiv city limits. More details here: Terminal Go-Kart Website.

26 November 2006

Letter to the Editor of What's On

I chose to mark the 73rd anniversary of Holodomor by ranting against What's On's editorial. Is What's On owned by Russians or something?

Dear Mr. Dickinson,

I am a little surprised by your position regarding the Holodomor as stated in "From the Editor" in the 24-30 Nov 2006 edition of "What's On" magazine. Your suggestion that "Calling it genocide simply gives an ethnic slant to this man-made monstrosity that is both historically dubious and socially divisive." leaves a lot to be desired for anyone even remotely familiar with Ukrainian history and Holodomor.

There is ample evidence that Stalin specifically targeted Ukrainian villages during the famine. Multiple countries have passed resolutions identifying the famine as genocide. Regarding "divisiveness" if one surveys world history, it's clear that memory of suffering unites a nation. By the Verkhovna Rada naming the famine "genocide" they would be making a statement that Ukraine is a nation. Is that not unifying?

It is clear that Yanukovych and his cronies are playing their trumped up "socially divisive" card every time an issue of national identity arises. It is also clear that he is pushing his agenda in the media through increasingly overt means. I was hoping What's On would retain some objectivity in the face of Yanukovych's administration. I guess I was wrong. What's On is clearly pursuing an "ethnic slant" of its own, and it's not Ukrainian.

24 November 2006

Tania Update IV

The medical expenses at Okhmadyt for Tania's treatment are not an issue (per Mr. JH's commitment below). The CHOP specialists are continuing contact (and offering to do this indefinitely) with Okhmadyt regarding Tania and will recommend her travelling to CHOP if at any time they feel she could be treated better there.

Unfortunately, it looks like Tania, who is scheduled for another round of chemo-therapy in mid-December will not be going back to the hospital for treatment. The parents have decided to withdraw her from treatment.

We have received multiple emails from the doctors in the U.S. regarding Tania's withdrawal voicing their concern over this decision and urging us to convey to the family how important it is to continue. For example (from Dr. H.):
Dr.Z.C. let me know that she updated you today reconfirming results of our 11/14 consultation for Tetyana with oncologists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP): Leukemia Team physician meeting, which consists of senior level leukemia experts from CHOP as well as members of the bone marrow transplant team, today also supported continued care as proposed by physicians in Kyiv. Please relay this to Tetyana's parents and family. We hope that this will help Tetyana's parents and family find comfort and confidence in the care that Tetyana is receiving in Kyiv and to allow this care to resume as soon as possible to minimize any potential consequences of abruptly and prematurely stopped chemotherapy.

We have discussed all of the above with the family and we are hoping for Tania's parents to change their minds before it is too late.

Tania Update III

The teleconference with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia took place as scheduled. The excerpt below is from an email I received from Dr. Z.C:

The teleconference between the oncologist in Kyiv and CHOP experts on leukemia was excellent. Myself and Dr. H were also present. They directly discussed the methodology on which the diagnosis was made on Tania, including results of the chromosomal study. The doctors then discussed the treatment given so far and specific details about the doses of medications and reaction to the medications. The question of possible radiation to the brain and/or bone marrow transplantation were also discussed. Neither one of which is indicated for Tania's treatment.
The experts at CHOP found that everything was done correctly and the current treatment is very appropriate. They agreed 100% and they would not have done it differently. The current treatment is also identical to what CHOP would be doing if Tania was here. The specialists here are planning to be in continuous contact with the oncologist in Kyiv for follow-up. They do not feel that there are other alternatives for managing Tania that they or anybody else can offer. Everything is being done correctly.
The doctors here were very impressed with the Ukrainian physicians knowledge of oncology, as well as the command of her English language. If at any point, the situation changes and the doctors at CHOP feel they have something different or better to offer, they would recommend bringing Tania here.

13 November 2006

Tania Update II

The work to get Tania stateside for treatment continues. I had a business trip to the U.S. which left time for me to meet with Dr. Z.C., head of the Ukrainian Foundation and lead contact person working with CHOP. Tomorrow, 14.Nov is a big day for Tania's case as the CHOP oncologist at CHOP will be doing a video conference call with the head oncologist at Okhmadyt where Tania is being treated. Dr. Z.C. will provide the real-time translation.

21 October 2006

Tania Update

Ola and I have been amazed by the outpouring of support from our USA family, friends, the Ukrainian diaspora community, and from total strangers. From forwarding our email requesting leads, to providing us with hospital names and contact information, to translating medical records, it is moving how involved everyone has been.

To recap where we are now, Mr. JH of Wilmington, Delaware has generously agreed to take on the project of getting Tania treated in the U.S. including sending a plane for her. At the same time, through other connections Dr. Z.C. of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has confirmed that CHOP will treat Tania's Leukemia as part of their ongoing humanitarian aid projects for children. A video conference will be held Tuesday between CHOP physicians and Ukrainian physicians to determine the best course of treatment for Tania based on her current medical condition. At present she is not stable enough to travel due to various serious complications. During the last week she has shown some improvement, however, and has been able to eat a little on her own as well as walk a few steps.

05 October 2006


Our friends sister Tania is 14-years old and suffering from Leukemia (cancer) which is, in many cases as far as I understand, curable with the proper treatment. Ola has spent hours in the Leukemia ward of "Okhmadyt" children's hospital in Kyiv. It is clear that Tania will not get the required treatment in Ukraine. Ola and I are looking for a western hospital (USA? Germany?) to provide pro bono medical care for Tania. If anyone has any contacts or any information regarding physicians, hospitals, or charitable foundations that we can contact on Tania's behalf we would greatly appreciate it. Please leave a comment on this post.

The following is a letter Ola wrote to the Children's Miracle Network:
Dear Children's Miracle Network!

I am writing to you because I am in search of a sponsor. I am an American living in Kyiv, Ukraine and have a very good friend here whose 14 year old sister was diagnosed with leukemia about 4 months ago. As you may know, Ukraine's medical system has a long way to go compared to the USA. I have been trying to figure out how to help them. I am an artist so I began painting my friend's sister (tania) along with many of the other children at the hospital in hopes of gathering some money together to help the family pay for her chemotherapy. They, by the way, have 10 children in this family, ALL of whom are working full-time to help pay for her treatment. It has become clear that they need much more than just a few hundred dollars to help save their sister.

Today again I spent a few hours at the hospital with my friend (Luba) and her sister. She had asked me to come to help gather some information together from the doctors because they are very "stingy" with their treatment plan. In brief, both doctors I spoke with seemed pretty knowledgeable, serious and comfortable with her treatment plan, which they say they do the same as in Germany.
THAT'S ON THE SURFACE OF COURSE. The facilities are still Ukrainian and the staff still gets paid pennies so very few people follow through with any real sense of responsibility. They ask family members to do a lot of the follow through and of course, the family is continuously going themselves to buy needles, medicine,or whatever is needed.

Their mother seems to be out of strength. First she trusted everyone and now she trusts noone so when they ask her things like to make sure Tania doesn't drink any liquids for x amount of time, the mother would probably give Tania water if she asked for it. It's all very delicate psychologically because if you get any of the staff angry, they will just kick you out of the hospital. you have to be completely knowledgeable yourself and also watch every step they take but then some of their egos get angry when you do. You have to bring staff members presents so that they will check on your daughter! The mother even doubts some of the workers if they actually administered the expensive meds to Tania because she thinks the woman pocketed half of it to get money for her own family. I have heard from several people that this truly happens. Poverty.

The family is worried right now because Tania hasn't eaten for a week after the last chemo treatment because of liver problems. she has sores all over her body and they say they are having trouble finding ways to feed her through her veins. I think it is necessary to send her to America for a thorough check and for further treatment before it is too late. I have heard many medical horror stories since I have moved here 4 years ago and my cousin died here 2 years ago from improper treatment of melanoma. The treatment plan may be from Germany but the follow through is from Ukraine where employees have very limited knowledge and would make more money cleaning someone's house than working in the hospital. (including the doctors).

