Posts tagged Crimea

Heart wrenching news about Ukraine

Difficult to passively sit back and watch the events unfold in Ukraine as they are moving forward. The Ukrainians have taken three steps forward with their newly elected president but several steps back with what is happening in eastern Ukraine. Possibly the separatists are employing terrifying tactics of their own volition but I think the guy in charge in Moscow is not only encouraging it but aiding them. How do you get sophisticated missiles into the country to take down a Ukrainian plane that is landing at the airport, 49 dead as a result? Where do the tanks come from that are infiltrating Ukraine? Why do they not have their insignias on the armored vehicles or why do the agitator men NOT wear symbols on their clothes to show who they represent? This is an undeclared war that is going on and yet supposedly it is NOT happening because they are simply Russians who are dissatisfied with the Ukrainian government and want Russia to take over.

Meanwhile, the tourist trade is not faring very well in Crimea and that is a beautiful place to be at this time. The Tatars were aggressively moved out when Stalin wanted it for his own Soviet headquarters and now people who are catching on are leaving…that is, if they are able to now. I don’t know if they have the electricity or fuel or food they need. I believe they are living on ration cards now. So sad.

What I know from one of my friends currently living in western Ukraine is that some of the far eastern cities in Ukraine are without food, electricity or a means of transportation. Some people are hiding out in basements of apartment complexes because it is not safe for them to be in their homes or apartments. This means dire straits for those who do NOT want to be in this chaos. However, there are heroes who are doing what they can to help these people who want OUT!

My heart goes out to those who ARE helping people who have no means, Ukrainian unfortunates who are caught in the cross fire. I also know of brave, young men who are involved in the fight to help Ukraine return to order and peace. That is all anyone wants who LOVES their own country.

This makes me think of what would happen in the U.S. if it were to happen like that. Would we have people who would cave in and do whatever they are told by the “government?” Probably so, those who watch tv and are passive because they believe everything they are told by the media. Would we have others though, who would fight for our country to become what it used to be? I would hope so…for our grandchildren’s sake.

Freedom is important and so many people do not have that in their lives. That is the heart wrenching news from around the world. I continue to think about Ukraine…and Kazakhstan.

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Politely “Unfriended” because of Russian Politics

I have a “former” Russian friend or really she was more like an acquaintance from Kazakhstan who I knew several years ago in Almaty. Last week she informed me that her grandparents were from Belarussia, Moldova, Ukraine, Poland. They had undergone much heartache with the purges under Stalin. In no uncertain terms she told me that the Russians suffered under Stalin as well. I knew that.

She was responding to one of my posts on Facebook about the Ukrainian Holodomor. I guess she was warning me a week ago that I was offending her because she thought I was blaming the Russians for what is currently going on in Crimea. I told her I was very careful to NOT say that the Russians are attacking Ukraine but rather Putin is. He, in turn, expects people to follow his orders so those in the army, who happen to be Russian, are invading Crimea and eventually Ukraine. (I have an adopted Russian nephew whom I love dearly and I realize all Russians are living under some tragic circumstances, not of their own doing!)

I am careful to not blame the Russians because I realize they have been brainwashed about what really happened on Maidan. I was not there at Maidan, but I believe video clips and eye witness accounts from my friends who were there on the ground are reliable. Russia Today (RT) is not credible. That is why one American journalist, Elizabeth Wahl, had to quit. She had to step down because she admitted there was a lot of hatred being vented toward Americans. It continues to foment, unabated.

For Putin, it is all about hatred of the U.S. and other western nations. That is what he is broadcasting to his own people, believing there are Russians trapped in the former Soviet countries. He still has the Soviet Union mentality when it was a “super power.” I believe his own country is about to implode, economically and emotionally. His own people are not happy with the way things are going. Indeed, some are satisfied with Putin. In fact, they are very proud of the Russians’ records at the latest winter Olympics. However, talk to the people who lived next to all that construction in Sochi. I’m wondering if those construction workers who helped build all the opulent buildings for the Olympics were actually paid. I believe they were slaves who HAD to do this for Putin’s own ego.

In my devotional yesterday I came across several verses that applied to Putin from Psalms 33:16-19:
“No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety, neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him. On those who hope in His mercy to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.”

Yes, the Ukrainians have the famine of 1932-33 deeply ingrained in their very being. Those who survived told their families about it. They do NOT trust anything coming out of Moscow because of what happened last time. So, due to Russian politics, I have been unfriended on Facebook. I will be praying for this individual who is feeling hurt because she is probably misunderstood and feeling ostracized by other westerns where she is living in Turkey. (I’d hate to be living in Turkey next year, because of what the young Turks did to the Armenians in 1915, but that is another tragedy.)

Here is what my friend wrote to me: Sorry, I am writing you a personal message – not on your wall, just to let you know that I am unfriending you and blocking on top of it. I don’t really believe you know what God is – this is your personal opinion. Instead of living and being friends you are spreading messages of hate. You and people like you splitting others. All the best.”

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Kazakh Students’ Random Stories of Yesteryear

I am not quite finished with my survey about “Education in a Modernizing Society.” For now I’ll turn to some conversations Ken and I had with Kazakh students this past weekend.  Invariably, I ask young people about their grandparents and great grandparents, it seemed this group was not shy to tell us what they knew.

One girl when challenged was able to name her ancestors seven back.  She did so using her fingers to help remember where she was.  She was applauded by her fellow English learners.  Another fellow who seemed shy finally did talk about his grandparents but sad are those whose grandparents were orphaned during the Great Patriotic War.  In this one case the grandfather’s name of his father was found out but that is rare.

