Posts tagged Ukraine

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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Lost Malaysian Jet and Humpty Dumpty Politics

Let the mourning begin. The closure can now happen for all those families whose loved ones perished in the Indian Ocean with the Malaysian airliner tragedy. I can’t even begin to know or understand what the family members went through with the misinformation that was thrown their way. Twenty-six countries were involved in the search and rescue and maybe that is what muddled things in the first place due to language and cultural barriers. They were trying to use the latest in technology and pinning the blame on the pilot. I have a difficult time believing that a pilot would willfully take down hundreds of people on a suicide mission. Once they find the jet’s black box and the bodies, they will know what happened. Until then, the puzzles remain.

I get many comments still on what I wrote on this blog over five years ago. I just got a comment from a Voron who is Kazakh, teaching in Malaysia. He was saddened by my misperceptions of his great country of Kazakhstan. I responded that I must have been having a bad day, week, month, well year teaching at the university in Almaty. I saw things that were over-controlled and dealing with minute details to the fraction of points on how to grade composition papers. What was most galling to me was the composition teachers would assign nearly impossible writing assignments which made it easier for them to grade but made it very difficult for students to write. If these same teachers had done their own assignments they would have found out what a crazy assignment it really was. Some of these “English” teachers could not put a sentence together in English to save their soul. I am still angry about what I went through under that system that was still very Soviet in nature.

It is true what Voron wrote that I didn’t have a chance to really know and understand what is under the surface of the Kazakh culture. I have a very high respect for Kazakhstan and what they went through in their long and troubled history. In fact, when I write about what happened in Ukraine during the Holodomor (forced starvation period of 1932-33), I cannot neglect to try and educate people that Kazakhstan went through the same devastation. You only have to read “The Silent Steppe: The Memoir of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin” by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, published in 2006 to know what the typical Kazakh survived during the purges.

That is how this blog got its name, “Kazakhnomad,” in honor of what Mukhamet wrote out in his ten years of seeing what Stalin was doing to his country and how it affected his family. Right now, the focus is on Ukraine and what Putin will do next. I would hazard to guess that Kazakhstan is very vulnerable right now in the northern area of Kazakhstan because Putin would use the same logic of saying that he needs to protect the Russian speakers from the Kazakhs. No different than what he is saying about going into eastern Ukraine to protect those of Russian ethnicity. I saw a joke something to the effect of a Russian in eastern Ukraine not speaking Russian anymore. How come? Well, he didn’t want Putin to come and save him from the Ukrainians. The Russians in Ukraine have more freedom than the Russians in Russia. Eventually what Putin is trying to do may implode on him. While all his troops are off to Estonia or Moldova, he will have unrest in his own capital.

For now, we just wait and see and try to puzzle out what remains of the former Soviet Union that Putin is trying to put back together. Probably no different than when the experts finally find the big pieces of the Malaysian jetliner. Only thing is that Putin is really Humpty Dumpty and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

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Difficult to watch…plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean

I haven’t posted for a while simply because it is so difficult to know what will happen next. I’m sad about the Malaysian airliner going in to the ocean, if that is what really happened, because there are so many families affected by this tragedy. However, I wish the news media would quit showing all the possible scenarios of plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean views from satellites. REALLY?! That is such yellow journalism, meaning that it is cowardly and not asking the hard questions about what is really happening in Ukraine.

What county would be next for Putin to “save!?” I am betting on Kazakhstan as a possible candidate. Although the fearless leader who is power in Astana would not let that happen. If something were to happen to him though, you can bet that Putin would be right there to save the Russians from all that is Kazakh! I do believe that there is enough information that has been disseminated to the people in both countries about their Soviet past so that they would not welcome a re-visit of those times again. That is what Putin wants, a re-establishing of the great and mighty empire of the Soviet Union. However, from what I have read there is much unrest and too many people who know what is going on in Russia to have that happen. Those who know the truth have been put down or marginalized which only makes things worse. The truth will eventually come to the top.

