29 September 2007

"Dolls" Exhibit Opens!

Ola's new art exhibit opened successfully last Thursday, 27.09.07, at Suzirya on Jaroslavyj Val 14. The exhibit will remain at Suzirya until October 14th and is open for viewing throughout the day, including weekends. More details here.

Ola's description of the exhibit:
"Dolls, more specifically Ukrainian dolls, are not just representations of human beings but symbolic in various ways. For some, nostalgia for childhood and for others simply toys. They can be cute, awkward, still or alive, but never perfect just like us. Most amazingly they say so much with silence and their simplicity."

Ukraine Advances No. 7 Car Market in Europe

Ukraine continues to climb the charts in terms of automotive markets in Europe. Good for business. Bad for traffic. In August alone over 51,000 new vehicles were registered in Ukraine. (Data Courtesy of Auto-Consulting)

26 September 2007

Stagebuilders on Speed

If anyone, other than billboard owners, is making any money on these elections it's the stage builders of this town. Massive stages complete with walls and ceilings are erected for a day of political propaganda and then hastily disassembled. Up and down they go. All over the city. Here is PoR's, on Maidan - almost as big as Elton John's.

25 September 2007

Putin's Dacha Neighborly Relations

Similar to my oligarch neighbor, it appears Putin's causing waves in his dacha neighborhood too. interactive map from WSJ

20 September 2007

Morning Commute

On Tuesday half my management team was two hours late due to yet anothergrizzly accident on Moscow Bridge. Two dead.

Kyiv Post just published an relevant article: Surge in roadway accidents detected.
...fatalities grew by 22.9 percent from 4,425 deaths in 2006 to 5,596 in 2007 DAI head Alexei Kalinskiy said that accidents are up by 34.8 percent during the first eight months of this year to more than 163,000 compared to 120,000 recorded during the same period in 2006.

Tips for surviving your commute based on my observations: drive a big car with air bags, stay out of the left lane when there is an opposing traffic lane and no guard rail, and don't drive fast.

Political Creatives

Saturday was the last day poll data, regarding the elections, could be released to the public. If I heard correctly on Radio ERA while driving the girls to ballet, at this point the polls look like 34% PoR, 23% BYuT, 11% NUSO, and small stuff, under 3% for socialists, commies, and others. From now on, no ratings.

Kyiv is fully pasted over with political propaganda. Three main types of outdoor advertising is in use. The standard billboard, the rectangular, hanging over the street "Trolley" adverts, and the sort of flags/banners that are affixed to telephone or light poles along the sides of the streets.

The parties in their wisdom and their counseling from professional PR people have taken some different approaches:

Of course we have the braid...

The glasses....

and more glasses...

then the arm...

heck, schemes PoR, Yanukovych's mugshot isn't exactly eye-candy, why not just put up our amazingly cool slogans:

and the commies take a whole wall....

17 September 2007

Morning Commute Observations

Traffic. Pollution. People waiting for marshutkas. People following the rules of road. People breaking them. Black smoke clouds billow from an ancient bus that lumbers down the road tilted a little to the right. Fender-benders with drivers squaring off, screaming into mobiles and gesticulating at one another. Major accidents see photos here. I passed this scene en route to work last Tuesday morning -- though after the bodies were removed.

Many interesting customs, bordering on superstitions, pervade Ukrainian society (per my exposure to it). Don't shake hands across a door entrance way. Don't speak about a baby before it's born, etc. One thing that is NOT apparently taboo is showing dead bodies in the media: T.V., in press, and online.

It is very strange seeing dead crash victims during my commutes. I've seen at least a dozen during the last few years. The pedestrian that was crossing a highway, at night, dressed in black (and drunk?). The two teenagers thrown 10 meters from their moped. T-shirts, no helmets, and lots of blood. Corpses trapped in cars with dutiful men from raytivnycha sluzhba using massive hand tools, "jaws of life", to rip sheet metal and get access to them. There's this instant dissociation that occurs in my head. Like I'm on a movie set. It's not real. They're actors. But they are not actors. They are real dead people I pass on my commute.

Svoboda Slova

I learned and interesting tidbit today. There are actually TWO Svoboda Slova's now that Savik Shuster has moved his show from ICTV to INTER (for which he is being sued).
Apparently, there is also one on 5 Kanal, hosted in Ukrainian. So I no longer need to decipher Mr. Shuster's Russian (although it has become a lot easier for me lately). Friday night political T.V.

