Posts tagged communism

Looking for a particular rock


My flower bed with begonias

I haven’t written on this blog for a week or so, I have either the Carnegie to work on or weeding the many gardens we have on the farm.  I’m not complaining and am grateful for the health and energy to do both.  When one sees vast improvement, that gives further motivation to keep going. The other day, however, I was working with several areas that we see out of kitchen window while doing dishes.  I asked my husband if he could tell the difference and he didn’t.  Oh well, *I* know that the quack grass that I had pulled several months ago was back covering over the cream colored bricks and it was also covering over the other bricks by the bird bath.  I wanted the big rocks to show that had been handled by my paternal grandpa, taken out of our rich, Red River Valley soil. I also have a couple of rocks from my mom’s side of the family that her dad, my grandpa would have handled and taken out of his field in North Dakota. The only thing is that they had to do yearly rock picking because there were rocks that kept emerging. Contrary to that, you have to go a LONG way on our fertile soil to find any kind of rock.

Speaking of rocks, several weeks ago I was using my power gloves to weed one of our vegetable gardens. My folks had come out to help. My dad does the spin trim around buildings or he goes out in the back woods and mows the tall grass down.  I DO remember when I was trying to yank my one left glove off, it was stuck and not moving.  I yanked some more and finally it gave way.  The funny thing is that I never looked to see why the glove wouldn’t give way. Instead, I kept working with pulling out the weeds or raking the ones I had already pulled or what my mom had pulled. I placed (rather threw down) my gloves on the lawn near the south edge of the garden. Later I picked them up again to do cutting of tall, nasty weeds south of one of our barns.  I was outside long past the time my folks went back into town. During these LONG summer nights, my usual time to come indoors is about 10:10 or 10:15 p.m.  The days are supposedly getting shorter, good thing, because that decreases my time to be out working!

I went to bed after a shower to get all the weed dust and dirt off of me.  At 3:15 a.m is when I reached down to my left hand to find that I was missing my diamond that Ken had given to me 23 years ago.  I went to the bathroom to see that only the four prongs were showing and at that moment realized that what my glove had been stuck on were one of the prongs. Thus, my diamond was somewhere in the vegetable garden perhaps covered up by snow peas, tomatoes, yellow beans or worse yet, in the grass nearby. At about 5:30 a.m. I went out with a flashlight to fruitlessly look around for any glint of diamond. I went back inside to write my first newspaper article that I had been struggling to write.  I had a kind of passion or empathy for the person I was trying to highlight due to my own loss.

When I had gotten back into bed I told my husband that I was missing my diamond. Maybe he was not fully awake but he said something to the effect that it was just a diamond and that it would get replaced.  I had that same feeling too…just a diamond that had been worth a LOT back when my husband had money to buy it.  Since I had been trying to write an article about an artist from Czechoslovakia who had been imprisoned for his rallying against communism, I compared my loss to his. For 3 1/2 years total he had been tortured, lost his dental practice, his health and almost his family of wife and two sons.  He got out soon after Prague Spring and ended up in New York jobless and then my hometown.  For almost as many years as he had been in prison, he lived in freedom and painted and painted for a livelihood.  So to compare my losing a diamond to the life he had gone through, that was my thought too, it was just a diamond.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t go out to weed and water my vegetable garden and look for that particular rock.  There are many rocks and broken pieces of glass in this particular place.  It could be that it was not even IN the glove at the time I struggled getting it off and that the prongs were there to resist.  No one had ever told me to get those prongs snug to the diamond but now I know to do that with the new diamond that my husband helped me pick out. I should be getting it any time in the next week or so.  It will have six prongs and I will wear it with pride.  I know I have a husband who loves me and my Mom and Dad do too.  They helped to pay for some of this particular rock.

Yes, lesson learned, I will have to take off this precious jewel whenever I am gardening because that is a lot of abuse it takes as I tug at the weeds that resolutely want to stay in my garden where they are NOT wanted.


