Friday, October 14, 2016

Second Chance - a film about orphans in Ukraine

Monday, April 04, 2016

Ukraine's ascending star

This video reflects a reality of Ukrainian history that my friend Marsha J. Skrypuch and I discussed today.

She was telling me about the research she is doing for her next WWII-era novel, and reminded me that as recently as the middle of the 20th century, very few ethnic Ukrainians lived in the cities or even towns of what is now Ukraine.

How recent history has changed is that urban centres in Ukraine now are no longer populated primarily by occupying forces and/or re-settlers (with the sad and hopefully temporary exceptions of the Crimea and Donbas). Now, urban centres in Ukraine are populated by Ukrainians. Not necessarily ethnic Ukrainians, but with proud citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their ethnic heritage. And more and more of them speaking the native Ukrainian language.

I could ask if this is how a nation is born. The English word "nation" is the closest equivalent to the Ukrainian word "народ` (narod). But the Ukrainian word has so much more depth and breadth (just check out the list of synonyms on Google Translate) .

So to my mind, it is more accurate to say that this is how a state is born. The nation, it seems to me, was born long ago. 

This video to me illustrates an astonishing change in Ukraine's self-identity, and rapidly growing maturity as a nation-state.

To all my native Ukrainian friends ... I stand in awe (and the greatest admiration) of all of you. Molodetz!

Слава Україні!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Vopli Vidopliassova stopping in Vancouver on 30th anniversary North American tour

Valentin of Troika Entertainment is bringing Vopli Vidopliassova to Vancouver again!

Known affectionately as V-V, this iconic Ukrainian rock band has been entertaining fans in Ukraine and around the world for 30 years. Congratulations to V-V on this milestone anniversary!

V-V will be in Vancouver for one performance only, on March 24th at Venue, 881 Granville Street. Doors open at 7 pm. Concert starts at 8:00 pm. Tickets & info:  778-989-6674. Tickets also available at:

Euro Food Plus, 818 Bidwell St. Vancouver
Euro Food Tri-City, 555 North Rd #1, Coquitlam
Pavel's Food Store 3740 Chatham St, Richmond
A Taste of Ukraine 4976 Kingsway, Burnaby

I attended their show back in 2008 (with Joyce of The Female Beat, who was visiting in town). It was a riot! Even with his leg in a cast, Oleg Skrypka and his band-mates put on a superb performance, and no doubt they will once again. Besides, how can you resist an invitation like this?


Here's a video of their song Wild Music. Enjoy! Whether you're discovering them for the first time, or are longtime loyal fans, enjoy this trip down Memory Lane. And make sure not to miss your chance to see V-V live in Vancouver on their 30th anniversary concert tour!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Journalist exposing Kremlin trolls comes under attack

An article about a journalist being attacked by Kremlin trolls for daring to expose them was recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is chilling.

Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro worries that it's not only her coming under attack. She says that "trolls are having an unhealthy impact on freedom of speech and democracy more broadly."
"... ordinary Finns who are exposed to troll misinformation have 'told me that they have started to lose touch with what is true and what is not true ... for example, in the Ukraine crisis they don't know what is a fact and what's not, because trolls mess up the conversation.'

"Some of those attacking her say they are just exercising freedom of political speech. Aro has no time for that argument. In fact they are trying to suppress other people's free speech through aggression, she says.


"An EU official who has been studying Russian propaganda – and who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity – says Aro's case is "quite extraordinary".

"I'm actually surprised this is happening in the EU," he says.

"The amount of resources being put into an attempt to bully Aro was remarkable. "Not only money but also people. The purpose: intimidation ... to kill the debate."

"However, Aro is far from the only victim, nor the only topic of pro-Russian trolling, misinformation and propaganda, the official says.


"..."the troll network is used to 'road-test' conspiracy theories, seeding six or seven competing pieces of propaganda or misinformation and letting the Darwinian world of online information exchange prove which is the hardiest – which is then republished by more conventional media. It's a system applied, for example, to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

"'One of the biggest problems is we don't have a clue how much money they put into this,' the official says. 'We do not have clue how much media there are, how many people they target, how many people they reach. We can only guess from the results.

"'The aim is not to make you love Putin. The aim is to make you disbelieve anything. A disbelieving, fragile, unconscious audience is much easier to manipulate.'"

Read the full article here. It's an eye-opener.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Who will really end this war

(Ras)Putin’s “popularity” appears to be coming down like a house of cards. This despite his control of the Russia's media.

I was surprised to see this video of Russian people protesting in Moscow ... and not a little alarmed at the reason one Muscovite said that they are not protesting in larger numbers.

While the collapse of the oil market and the ruble may eventually bring the Russian mafia down, in the process it is bringing misery to millions who are mere pawns in high-stakes games of international finance, as we see clearly in the above video.

There are many other reports about the fallout of Putin's demagoguery in articles like this one about shopkeepers and mall owners losing their livlihoods at the hands of the state, and this one about Russian-owned gas stations closing in Poland and the Baltics.

There is plenty of misery to go around at the hands of the Putin regime, and I do feel sorry for the Russian people, but only to an extent. Some see the light but the vast majority, if the polls are to be believed, don't.

They trust a mafia boss to deliver a decent standard of living, as this video clearly illustrates.

They believe that Ukrainians are “fascists” for wanting a better life than what they could have under Kremlin lackeys.

They refuse to believe their own friends and relatives in Ukraine who tell them life is vastly different from what the Russian state media tells them.

So, now they are reaping the reward of their blind faith in a moneyed, criminal egomaniac. And, perhaps, in their own egos.