I read about Estonia where they might have a visit from Putin’s troops too once he is through with Ukraine. They made no bones about kicking out the Russian people and went back to their Estonian language with the fall of the Soviet Union. I think that would be a bad move on Putin’s part to try to tell the rest of the world that Estonia is next on his agenda. Maybe the West will wake up to this power-hungry dictator in the making. Maybe not.

Sochi Olympics was such a farce. Putin wanted everyone to think he was some benevolent benefactor of the games while all the time he is masterminding the invasion of Crimea. This has been in the works for years. Kazakhstan needs to pay attention and be ready. Perhaps the leaders in Astana are already awake to this fact. In the meantime, it is difficult to watch plane cockpits, black boxes and ocean.

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Watching the Situation in Crimea

So much has happened since the last time I posted. Maidan was a surprise and perhaps this ultimatum at 5:00 a.m. in Ukraine will be another upset for the evil side. Of course, all the propaganda that has been pumped into Russia about what has happened the last three months in Ukraine has been showing doctored up photos and changed scenarios. Interesting how the media is trying to make it look like extremists have taken over from the western part of Ukraine. I am finding out from my former students that people who live in Eastern Ukraine and are Russian ethnicity and Russian speakers do not feel compelled to be speaking the Ukrainian language. That is one of the major reasons for Russia to enter into this new set up government in Kyiv, they feel them must come in and “protect” their loyal subjects. The truth of the matter is that these people who have lived in Ukraine all their lives feel themselves to be Ukrainian even though they speak Russian. Interesting, huh?

Well, with enough countries dropping out of the G-8 meeting and the market going down for their investors in Russia, they will see that the lies they propagated are backfiring on them. Putin had his crowning success with the Sochi games, he should have been happy that they had the most medals at the Olympics. Instead, it looked like he was pre-occupied and scowling the whole time.

What is interesting is to see all the footage that has appeared of the former president Yanocovich’s (sp) palatial “dacha” just 12 miles north of Kiev. He had been given money to pave the pock marked roads in Ukraine instead he had a very nice asphalt road made to go to his dacha. That is now being called the “Museum of Corruption” and showed the opulence that he “enjoyed.” He managed to steal the people’s money in three years time and put it into this house and other toys that he collected. His wife or ex-wife lived in Donetsk and probably didn’t know anything about what lifestyle he got accustomed to. Now that has all vanished as he has sought cover from the Russian government and under Putler (Putin + Hitler).

I have read many reports on the social media about what is actually happening in the Crimea and in Ukraine along the eastern border. I have been to Sevastopol several times. I remember seeing some Crimean, Ukrainian and Russian flags flying. The city has a LOT of history and has museums about some of the great battles that have been fought on the Black Sea. It is a strategic place for Putin to secure. The Russian government was leasing it from Ukraine but now it wants it without paying anymore. It also probably wants the eastern half of Ukraine as well. Good luck with that.

What has happened, from what I can tell, is that this division created from the outside has only solidified the two parts of Ukraine because the east for sure doesn’t want to be controlled by Moscow. That smacks too much of what it used to be like under the Soviet Union.

Well, I wait and see if the 5:00 a.m. ultimatum has been met or if they are in the middle of a bloodbath as promised. I’ll find out tomorrow…stay tuned.

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Eyewitness Account from Maidan

AftermathI can picture many things about what happened less than a week ago in Kyiv, Ukraine.  The other places like Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lviv, not so much. I lived for six years in Kyiv so I have many friends still living there.  An amazing account of what it was like that dark night of the 18th of Feb. I’m hoping that I hear from my former Ukrainian students. I taught writing and composition, I hope they know how important it is to write like this young person did in the example below.  Some of my students have temporarily shut down their Facebook accounts, others are giving me information in bits and pieces, mostly in Ukrainian or Russian.  Read on:

By Serhiy Suprun

I want to tell you about the night of February 19th, and what happened during the operation of “clearing the Maidan” by the Berkut police.