This is the story, briefly. I am asking on their behalf........is there a sponsorship program or some kind of program that would pay for her medical bills in the USA?

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.


Ola Rondiak

03 October 2006

"Reko and Friends" Art Exhibit Opening

The IWCK Painting Group is having an opening of their Art Exhibition entitled "Reko and Friends". They will be displaying art by long-time Painting Group member Reko, who will soon be leaving Kiev, along with paintings by the rest of the group (including Ola).

Everyone is invited to come to the opening this Friday, October 6th from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Pavlo Tychyna Museum which is located at 5 Tereschenkivskaya (near the Shevchenko Park, across from Shalena Mama Restaurant).

The exhibiton will be open to the public from October 6th till October 13th. The Museum hours are 9am till 6pm.

26 September 2006

Ukrainian Adoptions

This is a plug for a trusted friend. If you need assistance with your adoption process in Ukraine, I can recommend: http://www.embraceachild.com/
Roman has navigated the murky waters of this process himself, successfully, and is prepared to share his experience to assist other do the same.

23 September 2006

Czech Proverb

I just returned from a two day trip to Germany to visit one of the car manufacturers. Borispil is still packed. This time I tried Czech air with a Prague transfer. Everything went smoothly and I even got a Czech proverb on the piece of paper wrapped around the napkin that came with the meal. It said: "The way one eats is the way one works."

Perfectly true in my case! I eat too fast, too much, and at times not the right things. At work I work too fast, too much, and at times not on the right things. Those Czechs got it right with this one.

19 September 2006

Current Weather in Kyiv

The weather forecast plug-in at the bottom of my web browser informs me that the current weather in Kyiv is "Smoke".

Interview Tips for Job Applicants

I must have interviewed over 200 applicants in my years working in Ukraine. And these are the ones that pass the initial screening by HR and department managers. Here's a little tip for the job applicant. Those who come to the interview with a clean copy of their CV are miles ahead of the other applicants. If they bring a pad of paper, a pen, and actually take a note or two....they are the cream of the crop.

While I'm on the subject. Here are some things that don't work to get your senior management position with our company:
  1. When asked where their CV is the applicant responds with "I heard that I am supposed to have my CV with me and I called your HR Director and asked her to print one out for you. Perhaps you can call her and see where it is."
  2. When asked if they have any questions about the company the applicant responds with "No, I know everything. Thank you."
  3. When asked if I might contact one of the applicant's bosses from a previous job: "No, I'd rather you didn't. I didn't meet his expectations and he fired me."
  4. Taking a mobile phone call in the middle of the interview.
  5. Taking another mobile phone call a few minutes later.
  6. Showing me a little folded vinyl "official document" and claiming that it's worth something and I should hire you.
  7. Stating that your wife's sister's husband's cousin works in the President's Administration and that we won't have any problems. No thanks.

Art World Immersion

There has been a lot of activity on the art scene lately which, thanks to Ola, I had the opportunity to be a part of. Last Thursday we were at Gallery RA for Illya Chichkan's KISS exhibit opening. Among the thought provoking artwork -- from the so called "bad boy" of Ukrainian art was a Mayak reel-to-reel tape player dishing out the sound background for the event. It's the first Mayak I've seen. Cool.

On Saturday we had a look at the PinchukArtCenter on the top floors of the Arena City complex by Besserabka. Politics aside, it's a great space and the contemporary Ukrainian, Thai, American, and other art was excellent. The show, in the Arena courtyard was interrupted (...ended) by a full-blown fire. see pictures. It's amazing they got the fire under control with fire extinguishers. It looked almost too big to contain. Victor requested a free 100gm to the "khloptsi" that put the fire out. No lawyers or insurance types to be found.

On Sunday the L'art people opened Berezhynsky (sp?) Gallery (Rybalska 22 in Pechersk). It's a great space that's part of an old armory renovated in a modern, minimalistic way. On display where Chichkan's (again) monkey headed men and some interesting burned wood art from Kyril Protsenko. We took the kids to this daytime event and enjoyed the after-party on the terrace inside the armory courtyard. Romchyk patiently waited for more sushi to come out to the furshet table while Maya and Kalyna did improvised gymnastics/dancing on the stage. No fires.

25 August 2006


Fulfilling the terms of his Ray-Ban endorsement deal during the festivities.


Target in USA

Target in Kharkiv

If the corporate identity elements are a knock-off. I wonder about the stuff inside.

Reasons to Check My Life Insurance Policy

The recent Tupolev Tu-154 crash (169 dead) in Donetsk, and the recent increase in frequency of my one-day hops to Oblast centers around Ukraine has got me reviewing my life insurance policies. Above is a picture of part of the avionics equipment of an AN-28 (sticking out of the rear of the cockpit) during my flight to Odesa Tuesday. I've always felt flying in Ukraine is safer than driving. Is it?

Z Mynulym!

That's yet another thing I really like about Ukraine. One get's to greet people during three days for a one-day holiday. "Z Nastupayuchym" ("with the upcoming"), "Z Sviatom" ("with the holiday"), and "Z Mynulym" ("with yesterday's"). I hope everyone had a good Ukraine 15-yr celebration.

24 August 2006

Ukrainian Business Law Axiom 02

If you (honest company) are being sued by some party, and that party fails to show up for the court date (without notifying the court), expect the judge to set a new hearing date next week. If you (honest company) are suing another party and don't show for a legitimate reason (like not getting the date announcement until after the date), expect the judge to throw both your legitimate reason and the case out.

Holodomor Archives (Cont'd)

Not in the Holodomor archives, but submitted by my brother, a poster from the past:

Ukrainian Business Law Axiom 01

If your honest company in Ukraine sues someone, expect a court date no sooner than 10-12 months away. If it is your company that gets sued, expect a court date early next week.

21 August 2006

Holodomor Archives Open and Online

Incredibly, the following was released on August 18th:

Ukraine`s national intelligence agency the SBU on Friday opened up formerly-secret state archives on brutal Soviet era-famines causing the deaths of millions, according to Deutsche Press Agence (DPA).

SBU historians after four years of reviewing old KGB records made public more than 3,000 pages of 130 official state documents.

It was the first time any former Soviet republic had released to the public archival information concerning the mass starvations, said Vasyl Danielenko, an SBU spokesman.

The entire formerly-classified archive of the former Soviet republic Ukraine was now available for viewing in paper or digital format, or at the Internet web site www.ssu.gov.ua, he said.

The Soviet government in its early years of existence presided over three deadly and wide-reaching famines - in 1921-22, 1932-33, and 1946-47.

Between six and ten million Ukrainians died of starvation in 1932-33, after Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the forced confiscation of food from the Ukrainian countryside.

The first page of the archive is here. The scans are .JPG and each one has a zoomed in version.

Uzbek & Armenian Food with a Playground

Nothing like sitting in a open-air eating besydka with your kids enjoying a playground 10 meters away and plates of mushroom, veal, and chicken shashlyk (30 uah each), wrapped in lavash and onions, spread out in front of you. Not the cheapest of restaurants, Sim-Sim usually has available seating and excellent service. It's on the Velyka Okruzhna (Ring Road) heading east after exiting from Prospekt Peremohy. About 20 minutes from the center. The playground area is well-lit and staffed. Most importantly, our kids enjoy it.

If you like spicy soup try the "Lahman" (33 uah). It is a hearty vegetable and beef soup with noodles accompanied by a small dish of pasty red stuff that is really spicy when mixed into the soup or spread on a piece of grilled veal. Spicy enough to make one's eyes water and makes the ice-cold Paulaner Hefe-Weiss (24 uah) taste all the better. Worth a try.