But will they eventually face reality? Or will they look for scapegoats, as happened in Nazi Germany?

As for the mafia-run government they still trust, how likely is it that Putin & Co. will go down quietly, much less alone?
The reality is that (Ras)Putin will cause as much damage as he can trying to hold on to his ill-gotten gains and position of privilege. Sort of a post-modern twist on the "scorched earth" tactic the Russians have used extensively in their imperialist ambitions, especially against Ukraine, most recently by Stalin in WWII.

But the western military-industrial complex won’t allow the global economy, to crash. Recently financial gurus have been opining about how "war is good for the economy."

So I'd say there's a good chance that another world war is on the horizon. And with nukes in the hands of rogue states it doesn't bode well for humanity.

Still there is hope. According to this recent article, mercenaries fighting for Putin are starting to see the light.
Former Russian insurgent calls those whom he was fighting against in the Donbas patriots of his country and says he regrets coming to Ukraine with weapons.
This was stated by former Donbas militant Alexey in an interview with Russian website Rosbalt...
"I can only say of the armed forces of Ukraine, those poor creatures who had been drafted to the army and forced to protect their Fatherland - they are good eggs and patriots. I really regret about having to shoot at them. My enemies are not there! That's the TV that made me think so.
"It's a pity that I'm not the only one deceived by TV propaganda. It's a good thing that many of those who had been there started to realize that's not our war, that's the war of other people and their interests. Many of my comrades realized that we had been deceived and betrayed." 
This to me is the only hope for war to end, along with the misery it brings.

Not so much that people merely stop fighting, because that just makes it easier for tyrants to continue their oppression and totalitarianism. Which is what Ukrainians have been fighting for centuries, and still are fighting... mostly alone as they always have been.

Rolling over and giving in may end the use of heavy weapons, but it won't end the oppression of tyrants. 

No. War will not end until people stop allowing themselves to be used as instruments of evil. This calls for some hard decisions, honest introspection, and sacrificing of egos on an individual, personal basis. No finger-pointing or assigning blame ... except to the person in the mirror.
Is the human race up to it?

Well, we can only hope.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ukrainians being deported from Canada

Recently I came across an appalling story about a Ukrainian immigrant family that is being deported from Canada.

This young family, the Vasileyevs, came to Canada in 2012. Since then, they they have been going through all the hoops involved in the immigration process, following all the rules to apply for Canadian citizenship.

But now they are about to be deported. From Canada.

Many things about this story trouble me, not least of all that so far it is not getting much coverage in the media.

The only story on this family's woes was published in the Winnipeg Sun. It was reprinted in Canoe News and referenced by The Rebel in a brief video that takes a poke at the current Trudeau government.

How this family is being treated, by Canadian bureaucrats and Canadian media alike, is so wrong.

There is corruption in bureaucratic ranks that allows this sort of thing to happen, regardless of which political party is currently in power in Ottawa.

Yet no one investigates, no one speaks up, no one pays any attention at all until there is some political gain to be made.

Being in the media myself (albeit on the outer fringes), I can't blame The Rebel for taking advantage of this family's predicament. It is just doing what comes naturally in the media biz, which is more cut-throat than most, and is fast becoming as politically polarized as it is south of the border.

That said, it is an utter disgrace that the media ignores stories like these until they do become partisan issues. At which point all those left standing in the spotlight can see fit to do is point fingers at their political opponents.(Whatever happened to the meme of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?")

In my humble opinion, it is beyond disingenuous, and shameful, to play partisan politics with such travesties. Because while those of us living our lives of comfort and privilege enjoy the luxury of playing partisan politics (or not), hardworking, innocent, good people who just want to have a decent life keep getting screwed.

As for the few who will bother to watch the video and read the article, you can bet yer boots there are some among them who will soon be arguing about how either the current government or the previous government is to blame for this family's plight.

Meanwhile, nothing will be done to help the Vasileyevs, and they will return to their country with less than flattering accounts about ours.

Sadly, few Canadians, including those of Ukrainian extraction, seem to be very concerned about that. But hey, there are obviously more pressing matters (like arguing partisan politics) than helping people who are being victimized by incompetent and/or corrupt bureaucrats.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Donetsk Airport

Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy performed at Donetsk Airport on 1 March 2014.This song is considered to be the "anthem of Europe."

Just weeks after this performance, Russia dispatched its proxies in Donetsk, who attacked this beautiful new building with the intention of destroying it. This is what "Russkie Mir" (Russian peace) looks like. Any wonder Ukrainians are fighting back?

The Ukrainians who defended their airport against foreign aggressors were nicknamed "Cyborgs" because they continued to outwit the Russian aggressors and impeded their progress in occupying Ukrainian territory.

I was honoured to visit a wounded Ukrainian "Cyborg" in Kyiv last spring. His story is very inspiring. If you haven't seen my video with footage of that visit, check it out here.

If you like it, please leave a comment, here and/or on YouTube. I have more photos and footage I'd like to share from that and previous trips in video, so I'd appreciate your feedback to help me make them as interesting and informative as possible. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

Щасливого Нового Року!

My heartfelt thanks to the listeners of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio, the guests and contributors to the show, and the advertisers and sponsors whose  generosity and support have kept the show on the air and online in 2015. Warmest wishes for the New Year!

З побажаннями здоров'я, щастя, і всього найкращого в Новому році.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"This is why we had a Maidan."

Photos and footage of my visit with a "Cyborg," one of the Ukrainian Heroes who defended the Donetsk airport and survived an ambush in Debaltseve.