It was the toughest night of them all. The famed self-defense “hundreds” (“sotni”) were nowhere near us and neither were the guardsmen from “Svoboda.” The men holding up the front line of defense were badly organized and severely exhausted, at this point having to use their heads to prop up their shields against the oncoming assault, because their arms had no strength left in them. The stage provided them some confort, because it was free of the MP’s usual cheap pathos-filled and self-serving slogans. There was no one left. Parubiy (leader of people’s self-defense) declared that he suffered a stroke and went home. Turchynov (MP) requested a stretcher, announcing that he was hit by a sniper’s bullet.

Berkut continued with their constant attacks. The perimeter was being held up by 300-400 people, while the rest were just compassionate spectators. As morning neared, there were less and less people around. Khreschatyk become empty, and those of us who remained were either rushing about or nearly crawling, trying to drag to the frontline anything that could burn. After 5AM the situation became desperate, as the frontline of defense was being pressed back. The barricades on Prorizna Str. and in the Pasazh were left unguarded, several times messengers would come to us with the alarming reports of advancing Berkut forces and “titushki” coming at us from the side of Besarabka square.

We were anxious. We were scared. Everyone suddenly realized that we have no chance of holding on to Khreschatyk. After 8AM people began scattering more actively, there was hardly anyone coming in. Suddently, along Khreschatyk, from the side of Besarabka, we saw a large group of men armed with shields and baseball bats advancing upon us. It was the end.

We began grabbing bricks and lighting Molotovs. The running group was getting closer and closer and, as their faces became clearer, our dread was quickly replaced by sudden understanding – they were OUR GUYS! The expressions on their faces could only belong to OUR GUYS!

Men aged forty-fifty years old ran up to us, quickly lined up in columns of fours, and our frontline defense fighters collapsed to their knees with a hard clanking of shields against the ground. What we heard next exploded our consciousness. “Brothers! We are so sorry that it took us so long to get to you.” Everyone wept. Everyone. They were the Lviv “hundred” (“Lvivska sotnia”).

As they all ran to take places at the frontline, a few remained to tell us the long story of HOW they managed to reach us. I will not write about it here, but it is a long tale of their courage and unwavering will. Glory to the Lvivska Sotnya! An hour later Ternopil happened…

Source: FB

Translated by Natalia Ioffe, edited by Jana Kualova

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Ukraine May have a Temporary Victory

I have been following the events in Ukraine very closely.  Below is a piece written by someone who lives in Kyiv, Ukraine and is in the know. This is good news, if it is true. Even if it is true for now, things could still go south.

Tonight, as I watch the funeral proceedings at Maidan attended by ten thousand people, I reflect on the day that preceded this burial service. In the end, this day could have gone any direction, but it seems at each crucial point (and there were many crucial points) the protesters (and peace) won the day.

Today sixteen statues of Lenin were toppled around Ukraine.

Today many significant votes were taken to restored a gutted constitution.

Today Yuila Timoshenko, the imprisoned former Prime Minister, was authorized by parliament to be set free.

Today the president agreed to early elections.

Today amnesty was granted for the hundreds of protesters who were arrested.

Today no protesters died.

Today neighborhood militias were formed all over Kyiv to protect from looting and unrest.

Today the guy who authorized shooting live rounds at the protesters was fired.

Today, the first day of many, there were no fires in Kyiv. (sorry CNN, I know you like the night shots of the city on fire, but I prefer it without)

….and best of all….

Today Ukraine won a Gold in women’s biathlon relay! – No matter that Putin revoked his loan deal, we’ll take the money in gold.

Many of my Ukrainian friends are talking of today as a new dawn, the tide has turned, a new era in Ukraine’s history. The contrast is striking – yesterday the darkest day since Soviet times, and today the brightest things have looked in a long time. There are even reports as I write this that the president has left the capital, it seems he, along with all sixty five private jets that left Ukraine last night (65!) have seen the writing on the wall and feel that they need to leave or face prosecution for their ill gotten gain.