Sim-Sim Restaurant
Uzbek and Armenian Cuisine
Velyka Okruzhna (Ring Road)
Closest Metro: Sviatoshyn
Tel. 406-4625, 459-5951

18 August 2006

Sand Castles at Blue Lake

A great way to spend the day is on the clean sand of Blue Lake on the Obukhivska Road. Driving south on Naberezhna, continue past the exit for Pivdenyj Mist (Southern Bridge — the one that you would take to go to Borispil) and when you see the big UkrAvto Mercedes dealer on the left take the exit to the right. Once you take the exit the road splits for the Okruzhna and for Obukhiv. Follow the Obukhiv signs and proceed south for approximately 10 minutes. Sidenote: you will pass a big bluff (in the distance) on the right where hang-gliders are often spotted jumping off the hill. On the left you will see a gated entrance. There is a small fee, and one can rent chairs for a small fee as well. Enjoy!

Justice in Small Town Ukraine

The following is a true story. My colleague Yevhen (not his real name) visits his family in his hometown. He gets hit over the head and his mobile phone is stolen. After being assisted by a random couple that passed by, he immediately went to the bazaar, still populated by his old friends, and explained his mishap to them asking them to be on the look out for his phone. Sure enough the perpetrator showed up, a kid that everyone new, the son of the local pig farm owners, and the bazaar guys took the phone from him. The kid ran away. Now Yevhen, happy to have his phone back, but still resentful for having been hit over the head, heads over to the police to file his report. The police brush him aside and tell him to drop it. Hmmm... the son of pig farmers thinks Yevhen. Through family source he confirms that yes, the police have been taken care of. Then, still working his family network Yevhen discovers that this kid is actually in military service in a unit whose commanding officer is none other than Yevhen's uncle. His uncle informed him that there is little he can do in terms of punishment, but he CAN make sure the kid is transferred to the most miserable post in the country.

Biking In Kyiv

Took the leap and bought a couple bikes yesterday.
Recommendation: Bike Pro Sport
Talk to "Sasha" about their selection of Schwinn and Scott bikes.

Rode around in Holosivskyj Park and ended up at that cafe that looks like Captain Nemo's Nautilus by the willow trees. The service was excellent, there was a festive aura (the tables were packed) and the prices were very reasonable.

13 August 2006

Hamsters and Mouse Poison

I am not one of those animals in the house people. I don’t have a lot of experience with Vets. None actually. Last Sunday night that all changed.

In the last expat exodus, among the tearful goodbyes with our good friends of the last three years, came the seemingly unending pet offers. These offers, voiced out loud in-front of the all-absorbing ears of our children, caused a significant amount of conversation in the family to say the least. The usual techniques of badgering and begging were mercilessly employed by our children who outnumber us 3:2. In the end our crew now consists of two adults, one boy, two girls, two hamsters, and a turtle from Odesa.

On the third day of owning the hamsters we realized one had escaped through a missing crossbar in the top of the cage. We searched the first floor and found the little creature in the guest room sniffing around with his whiskers next to half-munched mouse poison. Oops, forgot about our little mouse problem last fall. Now what? She seemed active and alert but “Google” research recommended an immediate visit to a Vet. 21:30 on a Sunday night, Kyiv business directory in hand, I call the Vet and what’s this? “Sure come on in, we’ll be waiting for you” they say on the phone. Great service. I take the whole cage, strap it to the passenger seat and wonder, as I careen down Prospect Peremohy to the Vet, what would happen if the airbag went off? Now the Vet is on Saksanskoho, but the only problem is that Saksahanskoho is one big dug out pit from the train station intersection all the way to Horkoho St. So here I am, after 10pm, marching down Saksanskoho with our hamster cage in search of the Vet. The hamsters loved their little city stroll. I had never been to a Vet and didn’t know what to expect. The service was excellent. I don’t know if I agree with the treatment, which consisted of five injections, but I have no basis for knocking it either. The following day, Ola and kids took her in and she received five followup shots. It’s been a week now and the hamster is still running around and looking good. So if you ever have hamster trouble in Kyiv call: 289-7744 Fauna Servis

04 August 2006

VR Hall Interior Design

Anything in the budget for interior design changes in the VR Assembly Hall? Perhaps we should bring the Stalin statue back? Just to make sure we unite the country some more.

Meeting of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Kyiv 1940 (Courtesy of Narodnyj Deputat Magazine)

Our New Leader

The following is a concise summary of Victor Yanukovych's background for your reading displeasure: http://abdymok.net/pm-again

03 August 2006

Yulia Scolded During Round Table

The afternoon round table, organized by the President, for the purpose of signing the "Universal of National Unity" was aired on national TV. Each party head had their say, and then they signed the document, except for Yulia. The communist added several pages of handwritten qualifications while the nation watched. Yushchenko had to tell him to hurry up since the country is watching and he's going on his merry way scribbling his party's position. Yulia in her speech called the signing of the document an act of treason against the national interest of Ukraine. Yushchenko couldn't contain his calm demeanor and ended up scolding Yulia, complete with gesticulations and finger pointing, with regard to her unwillingness to even discuss any of the points of the "Universal". When the president was doing his scolding, Yulia looked like this:

PORA Camp Update

A PORA representative, in a TV interview explained that PORA attempted to convince the President to dissolve the VR. Having failed to accomplish this, they are taking down their tents, delivering them to Bankova as a gift to the President, and will carry on their fight by other means. Sidenote: nothing from Yulia, except that she's shocked.

A Clause from the "Universal"

This is the way the language clause is written in the current version of the "Universal". I am not sure how to interpret it. It doesn't make the Russian language an "official" language, but it does say that for all of one's "life needs" free use of the Russian language is guaranteed.

The Morning After: No Activists in Sight

What a bizarre morning. It starts with an SMS just before 7 am from cousin D. in New York. I quickly turn on the T.V. and sure enough there is the President, in a 01:56 recorded address explaining that he will confirm the nomination of Victor Yanukovych.

"I decided to nominate Victor Yanukovych to be the Prime Minister of Ukraine. I understand all the complexity of this decision, for both the East and West of Ukraine. I appeal to the nation to accept this with an understanding that we have a unique chance to unite people on both sides of Dnipro. Ukraine has a polarity which cannot be resolved with another election." Channel 5

I decide to leave a little earlier for the office and swing by Maydan etc. On my 20 minute ride to the center, radio ERA is not even covering Yushchenko’s announcement. They are actually playing a song: “…obla-di obla-da, life goes oooon…ohohoh life goes on…”. I flip through all the radio stations: nothing. Back to radio ERA where the newscaster is now going through the morning’s press headlines. Of course nothing. The printing presses were well into their run when Yushchenko made his announcement. Now a story about a German putting together a soccer team comprised of elephants. Still nothing about Yushchenko. Finally at the hour mark a brief casual announcement that Yushchenko will confirm Yanukovych and that Moroz, Regions, and Nasha Ukraina have signed the “Universal Agreement”.

Arriving at Maydan I see no one. Not a single activist. All tents quiet at 8am. Bankova: nothing. Cab Min: nothing. A few black Mercedes with VR plates escorted by cars with flashing blue sirens pass me on the streets but no activists. At the VR: nothing. No one out. Nothing on 5TV but a recurring story about some Japanese Xylophone musician. Finally a couple re-runs of the 2am address. Then Ukraine appears, at 09:30, on CNN immediately after the Isreal/Lebanon headlines, and before Mel Gibson’s drunk driving charges. Now it’s 12:44, it appears Nasha Ukraina, has yet to sign the agreement, and it has been announced that at 16:00 Yanukovych will be sworn in as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Ukraine is now the top story on Google News, above Israel. BBC has a nice chronological recap:

21 Nov 04 Yanukovych declared winner of presidential election - protests begin
03 Dec 04 Election annulled
11 Jan 05 Yushchenko declared winner of re-run election
08 Sep 05 Yushchenko sacks Tymoshenko government
26 Mar 06 Yanukovych party wins most votes in general election
03 Aug 06 After four-month deadlock, Yushchenko agrees Yanukovych can be PM

In the bottom, bottom line, instead of being placed in jail for crimes against the people of Ukraine. The same individuals are now given control of the government.


