Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canada and Ukraine Agree on Priority Areas of Cooperation

Today, the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Volodymyr Khandogiy, Ukraine’s acting minister for foreign affairs, today signed a document that sets out priority areas of cooperation between the two countries.

“I welcome the signing of this document as a further example of Ukraine’s commitment to democratic reform and a testament to our strong and growing bilateral relationship,” said Minister Cannon. “Canada attaches great importance to its relations with Ukraine, a key European partner. Canada has a significant Ukrainian-Canadian community of over a million people.”

The Canada-Ukraine relationship encompasses political, trade, defence and security relations, as well as technical assistance and people-to-people contacts.

“Canada is a strong supporter of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and will continue to partner with Ukraine in that regard,” said Minister Cannon.
Photo: September 24, 2009 – New York. Minister Cannon and Volodymyr Khandogiy, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Acting) of Ukraine, sign a document that sets out priority areas of cooperation between Canada and Ukraine.

New agricultural contracts between Canada and Ukraine signed

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway concluded his visit to Ukraine yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 23) by announcing the signing of contracts between Canada's SNC-Lavalin Group Inc./West Group Engineering joint venture and Ukraine's Ukragroleasing.

“The signing of these important contracts will deepen our partnership with Ukraine in some critical sectors of our economies, such as agricultural equipment and services,” said Minister Day. “These contracts are great examples of the kind of connections we need to make to create new opportunities for our people to succeed in the years ahead.”

The contracts, worth over $640 million, are for the design and engineering of grain-storage facilities and milk-collection systems across Ukraine. SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.-West Group Engineering has also reached an agreement with Ukraine's Ministry of Health to build medical clinics across rural Ukraine.

While in Ukraine, Minister Day also oversaw the signing of an agreement valued at $254 million between MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., and the National Space Agency of Ukraine to build satellite communications systems in advance of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament being co-hosted by Ukraine.

During his visit, Minister Day annouced the launch of talks with Ukraine on a free trade agreement and met with the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, to address a number of challenges related to the ability of Canadian businesses to invest in the Ukrainian market. Minister Day also met with the General Director of the National Space Agency, Olexandr Zinchenko, to support Canadas strong commercial relationship with Ukraine, which is marked by growing trade and investment, and cooperation in the aerospace sector.

Finally, Minister Day met with Ukraine's Minister of Fuel and Energy, Yurii Prodan, to discuss the feasibility of Canadian CANDU technology for the expansion of Ukraine's nuclear program.

Photo: Minister Day and Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, witness the signing of commercial contracts between Canada’s SNC-Lavalin/West Group Engineering and Ukraine’s UkrAgroLeasing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canada discusses free trade agreement with Ukraine

On Sept. 22, 2009, The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, announced the launch of talks between Canada and Ukraine on a free trade agreement (FTA).

An FTA with Ukraine could further open markets for Canadian exports ranging from agricultural and seafood products to machinery and pharmaceuticals. It could also help to address non-tariff barriers.

Day made the announcement with Ukraine’s Minister of Economics, Bohdan Danylyshyn, right after the negotiations with the Ministry of Economics. Both Canada and Ukraine have agreed to meet in the coming months to discuss a range of trade and investment issues to facilitate economic relations and fight protectionism.

In theory, and in practice if followed faithfully, free trade agreements help to strengthen the economy, create new jobs and lower prices for consumers in all countries involved.

Govt announcement can be found here.

Photo: Minister Day addresses a Canadian, Ukrainian and international business audience in Kyiv.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exciting discovery on the Ukrainian music scene

Now this group speaks my language! And I don't just mean that their Canadian-born violinist, Marczyk, speaks English with the same accent that I do. :-)

I've waited a long time to hear music as well as sentiments like this expressed by young Ukrainians. There is such a great undiscovered wealth in Ukrainian folk music, and I've been bitterly disappointed that Ukraine's music industry has failed to mine the country's "acres of diamonds" that this incredible music represents.

The amazing folk band Ludy Dobri from Lviv has the vision and the moxy to explore and excel at this genre which, in a desperate quest to copy commercial crap, many producers as well as consumers of contemporary Ukrainian music overlook and undervalue. I sincerely hope this group's tour of eastern Canada (Ontario) is part of a new trend in commercial music.

Liudy Dobri is:
Yura - Vocals, Tsymbaly (Hammer Dulcimer)
Vova - Cello
Stas - Buxhalo, Percussion
Marczyk - Violin
Marek - Violin
Rostyk - Bouzouki

You can find out more about Ludy Dobri here, their Canadian tour, and sample some of the tunes from their new CD. I'd love a copy (and purchase details) to share with listeners of Nash Holos. Hopefully one will arrive soon.

In the meantime I'm able to share with you, my dear readers, these great videos, courtesy UkeTube. :-)

Enjoy!




Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipe: Buckwheat holubtsi (cabbage rolls)

Last Sunday on Nash Holos Judy shared an awesome recipe for buckwheat holubtsi (cabbage rolls). It's an encore presentation (originally aired in May) but I thought it was worth repeating.

The buckwheat filling in her recipe comes courtesy of one of her customers. Not long ago, several members of the Eleniak family from Edmonton (yes, … those Eleniaks, descendants of the first Ukrainian settlers to Canada) were visiting the west coast. Four of them dropped into Judy's restaurant for a meal and had a lovely visit. Before they left, they presented her with an autographed copy of their family cookbook.

As she said in the radio segment, at her restaurant they’re running a very close second to the ever-popular rice and bacon cabbage rolls. It's surprising, or maybe not ... there aren't many places to get them.

Judy's recipe for buckwheat holubtsi is an adaptation of the one in the Eleniak family cookbook. I have tried and tested the filling and can honestly say that it is totally yummy. I make "lazy holubtsi" (just layer the filling with sautéd cabbage mixed with a bit of sauerkraut, if desired) but Judy specializes in the traditional cabbage rolls. Either way, they're delicious!

Here's the recipe:

Bring to a boil 3 1/2 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups roasted buckwheat, and about 3 tablespoons of chicken base. (If the brand of base you use tends to be quite salty, cut back on the amount). Simmer until all the water is absorbed. Chop 1/2 lb of bacon and a large onion. Fry the bacon first, and when it’s almost done add the chopped onion and fry for 10 more minutes.

Mix bacon and onion into buckwheat, add black pepper to taste, and cool.

Core a head of cabbage and immerse in a pot of boiling water. When the leaves loosen, take the cabbage out of the water. Peel off the leaves gently, and trim the veins. If leaves are too large, cut them into 2 or 3 smaller pieces.

Place 1 tablespoon of buckwheat mixture onto each leaf, then roll and tuck ends in. Place cabbage rolls into a buttered casserole dish or small roaster.

Pour a cup of tomato juice (or one can of tomato soup mixed with a can of water) over the cabbage rolls. Bake at 350ºF until cabbage is tender, about an hour and a half.

To be really decadent, chop or slice another large onion and fry in about some butter. When cabbage rolls are done, spoon onions and butter over them.

Smachnoho!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gogol Bordello coming to Vancouver

The punk rock band Gogol Bordello will be back in Lotusland on October 9 and 1oth, performing at the Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St., Vancouver.

The group's lead man is Eugene Hutz, and I have to admit I found him brilliant in the movie Everything is Illluminated.



From what I can tell his most recent performance on the silver screen will be similarly brilliant. Although I am not a fan of punk, I find Hutz utterly fascinating. There is no denying he is an incredible performer and a very smart and savvy businessman. In an interview for Backpack Rock, I also found him very thoughtful and dedicated to his art. He seems like quite a well-rounded guy.

I've never been a big fan of Madonna (altho I do adore her "Spanish Lullaby") but there is no denying she is a brilliant businesswoman and self-promoter as well (to understate the obvious). This movie (which is her directing debut), is custom-made for Hutz... seedy but thought provoking.



As for Gogol Bordello's music, apart from the profanity, I find it fascinating and thought-provoking as well. It's high-energy and highly irreverent, and along with their outstanding musicianship, it's no surprise the group has such a rabidly loyal, and sizable, following.

I suspect, however, that many of their fans in North America may be missing some of the cultural nuances in their lyrics. For example, I wonder how many mainstream Americans and Canadians can relate to this song as well as those of Ukrainian and East European heritage can:



Gotta give Hutz credit for giving American culture a big poke in the eye, and making money in the process!

Speaking of which, tickets for Gogol Bordello are available at Ticketmaster. It's probably a good idea to order them soon...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prominent Ukrainians call for world to support sovereignty of Ukraine

An alarming story appeared in today's Kyiv Post.

It talks about an open letter by Ukraine's intellectuals, politicians and civic activists expressing fears that Russia could use military force against Ukraine. The authors appeal to parliaments, governments and peoples of the world to hold an international conference to provide guarantees for Ukraine’s security.

It was made public on September 10 and the full text was published in the Kyiv Post (here). It is now being widely circulated in the Ukrainian diaspora via email.

The signatories include former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, writer Yuriy Andrukhovych and honorary dean of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Vyacheslav Brukhovetsky.

Another is Mykola Riabchuk, writer, publicist and political commentator who recently visited Canada and spoke to Nash Holos listeners last year. (This audio clip is the first of Mykola's commentaries on NH. The remainder of the series is archived here.)

Lest anyone be inclined to dismiss this fear by Ukrainian citizens, State Russian Duma Vice Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky recently advocated an air assault on Ukraine to "protect" Russian-speakers in Ukraine. One Russian-speaker in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv recently shared his perspective (in English) on the prospect of such "protection" of his Russian language rights on his blog (here).