My Neighbor the Oligarch

I have yet to see the oligarch but I know he exists. His home construction, eight houses down the street from us, is not yet finished. I do know he visits periodically. On my way home I sometimes see his black and grey Rolls Royce parked in front of the site looking incredibly clean on the yellow dirt and construction trash. The Oligarch's Rolls is never alone. Oligarch cars travel in packs. The supporting collection of Sport Utility Vehicles, a Mercedes, a Lexus and a Toyota Prado, also park in front of the construction site. The malnourished looking drivers stand in a little circle of Pryluky tobacco smoke nervously gesturing to one another and glancing at the site entrance lest one of the bosses exit. What are these extra vehicles for I wonder. Security personnel? Friends? Part of the his entourage?

We have some big houses in our neighborhood, but generally people keep to themselves, park their cars inside their two meter walls and mind their own business. The road we live on was peaceful until Rolls Royce Oligarch started visiting. The road is lined with houses on one side and a national park forest zapovidnyk on the other side. In the evenings people stroll on the road. When I turn the corner I typically see a pair of mothers each pushing a baby carriage with one hand and holding a plastic liter bottle of Chernihivske in the other. I see men walking dogs and old women, in their year-around snow boots, walking cows home from the pasture. If I'm returning from work late in the evening less people are walking and more are congregating in small groups at the intersections which have at least a single light post working. Teenagers laugh and play music on their mobile phones and old ladies with their hair covered in scarves gossip.

A few weeks back everything changed on our street. Actually, the street itself changed. In the span of five days the Rolls Royce Oligarch built a second road, 10 meters to the left of our current road and parallel to it. He cut out a piece of the Zapovidnyk and laid a road down in five days flat. I am sure all the permits for cutting into the National Park were secured legally and transparently. Not. Witnessing the daily progress led me to conclude that things can get built insanely quickly here in Kyiv. The mohorytch's (sp?) that he (or his people) organized almost nightly during the construction, right there outside, by his new road, must have been part of the permitting process. All this construction of course begs the question: why did he build this second road immediately parallel to the first road? My question was answered in the next few days when workers started building a wall from the existing front wall of the Oligarch's house, across the old road and turning a corner at the border with the new road. The Oligarch was unhappy with the size of his front yard and decided to expand it to encompass the area of the street that passes in front of his current fence. To accomplish this he needed the second road so that others could still get by. So now all the neighbors have two roads in front of their houses. One that stretches across the front of all the houses on the street (the new one), and the old one that also stretches in front of all the houses on the street EXCEPT one Rolls Royce Oligarch house.

11 September 2007

Yulia Addresses Western Investors

Yulia Timoshenko - BYuT's Contract with Investors was a carefully managed meeting between Yulia and EBA and AMCHAM members in the recently opened Hyatt St. Sophia. The room was packed. Simultaneous translation was provided for those that required it and press kits included english and ukrainian version of a three page policy summary entitled "Contract With Investors". At the end of her impressive speech, she made a point of signing two copies, handing one to the head of EBA and one to the head of AMCHAM. I really dug the results oriented approach in everything she spoke about. Tangible project steps were outlined and timelines were stated. Like all good politicians she outlined broadsweeping reforms in a wide variety of sectors. Her answers to questions from the audience were concrete, thorough and intelligent. She seemed on top of the issues.

In a bizarre twist near the end of the meeting, an elderly man in the back of the room stood up and introduced himself as a Congressman from the USA. He then proceeded to quote the bible and lectured Yulia not to succumb to pride as a result of all the media attention. Again quoting the bible, he recommended that she not allow herself to be isolated from the counsel of many wise people in the citizenry that may seek access to her. Yulia, listening through the simultaneous translation, had a quizzical look on her face. Not sure where this was going. Finally, the self-proclaimed Congressman concluded with: "I was recently back in Washington for a visit and I was asked by various high-level officials about what it was like in Ukraine. They were particularly interested in what 'this Yulia Timoshenko' was like. I answered that Yulia is a visually a pretty woman, conducts herself always as a lady, thinks like a man(?), and works like a horse." what?

If I had to pick between BYuT, PoR, and Nasha Ukraina, (which i don't) it's a no brainer to pick BYut. Like my journalist friend commented at the meeting. "She takes a lot of criticism but she is definitely a strong force in Ukrainian politics. She will be around for a long, long time."

As an aside, in conclusion, she announced the launch of her english-language website www.ibyut.com today and encouraged the meeting participants to visit it.

An Eight Month Break

Time flies. I decided to take little break from the blog and little very quickly mushroomed to 9 months. Wow. Well, I'm still here and Ukraine is still here. Time to blog again.