But in the end the barricades are getting higher not lower downtown. The crowds are growing, not shrinking, and the highest priority of many of the protesters still stands. That is the immediate resignation of the president. As I write there are twenty thousand mad Ukrainians downtown who don’t seem to want to leave without an impeachment or a voluntary resignation, and so far they have gotten everything they want. On the other side, thus far, the president has been very reticent to give up power, and therein lies the problem. At this point it doesn’t seem like if, but when, and more importantly….how, the president will go.

In politics (as in Church history) its much easier for an opposition group come together against something, but when that thing they opposed is removed, it’s a bit harder for everyone to decide on a way forward. That is our situation in Kyiv now too. May Ukraine prosper under a just and fair government for many, many years to come. However, we understand that this complete justice and fairness don’t seem to work always, and I’m sure there will be disappointments in the long term, and the near, future.

This is where the church comes in. The church now has a big role to fill as the country slowly (hopefully) begins to calm down and clean up. Just as people are most receptive to grace when broken, so goes for the country as well. Ukraine is broken now. We have hundreds dead, we have maybe a thousand wounded, we have a burned out center in place of our downtown, we have daily inflation and we have lots fewer cobblestones than we started with. Ukraine is broken and needs renewal that comes as they seek the mercy and grace provided by Christ. Pray that the church will (continue) to fill this need, and now in a more specific way, through it’s service to the community, through cleaning up the city, through writing and thinking with others about the concept of true justice – something that Ukrainians have been seeking, and through preaching the Word.

I’m greatly encouraged by today, and recognize that it is still in a fragile state. Pray for continued peace – and mercy.

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Sundog Days and Groundhog Day

sundogstea cupsYesterday passed by without much fanfare about Groundhog Day.  People in Minnesota already know they are going to get more snow and winter weather whether Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog, sees his shadow or not.  Watched part of the Super Bowl last night and after seeing the lopsided score and the awful half time show, I found other things to do.

Lately I have had women over for teas and conversation using my paternal grandmother’s tea set. (see photo above) These are probably post WWII plates and saucers that were hand painted by Japanese ladies after Japan lost the war. Others have shown off their plates that read on the bottom “Occupied Japan.”  With all the social media and how involved we all get with Twitter and Facebook, it is refreshing to just sit around and have scones and tea.

So far with my three parties, I have had 16 or 17 women over in the last several weeks.  I hope to have others to our old farmhouse in March when the weather is not so unpredictable. I had to cancel my first party because of a blizzard.  The other parties meant that our yard had to be snow blown out by a fancy tractor. Thanks to our wonderful neighbors who live a mile away.  It has gotten to the point where even if we don’t call them and it is 20 degrees below zero, they still show up ready to clean out our yard.  Yes, we have had blizzards a-plenty and we just finished January. We know, as Minnesotans, that there are potentially three more months of blizzard weather that could hamper our plans.  So we have become flexible and we are NOT breakable. Not as breakable as fragile tea cups and saucers.

I am glad to say that my second book is in the hopper. It was a tough semester with teaching two classes, being Program Director of our Carnegie and putting photos and text together for the book on my hometown. I look forward to how the proofs will look once May rolls around. The launch date is set for early June for our All-Schools Reunion end of June.

Not much other news to announce. I am watching the events very closely in Ukraine because I lived there for six years and have many friends and former students still there.  Some have gone to Maidan (Square in Ukrainian) plaza on Kretschatik, hopefully none have been in the middle of violence or some of the earlier altercations. I pray that is all resolved soon but there are too many bigger issues that have been under the surface for a long time. I think the same could be said about Kazakhstan.  Many things have been swept under the rug and soon there could be a dramatic change in the landscape especially in Astana.

What we can do is sit back and enjoy life and LOVE our families. At the same time we can pray for those who are missing loved ones or are struggling to survive in countries where their government does not serve the people.  Our own democracy is fragile and hanging in the balance.