Please let me wake up and realize it's all a nightmare. I did not just receive an SMS from my cousin in the U.S. with the news that Yanukovych will be prime minister. I did not turn on the T.V. to see the 5TV guy casually mention that the president has confirmed the nomination of Yanukovych. It must be a nightmare. Yushchenko would face the nation with his decision, not issue a recorded statement at 02:00 in the morning, right? Wake me up.

02 August 2006

Tension Mounts

Ukraine is waiting for President Yushchenko's address which will in any case be historic. No time has been announced and it's already 21:31. Rumor (unconfirmed) is that it will be just before midnight. At around 17:30 Yushchenko spoke to the T.V. cameras, in a voice strangely reminiscent of Marlon Brandon in Apocalypse Now, stating that the political forces did not reach an agreement and the "Uhoda" is not signed.

The Verkhovna Rada is in session and announced a "break" until the President's address which they agreed to watch in session. Apparently there is a fairly sizeable turnout on the streets. I'd like to see it for myself and may go there soon.

Finished Fort & 2x4's In Odesa

Our Fort made of 1x5.5's is standing strong! And my friend spotted a large shipment of 2x4's at the Port in Odesa. Could of used a few of those.

27 July 2006

A Fort for the Wolf to Blow Down

The future of the Ukrainian government hangs in the balance and the only thing I can think about is how hard it is to get a 2x4. You know, the standard cheap six-foot softwood stud. The kind one uses to build a loft in a college dorm room. The kind one uses to frame out a basement with, before the metal studs arrived and quickly became commonplace. The kids and I need them desperately so we can build our Fortetsia (fort). We can’t find this basic building supply here in Ukraine. They just don’t seem to be in circulation here. The kids and I canvass Velyka Okruzhna (the ring road). Through the swirling dust we look at the long lines of ancient Kamaz trucks standing on the side of the road, tilting precariously under the weight of their cargo. Their tail gates are open, displaying massive quantities of bricks, flagstone, garden stepping stones, large boulders, and quite an array of gravel varieties. Occasionally between the massive olive-green trucks sits a broad babushka, on a tiny stool, selling hand made brooms made of twigs strapped together on wooden poles. This was all very intriguing for us but it did not help us buy any 2x4’s. A lumber dilemma. “Maybe we should build the fort out of bricks” says Roman after seeing the mass of overloaded trucks of red bricks. “No” says Maya “We’re the middle pig, we’re building the fort out of wood.” Kalyna, chimes in “yeah, the wolf will huff and puff and blow our fort down”.

We arrive at EPICENTER. Each time I go into this store I am taken aback by it’s monstrous size: bigger than any Lowe’s or Home Depot I’ve seen in the U.S. More than 30 cashiers are hacking away at their registers. Sweating, socks and sandal clad shoppers dutifully wait in long lines with hardware piled high on their shopping carts waiting to pay 300 hryvnia for an imported German garden hose for example. I’m not an economist, but to me it’s some kind of an indicator of how disposal income is increasing, at least among Ukrainians in Kyiv. I didn’t run into a single foreigner in the place.

Again, the same lumber problem. The store seemingly has everything one could desire, in terms of hardware, but no 2x4’s. The kids grow impatient and start requesting a visit to the EPICENTER café, famous in our household. I actually like it. It’s large, modern and decorated in a trendy, New York style not to mention the great Ukrainian food served up cafeteria style.

Standing in this crowded mega-store, café pressure mounting from three hungry and thirsty mouths, I opt for these crazy 1.5 meter 1x5.5 pine boards that look like they are a composite of many smaller pieces (like scraps). Crazy to the tune of 35 hryvnia each (compared to a couple of dollars for a 2x4 in the U.S.). Expensive Kyiv.

So, in the end, we wind up building our fort with the 1x5.5’s and it seems to be going ok. Project completion is targeted for this weekend. Here is the construction team hard at work:

26 July 2006

Kivalov in the News

Ok, he's become a pet peeve of mine. I admit it. The latest is that he is about to put forth the VR's candidates for the Constitutional Court. The absurdity is unreal, beyond the baseline "surrealness" of politics here. (see article)

22 July 2006

Idiot Boy

Do you remember Kivalov? The head of the CEC when the presidential election was ripped off? The one who accepted a huge bribe to deceive the whole country?  Well, how disgusting is it to hear him on the radio (he’s a deputy now) giving his commentary on the political situation.  Are you kidding me? Is there anyone who is not disgusted by hearing him? I hope you google your name and read my words. YOU SHOULD BE IN JAIL LOSER.  SIT DOWN AND STAY QUIET FOOL.  Just to make sure google picks up on this: Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov, Kivalov.   Now go google yourself.

10 July 2006

BBC: Ukraine a Banana Republic?

My friend reports to me that BBC just called Ukraine a "banana republic". What does it mean exactly? Research item resulting in:

Banana republic is a pejorative term for a small, often Latin American or Caribbean country, which is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture, and ruled by a small, wealthy and corrupt clique. (from wikipedia)

Ok. Small? No. Politically unstable? Yes. Dependent on limited agriculture? No. Ruled by a small, wealthy and corrupt clique? um...wait that's a tough one...Yes?

I have been receiving emails from the U.S. asking if any of the local Kyivites care about the situation. From where I sit, if they do care, they sure are doing a good job of hiding it, because all appearances indicate that they could give 2 sh**s.

Tomorrow should be interesting as our soap opera continues to unfold. Tonight's cliffhangers: Will ByuT block the trybuna? Will the calls for a second maydan protest outside the VR be heeded (see maidan )? Will anyone listen to Yanukovych’s calls for a rally of his supporters at the VR?

Enough to keep me up at night? Not really. More like a story line of a third rate reality show.

Ukraine has more to offer than bananas and crooks.

Ukr-Folk Hip-Hop

That's how one of the bands performing at "Spivoche Pole" during Oleh Skrypka's incredible festival of Ukrainian folk art, craft and music introduced themselves. Multiple music stages. Singing groups that toured specific parts of Ukraine reported their findings by sharing the songs they learned there. Folk music from other countries (e.g. France) was also heard from the main stage as well as the whole gamut of Ukrainian music from traditional to hip-hop.

I relished one of those "aha moments" of how good it is to live in Ukraine. Sitting outdoors, in the open air with a view of the Dnipro and Patona bridge. The rhythmic music mixing with our kids laughing as they run through the trees and bushes building "forts". Beer taps flowing alongside trays of fresh dyruny. Spontaneous encounters with random friends leading to animated conversations. More music --- and the bonus educational piece: our kids seeing how a bandura is carved out of a single block of wood, and how a vyshyvka is weaved on an ancient wooden foot-treadle loom.

We visited the festival twice on Saturday and returned on Sunday for the grand finale: Oleh Skrypka's performance, while the moon ascended above the evergreens, and the two giant straw men (seemingly in the middle of the crowd) were set ablaze.

A world away from the pathetic political drama just a few kilometers away. Highly recommended.

07 July 2006


I immersed myself in the disgusting unfolding "drama" last night via Ukr. television. Now I feel unclean. I am very glad I didn't waste time following the whole agonizing formation of the so-called "Orange Coalition", only to see it lay dying a week later.