My guide and translator, Nick Buderatsky, shows us a side of the war seldom shown by the western media to a world that still can't seem to grasp the reasons "why we had a Maidan."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ukraine's 21st Century struggle for independence

While watching one of the wonderful, breath-taking and thought-provoking videos out there these days, a couple of things occurred to me.

First, that the dance steps in Ukrainian dance, in particular of the men, were developed with more practical purposes than for entertaining audiences on a stage.

They were, literally, moves designed to save a solder's life and for defeating a murderous enemy.

In the last half of the 20th century, and the first couple of decades of the 21st, the origins of the dance moves were but a distant memory, interesting footnotes in the history of Ukrainian dance.

 Now of course, the circumstances that led to the development of those dance moves are no longer a distant memory, but today's stark reality.

Things have changed tho.

So my second thought is how today's Ukrainian freedom fighters will be mythologized long after we're all gone from this earth.

Hand to hand combat is pretty much a thing of the past now, thanks to the horrible weaponry developed in the last century. So intimidating posturing and clever kicks won't be of any use to today's kozaky fighting for Ukraine's freedom.

With the resurgence of folkloric symbols and musical styles, probably the dance moves will remain, albeit modified somewhat by modern choreography.

But the rest of it ... the songs, the symbolism, and the sentiments ... these should be recorded for posterity.

It's a different world, and not just because of technology. It's the attitudes and mindsets that technology empowered.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Ukraine may, for the first time in centuries, be able to break the yoke of foreign oppression, once and for all.

 So we should all chronicle this time in our lives.

We should keep meticulous records, digital or analogue (or both), for future generations to understand better than we ourselves do, being in the middle of it with only an eye of the storm view.

Perhaps if, with details chronicles and records, we can help them step back in time, we can help them avoid the mistakes that we have made, and are bound to make before this is all over.

 I'd be interested to see if this video inspires you as it did me. Enjoy. Lyrics and translation below.

Їхали козаки, їхали по полю
І лунала пісня про їхнюю долю.
Про їхнюю долю, про справжнюю волю.
 Їхали козаки, їхали по полю...

Cossacks rode, rode on the field
And the song was heard about their fate.
About their fate, and about the price of freedom.
The Cossacks were riding, to the battlefield ...

Їхали козаки та й пісню співали.
Про те, як любили і як воювали
За рідную землю, за батьків і друзів,
 І за спів дівочий, що дзвенить у лузі...

The Cossacks rode, singing songs.
About learning to love and how to fight
For their native land, for family and friends,
And the songs of their sweethearts rang throughout the meadows.

Ой, у лузі-лузі тая пісня ллється,
А дівоче серце, як пташина, б'ється...
Віддала кохання хлопцю молодому
Їхали козаки, їхали додому...

Oh, in the meadow a song flows
And a maiden's heart beats like a bird’s wings,
Because she gave her love to a young man.
The Cossacks were riding, coming home ...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Polish rock group dedicates song to Ukraine's freedom fighters

This morning I received a Skype message that tugged (well, tore) at my heart.

It was from Orest, in Ukraine. He originally emailed me a few months back, soliciting support for his charity, and we ended up connecting on Skype.

His English and my Ukrainian are at about par, so our conversation was a bit rough around the edges.

However, this time I could understand him just fine.

He shared a song with me, and this message:

In Ukrainian:
І крилами лелеки, повернуться живі!
Мати, син, калина, лелека - святі речі для кожного українця.
Слухаючи цю пісню нагортається сльоза.
Пісня "Біля тополі" з документального фільму "Рейд" Відомий польський гурт Enej присвятим воїнам, що загинули за свободу та незалежність України, пісню. 
English translation:
And on the wings of a stork, return alive!
Mother, son, kalyna, the stork – these are sacred things to all Ukrainiansю
This song will bring tears to your eyes.
It is called "Near the Poplar" from the documentary film "Raid."
The famous Polish group Enej (Aeneas) dedicated this song to the soldiers who died fighting for the freedom and independence of Ukraine. 
Having never heard of this film, I decided to see what I could find out about it. What I found out surprised me ... Raid is about the popular video game World of Warfare.

In the video below, the young man speaking before the song starts reminds me very much of a "Cyborg" I visited in a Kyiv hospital last spring. His name is Vadym. He was caught in an ambush during a real-life raid in Debaltseve. He survived, fortunately, albeit without his arm and both legs.

I'll share his story here soon. In the meantime, enjoy the song that Orest sent, in memory of those who did not survive the real-life raids unleashed on Ukraine by their Russian "brothers."

The song is Біля Тополі - Near the Poplar, by Polish group Enej (Aneas) joined by popular Ukrainian artist Taras Chubai.

Слава Україні ... Слава героїм!

Monday, November 09, 2015

My Excellent Adventure at the 2015 Borsch Fest in Victoria

Had a wonderful time at the 2015 Borsch Fest in Victoria, BC on Saturday, November 07!

One of the organizers, Maria Koropecky (who was interviewed on the Nov. 4 edition of Nash Holos) challenged me to enter the competition, so I did.

I was honoured (and, quite frankly, astounded) that my entry won the People's Choice Award and also Judges' Honourable Mention.

Came home with some cash a great cookbook by one of the judges,Cinda Chavich. (Heres' a link to her book: The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet) The other  judges were Lee Aitchison,Hospitality Management Instructor at Camosun College; and Michael Tymchuk, producer of CBC's food show The Main Ingredient.

I entered a different kind of borsch, not the typical beet red that most people associate with borsch. That's because it was made with yellow (golden) beets.

It's called Remembrance Borsch, in honour of the Holodomor, the soviet-engineered famine that deliberately starved to death 7-10 million Ukrainians in 1932-33.