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North Dakota Joke about Wireless and Ongoing Surveillance

Surveillance is important but not the kind that we have been served up lately, it has gone on for decades but not on Regular Joe Citizen of the U.S. Now we can ALL be treated as suspects if we said the wrong thing from 20-30 years ago. Thanks to Edward Snowden for having a conscience about all the power he had as a techie. Now he is back in hiding after his 12 minute video-taped interview from Hong Kong. I watched it and thought he was quite articulate.  The liberal press would paint him as some kind of high school dropout who became a grunt in the Army.  Pretty miraculous to be a low-info kind of guy and to have that much knowledge about computers and access into that many people’s lives. People will long question whether what he did was right or wrong to be a whistleblower.

Granted, Snowden is toast, now that he has been identified.  However, his biggest fear is that nobody will do anything about the intrusive surveillance to keep our government accountable for all the access and privilege they have for what we do from phone calls to texting to what we put up on the Internet. I DO care about what information is held on me because I know what they did to people in the former Soviet Union.  I know what the leader of “the” Russia would like to do to some people who don’t agree with him. I know what they did to millions of people who lived in Ukraine 70-80 years ago who didn’t tow the communist party line.

We watched the movie “The Internship” this past weekend and it was funny in a few places.  It showed how people my age or younger are feeling like dinosaurs if they didn’t get in on the computer technology wave.  Also, it shows that students at age 21 are cynical about their future and do not live the American Dream.  They have high tuition debts to pay back but no jobs to speak of. They may be tech savvy but not much on people skills and not many experiences outside of their virtual world.  It was a sad commentary on both generations. The funniest line in the movie was when Vince Vaughn was trying to explain the concept of Instagram to these geeky teammates of his at Google. He kept saying, “On the line” when he really mean “online.”  The kids patiently listened to him telling him that it had already been thought of before.  He enthusiastically blathered on with “on the line.”  The part with the strip tease bar scene was bad which made PG-13 rating embarrassing.  I think they can’t be believed anymore.

Well, I promised a joke so I’ll end my blog on this funny note.  More a joke on North Dakota but just the same, one that needs to be preserved.

“After having dug to a depth of 10 meters last year, Scottish scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.  Not to be outdone by the Scots, in the weeks that followed, British scientists dug to a depth of 20 meters, and shortly after, headline in the UK newspapers read: “British concluded that their ancestor already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the Scots.”  One week later, “The Nordic Klub,” a Minot, North Dakota newsletter reported the following: “After digging as deep as 30 meters in corn fields near Velva, ND, Ole Johnson, a self taught archeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing.  Ole has therefore concluded that 300 years ago North Dakota had already gone wireless.”

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Slavery in the 21st Century in KZ (Part II)

The following is a continuation of what I posted last week from Vox Populi.  Read on…

16. “Commercial slavery is a very profitable business for traffickers and pimps. Human slaves cost anywhere between 10,000 and 300,000 tenge on the black market and pimps make 20,000 tenge and higher a day. A family business associated with trafficking is the most fail-safe option. There have been instances where the wife is the pimp, the husband is the driver and nephews work as overseers or guard the girls. Girls are usually recruited from the streets, lured and deceived with offers of work as waitresses or nannies and then are forced into the car and brought to the den.”

17. “Sometimes commercial sex workers help us on a volunteer basis. They are registered in the center as volunteers. We help them to recover documents and children who were born outside of hospitals and the girls help us by telling us where girls are being kept, especially minors. We participated in raids together with the police. When the police enter the brothels, the pimps hide the girls and every corner of the apartment has to be searched.”

18. Victims of trafficking often try to escape, but they are caught and severely punished. Some girls try to commit suicide.

19. Written on a piece of paper belonging to one of the girls at the shelter: “It’s difficult for me to remember those days when we were together, you know that I want to return! Why did I ever come to Astana. Why did I leave home? Lord, please return everything back to my parents, my beloved ones!”