Yushchenko will not stop supporting Poroshenko. What's with that? My freind's astute observation: "I wonder what Yushchenko owes Poroshenko?"

10 June 2006

First American Meal

Our summer escapade to visit family in the USA has officially started. We boarded Continental 067 for Cleveland at London's Gatwick airport. The smiling flight attendant gave the kids their "children's meals". The kids were excited. "Our first American meal!" says Romchyk. The tray is loaded with fried chicken fingers, french fries, potato chips, and a Kit-Kat chocolate bar. Welcome to America.

08 June 2006

Crimea Induced Blogger's Block

It's been a long time since I blogged. Suffering from blogger's block. It all started with the crazy Crimea road-trip more than a month ago. The trip was so incredibly rich in varied and surreal experiences that I generated reams of notes and thoughts but ironically no writing output. The thought of sitting at a PC and coming out with the words became somehow inconceivable, and worse with everyday. To do our Crimea trip justice I should write a complete narrative... yeah right.

When I think back I see a movie montage of endless driving across steppes and winding up and down mountains. Crossfade to checking in and out of different hotels. In and out six times in nine days. Exploring the deserted pre-season beachfronts with their boarded up cafes like the “La La Land” in Alushta. The meeting with Dimri the real estate guy in Yalta whose parents are 100% Tatar, who spent 12 years living in Donetsk and now taught himself to speak and read Ukrainian and insists on raising his children as Ukrainians. “Where can I get Ukrainian books?” he asks. Hey…yevshan.com of course. Next scene we’re walking into the fortress in Sudak only to stumble into a medieval reinactment where fully suited knights are hacking at themselves with real swords. Big ones. Then, still in Sudak, a glimpse of the hotel restaurant where the lounge singer (from Lviv no less) lets each of the kids sing a song on the microphone. The oseledets was good. Oh yeah…the waitress told us how her 17 year-old son just finished a paper on the Holodomor. How proud he is to be Ukrainian. Hmm.

More driving scenes with empty pringles containers, squashed grapes and sprite bottles dropping out of the car when the doors open for pee breaks. Family roadside peeing: morning, day, and night.

Then there’s Koktebel. A fascinating beach and our walk in search of Voloshin’s house. There it is --- oops, closed for remont. Then I realized the boardwalk (no wooden planks here, like in the USA, but a granite and marble promenade) was particularly well done. Wait…zoom into a plaque hanging on the side of a stone fence…donated by Poroshenko, Kinakh, Tyhypko…hmm.

The sun was hot and bright on arrival in Feodosia. We loved the aura here – the small hotel we found even had a great swimming pool. Maybe the closing scene would be the view I had in the square in Feodosia as nightfall arrived and the flashing neon-sign on the wall of the bar in front of me read: “Bar-Tyr”. Yes, “bar-shooting range”. Strangely inviting. Fade to black.

26 April 2006

Chernobyl +20yrs

Thanks to a good friend for sending me
this link. That's all i have to say.

16 April 2006

Krym Journey - Odesa via Hazzard County

We left the house all pumped up to be finally packed and on the way. 2 minutes later we're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the ring road. But after this hiccup, the road trip to Odesa rocked. The road is really excellent. My guess it that the highway is about 90% complete (i.e. new road, new signage, and even overpasses to minimize intersections). Only small patches were still the old road, but even those did not have potholes or other hazards. The feeling of actually doing a road trip with the kids was very liberating. The rolling hills, newly seeded fields, trees just about to turn green and huge cumulus clouds on the horizon were moving in their intensity. The natural beauty of the Ukrainian nature made the time go by almost effortlessly. In Cherkasy Oblast we were pulled over, with a group of other cars, by DAI for speeding. He showed me 111 km/hour on his hand held device. I was never really clear on what the speed limit is. There aren't any speed limit signs, except sometimes in towns where the 70 km limit is clearly posted. Outside of towns I was operating under the vague assumption that the limit is 120. Oh well. Here we go with a DAI conversation that went from decent to bad with every minute that I did not pony up the cash. With every line he filled in on the Protokol he was getting more and more agitated. He gave me it for signature, which I did, but I noticed a part on the form that allows the "porushnyk" to explain the situation. Why not avail myself of this opportunity? So I wrote, in my block Ukrainian letters, what the road situation was. A group of cars. Cars in front and behind me...and so on. Now he started yelling at me and calling me "nechemnyj". I told him I didn't mean to insult him, but he kept yelling about how I am not conducting myself properly. Considering that we are in the middle of nowhere in what has suddenly become Hazzard County in my head (I could just picture the country judge, the country sheriff) I decide that it's probably not smart for this to continue. The DAI was spitting as he raged, now moving into how Americans have money and a standard of living and Ukrainians don't, and do I know how much a DAI officer makes in a month? Just when I'm about to reach for some cash... he throws my docs into my lap and says "Just go". And go we did...quickly. It was good to see the Odesa Oblast sign.

Arrival in Odesa was just after nightfall. The trip totalled 5 hours and 15 minutes including multiple stops at the modern Lukoil gas stations to visit their excellent toilet facilities. No problemo. The hotel in Odesa "Frapolli" is great. We have a balcony overlooking "Derabasyvska" (a cafe/restaurant street in the heart of Odesa) and a PC in each room (which I'm writing on right now). Today it's onward to Krym. No reservations, no commitments, no obligations. True vacation and a touch of adventure.

15 April 2006

Krym and Hacking our DVD Player

Ok. I don't know if Krym is ready for us but we are cruising down as a family unit to check it out. Ola and I have been to Yalta, but this time we're driving down with the goal of exploring the whole coast and anything along the way that seems interesting.

Sidenote for geeks (like me). With visions of 11 hours in the car with the kids, I purchased a portable DVD player at a store here in Kyiv and even though I was told it would play Region 5 (eastern europe -- dvds sold by stores here) it was actually a region 2 DVD player. No dice with our USA dvds or Ukrainian ones. "WRONG REGION" blinking. Hmmmm. This region crap really blows (i'll spare you the rationalization behind my next steps). I turned to Google and within a few keystrokes I had an exact description of which keys to press on my remote control to access the "secret menu" on the dvd player. Once the secret menu was up one simply selects the region number or VER255 for all regions and viola: a multi-region player. USA and Ukrainian dvds play perfectly.

Sunday Afternoon

One of the things I like about Kyiv. A stunning visual moment getting to the top of Prorizna at Volodymyrska. (Photo by Ola)

06 April 2006

Black Water

04:05 am
My great-grandmother’s black travel trunk, that crossed the Atlantic twice in the early 1900’s, serves as my night stand.  The things that are on it are a battery powered,  imitation 1930’s analog alarm clock, Andrew Wilson’s Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, a reading light, my glasses and my black Motorola; alarm set, plugged in to charge. It’s the Motorola that vibrates and rings at 04:05 in the morning with a familiar name flashing on the blue screen.  It can only be a bad thing when one of your manager’s names lights up on your phone at 04:05. How bad?

04:50 am
I arrive on the second floor of our new building and the smoke is still too thick to see across the workshop floor. Someone hands me a wet cloth that I hold to my mouth while walking into what looks like a thick fog to see where the fire had been.  Now fully extinguished, by a Ukrainian designed and installed sprinkler system, it had been in a small contained area yet the volume of black smoke it generated was enough to fill the entire workshop.  No injuries I think to myself. That’s a good thing. I look down. The bottoms of my boots are hidden in one of the large pools of black water. I swirl it around and wonder where the drains are?

05:30 am
I wash my eyes, mouth, and nose out as best I can and drink some milk to counteract the smoke.  It tastes good especially compared to the evil smelling smoke from burning synthetic materials. Floating chemicals. I’m a little high actually – no, not in a good way. A little anxiety starts here. Insurance? Equipment damage? Will we open in time for business? And what about the grand opening five weeks away? Did I sign those fire regulation “Nakazy” or are they buried in one of my “In” piles?  What’s with this spinning in my head?

