Archive for July, 2008

Pulling Weeds and 1932-33 Holodomor in Ukraine

Today was THEE day to pull out vicious weeds from my various flower gardens.  Since we got a blessed 4/10ths of an inch of rain last night, the thistle and itch weed were extracted easily.  The 4-5 hours I was outside playing havoc with those evil weeds, I was thinking about American education and what they “intentionally” leave out of world history books.  I believe not many people in the U.S. or other western countries really know what happened in Ukraine 75 years ago. (Sadly, many don’t care.) Ten years ago I honestly had NO idea what tragedy Ukraine went through in 1932-33 with the Holodomor (Terror Famine). We simply know from our history books that American farmers were focussed on poor grain prices and the rest of Americans were mired in the Great Depression.  Or for that matter, even less is known by many westerners about what Kazakhstan and other countries of the former Soviet Union endured during collectivization. 

I don’t normally put in links on my blog but this one about Ukraine and their memorial of remembering those who died of starvation is something I couldn’t resist inserting.  I hope my reading audience has a better understanding of my passion to get this information out so that more people are aware of what bad government can do to good people.  Turns out that after the 1917 revolution those communist elite who mimicked Lenin’s words of “religion is the opiate of the people” did not have a clue what a relationship with God was really all about.  Yes, admittedly religion can be dried out and oppressive if going through motions and rituals. However, many of those Ukrainian farmers mowed down by Stalin’s edicts to eradicate “kulaks” who owned small plots of property and worked hard off the soil of the land were merely God-fearing peasants.

Those professors in academia who want to suppress this truth about the evils of the Soviet Union in their hallowed halls of our American institutions are not being intellectually honest.  They are trying to promote their socialist, Marxist agenda once again but now this time they are trying to vilify Christians who may have a simple faith in God and are just ordinary citizens.  Instead of “kulaks” who were persecuted 75 years ago and starved to death, now they are going after the big corporations as the evil entities.  If those who in power had their way, they would want all those entrepreneurs and others who are in business to make money through the capitalist system to be punished.  However, if that were to happen those lower in the chain of command would lose their jobs and we would eventually have another Great Depression.  That is, if the intellectuals had their way and wanted to start a class warfare which seemingly worked in the 1930s.

These very people in the ivory towers who want their young students to believe in Utopia little realize they are trying to preach a certain poisonous opiate of their own concoction.  “Opiate” and “Utopia” share many of the same letters (can you tell I’ve been playing lots of online Scrabble?) These dishonest professionals are attempting to drug the younger generation in believing that Christians are evil and that their hardsell for Utopia or the nothingness of postmodern de-constructionism is the right way to think.  Ron Vossler has a new book he is working on which, of course, he says it way better than I ever could.

The following is one of the many projects from Ron Vossler’s website: Communist East Dakota: How Twenty Years Teaching at a Midwest University Turned Me into a Republican. This irreverent book—a Hunter Thompsonesque account of a fictional adjunct teacher perched on the lowest, dung-smeared rungs of a backwater Prairie University —portrays an academic Don Quixote, who after discerning the deep Marxist bias prevalent in American higher education, wages a humorous battle against the dark forces of left-wing propaganda that pollutes both his colleagues’ and students’ minds.

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Photos from our MN Farmyard

I don’t have much to write on Kazakhstan obviously being back home on “vacation” in NW MN.  Today I should have quoted from Ron Vossler’s latest book “Wedding of Darkness” but I already gave it to my Mom for her to read.  Quick read of three riveting accounts of what happened to Ron’s relatives who were left behind in Odessa, Ukraine area.  A misnomer to call them “Germans from Russia” really because geographically his relatives were living in what is today called Ukraine, they just happened to speak German. Back then when they immigrated to Dakota, their orientation was Russia because that is what the czar in Russia expansively referred to Ukraine as, Southern Russia.  Therefore, Ron has a difficult time explaining that whatever the Ukrianians went through with the Holodomor (Terror Famine of 1932-33), his ethnic group went through it as well just because they happened to be in the way of the great Utopian ideology touted by Marxists.

This year the Ukrainians are memorializing 75 years since the “Great Sadness” where families were tragically torn apart.  Good lines in Ron Vossler’s book as he poetically weaves together pieces from interviews he did with his “Germans from Ukraine” relatives who left for the U.S. after the 1932-33 starvation period together with primary source material and what Ron read from old Dakota newspapers he translated from German. 