Flatlands of rich soil that my dad mows down

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“Journey for Freedom” from Czechoslovakia

I have been interested in what happened in the small country of Czechoslovakia, especially around the late 1960s.  According to my husband who knows such things, there was what was called the “Prague Spring,” This happened when Novotny, who was a Stalinist type ruler of communism, was replaced by Dubcek.  This next leader wanted to present to the Czech people “communism with a human face.” That happened in spring of 1968 where people, who had been living as a satellite nation under communism since 1948, were given fresh hope. However, by August 20, 1968, that is when the USSR invaded Prague and replaced Dubcek with another leader.  Many horrifying things happened during this time period to those living in Prague and elsewhere in the country of Czechoslovakia. I have had students, while teaching in Kyiv, Ukraine, write about what their grandparents and parents survived during that tumultuous time in 1968.

Talking to someone about the artist Antonin Boubin, who lived in my hometown from 1970-1974, they told me about a motivational speaker named Peter Vodenka who wrote a book titled “Journey for Freedom.” He planned with his wife for ten years to leave his homeland of Czechoslovakia to experience freedom in the U.S.  He did NOT even tell his parents or other close family members what they were planning to do. Then he left by way of another country with his wife and two young children. His escape was figured out and subsequently followed by police gunfire before he reached the safe zone inside a free border. I need to get this book. Though it is self published, by all reviews, it promises to be a riveting read. Peter first ended up in Beach, North Dakota working a menial job because he did not know English. However, he has progressed to being a motivational speaker and doing many other things while enjoying his American freedoms. I wonder if he ever met up with the Boubin family members?

While looking up ANY information I could about Antonin Boubin, I found this written by his granddaughter, daughter to his son Olda. She wrote the following about the persecution her family in Czechlozovakia had suffered from 1948-1969.  “Because of increased fear of the death of his family, my grandfather and his family eventually fled from their country. Grandfather and his oldest son (Tony) first travelled to Vienna. Then, using fake passports, my father and grandmother escaped on the last train to leave Czechoslovakia before the communists closed the borders to travel. My dad’s (Olda) last memory of his country of origin was incredible fear that they would be discovered. While on the train, a young boy spat at a Russian soldier. The train stopped and both the boy and his father were shot and killed.  Eventually in 1969, my dad and his family were sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Crookston, Minnesota where my grandfather Anton lived for a couple of years before his death in 1974. Unable to practice his dental profession, he made a meager living providing for his family by painting beautiful paintings from his memories of beautiful Czechoslovakia.”

Antonin Boubin, in order to make a living for his family, during the 3-4 years of his freedom in the U.S. did many paintings which are prized by their owners.  I have made a copy of one of his paintings, I hope to see many more in August when owners will get together to compare notes about what they knew of this great man.

colored poppies for paper

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Fenced in Wild Pigs in the U.S.

The following story is tragic if it becomes true.  I’m watching things become dismantled as fences are being put up…read on.

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question.

He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line.

The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn.

“When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. “They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America.

The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to send this on to your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably ignore this warning.

But, God help us all when the gate slams shut!

Quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered by those who vote for a living.” — Anonymous

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Sholpan’s 50 year old Soviet Postcards