The colour yellow is symbolic of mourning in Ukrainian tradition, so that's why this borsch is made with yellow beets. 
I've been sharing the story of Remembrance Borsch with listeners of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio for several years now. If you're not familiar with it, and would like to be, check out this blog post. You can also find links there to two audio versions of the story as well.

For anyone who tasted my Remembrance Borsch at the Borsch Fest and would like to try making it, I am very sorry but there is no recipe proper (as in with proportions). And I am unlikely to ever reproduce the batch I made (with the help of my friend Gerri) as I didn't keep track of the proportions I used.

However, I will share what I remember, to the best of my abillity. The rest is up to you. Which is kind of fitting, because by nature Ukrainians are very individualistic and independent ... and that is in large part why the Soviets tried to wipe them out, by starvation and other methods.

November is Holodomor Remembrance Month, and the last Saturday of November is set aside as Holodomor Remembrance Day. At sunset, candles are lit in remembrance of those who perished in this heinous, man-made famine. To me, it's very important to make this borsch and remember the millions of innocent victims, so that never again will human beings be starved by the millions merely to promote an ideology. 

This recipe for Remembrance Borsch should create a reasonable facsimile of the one I made for Borsch Fest.

8-10 cups shredded or diced yellow beets
5-6 cups shredded cabbage
3 cups finely chopped onion
1-2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
6 cups diced potatoes
5 cups diced rutabaga
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups chopped fresh dill
1/4 lb. butter
3 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp black pepper
3 litres mushroom broth
1-2 litres beetroot broth
2-3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

Saute the mushrooms, onion, half the cabbage, and half the dill in butter until the veggies are a nice golden colour.

Put them in a large stock pot, along with the liquids, seasonings, and the rest of the veggies, except for the beets. Simmer until the potaotes and rutabaga are soft, about 1/2 hour.

Add the shredded beets, and gently simmer for about 1/2 hour.

NB: Make sure the borsch does NOT boil vigorously. Borsch should never be boiled. It makes the beets lose their colour and just does something to the taste that is less than desirable. Keep it at a gentle simmer.

This will make a huge stock pot full, about 10-12 litres, so you might want to cut the ingredients in half. 

A couple of tips when preparing the beets. Scrub really well, trim off any blemishes, and put them to simmer, with the skin on. When soft, drain the beets and cool. Reserve the liquid. This will be your beetroot broth. When beets are cool, peel and shred. Adding the beets at the end will keep the beets from going white, so your borsch will have a nice, rich colour.

I hope that some day serving this yellow borsch to commemorate Holodomor Remembrance Day will be part of Ukrainian tradition. We should never forget.

If you decide to try it, I'd love to hear how yours turned out.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the 2nd Annual Borsch Fest in Victoria.



Saturday, July 04, 2015

This week on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio

All three weekly editions of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots are unique ... different tunes, news stories, proverbs and features. So check them all out!

On this week's 2-hour live Nanaimo Edition - July 1, 2015 Canada Day Special

Ukrainian Food Flair: Chilled borsch • Ukrainian Jewish Heritage: Ukrainian town of Brody • News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Feature Interview: Taras Kulish of Hope Worldwide Canada, on the work being done to help children and their parents cope with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the war in eastern Ukraine • Latest news from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian proverb • Great Ukrainian music by: Dumka • Shoom • Dunai • Borsch Eaters • Boris Sichon • Kubasonics • Ron Hynes • Zubrivka • Sloohai • Cheremshyna • Millenia • Steven Chwok • Homin • Canadian Rhythm Masters

On this week's International PCJ Radio Edition - July 3-6, 2015:

Ukrainian Jewish Heritage: Lidia Kotliarevsky • Latest News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian Christian Heritage: Fr. Theo Machinsky on Invan Kupala •  Dunai • Yulia Donchenko • Milla Jovovich • Cheremshyna • Kobza • Luhansky Kozaky • Komy Vnyz • By Request Band

On today's Vancouver edition - July 4, 2015:

Feature Interview: Taras Kulish with Hope Worldwide Canada on a groundbreaking new project dealing with PTSD in Ukraine (edited for rebroadcast) • Latest News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian Christian Heritage: Наші Свяащені Традіції with Father Theo Machinsky on Ivana Kupalo • Proverb of the Weeks • Great Ukrainian Music with a musical nod to our American listeners celebrating Independence Day. Artists aired on this week's Vancouver edition: Dunai • Darka & Slavko • Anne Pleskach & Bill Shcherbatiuk • Trembita • High Profile • Ambrose Brothers

Links to podcasts of all three editions at the Nash Holos website!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Meeting Crimean Tatars in Ukraine

While in Lviv, I had the great privilege to spend time with two women from Crimea – one a Tatar, one Ukrainian.

Dr. Gulnara Bekirova was one of the speakers at the UJE conference in Kyiv. She is with the Special Kurultai Commission for the Research of Crimean Tatar Genocide, Ukraine. She spoke (in Russian btw, with no ill effects) during the session entitled The ‘Traitor Nation’and the Destruction of the Crimean Tatar Civilization.

The other was her friend who survived deportation to the Urals. Dr. Bekirova’s friend joined us in the lobby of the Swiss Hotel, where the UJE entourage was staying. Much of the conversation was private and personal ... including finding uncanny personal connections. (She even thought I looked familiar!) So much for the proverbial "six degrees of separation." For anyone with a Ukrainian connection anyway, it's usually 2 or 3 at most!