Ron’s life work is tied up with resurrecting what happened to his dead relatives and the mystery of silence that prevailed in his Wishek, North Dakota surroundings.  Finding out about his relatives tragic past, changed his life.  Ron wants reconciliation, as do I, in our current history books about what REALLY happened under a despotic government that went more than haywire, it went crazy against families and personal property.  All in the name of collectivization and the great Utopia.  (BTW, Utopia does NOT equal heaven, it’s true meaning is “nothingness”)  The Ukrainians and the Germans from Russia who happened to be good, hard workers and owned property were targeted first under Stalin’s purge in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  They were reduced to owning nothing and even their lives counted for nothing!!!

Currently I’m reading a book on Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, simultaneous to that I’m reading the No. #1 bestseller “The Shack” by William P. Young.  The latter was a self-published fictional book and it describes a man’s “Great Sadness” of losing his young daughter to a sadistic serial murderer.  I’m half way through and can see why it has fallen through the cracks and not published by the Christian circles or the secular ones.  Simply, it is NOT smarmy enough with sex scenes but also it is not orthodox enough in its theology for Christian publishers.

However, the main character in the Shack apparently works through his sadness and I think that Ukraine and other countries like Kazakhstan can work through their “Great Sadness” if the truth of the atrocities are brought out in the open.  Similar to a rape victim never quite healing by keeping silent, so too have history books worked against the millions of victims and their families by not exposing what communism actually did to ordinary people while the Soviet Union existed. 

Then I reflect on holiness and what Kazakhs, Latvians, Estonians, Russians, Germans from Russia, Ukrainians and a host of other nationalities had to go through under the bloody hands of Stalin.  He and his cohorts were all about materialism and accruing wealth and power.  Stalin forcibly had thugs seize what possessions had been in families for generations, but namely love, communication and trust were destroyed. 

Getting back to Ron Vossler’s short account in “Wedding of Darkness,” the village church bells were taken down from every steeple throughout Ukraine.  Also, from a local newspaper account I read of that era a western observer witnessed church bells sitting on a wharf in Odessa (port city on the Black Sea).  These bells were about to be melted down to be used for machinery and equipment.  Holiness vs. Materialism, it is a war we all wage in our hearts and I’m reminded that my MN farmyard is not my home, heaven is.

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Rare “Dacha” Moment Sequel

What I forgot to mention in my last blog posting is that the evening we watched the ORANGE full moon come up, fireflies were also something to behold.  Once it was dark, they glowed brightly against the backdrop of our densely, grassed woods.  So, to look at the sky above with stars glittering and then look at eye level to see miniature stars twinkle was part of our rare moment.

Also, I neglected to add that we have a wren or two who warble their happy melodies, always a welcome sound.  Now that we have the thistle seed up, we have our regular, bright yellow finches back.  Of course, without us they have plenty of wild thistle to eat from but it is like the birds “fast food haven” to go to our feeder.  The other night as I went out to see how the wild raspberries were doing that some birds “planted” out west under the western shelterbelt trees, I saw some raspberries were already ripe.  Our domesticated ones are not that far along yet but it won’t be long that we will enjoy raspberries on our breakfast cereal.  What got me really excited to not only watch the remnants of a spectacular sundown but also to HEAR the howls of the coyotes out west.  I tried to call Ken out to hear but he had already retired to the house.

We have some pocket gophers that are playing havoc with our raspberry patch.  These varmits dig up beautiful rich, black soil but when they start getting into the lawn, we must put a stop to that kind of ambition.  I don’t know if flooding them out will help or what to do.  I remember my grandpa would sit out on the front porch and use a BB gun to get the little rascals that were creating mounds in our front yard.  Not sure what animal rights people would say about that but once you let a gopher family in, the rest of the colony will arrive post haste.

Ken has been watering with a hose our Braeburn apple trees as well as our grapes, hopefully we will have some grapes to harvest this year from the oldest vine.  I’m not sure how much we can harvest and make into jelly of the apples and raspberries since we have to be back in Kazakhstan by mid-August.  I have rhubarb I could make into sauce today.  Last night we enjoyed some store bought blueberries on our ice cream thanks to our good friend Ron Vossler.  We three enjoyed a picnic outside by grilling chicken shashlik and catching up.

It has been about a year since we saw Ron and he had just returned from a Ukrainian Holodomor/genocide conference in Dickinson, ND.  He told us stories of his recent trip to Ukraine where his relatives were from.  He has been to Ukraine about seven or eight times before.  He is a prolific writer concerning what he has unearthed about his own people (Germans from Russia) who left the Odessa, Ukraine area to settle as pioneer farmers in North Dakota.  His own relatives of two generations ago were starved out by the communist regime in 1932-33 when the Holodomor (Terror Famine) had labeled industrious farmers as “Kulaks.”