06:10 am
The authorities are here now. Joy. MVS officers with star covered epaulets, experts with black jackets and combat pants; everyone but the firefighters (Pozhezhnyky) who have not yet responded. I embark on my now scripted ‘government inspector’ song and dance, playing their game, while my team wastes valuable minutes scribbling on “Poyasnenia” documents instead of dealing with the mess.    

06:30 am
Morning cleaning team arrives on schedule and gets right to work (interesting). Off-shift cleaning staff is called in to help.  I am amazed at the dedication with which they work to clean up the acrid mess. No complaining, no finger pointing, just solid, efficient work. Screw anyone who thinks Ukrainians don’t work hard.  

07:10 am
I pull up the video camera archive on a PC.  There it all is. 03:31, small flame, larger flame, smoke, and water.  Eerie. I think back to that design meeting where I voiced my opinion against a video system, not wanting a big brother feel. Now I’m checking the archive footage for the second time in one week. Last week we caught a shoplifter on video.

09:00 am
Management team meeting.  Things worked; other things failed; no one was hurt. This time. We document the issues and develop an action plan.  I propose we get our emergency response planning shit together. Everyone nods.  

03 April 2006

a What's On moment

Ah. A moment of fame Kyiv style. Thanks to the What's On copy writers, Ola and I are shown with our aliases. The exhibit opening was "Silent TV" at L-Art. In the artist's words the works were inspired by his television which he keeps on silent. Worth checking out.

Billboard Epilogue

This is an example of what many formerly political billboards now look like. Impressive array of colors, the phrase fragments, the layered political and consumer images. Kind of like the campaigns.

Orange Chronicles Gets Some Press!

(Photo from Gazeta PO Kyivsky, Yuriy Sapozhnykova)
In the Saturday, April 1st, "Gazeta PO-Kyivsky" (Russian) Damyan and his project got a full page! You can read it here. The paper reports a circulation of 355,000. Not bad coverage.

It's really an impressive documentary done from a people point of view rather than a political recap. If you have a chance to see it at the various screenings Damyan's arranging around town it's well worth the effort. Soon he will know if it will be aired on UT-1.

29 March 2006

Total Solar Eclipse Visible from Kyiv

Looking from Kyiv at 13:06 (according to this table) the Sun will be totally eclipsed by the moon today. Read about the Solar Eclipse here.

Update: I guess I read the table incorrectly, because nothing really happened. I was reading under "Maximum Eclipse". Next I will try 14:14 the table entry under "Fourth Contact" adjusted for Ukraine (GMT +2 hrs).

28 March 2006

Yujlka oh Yujlka

Ran across this animation (in Russian) of an ode to Yulia by some boys you might recognize from Donetsk. Check it out.

Ukraine Votes V

So it looks like I was a day off in my prediction. The votes are now 87% counted. Yanukovych is a player again albeit with no real political force to form a coalition with. (Did he really congratulate Lukashenka? -- why am I surprised). What will his job be?

Personally not happy with Pora-PRP's performance. I thought they would fare much better. I know several people that weighed Viche vs. Pora-PRP and, in the end voted for Viche.

I watched an entertaining interview with Vitrenko last night on Ukrainian T.V. She has an exit poll showing that she received 30% of the vote and claims that the Yushchenko admin-machine has applied all its evil forces to deprive her of her rightful place in government.

Our Ukraine has to be pissed with this result, but hey, the Ukrainian people have spoken. It's pretty clear they don't want the wishy-washy, concilliatory Yushchenko methods. They DO want to see direct action against being stifled and held back in their pursuit of whatever it is they feel they want to pursue. Please, remember the one year anniversary of the OR on Maidan? Yushchenko with the stack of papers, plowing through page by page vs. Yulia with her seemingly off the cuff fiery speech. Maybe Our Ukraine should have hired some high-power Washington PR firm like regions did. There's an orange arrogance within their ranks. I think the whole maydan/orange campaign was a mistake. Let me get this straight. No falsification/Gongadze perpetrators behind bars, crooks in your ranks, a deal with Yanukovych, a shady gas deal and you're going to promote "Ne Zrad Maydan". How about, "Ok we've made some mistakes...but we've got the vision and we'll get the job done".

Question to those who voted for BYut: Did you vote for Yulia because she is the so-called "lesser of the evils", or do you really believe that Yulia is the right answer to move the country forward?

All in all, Ukraine did achieve free and fair elections acknowledgement from the west. The exchange rate hasn't budged. People are still going about their business working and spending money. The economy remains stable through an election campaign in Ukraine which should be good for attracting foreign investment. Let's hope for this suggested coalition to be established in short order so the political forces can stop the posturing and form a government that starts doing some work. There is much to be done.

27 March 2006

Ukraine Votes IV - CEC Progress Trend

If you trend the regular CEC result updates on Ukrainska Pravda the counting progress is accelerating. Assuming it will continue accelerating at the same pace my predicted completion time is around 1 am. My completion estimate is based on Microsoft's math. Reliable? Here is the actual data, the trendline is not shown.

Ukraine Votes III - 20% Counted (12:41 Kyiv Time)

Regions 25,54%
BYuT 23,61%
Our Ukraine 17,28%
Socialists 7,7%
Communists 3,41%
Lytvyn 2,72%
Pora-PRP 1,36%
Vitrenko 2,01%
Viche 1,31%
Kostenko Plushch 2,5%
Green 0,74%
Ne Tak 0,69%

In the Kyiv Mayoral race with 4% of the votes counted, Chernovetsky is ahead with 33% of the votes followed by Omelchenko and Klitshcko neck in neck at around 21%. What would it mean if Chernovetksy becomes mayor?

26 March 2006

Ukraine Votes II - First Exit Polls 22:00

Well the first results are in 33% Regions, 23% Byut, 14% Our Ukraine. These are based on exit polls as of 18:00, 18,000 voters polled.

Ukraine Votes

On the way into the city for the girls' ballet, this election day morning, the only unusual sight was the abundance of grey billboards where once the political ads had been. Ukrainian law demanded that political advertising be completely removed -- and it appears to have been implemented. On Khreschatyk however, instead of the orange Our Ukraine banners on the light poles, plain orange ones are hanging. What is that? Looks bogus.

Flipping through the TV coverage now. Most of the coverage is about long lines, and voters giving up and going home. Also, there were some complaints of there not being enough ballot boxes leading to overstuffing and an inability to insert ones ballot.

Just saw video footage of the orange banners on Khreshchatyk.

As of 21:00, 24,000 Ukrainian voters outside of Ukraine have voted.

25 March 2006


have a look for yourself more on neeka's backlog

Tennis Lessons at a Polling Station

As it turns out, the place Romchyk and Maya have tennis lessons on Saturday nights, in Nyvky, is a polling station. The corridor on the way to the courts is lined with posters for what seems like 100 meters. At the end of the hall two police officers are guarding the door to where the voting booths have been set up and the ‘vybortcha komisia’ is scurrying around getting ready for tomorrow’s elections.  The posters of right side of the corridor are all identical in format.
The name of the party, mug shots of the top five deputy candidates on the list followed by a text description of the party’s platform.  On the left, the posters have the name of the party at the top and a list of the all deputies on that party’s ticket.  It is pretty sickening to see the former head of the CEC, Kivalov, among others, high up on the Regions list. To add to the fun, underneath the posters are A4 black and white sheets for each Kyiv mayoral candidate. There’s a lot of text up there on the walls. It would take hours to read it all.  