Earlier, I had a rare opportunity to chat with Dr. Bekirova over breakfast. There was a bit of a language barrier as she speaks “Surzhyk” (a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian) and I speak просто (kitchen) Ukrainian. I bitterly resent the language barrier, but appreciate learning what I did from that discussion, and the meeting with her friend later. Fortunately our intrepid leader, Raya, joined us at breakfast and kindly translated when I got stuck.

Dr. Bekirova told us that life in Crimea is dangerous now—for everyone, but especially for ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. She lives in Simferopol, Crimea and publishes children’s books in the Crimean Tatar language, so that the language and culture survive. So far she has managed to stay out of the cross hairs of the occupying Russians.

When the occupation began and the Ukrainian army was still in Crimea, the Tatars brought the soldiers food and other supplies, and begged them not to leave Crimea, but to stay and protect them. As we know, the Ukrainian forces were overpowered by the Russian army and Putin’s green men, which are now occupying the peninsula.

But, Dr. Bekirova said: “We didn’t bow down to the Russians, and we never will. Crimean Tatars love their land, Crimea... and Ukraine, and want to belong to Ukraine.”

She told us that there are only about 600 Ukrainians left in Crimea. Those she knows are too afraid to speak Ukrainian in public.

When I visited Crimea with family members on a tour in 2008, I recall that it was rare to hear Ukrainian spoken... unless you initiated the conversation. Then it was all smiles and the Ukrainian came out! I did detect a bit of nervousness in the people we spoke Ukrainian with, but not outright fear. Perhaps from 2008 till 2014, some progress had been made in Ukrainian language rights in Crimea. But Putin has obviously reversed that.

During breakfast and over coffee we spoke about her work as a children's publisher and cultural activist, and what we learned from her presentation at the conference in Kyiv about the little-known genocide of Crimean Tatars in 1946.

(Funny how many of Stalin's genocides are still unknown in the 21st century. A person could be forgiven for wondering if it's a case of error of omission —or deliberate oversight. Fortunately, the information is out there, at least for those interested and determined enough to search for it.)

At one point she said how nice it would be to have a similar conference in Crimea. I found that quite surprising, given the situation in her homeland.

There is no way UJE (or any diaspora organization) would even remotely consider the risk.Plus, imagine the logistical nightmare of housing, feeding and transporting conference participants—the tourism industry in Crimea isn’t exactly thriving under Russian occupation.

Organizing a conference is complicated and stressful at the best of times, as it was even in Kyiv and Lviv, where life is (more or less) normal. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part, or perhaps a bit of denial of the reality of what Crimea has lost, and how difficult (or unlikely) to ever regain and rebuild it.

The conference session in Kyiv on the Tatar deportation, as well as the delightful private conversations with Dr. Bekirova, her friend, and a young Muslim man who briefly joined our entourage, increased my awareness of the Tatar people in the Ukrainian national fabric, if not my knowledge.

It’s embarrassing to admit how little I know about the Crimean Tatars. Somehow they were just kind of always there, a fixture of Ukrainian history that was just “part of the woodwork.” Not unlike, perhaps, the First Nations here in Canada.

I’m looking forward to exploring this new topic in Ukrainian history!

Meanwhile here are some photos ...

Dr. Gulnara Bekriova and me at breakfast in the Swiss Hotel in Lviv.
Looking at her features, if I didn't know she was Crimean Tatar I thought
she could easily be mistaken for First Nations from the west coast.
Some of the yummy breakfast food we enjoyed.
Lots of fresh fruit, pastries, fresh dairy, meat, fish, cereals, etc.
And of course the ubiquitous tomatoes and cucumbers.
Oh, and coffee to die for!

One of Dr. Bekirova's children's books.
Депортация - Deportation.
Kids books by Dr. Bekirova.

Dr. Bekirova and Olexandr, a young Crimean Tatar man
who attended the conference in Kyiv and Lviv.
This photo was taken at a WWII era
concentration camp in Lviv.
A sign at the above concentration camp explaining
what took place at this site. Details in another post.

Here are some pictures I took in Crimea while visiting back in 2008. I was struck by the similarity in the topography to the west coast of Canada. I felt very much at home driving through the mountains and trees there!

I hope one day it will be safe to return to visit Crimea, and that the people living there will be happy and free—regardless if they are Crimean Tatar, ethnic Ukrainian, ethnic Russian ... or ethnic Martian for that matter.

Join me now on a little trip down memory lane...
Boarding flight to Simferopol-Sept2008. (That's me in blue.)

Looking out the window as we travelled through the Crimean countryside,
it almost felt like I was back on the west coast of Canada!

Near where the historic Charge of the Light Brigade took place.

We toured several palaces in Yalta ... built by Russian monarchs.

On a palace balcony with sister & niece - Sept2008
Iconic Kobzar at Yalta palace 2008.
I wonder if he survived Russian occupation?

View of the Black Sea from my hotel room.

View of Hotel Yalta from Black Sea beach.
On the Black Sea beach outside Hotel Yalta-Sept2008
The Black Sea beach is very stony (quite similar to Qualicum Beach
on Vancouver Island) so I went to the beach to enjoy the view but
preferred swimming in the hotel's lovely, enormous salt water pool.
On the tour bus with Mom 2008.
Enjoying a beer while strolling into the town of Yalta from hotel.
Some of the girls needed new shoes for the ballet that evening.
Outside the ballet theatre in Yalta with sisters and nieces.
Inside the ballet theatre in Yalta.
Dinner in the Yalta Hotel. Photo op requested by fellow tourist (local).
On our way from Yalta to Simferopol, where we caught the train to Lviv,
we stopped in the town of Bakchissaray for lunch and a tour of a
Crimean Tatar palace. Very different from the palaces in Yalta.