This sabre-rattling is hardly the first instance. It's just the most recent, one of the most blatant, and Ukrainians are sick and tired of it ... and the apathy of fair-weather supporters.that call themselves democracies.

Imagine if the United States threatened an air assault on Canada to "protect" English speakers in Quebec. Imagine if the president of the United States said that Canada wasn't a "real country." Imagine if the United States government accused the Canadian government of tampering with oil and gas flow through commercial pipelines between our two companies.

Such actions would be in total violation of international law, not to mention respect for the sovereignty of nations. And I can just imagine the hue and cry from democracies around the world were such things to occur in North America. So where's the hue and cry when it happens in Eastern Europe?

It's about time western democracies started to show some backbone ... and genuine support for democracy in Ukraine, at the very least as much as the rest of Eastern Europe currently enjoys. Because if lip service for democracy is all we're willing to give, that's all we're going to end up with.

Here's the text of the letter:

The foundation of the Ukrainian independent state in 1991 was one of the important results and, at the same time, one of the guarantees of the end of the global conflict between the “East” and the “West”, the twofold division of Europe, and the spread of the ideals of freedom and democracy in the world. Ukraine made its considerable contribution to the world’s and European security by renouncing its nuclear weapons. The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 was then confirmed by the respective guarantees of the state–members of the UN Security Council. At the time, this resolution, along with the concurrent expansion of the EU and the Euro-Atlantic system of collective security played an important role in the strengthening European security.

Today, however, one cannot fail to notice the inefficiency of these guarantees. The Russian government intentionally took on a political course towards the destruction of the existing system of security. One of the key aspects of this policy is the attempt to force Ukraine to serve the needs of Russia’s geopolitical interests. This strategy resulted in the sharp escalation of tensions in the relationships between the two states. Russia’s informational war against Ukraine took on unprecedented forms. The Russian public is presented with the image of Ukrainians as an enemy and a major destabilizing factor in the relationships between the EU and Russia.

The Russian side does not even allow for the view that the Ukrainian foreign policy towards Ukraine’s accession to the NATO is an sovereign right of our state; that Ukraine’s pro-Western foreign policy cannot be considered as an action against Russia but that it rather serves as a reflection of Ukraine’s national interests. Ukraine voluntarily renounced its nuclear weapons. Ukraine can only resist its contemporary foreign challenges and threats within the system of collective security.

The address of the President of Russia on August 11, 2009 became one of the steps in the realization of Kremlin's foreign policy that outwardly ignores Ukrainian sovereignty, reveals Russia’s intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, and contradicts the generally accepted norms of international law. The Ukrainian people respect the democratic choice of the Russian people and demand the reciprocal respect for its own choice as well. The decision of the Russian President to postpone the appointment of an ambassador to Ukraine in anticipation of the potential arrival of a new authority in our country that, as President Medvedev hopes, would lead a different (apparently more friendly towards Russia) policy, can be only assessed as an outward pressure of the neighboring country on the electoral choices of Ukrainian citizens.

We regret that the Russian government consistently ignores the lessons of history. We hope that the new elites of our neighboring country would be primarily preoccupied with the liberties, rights, and well-being of the peoples of their own Federation. We do not doubt that the existing tensions provoked by the Russian authoritative leadership are superficial and temporary. The depth and the profundity of the interpersonal relationships between representatives of the two peoples – Ukrainians and Russians – will eventually restore the friendly relationships between our countries.

At the same time, we believe that the recent address of Russian President, Vladimir Medvedev, to Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, marks a substantially new phase in the attitudes of the Russian authoritative leadership towards Ukraine. For the first time in many years, indications have emerged that Kremlin does not exclude the use of force as its means of geopolitical influence in Ukraine.

There are other indications of this geopolitical strategy. Among them are President Medvedev’s proposal to the Russia’s State Duma of a draft law that allows the use of Russian armed forces outside of the territory of the Russian Federation and the launching of a respective propagandist campaign. We consider the following -- Russia’s President’s disrespectful neglect of V. Yushchenko's written response, the unfounded accusations of Ukrainian soldiers being involved in last year's war in Georgia on the side of Georgia by the Russian Prosecutor's Office; the Russian President’s treatment of the necessary actions of Ukrainian policemen in Crimea as an adverse attempt to impinge on the activity of Russia’s Black Sea fleet -- as the direct propagandist justification of a possible military intervention into Ukraine’s internal affairs with the aim of smothering Ukraine’s sovereignty and freedom, and transforming Ukraine into a territory of Russia’s immediate influence and control. Russia’s rhetoric towards Ukraine brings home the horrible historical examples of the 1930s.