On my early morning walks along the gravel roads I look around the perfect beet fields and impeccable grain fields that surround our little hobby farm, no weeds!!!  I ponder what our German farmer neighbors would do if they were forced to join the collective.  What if these prosperous farmers were told they had to hand in all their equipment to the government because they were NOT supposed to own their own property or work for their own profit?  That is precisely what happened 75 years ago in Ukraine and also in Kazakhstan to the nomads who happened to be good shepherds and owned large stock.  The Kazakhs did not fare as well with collectivization due to their lack of experience.  However, Russian and Ukrainian farmers, who were sent down to Kazakhstan to take over the open spaces fared much better with their collective farms.

Our God-given freedom is a very precious thing, our freedom to earn money by hard work is rare.  That is why I am enjoying my moments in Minnesota especially since it is mosquito free.  Wonders never cease.

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Rare “Dacha” Moment in Idyllic Minnesota

Yesterday evening was perfect with the usual splendid sunset but mostly it was idyllic because we participated in watching the full moon come up ORANGE in the eastern sky.  Ken and I sat in our lawn chairs to watch it as if watching a parade procession.  I had earlier finished a game of horseshoes with my Dad.  For those uninitiated in such sport, it is an old farmers game with two stakes in the ground about 12 meters apart and using two horseshoes each to try and get a ringer (3 points).  I enjoyed a come-from-behind victory and beat my Dad to 21-17 points.  We hosted my folks to a vegetarian type dinner last night.  That is a new diet for my Mom after her “episode” at the hospital.  Then I walked her around the farmyard so she could see what weeding I have accomplished thus far.


We first looked at the gooseberry bush that had been freed from quack grass and that is when we saw the beetles eating away at the potato plants.  Fortunately, Ken had the immediate remedy for those bugs with plenty of  Sevin powder, he took care of that problem.  Then I showed my Mom, the overgrown flower beds that desperately NEED work and the petunias I had put in where black earth was showing.  (only two places out of about 15 qualified!)  I bemoaned the fact that I have a clematis that has many purple flowers and buds but the trellis is not sitting up properly, seems that tall, stalky weeds are supporting it.  I showed her a thistle that is nearly two meters high in one of my flower gardens. 


Then we briskly walked over to the old vegetable garden where about 75 irises were transplanted.  The irises mostly bloomed despite the transplant this spring but all are purple it seems. Sadly, the corn my folks planted is not doing well.  However, we discovered that the salvia plant I put in last year is actually a perennial along with the oregano plant. Both are thriving.  I was hoping for basil but not to be.  I’ll have to make pesto with the cilantro that volunteers itself every summer.  The plum and maple trees seem to be iron deficient, they are looking rather yellow with age but are only about three years old.


We also looked at my dopey looking peonies that were past bloom and then on to the five grape vines that I had also freed up from quack before our trip to TX and AZ last week.  I am happy to write that our apples are coming along nicely from a tree that my brother Tony planted about 25-30 years ago.  Ken thinned out the little apples the other day, so we should have a good crop of big juicy apples to harvest when all my siblings and nephews and nieces come up for “Cousin Camp” in a month.  I showed my Mom the three Raeburn apple trees I had dug around, they are struggling but will prevail.  She planted them from seed several years ago and now they are about a half meter tall.


We ventured into the back glade behind the two barns and there were the two walnut trees that Liam planted about four-five years ago.  They are nearly 3 meters tall and then I proudly showed my Mom our BIG apricot tree and three pear trees. They haven’t produced any fruit yet as they are only about 4-5 years old. It must be in a different growing zone due to these trees are south of our large wooded area which gives good wind protection from the howling northwest winds from Canada and get full Florida type sun most of the day. 


To complete our tour we were back at the bonfire I had started with all the extra paper I’m churning out with our build up of junkmail.  Fortunately, yesterday I discovered our World Perks card with Northwest airlines and also our car tags that had gone missing.  I thought logically where both could be.  Once found, I felt free to BURN and I also have many piles of excess grass clippings to add to the fire.  I already dumped about nine wheelbarrows full in the ditch for mulch.  I probably have about 10 more to do, just like last year when I carted 20 loads full of newly cut grass.  Our lawn looks dandelion free and very lush. (Thanks Dad for keeping our lawn under control).  It took me two hours the other night cutting grass closest to our house and outbuildings.


Much to do inside and as it is raining today, I get a blessed relief from the outside tyranny of weeding and landscaping.  Yes, life on our Minnesota farm, which we lovingly call our dascha, can be idyllic especially when there are NO mosquitoes or flies.  Now that IS rare for Minnesota, indeed!