Lunch in Bakchissaray was delicious. Everything was new and unusual
so I put down my camera to concentrate! However I did have the presence
of mind to take a picture of this dessert. It was light, crispy and
melt-in-your-mouth. Reminded me of a giant ball of khrustyky!
Getting provisions for 25-hour train trip from Simferopol to Lviv-Sept2008.
On the way to the train station in Simferopol.
Don't imagine any Golden Arches there now.
Train station in Simferopol.
Hope one day to revisit.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kyiv air video

I can't take credit for this video (found it on YouTube) but thought I would share it with you.

It's extremely well done, and the visuals are gorgeous.

If you've been to Kyiv you will recognize some of the sights, as I certainly did.

If you haven't yet, then they may just make you think about taking a visit to this amazing and beautiful city.


Helping children traumatized by war in eastern Ukraine

Just as I was leaving for Toronto and Ukraine, I received an email message about a project called Helping Hand for Ukraine and an upcoming training seminar for health care professionals dealing with children traumatized by the war in eastern Ukraine.

The message was from Oksana Oliynyk who works with HOPE worldwide Ukraine, which is one of many such organizations affiliated an international NGO recognized by the United Nations and operating in 75 countries on all six continents.

HOPE worldwide of Canada is raising funds here in Canada to support the Helping Hand for Ukraine programme. This project will train some 300 psychologists, social workers and teachers to help war-traumatized children and parents, as well as deliver humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live  in temporary camps (Cherkasy, Korostyshiv, Kurakhove, Komsomolsk, Kremenchuk).

I hope to have someone from the organization on Nash Holos to discuss this project in more detail, and how Canadian listeners can help.

Meanwhile, here is an English translation of the press release she sent out about the training seminar.


Kyiv, May 25, 2015 – The first training for trainers for the “Helping Hand for Ukraine” project of “HOPE worldwide Ukraine” Charity Foundation took place in Kyiv on May 22-24, 2015. Ten practicing psychologists and psychotherapists participated in the training.

During the three days, participants learned how to use the manual and program: “Children and War: Teaching Recovery Techniques” in their work with traumatized children, particularly with those traumatized by the war in eastern Ukraine.

Conducting the training were professional trainers and supervisors Ms. Lyubov Loriashvili (practicing psychologist, leading specialist at Kyiv City Center of Social Services for Family, Children and Youth) and Ms. Nataliya Podolyak (trainer of “Children and War: Teaching Recovery Techniques” program, practicing psychologist and psychotherapist at “Dobrobut” Medical Network).

The “Children and War: Teaching Recovery Techniques” program was developed by the Center for Crisis Psychology (Bergen, Norway) and the Institute of Psychiatry (London, Great Britain). In Ukraine, the manual has been translated and adapted by experts from the Ukrainian Institute of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Lviv, Ukraine).

In June-July 2015, the newly trained trainers will use the acquired knowledge and practical skills during the pilot stage of “Helping Hand for Ukraine” project in Korostyshiv. They will conduct therapy sessions for children, who witnessed and survived the war in the Eastern Ukraine. Within the framework of the project, the trainers’ team will also teach psychologists, social workers and teachers all over Ukraine how to work with the “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” program and manual.

Snizhana Volokh, training participant, practicing psychologist: “Each training day was intense. We learned different techniques to work with memories surrounding traumatizing events. We tried all of the techniques on ourselves working with images and visions. We were trying to understand that we could control them in our imagination. Every participant also got a chance to try out the role of the trainer. At the moment, we are full of emotions and new knowledge which will soon be used in our further work with children”.

Lyubov Loriashvili, trainer and supervisor of the “Helping Hand for Ukraine” project: “I think everyone in Ukraine has to learn this program – schoolteachers, kindergarten educators, parents, volunteers. If the children do not get assistance now, in future the state will have to spend a lot of money for their treatment and therapy, work with their future kids and families. Therefore, I am convinced that everyone, everyone in our country needs to learn this program”.

About “Helping Hand for Ukraine” Project

The “Helping Hand for Ukraine” charity project includes the training of 300 psychologists, social workers and teachers how to work with traumatized children using the “Children and War. Teaching Recovery Techniques” program and manual, therapy sessions for children and parents to acquire skills and capacities to deal with their traumatic experience, delivery of humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who live  in temporary camps (Cherkasy, Korostyshiv, Kurakhove, Komsomolsk, Kremenchuk).

About “HOPE worldwide Ukraine” Charity Foundation

HOPE worldwide Ukraine” Charity Foundation is a non-governmental charitable organization, performing its activities in Ukraine, which aims at improving the quality of life for children and adults who live in difficult socio-economic conditions. The Foundation has been registered in 1998 (Certificate #0108-98 issued by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine).

The main activities of the Foundation include providing humanitarian aid to the IDPs (internally displaced persons) from the Eastern Ukraine and psychological assistance to children, traumatized by war in the Eastern Ukraine; fostering social adaptation of orphans with disabilities who live in orphanages and boarding schools in city of Kyiv and Kyiv oblast; assisting state elderly care institutions in sustaining physical and emotional needs of the elderly; promoting healthy lifestyles among adolescents and youth; promoting voluntary blood donation and recruiting blood donors.

Media relations: Oksana Oliynyk (activebookproject at gmail dot com)

About “HOPE worldwide of Canada” Charity Organization

HOPE worldwide of Canada – is a registered non-profit charity, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario and is affiliated with HOPE worldwide Ltd, a non-profit charity, headquartered in Philadelphia. We share HOPE worldwide's mission, which is as simple as its name: “to bring hope to a hurting world”. HOPE worldwide was founded in 1991 with just three simple programs. Now it serves the poor in 75 nations on all six inhabited continents. With over 100,000 committed volunteers, HOPE worldwide annually serves more than 2 million needy people worldwide.