20. Saule (not real name) left home at 16 because of constant arguments, fights and alcoholic parents.

I came to Astana together with my friend. This one woman came up to us and offered us work. At first we didn’t understand what kind of work it was. When we got to the apartment, she told us what we’d be doing and offered us to stay the night and we could answer the next day. The next day we said that we weren’t interested and she answered us ‘I rented an apartment for you, fed you, and now you have to work off your debt.’ Then they just wouldn’t let us leave. One girl costs 5000 tenge/hour and one girl could serve anywhere from 5 to 20 clients a day. They beat us often. Once we had worked all night until morning but the clients wanted to extend their time until lunch. We refused. Then the pimps came, took us out into the Steppe, and beat us. Our pimp was a young 23-year old girl who herself had been a prostitute and our handler was an 18-year old boy.

21. 17-year old Lena has a psychologically-developed mind corresponding to that of a 10-year old child and was impregnated by a client to whom she became attached when she was a slave. She considered him her favorite person. Girls with mental illnesses sometimes only need just a hint of affection or some trinket and they become attached to him and believe him unconditionally.

“When I lived in a dormitory for former orphans, a car came by and took two of our girls. The girls ran away. When I came out of the dorm once, I met a woman named Tanya who offered me to work in her café. I went to the location and Tanya said that I’ll be a prostitute. Girls who refused were severely beaten and even set one on fire.

22. Vera is mentally retarded, finished only one grade and can’t read or write. She can’t explain anything by herself. According to Anna Ryl, a man helped her by telling the police. They beat her in the brothel. Before that, Vera lived with alcoholic parents who sold her into slavery. When she first came to the center, she couldn’t put two words together.

“I lived poorly. They drank at home. Mom beat me on the legs, wouldn’t let me walk around, but I wanted to go outside. I have a stepdad and a father. I love my real dad more and wanted to live with him.”

23. 17-year Saltanat left home because of numerous fights. Together with her friend, she left for Astana to find work, where she fell into the hands of traffickers.

“There were four other girls in the apartment. We got up at 4pm, cleaned the apartment and by 7, the handlers brought customers. Sometimes we worked all night till 9am. My family doesn’t know anything. I just want to forget everything and return to my hometown.”

24. Veleriya is raising a year-old daughter.

“My mother drank a lot and to her I was just an unwanted child. I was ten when she told me how she tried to get rid of me when she was pregnant and how she would love to get rid of me now. After my grandmother’s death, she drank the house away and I was given to an orphanage. When I left there, my mother told me to come live with her so that, as it turned out, she could sell me to some Uzbeks. When she disappeared, I was only 15. During the day, I tended sheep for my owners, but at night…”

25. “I managed to escape. Without documents or any things, I ended up on the streets. A lot of bad things followed, but now I’m here. At first I had the desire to find my mom, but now I don’t want to see her. The most important thing is my daughter, whom I give all the love that I never received from my mother.”

26. In addition to commercial slavery, the Komek Center all works with victims of labor slavery.

“The International Organization for Migration helps us with migrants. With their help, we are able to communicate with social workers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other countries so that they might conduct investigations connected with their citizens. Last year, we had 11 men of Uzbek nationality, of whom 4 were minors. Their passports were taken at work and held. On the phone, they trusted us and turned to us for help. As a result, together with the migration police, we helped the migrants to prepare documents and return home. As for the employers who violated Kazakhstani law, administrative actions were levied against them.”

27. “Two years ago, three people came to us who had been held anywhere from 4 to 15 years at the wintering grounds of Karakuduk in the Shetskiy District of Karaganda Region. Ukrainian citizen Tatyana Tverdokhebova was a labor slave victim from 1995-2009, Vladimir Solomatin from Temirtau was in slavery from 2005-2009 and Oktyabr Lee from Karaganda was held from 1995-2009. Oktyabr was the only one who stayed in the center. He has had poor hearing since childhood. After his release, due to inhumane conditions and poor food, he had to undergo four operations.