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“Procedure” – Misnomer for My Mom’s Adventure

After our wonderful trip to Texas and Arizona my Mom thought she would give us another kind of adventure.  Hospitals are foreign territory to me, I don’t like much being in them but I’d rather visit patients than BE one! My Mom had an angioplasty and angiogram done yesterday morning and those terms are also becoming more and more familiar to me as I hear of classmates’ parents getting them done.  Again, I don’t ever want to undergo this “procedure” as they endearingly like to call them.


So, I went to the hospital and I saw my Mom and she was raring to go and get out at 1:40 p.m. yesterday afternoon. I was ready to drive her back home 25 miles away according to our optimistic plan. Ken and I had arrived to the hospital about 10:30 a.m.   Her surgery meant that a tiny camera went through the major artery in the groin area up to the heart region where they took care of some of the build up in my Mom’s heart. Thinking only positive thoughts, I went with Ken to have lunch. 


After an hour I returned and the nurses appeared all in a flurry, they had just survived a certain emergency code. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know what color it was, perhaps RED alert! Apparently, the half hour before my Mom had gotten up to go to the bathroom and had eaten some lunch and was feeling nauseas and ready to pass out.  As it turns out her breathing did stop and they claim she had a heart attack, her heart stopped for six seconds.  My Mom was rapidly turning blue. 


So, I returned to a wrung out woman who was shortly thereafter whisked off by the efficient staff to ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and I sat in the ICU lounge until 6 p.m.  This scare made her realize she has to call off all her extracurricular activities and other volunteer work that she so enjoys.  I will have to supervise that she doesn’t do extra lifting of 10 lbs and other things she is so capable of doing.  My dear Mom is a DOER, a Mover and a Shaker at age 73.  She is still very much young at heart.


I suspect that this heart “procedure” was SOOOO effortless because when it was done my Mom didn’t even know they were finished as she was surrounded by the doctor and seven nurses with their big medical equipment.  I think she thought she would be up and out frisky as ever.  In any case, once she passes through this adventure that is misnamed as a “procedure” and should be clearly understood as an invasive surgery, she will be up around in no time.  I’m glad she is still with us.  Those four or five hours I waited up to 6:00 p.m. to see if she would rally in her ICU room, I had some forboding thoughts of missing my mother.

One thing I’m also thankful for is that I didn’t take her home any earlier than planned because I would NOT have known what to do with her in the half hour car trip if she had had this reaction to her sedative a little later.  Yes, her “Procedure” for her surgery is really a misnomer but thankfully it turned out to be just an adventure and not a loss of my dear Mom.


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Photos of Arizona Trip

First, it was encouraging to see all the work Luke and Sabrina put into their newly built BIG house in Prescott.  I’m all for closure when it comes to big projects like a house.  That was a very quick Sunday trip up and back from Phoenix.  Then we visited the next morning with my two aunts in Mesa along with seeing my cousin Mike and Maradel for breakfast.  Thanks Aunt Eleanor!!! 


Later we drove south of Phoenix to visit with Laura and Steve at Casa Grande (the BIG house) National Park.  Laura gifted Ken with a senior lifetime pass for the National Parks, he has reached that golden age of 62.  We lingered over many lemonades and Mexican food in Coolidge (close to Casa Grande) and looked and laughed at the great photos Laura took with her fancy camera.  Also, we watched on my laptop some of Laura’s course projects she had accomplished for her graduate studies.  We hope to be able to celebrate her graduation with an M.A. degree in landscape architecture next spring, the Lord willing.


Finally, we stopped in on some friends of ours from over 15 years ago on our way back through Chandler. Todd and Sally are responsible for being OUR matchmakers while we lived and worked in Kazakhstan the summer of 1993.  We have come full circle with being successful matchmakers ourselves after participating in the Houston wedding of two friends of ours who met in Ukraine eight years ago.


So, as they say, a good time was had by us even though some of our visits were on very short notice.  Thanks to all who made our dropping in a fun time after our arduous time of slogging away at our teaching assignments in a foreign land such as Kazakhstan.  It really is WONDERFUL to be home on U.S. soil again!!!

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Photos from Texas Wedding

beaming bridecutting cakeceremony
two married couples
two married couples

Ukrainian shirtsvows

These photos are in no particular order, just showing the happy occasion when two people became man and wife on July 12, 2008.  Ken and I are able to claim we are bona fide matchmakers now, though it was a “long row to hoe” as the groom admitted after eight years of courtship. 8)


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