Media relations: Taras Kulish, taras.kulish @ hopewwcanada dot org

About “HOPE worldwide

HOPE worldwide is a recognized non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. HOPE worldwide of Canada has been recognized by municipal, provincial and federal governments for its programs and committed volunteer base.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The worst (and the best) way to travel ...

Well this skit seems to be prophetic.

Who can blame airline employees or passengers) for drinking? LOL

Lately I'm regretting leaving the airline industry. Being an "insider" is still the only way to get any decent customer service.

Being a peon of the travelling public these days it doesn't matter which airline you fly with. They're all bad ... and occasionally good.

On my recent trip to/from Ukraine British Airways was dreadful... delayed flight, no refund on seat selection BA cancelled. I've been back home two weeks and they still have not even contacted me, let alone issued my refund, after having to fill out a form online. (You'd think their genius bean counters would come up with an efficient automated system to issue refunds ... but they obviously prefer systems that p**s off their paying customers.)

In total contrast, my rebooked flight on Air Canada YYZMUC was outstanding, one of the best flights of my life overseas.

But I'm back to being disgruntled with AC (not an IRATE PAX yet, just shaking my head).

I just booked a flight to Winnipeg at their website, and in order to add my Aeroplan number need a password. Good grief. Couldn't remember it, their automated password retrieval system said my birthday entry was wrong (!) and I hung up from the help line after sitting on hold forever. Sigh. A trip down memory lane I could do without.

What I hated about working in the industry, and the reason I left, was the pathetic systems that prevented human beings from providing decent service to paying passengers.

The well-paid bean counters and suits had no interest in efficient systems and common-sense approaches for customers and front-line staff 20 years ago, and it's obvious from a passenger's perspective that it's only gone from bad to worse.

So I am very grateful whenever I'm lucky enough to encounter airline staff who provide good customer service ... like the AC cabin crew and ground staff in YYZ and (to be fair) the BA cabin crew on my flights home ... and my former TZ/PW/CA/AC co-workers (who unfortunately are retiring in droves now).

It's definitely an effort on their part ...basically an act of civil disobedience against Management.

So I've resigned myself to expecting the worst, and hoping for the best (to quote an old supe named Barry), whenever I fly.

Meanwhile, enjoy this skit. Suggest watching it with a glass of wine. :)


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Conference day in Lviv - video

The third day of the UJE international seminar “The Seduction of Propaganda: Mass Violence in Ukraine in the 20th and 21st Centuries” took place in Lviv on June 5, 2015.

The Ukrainian Jewish Encounter created a video with highlights of the day. It includes shots of the conference sessions, goings on before and in between (including me interviewing some young cadets!), and a city tour of historical sites commemorating the victims of genocide, Jewish and Gentile.

Details and reflections to follow, but meanwhile here's the video. Time is 10:21.

The narration is in Ukrainian (mostly the tour leader and the host of the seminar).

However, there are more visuals than narrative, and of course they present no language barrier.  :)


Friday, June 26, 2015

More adventures in Ukraine

It's been another long time since posting here... and my apologies. It's been a while blogging and I have a new appreciation of the skill it took! Not to mention the routine I lost in the process of getting out of the blogging habit.

So I am going to get back into it ... not least of all to lose the new moniker of SB ("Sh**ty Blogger) my brother in law gave me. He was the inspiration to resume blogging with this trip... and, apparently, to get back into the habit. So Collin, thanks for the kick in the backside!

Also thanks to my writing role model and friend, Marsha Skrypuch, for giving me one as well.

To be fair to myself, this trip was emotionally and mentally exhausting. Also, the pace was grueling. LOL Not that I'm complaining, tho! It was an exciting and fascinating experience, and extremely rewarding.

I'd like to thank the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative for making this trip possible. I stopped off first in Toronto for a few days, then spent 16 days in Ukraine. I learned so much, and met so many wonderful people ... some have become new friends, some were cyberfriends that I finally met in person, and some were "old"  friends I hadn't seen in years. As well, along with the new information, I have fantastic memories to share with my listeners, readers and followers.

There was so much happening and the time just flew!

The conference sessions made my head spin. They were so packed with new information and also filled in gaps of my own knowledge of the subject matter, of which I have been a lifelong student.

And when I wasn't conferencing, I met and gadded about with the most interesting people!

Well, "interesting" doesn't begin to describe my UJE hosts and fellow travellers. I was thrilled and honoured to be able to spend time with some very prominent, world-renowned scholars and experts in the field of genocide and propaganda, some whose work I studied in university and later.

Ditto the incredible people I was with on my "free" days.

In Kyiv I met radio colleagues and guests I had interviewed by phone, who have since become dear friends. (Thanks in large part to Vasyl Pawlowsky, who I swear knows just about everyone in the world!) I had some great times in the iconic Kupidon bar where I met some fascinating people doing amazing things. I also had the honour to meet some of the Heroes of Ukraine who are defending freedom and their fledgling democracy.