“I worked on this farm since 1986,” tells Oktyabr. “After the Soviet Union collapsed, there wasn’t anywhere to go and farmer Tursunbek Akzhunusov asked me to help him on the farm and I agreed. At first I was treated well, ate together with the owners, they weren’t rude and didn’t hit. He promised a lot of money, but never paid. The work was hard – I had to tend to almost 900 sheep and take care of each animal and clean the barn. When I started getting older, they understood that they I didn’t have much good to me and started to treat me like an animal. Sometimes Tursunbek would hire workers and pay them 20,000 tenge but all that was left for us were beatings and scraps. Tatyana showed up on the farm in 1995. She was a good worker on the farm, but the owners didn’t spare her and beat her while Tursunbek’s son was raunchy with her, raped her and did bad things to her. She begged to go home but they only answered with beatings and cut rations.

28. “In 2005 came the last of us, Volodya. Not a very tall man but a very healthy man. He tried to escape but was caught and was beaten like a dog, tied to a horse and dragged around in circles. The shepherd had seven sons and they all beat Volodya. I told them, ‘God will punish you for doing that, you can’t treat people like that…’ but they kept beating him while the 60-year old farmer, seeing that Volodya was completely battered, laughed, saying, ‘What happened, did you fall hard?” The beatings left him disabled for life.

29. “We were literally fed scraps from the master’s table: moldy rolls, stale bread soaked in water, spoiled soup. In court they told us we could have left by train! But where are you going to run away to? Climb up any hill and all you can see is Steppe. All around were Tursunbek’s people – half the village were his relatives. Three of his relatives worked in the local government who covered for the slaveholders. And we weren’t the only ones in this predicament – over at the neighboring farm they also held workers. Their conditions were even worse, they were fed animal fodder. There was a woman there who toiled away like Tatyana. The woman was impregnated by the master and they started beating her, hitting her in the stomach, so that she’d have a miscarriage, disfigured her face…

30. “One time, Tatyana managed to pass a note to one of the workers hired by the master. The person who got this note went to Karaganda and told his sister everything. Together with her brother, they returned to the village and took Tatyana. But at the nearest station, the shepherd’s son Yerzhan and his friends caught up with the escapees, forced Tatyana out of the car and beat her liberators. When the latter returned to the city, the local police pulled them over and told them not to stick their nose in other people’s business. Having returned to the city, they turned to the Department of Internal Affairs and a SWAT team came and for us and took me and Tatyana away but the master hid Volodya for another two months in the barracks. What a court case was launched against the farmers, the owner has to clean up Volodya, fatten him up, nurse him back to health. Before the trial, the Akzhunusovs tried to buy me off and promised that if I signed a statement, they would pay me 300,000 tenge. To which I answered that for 15 years they owe me no less than 3 million tenge. They refused to pay. The older Akzhunusov openly announced that ‘he would cut ten heads off and can buy anyone that he wants, including the courts.”

“In organizing a court session to take place at the village,” says Anna, “the courts did not exercise concern for the safety of the victims. Having seen the farm, where every room, barn, and handle from a shovel reminded the victims of how they were jeered at, they literally went into shock. Experiencing it all again brought them back to a state of fear and led to them not being able to objectively answer the judge’s questions. Of the three, only Tatyana was considered a victim in the criminal case according to article 126 (illegal deprivation of freedom). Judge Tokabekova sentenced Tursumbek Akzhunisov to a 3 year suspended sentence and his son Yerzhan to a 2 year suspended sentence. We learned that the judge lives in the same town as the accused and this causes difficulties in getting a fair verdict. But a “suspended” punished for 15 years of slavery it completely absurd. After the trial, we turned to the city court of appeals, but the outcome was similar to the first. Most interestingly, the prosecutor, speaking in court, was on the side of the guilty, saying that the victims of slavery wanted to extort money and the slave owners were decent people…

Most recently, the Komek Shelter received three victims of trafficking: a 35-year old woman from Tajikistan who is a victim of labor slavery and two minors, a 13 and 14-year old. The children were abducted and exploited in commercial slavery.