Cousin D is in town from New York and now in Dnipropetrovsk observing the election. Cousin M, affectionately known as “Uncle Buck” due to his random appearances, is in from Chicago observing in Odesa.

Romchyk has quite a forehand, Maya just drank a bottle of Bonaqua water (no-gas). I’m off-line (no wireless at the polling station/tennis center) and wondering what is happening in Minsk where things were heating up when we left.   CNN showed footage of large quantities of militia forming…it was an ugly sight.

24 March 2006

Minsk Authorities Move In

a quote from another email:

460 people got arrested this morning at 4:30am

Tomorrow is a huge rally at 12pm at October Square. We will see if the opposition can turn their people out.

23 March 2006

Belarus - Waiting for Saturday

My main feed live journal user "lipski" with updates straight from the square, decided to put his reporting on hold until Saturday when the big rally is supposed to happen. Also, I received a copy of this email to a friend of mine from his friend:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ***************
Date: Mar 22, 2006 9:25 AM
Subject: Re: Sunday


Still alife...

Yesterday there were around 5,000 people on the Square around 7 pm. There were 11 embasadors. I was standing in 2 steps from one of them. Today I saw myself on TV in EuroNews. At night there were no light on the street where the demonstrators were standing... On the opposite side of the street the light was on...

Police was among the people and they were laughing at us...

It was snowing and was very cold... I got totally cold... And spent an hour and a half to get home... Today it was minus 9 in the morning. And it will be cold further...

There is not enough people... That is very bad! People are not ready. They are satisfied with what they have now. They just do not know a better life...

My best friend (*****) got to prison yesterday for 10 days for giving a 5 minutes speech yesterday on the Square...

People are afraid...

I was at the Square till 11:30 pm yesterday. Then I went home where continue watching EyroNews - the only channel here that shows something...

My morning begun from watching TV again...

Police is ready, lots of police. They are hiding not far from the Square...

March 25th we expect some sort of demonstration - it is a Day of Freedom that we celebrate annualy nonofficial obviously.

Lviv Teacher Fined for Using Admin-Resource

On the way to work this morning Radio-ERA had a story about a Lviv teacher that was reprimanded and fined for using a party platform newspaper as the text for a dictation exam. The quote used, referred the parties that currently call themselves the opposition, as russian colonialists that want to hand over Ukraine to Russia.

21 March 2006

The White Madonna (please)

Back to Ukraine for a moment...can't resist. A giant face of Yulia Timoshenko on a billboard in Chernivtsi is "crying". Miracle? Coincidental or intentional rip in the billboard in just the right place? Hmmm....

Whitehouse Supports Call for New Election

They did it! They came out again and even managed to put up some tents and spend the night. The U.S. has now come out and declared it's support of the call for a repeat election. The call is out to stay on the square all day and to rally again at night. Number estimates from last night vary depending on source.

20 March 2006

October Square Part 2 (Belarus)

I am addicted to the lipski blog. Apparently he's on the square. The updates are minute by minute. People are gathering. He's estimating 2,000 already. Let's hope for that logarithmic activization of the population.

Reuters Confirms Greater Numbers

Encouraging to see REUTERS report 10,000 protesters last night. OCSE press conference scheduled at 12:00 GMT to report their conclusions. There's a Minsk webcam link on Neeka's Backlog, here's the link to it: Click for Webcam

Belarus 3,000 or 30,000?

This morning on the way to work, Ukrainian radio-ERA had nothing on the election in Belarus except a generic statement about Lukashenko winning and Milinkevich getting only 6% of the vote. Nothing about whether or not Ukraine is recognizing the result. No statement from the ministry of foreign affairs. Maybe later. Neeka's Backlog has great coverage at: http://vkhokhl.blogspot.com/.

Look at the photos at the bottom of this page. It's from a key Belarus information site Charter 97 (English version available). Look at it while you can because they've been battling Lukashenko hackers to keep it on line. If it's offline, try a little while later.

I’d say there’s a few more than the 3,000 that Belarus police (and NYT, sadly) mis-reported. Also note that the snow was apparently machine-made snow blown on the crowd by the authorities. Last night, public transit did not go to the center and the subway was not stopping at the Oktyabirska stop under their "Maydan". Mobile phone service was disrupted as well (perhaps due to call volume).

Well, hat's off to the people who went out and partook in the unprecedented gathering last night. The call is out for a protest at 18:30 tonight.

02 March 2006

More Startup Fun

This morning, early, before being beaten down by the barrel of laughs called "startup", I did a showroom walkthrough to welcome customers and thank them for their car purchases. I met one gentlemen who was in the process of buying a car. I asked about his impressions of our customer service and handed him my business card in case he had any future questions or concerns. Later that same day, he calls me about his new car handover experience. To show the customer the engine compartment, where to add windshield washing fluid, etc. our sales consultant opened the hood and propped it up with the support. Said sales consultant, apparently a little flustered, forgot to remove the rod holding up the hood of the car and tried to close the hood by forcing it down so hard that he drove the supporting rod down into the body and ripped a hole through the quarter panel from the inside out. Not a good customer experience. Or was it? Maybe it was actually the customer that did the damage and was now in cohoots with the sales consultant so that the car gets repaired at company expense? Not a bad deal for either of them -- screw the company. I will speak with the sales consultant in person tomorrow. No doubt there will be some elaborate all-encompassing explanation. Truly interesting where the creativity in my employees lies. If only to channel it the right way.

23 February 2006

ok. i am being buried (officially)

Ok. Take a company of 200 employees and move them to a brand new 9000 sqm building. Then open for business before the toilets work while the state of the art heating system cranks the office space to 30 deg C with no apparent control and the bank breaks its agreement to run our cashier points. Blow up all of our business processes as we know them and then have no time to rebuild them because the front doors are flooded with customer traffic. Of course, the customer traffic is a good thing. Only it makes you panic to serve them all. So many slipping through our fingers now. Make comments to your management team and hear up and down rationalizations and justifications. I thought we were past this already. Silly me. My bad. This is a test for sure. Thanks for the venting.

09 February 2006

Orange Kyiv Returns

Ok. Someone is playing games here. The blue paint job lasted three days and then one morning: Kyiv appears in orange again. It's like two oligarchs are playing some petty game. Trivial but strange.

04 February 2006

Blue Kyiv

Thursday morning the kids, on the way to school, claimed that the Kyiv sign was painted blue. It was too late for me to see since the sign was behind us already. The next day I pulled over by the sign and sure enough the once orange sign was now hand-painted blue. Clearly an amateur job: one can see at the edges of the letters.

Fairly new of the billboard scene is the "ne zradj maidan" and brand new is the Klitschko face with a curious graphic in the lower right corner. It says TAK! Klitschko with the same TAK! logo Nasha Ukraina uses. Did I miss some news? Did Pora-PRP and Nasha Ukraina get together or something? See the billboard collection here.

02 February 2006

Nice Phone

This is the telephone technology used by the guy that runs the self-proclaimed number one nuclear power in the world?

[Quote from AP: MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has new missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system and said he had briefed the French president on their capabilities.
"Russia has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," Putin said.] [courtesy of Marko H.]

31 January 2006

Did The Cashier Smile?

Have you looked at the back of a Billa grocery store receipt lately?

A. "Your opinion is valuable to us"
B. "We are striving to improve our customer service and appreciate your feedback"
C. "Did your cashier smile at you? Yes or No"
D. "How much time did you wait in line at the cash register?"

Quite an attempt at denting the severe lack of customer focus here. Wish I had thought of it. I feel that all too often I allow myself to be beaten down to certain amount of passivity building customer service at my company. Nothing is shocking anymore when I'm out in Kyiv. You'd like me to search my pockets for exact change? Ok, sure. Time to wake up and pretend I just arrived. Good service is catching on here. Or is it simply a copy of an Austrian Billa concept? Like a lot of things here, in the end it is what you want it to be.