These memories are preserved in snapshots, videos, audio recordings and copious conference notes which I'm still sorting through, labelling, editing and categorizing. So again, apologies for the gap in posting, and thanks for your patience.  I hope you consider what follows worth the wait. ;)

The conference that UJE hosted was intended for youth, and it was entitled The Seduction of Propaganda and Mass Violence in Ukraine in the 20th—Beginning of the 21st Centuries. It was a 3-day conference which took place in Kyiv June 2&3rd at Українскйи Дім (Ukrainian House), and in Lviv June 5th at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Conference Brochure - English - front

Conference Brochure - English - back

Conference posters were visible from Khreshchatyk Street.
Inside lobby - Poster says:
Ukrainian House
On the European Square
National Centre of Unity

Many cadets and military students at this youth conference.
The sessions were conducted in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
(I witnessed no oppression of Russian-speakers in Kyiv. Quite the opposite.)
Translation was available, hence the headsets.
This session would likely have been presented in English.
Opening remarks by Adrian Karatnycky, a founder and
co—director of Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative.
Ukraine Crisis Media Centre was set up
in Ukrainian House for this conference.

The first day of the conference focused on genocide and the role that propaganda played (and still plays) in state-sanctioned mass murder. Several presenters described and explained the techniques and strategies of propaganda, which basically don't change much ... except in appearance and the use of new technologies of the time.

Three genocides were addressed: The Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine, the Jewish Holocaust of WWII, and Stalin's deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1946 (which admittedly I was only vaguely aware of).

Once you have learned the propaganda techniques, it is impossible not to see the parallels from one genocide to the next, despite the different imaging based on the target victim groups.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. If you have not learned them, you will not recognize them. And sadly, you will think those who do have lost their minds or are just paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Which is exactly what those waging the propaganda war need in order to win. And, literally, get away with murder.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Pawlina on Propaganda - conference early days general overview

So last week, while I was in Lviv, I ended up on the other side of the microphone.

I was a guest of Keith Perron, who shone his audio spotlight on Russian propaganda on his internationally syndicated radio show Media Network Plus, a weekly look at the world of communications.

In the first 15 minutes he takes a little trip down memory lane with an anecdote by a colleague and clips of Radio Moscow from back in the day.

In the second half, Keith and I discuss (via Skype) contemporary propaganda (particularly as it affects Ukraine), and some of the information and insights revealed at the conference I attended in Kyiv and Lviv on propaganda and genocide.

The conference, entitled The Seduction of Propaganda and Mass Violence in Ukraine in the 20th and early 21st Centuries, was organized and hosted by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative. (UJE is the generous sponsor of the Ukrainian Jewish Heritage radio series on Nash Holos, as well as my trip to Ukraine).

One of the speakers at the conference was Peter Pomerantsev, who I think has some of the sharpest insights into the propaganda coming out of Moscow these days.

Other speakers included outstanding scholars from Europe and North America, who deconstructed the propaganda of the past, and illustrated how effective it was in justifying genocide based on three glaring examples: the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33, the Jewish Holocaust, and the 1946 Deportation of Crimean Tatars.

Deconstruction details (and more) to come in the near future.

In the meantime you can get a general overview of my impressions part-way through the conference in my 15-minute chat with Keith on Media Network Plus here.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Update - Pawlina in Lviv

Lviv is considered the "Paris of Eastern Europe" ... it is also somewhat reminiscent of Vienna. It's a city that is hard not to love, and it's wonderful to be back here.

My apologies for the gap in posting updates here on the blog. It's been an incredible, intensely busy time since the moment I stepped onto Ukrainian soil!

There is much to tell you about what transpired in Kyiv, and that will come a bit later. I have tons of notes and footage to process first! But I thought I should let you know that I'm safe and sound in Lviv.

It was a bit of a traumatic time getting here. Just before we boarded the train in Kyiv, I discovered my wallet had been stolen out of my purse... probably while navigating the steps down to the train. Boo!! Stupidly, I had all my cash in the wallet as well as my driver's license, my Blue Cross & Care Card, and a couple of credit cards. Needless to say that did not get the day off to a very good start!

But, it could have been a lot worse. Although life is more or less normal outside the war zone, people in this country do get abducted, tortured, and killed, I'm just out those few things. Plus, I am not alone. I have been lent cash and many shoulders to cry on. And, I have my passport, So apart from feeling very stupid for being so careless with my wallet, I'm having the time of my life on this trip.

During the seminar in Kyiv and Friday here in Lviv I was crazy-busy on site taking notes, photos and audio-visual recordings. The seminar is over now and I am getting a chance to start to process some of it before the next crazy phase on this trip.

Today (Saturday) was a "catch-up" day so I slept in a bit and did some shopping and wandering around downtown Lviv.

Sunday evening we head back to Kyiv, then Monday we take the train for an overnight trip to Dnipropetrivsk where will will tour the world's largest Jewish cultural institution.

Meanwhile, here are some street scenes from beautiful Lviv, in western Ukraine.

Street scene - Площа Ринок (Market Square) 
It is not uncommon to see a strip of вишивання (traditional embroidery patterns) on cars in Ukraine these days.

Saw this on the boulevard on the way to the "art market" ...
a vehicle from the war zone 
Apple Strudel and tea - outside patio of the Atlas Restaurant
Menu at the Fresco restaurant .. check out "Ukrainian abundance" ... apparently it is not a joke after all!
My lunch Saturday at the Fresco restaurant ... Lemko varennyky (perogies). Basic filling of
potato, cottage cheese and onion, but dough made of whole wheat instead of white flour. Tasty! 
Tram train for tourists.

A spiffy new trolley bus ... brand new.

Street scene ... musicians on bench playing traditional folk songs.
One of many streetside patios.

Saw this army vehicle on the big central boulevard on the way to the art market behind the Opera House.
Another stark reminder that this is a country at war. 
Gorgeous knicknacks at the art market.
Another popular item in Ukraine these days. (Look closely at the face on the toilet paper.)
Street scene from the patio of the Atlas restaurant.