woman on black lacquerThis past weekend I scanned at least 35 old Soviet postcards that are about 50 years old, some are older, both the picture side and writing on the back. Sholpan, my officemate and Russian teacher, trusted me with these relics from the past. This one is a painting of a woman you would find painted on a black lacquer, Palik box. What I find amazing is that few of these artists put their names next to their renderings. Usually artists from the West will put their last names on the canvas either on the bottom right or left of the painting. “All for one and one for all” was the mentality back in the Soviet days. No one was supposed to get credit for a job well done, you were just to do your job for the good of the communist cause without taking credit. Those artists with God-given skills were not to be recognized for their gifts but to just keep quietly painting. Of course, some of these paintings were replicas of other noted masters, copycats. The names of the artists I can decipher on the back of the postcards are Sergiva Hodoshnik, Demler, Lebediv and two Polish artists Monica Sheronski and Nehring. I wish I knew the history of some of these talented individuals and what it was like to paint during the Soviet Union times. Was there an Artists Union like there was a Writers Union? During the era of communism you probably had to be politically correct in what you drew or painted or else you were banished to oblivion (i.e. Siberia). Hmm…not much has changed for those who work hard and have talent and skills that are envied by others. The following is from a fairy tale called the “Golden Antelope” based out of India, I think. The other is a cute cartoon showing courting dragonflies.deer flightdragonflies

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Pope John Paul II’s legacy


Don’t know what this building used to function as but it is in my neighborhood in Almaty. Perhaps an old church, maybe some prominent families cemetery plot? In any case, people continue living even after the mighty have fallen. We all need heroes and I just finished watching a superb movie titled Pope John Paul II, he was a hero to millions and died only four years ago. He was born in Poland in 1920 and saw much in his years on earth. The following is from the (Internet Movie Database) website which gives a summary of this man’s life played by both Cary Elwes and then Jon Voight. Excellent acting, highly recommend this movie if you want to find out how Pope John Paul II helped fell communism.

Following the premature death of his mother, Karol Wojtyla is brought up by his father in the Polish city of Krakow during the first half of the 20th century. An outstanding student with a magnetic personality, he dreams of becoming an actor. When his homeland is invaded by the Nazis in 1939, he and his friends secretly oppose the systematic persecution of their Polish culture. But, with the death of his father and the lacerating solitude which accompanies this loss, Karol’s personal “resistance” takes on a new form and he decides to follow a priestly vocation. At the end of the war, Poland falls into the grip of Soviet totalitarianism. The newly ordained Karol is constantly surrounded by young people whom he teaches to safeguard and defend human dignity. He could be considered a serious threat to the regime, but the Communist authorities merely see him as an innocuous intellectual and even encourage his nomination for the position of bishop. Karol Wojtila is the youngest bishop in the history of Poland. When he is appointed Cardinal, Karol is more intransigent in the spiritual guidance of his homeland, becoming a real and proper thorn in the side of the Communist government. And the whole Catholic world begins to wonder who he is. On the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978, the cardinals of the Conclave decide that Woytjla is the right man to lead replace him. Thus Karol leaves his beloved Poland to become Pope John Paul II. His free, unconventional attitude alarms several prelates, but immediately wins the hearts of the people. In a age paralyzed by fear and ideology, the new Pope shows everybody again the overwhelming fascination of Christianity: this is the beginning of a deep change, which will affect the whole world and the Church itself, as a sort of “contagion”. He miraculously survives an attempt on his life in 1981, and not even this event curbs his mission. Thanks to his unshakable tenacity , Pope John Paul II helps to change the course of history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 decrees the collapse of Communism. But the Pope does not stop being the voice of Christ, even among the injustices of the capitalistic Western world, even among the provocations and challenges of modern times . The Great Jubilee of 2000 is the most moving evidence of his mission: 3 million young people in love with the Pope gather in Rome, bringing with them the whole world’s hopes. This world has learned to look to him, now old and shaky, as a ray of light in the heart of darkness.