Another girl told of her grandparents being rich and able to go to Mecca but then when the collectivization started the grandfather buried all his treasure.   Her relatives talk about how they sure could use the treasure now and speculate where it could be hidden. That led us down a discussion of getting into business of selling metal detectors and finding the spoils.  The saying “Finders Keepers; Losers Weepers” came up and that had to be explained.

One girl said she didn’t have any grandparents but she still had a 94 year old grand, grandfather.  I thought and said “Wow, what a treasure.”  She didn’t seem so happy about it because he lives in her home and constantly wants to do “remont” in their home.  The only trouble is that he is nearly blind so we joked that if he were using a hammer and nails he might bang his fingers by trying to do reconstruction.  She actually took my admonition seriously about sitting down with her great grandpa to ask him questions about the past.  Maybe he wouldn’t be so eager to re-do their home if he had some attention paid to him.

Another girl talked about her grandparents who had many children in the village and about how the grandfather repaired radios and other electronic things but never charged anyone anything.  Her grandmother was a good seamstress. Yet another girl related that her grandfather had been in prison for 50 years, he was released at age 75 and had many more children after that.  He got his name cleared of whatever he was guilty of.  He had a wife before he was in prison and one afterwards, as I understood it.  Seems the visits by the wife meant that she would go home pregnant.  I think there were 14 in that family.

Several students that talked about their grandmothers getting “Hero Mother” awards for having 10 children.  In some cases the children may have died in infancy but it was encouraged back in the old days to have big families.

One guy named Ruslan said that his grandfather was working in the mines near Karaganda and he LOVED to play cards. One day he lost his horse in a game and had to walk home. He later told me about a Russian documentary titled “Wait for Me” but for the life of me, I can’t remember what that is about.  I think about the reuniting of families.  Oy, that is why it is important to write things down right away.

Finally, one girl who was part Tatar and Kazakh told of how her Tatar ancestors were from the Crimea region but were forcibly moved out by Stalin and some went on their own to Iran and then ended up in Uzbekistan.  She said she had visited Ukraine to see where her roots had come from.  She did say that her grandfather also fought in WWII and that he hated the Germans, he died in Berlin.

So, there was an interesting mix of students that gathered at American Corner this past weekend.  We will start up the films again and it was agreed that we would have tea and snacks before that and discussion of the film afterwards.  Meeting these Kazakh students is one of the perks of living in Kazakhstan.

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Astana’s Blue Hue (Part Two)

Today Ken and I bought a new 21 speed bike at a bike shop named Belo close to the American embassy.  It came with a bell, air pump, water bottle all for $400. I insisted that we also buy a German made helmet because the drivers here do NOT respect pedestrians or bikers, there could be some close shaves where a helmet could save a life. The bike is a Fuji Odessa which seems to be a globalized bike, mass produced in Indonesia.  Fuji has the Japanese ring to it with Ukrainian name of a city off of the Crimean Sea. What a wonderful day to ride it home from the bike shop.  However, not so great to carry it up four flights of stairs yet it is too long to put in our lift.  So, part of the exercise regimen now for both of us is to bike and do stairs saddled with a bike. Also, we must learn to jump curbs because the sidewalks are not altogether biker or stroller friendly. We will share it for the mean time.  I would love to bring my GREEN Cannondale from home to here in Astana, Kazakhstan, it is much lighter.  We shall see.  For now, see how beautiful the blue skies are in our new town of three months.  You can see the regal Presidents palace, also another building that looks like a dog dish and finally a ram on the bridge that I crossed to get home.  Supposedly a Muslim country shouldn’t have any pictures of animals or people on billboards or statues but then again, this Central Asian country is a hybrid of that faith with a lot of the Soviet influence still in place.  

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Sholpan’s Soviet Postcards (Part II)

chinese-children1Yesterday I blogged about an officemate named Sholpan showing her family postcards that are over 50 years old. They have stories to tell with each one, of course written in Russian on the back. I just like seeing the colorful greeting cards on the front. Sholpan told me the one sent to her with the playful Chinese children was sent from her father when she was only one or two years old. (Actually the babies don’t look too Chinese to me, probably painted by a Russian artist) He suggested at that time that her title would be “Dr.” Sholpan and later she did want to become a medical doctor, instead she is a Russian teacher. The other card from yesterday that I showed about International Woman’s day was written by her sister but as if Sholpan as a baby were writing to their mother. I found out more about the folktale showing the Mama goat and her seven kids while the wolf prowls around the corner of the house. My students told me the Mama warns her children to NOT open the door to strangers, but once she has left, the wolf uses a falsetto voice to trick them. (see yesterday’s blog)

happy-new-yearred-rose2Today I am showing a Happy New Year greeting card that was sent by her father’s journalist friend, Yuri Ozerov from Smolensk, Russia to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Another card with red roses was sent to Sholpan from her father again both published in the 1950s. Sholpan’s father, ever the romantic, sent a Congratuations card with Lilies of the Valley flowers on the front to Sholpan’s mother, Rahat. He was at Yalta, Crimea in Ukraine at the time when he sent it with his poem of love and admiration for his wife. He sent it December 1960 and claimed there were many beautiful women in Crimea but his wife, Rahat, surpassed them all. If I am able to, I want to scan a photo of Shopan’s father reading a book written by Abai. Maybe tomorrow.

crimea-congrats-poem

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