31.For those who want to help the center or consult with experts, here is their address: 1 Pushkin, Astana, Kazakhstan. Email: korgau_astana@mail.ru. State short number: 1409

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Rodent Surprise…in Kyiv, Ukraine

The following is a story about a furry guest to our flat when we taught in Kyiv, Ukraine. I had e-mailed this to family and friends back in March 12, 1999. Maybe it is one of those “you had to be there” but I thought it was VERY funny at the time and even now these 13 years later.

“I just have to tell you about our “book” study tonight.  We usually have about 12-14 people over every Friday night and they are mostly bachelor men.  There were more women tonight but the mix is very international.  We have one Scotsman, one British gentleman and one German. The rest are Ukrainian and all very interesting in one way or another.

Anyway, Nicolai is a very quiet, computer nerd type who comes, but he is always late.  Tonight was no exception, he rang the doorbell after all 12 people were settled in our living room.  He also came in with a rodent which was crawling all over the sleeve of his jacket.  At first I was shocked that he had this white mouse in his hands but he quickly arrested my surprise by producing a cut-in-half, plastic 7-Up bottle that he put his little pet in.

Meanwhile, my husband was overseeing that everyone had recited their memory verses in the adjacent room.  This seems to be the Ukrainians’ favorite part and they do it well.  So as not to disrupt the meeting, I asked Nicolai to bring his little pet into the kitchen and put it on the counter for safe keeping.  I was still in shock that he had even brought it along with him. (I didn’t recall that Ken had asked for “show and tell.”)

So everything went along smoothly until the phone rang when we were in the middle of prayer at the end of our study.  Ken jumped up to answer the phone in the other room and no doubt checked the kitchen to see about treats that we would feed to our guests afterwards (another favorite part of the guests’ evening). What to his wondering eyes did appear but a nice, healthy mouse inside a bottle!!! I could hear movement in the kitchen as our prayers continued in the living room. Judging by the noises, I just KNEW my warrior husband was doing combat with the mouse [I had no idea that the first thing he grabbed was a potato peeler to stab the little creature]  The next thing I heard was his opening the entryway door and throwing the bottle (with mouse inside) down the garbage chute in the outside hallway, it tumbled nine stories below [think "As Good as it Gets" with Jack Nicholson throwing a dog down the chute].

Mission accomplished, my fearless husband had protected me from the rodent surprise in our kitchen.  Immediately after prayers were done, Nicolai headed for the kitchen not knowing the demise of his pet.  I followed close behind him knowing I would have to help smooth out the inevitable outcome for poor Nicolai. This was going to be an unpleasant reality for him.  Keep in mind that the mouse had plunged nine stories to its final resting place, “rat heaven.” As soon as I told Nicolai that my husband had undoubtedly disposed of his pet down the chute, he bolted down the stairs (disregarded the elevator) to check the garbage bin in the basement.

Eventually Nicolai came back to our apartment looking dejected and I didn’t even have it in me to say I was sorry.  I did explain to him that Americans don’t like mice in their kitchens and Ken had only done what husbands feel naturally inclined to do, KILL the rodent!  Nicolai left early knowing that he should never bring his furry pets to our place again.

When all our guests had left, my husband gingerly informed me, “Did you know there was a mouse in our kitchen?” I had to tell him yes and that it WAS Nicolai’s pet.  End of story…or so I thought.

The sequel about Nicolai’s “mouse” was that he did admit to Ken that it was his fault for bringing the pet the other night to our home in the first place.  Then at church the following Sunday he showed me his NEW pet that he had just gotten for “big bucks.”  He told me that I should show it respect and then he informed me that it was a baby rat.  I had to admit that it DID look cute with little beady, black eyes for a white rat. However, my husband is quite adamant about Nicolai NOT bringing him to our home next Friday night.  Hopefully this is the end of story…”

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