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“Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl” (Part IV)

Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya

 p. 130 Dec. 2, 1934 – Around eleven they announced that comrade Kirov, a member of the Politburo, had been killed in Leningrad . “O-oh, my God!” Evgeny exclaimed.  His voice was full of tears.  I felt a little ashamed that nothing inside me shuddered at this report.  On the contrary, I felt glad; that means there’s still a struggle going on, there are still organizations and real people.  Not everything is gobbling the slops of socialism.

p. 132 Dec. 11, 1934How could I refute their mindless, mechanical arguments: “If you’re not for the Bolsheviks, you’re against Soviet rule”; “this is all temporary, things will get better”? Were those five million deaths [of the famine as a result of collectivization] in the Ukraine temporary? What about the 69 people who were shot? [referring to those arrested and executed without a trial right after Kirov’s murder] Sixty-nine!! What government under what rule could pass such a sentence with such cold cruelty?  What nation would agree to all these outrages with such slavish meekness and obedience?  How I cursed my stupidity and inability to express myself.  How could I, with such strong weapons as the facts and the truth, not prove to my sisters the lie of the Bolshevik system? I must be extraordinarily inept.

p. 141 Dec. 30, 1934 – Many days have gone by since Nikolaev, a member of an underground terrorist group, murdered Kirov at the Smolny [Kirov’s murder was in fact organized by Stalin who saw in Kirov his main rival.  The murder also gave Stalin a pretext for unleashing his campaign against “enemies of the people.”]

Many lead articles in the papers have screamed about it, and many parrots and Soviet self-seekers, shaking their fists, have screamed over the heads of the workers: “Get the viper!” “Execute the traitor whose cowardly shot snatched from our ranks” and so on. And many so-called Soviet citizens, who have lost all sense of human dignity, have behaved like beasts and raised their hands in favor of execution.

Today they shot another fourteen “conspirators” and all for one Bolshevik life.  It made me think of the nineteenth century reign of Alexander II and his assassination of the People’s Will.  What a furor people raised over the execution of the six assassins.  Why is noone incensed now? Why is this now considered perfectly natural and normal?  Why is it that now no one will tell you straight out that the Bolsheviks are scoundrels? And what right do these Bolsheviks have to deal with the country and its people so cruelly and arbitrarily, to so brazenly proclaim outrageous laws in the name of the people, to lie and hide behind big words that have lost their meaning: “Socialism” and “communism.”

…what do they think abroad?  Can they really be saying there, too, “That how it should be?” Oh, no!  My God, when will this all change?  When will we be able to truly say that all power belongs to the people, that we have complete equality and freedom?  What we have not is not socialism, it’s the Inquisition!

P. 173 May 19, 1935 – Yesterday the huge eight-motor aeroplane Maksim Gorky – not only the pride and glory of the USSR , but the biggest plane in the world – crashed.  (As for its being the biggest, I don’t know anything for certain, and you can’t trust our newspapers.)  The Maksim Gorky took off accompanied by two biplanes, one of which was flying too close when it began looping loops.  The biplane hit the wing of the Maksim Gorky and damage it: the 65 meter behemoth came tumbling down, somersaulting, slashing the bright expanse and losing parts.  Of the beautifully built giant, there remained a gray and red metal heap and 47 mutilated bodies, which a minute before had been living, thinking, feeling people flying high over Moscow

It [Maksim Gorky] wasn’t built for a purpose, for transportation or for the military, but so that the Soviet Union could occupy one of the top places in the world, so that we could say, “Look what engineers we have! Look what giants we create!” We do so many senseless things for show: we do so much boasting. And because of that boasting, we suffer.”

 p. 194 Nov. 28, 1935 – Mama and I went to Butyrka [prison to which Nina’s father had been transferred from internal exile after his latest arrest]

 p. 199 Jan. 11, 1936 – I’ve been reading about Tolstoy and have again fallen under his influence.  I’ve always had a passion for self-improvement, and now I have the clarity of self-criticism, merciless self-revelation and frankness.  I find more and more in common with Tolstoy: his unfortunate looks, his early tendency to self-analysis; his pride and even his vanity; his endless searching for something and his restiveness.

p. 202 March 16, 1936 – I went to see Papa not long ago.  He has grown a beard and looks like a priest.  He’ll be leaving soon for Alma Ata [Nina’s father had been sentenced to three years of exile in Kazakhstan ].  I love him now. 