30 January 2006

A Miniature Protest is Still a Protest

Cousin Yarema, 18, showed up (unannounced as usual – we’re used to this already -- it’s ok) from Kolomyia for his “session” – a part of this off-campus degree program where he goes to class for two weeks followed by exams. In a conversation the other day, when I asked him about corruption in academia he related a story to me. At his college in Kolomyia, the school was charging 10 uah for each missed lecture. Each student had to pay up at the entrance to the final exam or access was denied. Deemed unfair and illegal by Yarema and a few of his classmates, they prepared leaflets and began to rally support for a protest against the administration. The administration met with him and his colleagues and threatened them with expulsion from the college. In spite of this, the “miniature protest” as he calls it was staged and the whole student body skipped one lecture in unison. Remarkably, the administration acquiesced and did away with the 10 uah charge. There’s more. Buoyed by their success, Yarema and his activists began to visit other colleges to try and repeat the protest for the benefit of others. These attempts failed miserably due to lack of interest from the students. Maybe those students weren’t skipping classes?

A Sign of Progress vs. Discrimination

A new law effective January 1st of this year prohibits indicating gender when announcing or advertising a job opening. This will be a shock to many managers I'm sure. In my experience, every once in a while a male manager will still say "You can't place that job a on the back of a woman. She won't be able to handle the stress". We're talking about a sales manager spot here. My usual response is "Did you ever witness the birth of a baby? No? Well I recommend you experience it and then we talk about stress handling ability." Sidenote: in general, my female managers far out-perform their male counterparts. Surprise. Surprise.

19 January 2006

Boxes and Tape

It’s midnight. I’m sitting in this office for the last time. The last box is packed; tomorrow I begin working in our new building, a fresh start. I threw out reams of documents. Some in the garbage and some in the shredder. Almost four years of meeting minutes, action plans, punch lists, travel folders, manufacturer product info, project files, lawyer’s briefs, outdated correspondence. I kick back and take in the bare walls, empty file cabinets and shelves. So many hours spent here. Building some things and breaking others. Receiving customer compliments and their harassment. Listening to employees personal tragedies. Deaths of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children too. Heart attacks, cancer, hit-runs on the street. Listening to the joys: births of new babies, pictures of weddings, and tort in office just because it’s their birthday. Making big decisions and trivial ones. Hiring and starting careers. Firing and ending them. Trying to get a customer to sign a big contract. Listening to vendors trying to get me to sign their big contracts. Doing the “inspection dance” with the parade of inspectors in green polyester and fraying epaulets spewing their bile about how they can write the results (the protocol) one way or the other depending on “the weight of your arguments”. In this office I’ve been recorded without my knowledge, and blackmailed with said recording. My life has been threatened and guns have been “shown” to me. Lately, knowing that I’m moving to a brand new office I’ve pegged this office as a “shithole”. Well I need to retract that. It’s not a shithole. The things I experienced in this office are an important, indelible part of me. I'm done now: my business life neatly packed in boxes and tape. Adios.

18 January 2006

Ukraine Last Week, January 9-15

The Central Election Commission announced that 45 party blocs are officially registered for the parliamentary elections in March and consequently many issues have to be resolved. Among these is the design of the ballots themselves which are now projected to be 80 cm long. 250 deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, back from their holidays, voted for the dismissal of PM Yurij Yekhanurov and the Cabinet of Ministers due to their handling of the gas supply negotiations with the Russia. President Yushchenko, in Kazakhstan at the time, decided not to shorten his trip and return to Ukraine downplaying reports of a “political crisis”. He then decreed the year 2006 to be the “Year of Kazakhstan In Ukraine”. In a call-in show on Radio-ERA, 1230 callers were against the dismissal of government 211 were for it. Yekhanurov first stated he is Vykonuyuchij Obovjaskiv (Acting) Prime Minister later retracted his statement claiming the VR acted unconstitutionally and he was in fact still the Prime Minister and the Cabinet was still the Cabinet. Meanwhile the chief lawyer of Ukraine, Minister of Justice Serhiy Holovaty, informed us that there were, in fact, legal porushennia u rehlamenti (procedural violations) by Speaker Lytvyn while conducting the vote. On top of that there is currently no legislative base in place which allows the VR to form a new Cabinet. Of course Holovaty was one of the guys that was fired. Yushchenko appealed to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to rule the VR decision unconstitutional only this court is short judges because new ones haven’t been approved yet by the VR. An AN-24 passenger plane was forced to do an emergency landing in Kharkiv because of a smashed windshield. No one was injured. A law was passed that requires 20% of the blockbuster movies shown in Ukrainian theaters to be dubbed in Ukrainian. The week progressed and Yulia continued to take heat for teaming up with Yanukovych and the Commies to further her personal, political ambitions above the interests of Ukraine. Moroz said “At this critical moment of negotiations with Russia the people of Ukraine are looking to their government for unified leadership not for a political show”. Lutsenko said he considered the VR’s actions as treason against the national interests and security of Ukraine and would like to bring those responsible up on criminal charges. Seven more miners were buried alive. Rescue crews went to work. The EC in Brussels acknowledged the legitimacy of Yekhanurov and the Cabinet of Ministers even after the VR vote. In neighboring Russia, a knife-wielding assailant stabbed 11 people in a synagogue in Moscow. A few days later, in Rostov-on-Don a 19-year old medical student attacked worshippers in a synagogue with a broken glass bottle after a chat with his rabbi. In a chat with journalists broadcast on all Ukrainian TV channels, late Friday night, Yushchenko criticized the moves of those behind the VR’s recent decision and explained his view of the gas situation with Russia. Also on Friday there were sensationalist, eyewitness accounts of Ukrainian military units seen assembling in the Obolon region of Kyiv near Moskovsky Bridge. On Saturday Yushchenko said he will call for a national referendum on the issue of Constitutional Reform in Ukraine. “Do the people want the government of their country changing with every whim of the VR?” Also, Yushchenko rescinded his signature and terminated the memorandum with Yanukovych stating that Victor Fyodorovych had not complied with the terms. Forbes magazine in its 2005 recap listed “Billionaires of the World”. Weighing in at $2.4 billion was our very own Rhinat Akhmetov (258th place). Also on the list at a humble $1.3 billion was Victor Pinchuk (507th place). More on the gas thing surfaced when Minister of Energy, Ivan Plachkov, stated that Yulia had setup a Delaware based company to transport Turkmenistan oil. Now that Ukraine will not be buying Turkmenistan oil she has been cut out of the proverbial loop. Meanwhile, Ukrainian researchers have developed green pigs. One could see them on TV. They were…green. At a Zoo in Northwestern Ukraine a 12-year old boy decided to jump the fence and feed crackers to a brown bear that proceeded to bite both the boy’s hands and arms off at his elbows. In Nahirsti, Lviv a four-year-old child was killed and five adults injured when the driver of their Mercedes mini-bus lost control and rolled it in a ditch. The Fitch rating agency lowered Ukraine’s rating from “positive” to “stable” and Standard & Poor’s left its rating at “stable”. The long-awaited Gongadze trial opened with one of the three defendants, Mykola Protasov being rushed off in an ambulance, for high blood pressure, resulting in a postponement of the hearing until January 23rd. The alleged murderers did not enter their pleas during the proceedings. In Mukachevo, people gathered from all over to partake in the grape at the annual festival of red wine. Meanwhile, President Yushchenko announced that Ukraine should prepare its own nuke fuel instead of selling the raw Uranium to the Russians and buying it back after enrichment. This, of course, raised press eyebrows around the world. Finally, Ukrainians occupied a lighthouse in Yalta and the Russian black sea fleet commander claims it’s his. No it’s not. Yes it is. No it’s not.