p. 209 Nov. 6, 1936 – It’s my opinion that a diary is an unnecessary and superfluous thing; it is of no use whatsoever and therefore a detriment.  A diary can’t develop one’s style and it’s no good to posterity.  So then what is it for?  Still, I do like to write about what’s inside me, to tell someone about it.

p. 211 Nov. 20, 1936 – Papa once said: “Don’t get into that ‘top-marks mire’” [to excel in a Soviet school one had to be not only bright but politically orthodox and active as well.  As a result, the students who got the best marks tended to be opportunists or people without convictions]

p. 211 Nov. 26, 1936 – We have a bad attitude towards the teachers; it’s something repressed and malicious.  We don’t have the new, good attitude—what they now call the “Soviet” attitude.  We all want to annoy them, to play dirty tricks and then refuse to say who did it rather than betray a friend (that is what earns our respect)


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“Turn-of-phrases” – Part II

Here is a continuation of Colin Thubron’s book “The Lost Heart of Asia.”  He certainly knows how to turn a phrase.


“Slowly, as we laboured east, the land heaved itself out of its sleep, tossing shallow ridges at the horizon.  Sun and wind had stripped all life from it.  We went through old Silk Road towns, leveled by Mongol invasion.  They had revived into a polluted industrial life: the bungaloid cotton centre of Chimkent, the grimy chemical plants of Dzhamboul.  Then evening came down with its gentleness over enormous wheat-fields, more like feats of nature than of men, and the westernmost ranges of the Tienshan reared from the skyline in cloudy snows and downland green with woods.” (p. 320)


“Yet from my balcony in Almaty there was no sign that I was in a city at all. I looked across parklands where the spires of a cathedral hoisted gold crosses against the mountains.  Its people numbered over a million – more than half of them Russian – but its grid of streets, mounting southward to the Tienshan foothills, ran half-empty through hosts of oaks and poplars.  Sometimes, so dense were these trees, I imagined I was walking along tarmac tracks through a forest.  Behind them the chunky Russian offices and flat-blocks spread anonymous for mile after mile.  The air blew up sharp and pure from the mountains.  It was like a suburb to a heart that was missing.


It was the Russians, of course, who had raised and nourished it.  All its institutes and monuments were theirs, from the fountained boulevard of Gorky Street (now renamed Silk Road Street) to the soulless hotels and war memorials.  But now the city belonged to nobody.  Communism, Marx and Lenin streets might be renamed after spectral khans who had ruled the steppes a century or two ago, and ministry facades be veneered with pseudo-Turkic motifs; but the Kazakh culture had no true urban expression.  Less than three generations ago virtually the whole nation was split into a haze of migratory villages.  Its early rulers were lost, most of them, even to saga; and its modern heroes had been selected by Soviet propaganda – secular poets and thinkers, whose statues adorned the boulevards unloved.  For decades the Kazakhs had been a minority in their own country.  And now this alien city had floated into their hands.  They were curiously unencumbered, even by Islam: a tabula rasa for the future to write upon. (p. 232)


“The Kazakhs seemed doomed to mimic their conquerors.  For days you might hunt here in vain for native artifacts.  Even the city’s origins were Russian, founded in 1853 as the wood-built garrison-town of Verny.  Squashed among stucco and concrete, a few timber survivors, carved with gables and filigreed eaves, evoked a homely, unceremonious place, like a frontier village. Even the gingerbread cathedral, tossing up spires and domes scaled like fantastical fish, inhabited its parkland with a florid innocence, as if a child were celebrating God…” (p. 327)


“Bards were the keepers of Kazakh culture.  They sang heroic sagas yet gave voice to common feelings.  Their music pervaded all events – the leaving and return to war or pasture – and conveyed an ancient morality.  But their mantle had fallen on nobody.  Music and literature paled under Soviet censorship, and I wondered – now that independence had dawned – what had become of the Kazakh drama, once the purveyor of Socialist Realism?” (p. 328)

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