We realize the transparent nature of the Ukrainian political system, the detrimental impact of the existing antagonism within Ukraine's leadership, all serious factors that reduce the efficiency of Ukraine’s foreign policy and hinder its economic growth. Ukraine is nevertheless a large and free country with huge democratic potential that is heading on the road towards the implementation of the European system of law. This is a country that during its eighteenth years of independence achieved respect and became an important subject of European policy. The subordination of Ukraine to Russia’s strategy threatens to return the division of Europe. It could cause direct threats to the international and national security of the EU member-states, lead to a decrease in general trust and security in Europe and the escalation of tensions and antagonism in international relationships in general.

We appeal to the governments of the USA, Great Britain, France and China with the proposal to organize an international conference of the guarantor-states regarding § 6 of the Budapest Memorandum with the aim to provide real guarantees of security to Ukraine, declared in the Memorandum.

We also appeal to the governing institutions of the EU to take a clear and non-ambivalent position regarding the sovereignty of Ukraine; to warn Russian against any attempts of intruding into Ukraine’s internal affairs.

We appeal separately to the state-members of the Visegrad Group (which always favored Ukraine and its Euro-Atlantic endeavors) with the request to design their common or separate positions regarding the agravation of Ukraine-Russia’s relationships.

Yurij Andukhovych, writer

Viacheslav Briukhovetskyi, Hero of Ukraine, Doctor of Philology, the honorary Rector of the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.”

Bohdan Havrylyshyn, foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ph.D., head of the Supervisory Council of the International Institute of Management.

Semen Gluzman, civil rights defender, the acting secretary of the Association of Ukraine’s Psychiatrists, director of the American-Ukrainian Council of the Defense of Human Rights.

Yaroslav Hrytsak, Ph.D. in History, professor, head of the Institute of Historical Research of Ivan Franko Lviv National University of Ukraine.

Mykola Zulyns’kyi, professor of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ph.D. in Philology, head of Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Oxana Zabuzhko, writer.

Serhii Komisarenko, professor of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, Doctor of Sciences (biology); head of O.V. Palladin Institute of Biochemistry of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Leonid Kravchuk, Hero of Ukraine, the first President of Ukraine.

Vasyl Kremin’, professor of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ph.D. in Philology, president of the Pedagogical Academy of Ukraine.

Yurii Laniuk, composer.

Levko Lukianenko, Hero of Ukraine.

Myroslav Marynovych, first vice-president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, president of the Institute of the History of Religion and Society of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Myroslav Popovych, professor of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ph.D. in Philology, head of Hryhorii Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Serhii Rakhmanin, journalist, editor of the politics section of the weekly “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.”

Mykola Riabchuk, writer, publicist.

Konstiantyn Sytnyk, professor of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Doctor of Sciences, biology, honorary head of M. Holodnyi Institute of Botanic of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Sirenko, national actor of Ukraine, leading conductor and art director of the National Academic Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine.

Taras Stets’kiv, deputy of the Ukrainian parliament.

Volodymyr Filenko, deputy of the Ukrainian parliament.

Ihor Yukhnovs’kyi, Hero of Ukraine, Doctor of Sciences (Physics and Mathematics), head of the Ukrainian Committee of Sciences and Culture of the National Academy of Ukraine.

Taras Vozniak, philosopher, political observer, editor-in-chief of the independent magazine “Ї.”
Oleksii Volovych, head of the Odessa branch of the National Institute of Strategic Research by the Office of the President of Ukraine.


Rustem Zhanzhoga, political observer, leading researcher of the Institute of World’s Economy and International Relationships of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, member of PEN-club.

Oleksander Filts, MdS, professor, president of the Ukrainian Psychiatrist Association.

Ihor Markov, political observer, head of the section of the ethno-social research of the Institute of Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Oleksandr Ivankiv, first vice-president of the Institute of Ukrainian National Memory.

Ihor Koliushko, head of the Center of Political and Judicial Reforms.

Ilko Kucheriv, Director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

Interview with Beverly Dobrinsky of Vancouver's own Zeellia

Here's a wonderful interview with Beverly Dobrinsky, Artistic Director of the Vancouver-based Zeellia that was conducted by Don Goodes and filmed here in Vancouver in 2007. She expresses many of my own thoughts about the Ukrainian Canadian experience.

One of the tunes on last Sunday's Nash Holos program was an instrumental number by Zeellia. This interview contains excerpts of several vocal numbers from live performances.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nash Holos recipe: Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles

While not a traditional recipe from our Ukrainian past, this recipe is a Canadian export (or import, depending on your location) it may very likely become a tradition for future generations of Ukrainians!

Judy introduced these yummy pickles to her relatives and their neighbours in the summer of 2005. It was an exceptionally hot summer and her relatives were preparing for a family wedding. That included, of course, food.

When her cousin was at her wits’ end with yet another batch of cukes from her very prolific garden, Judy replicated her favourite recipe for bread and butter pickles. The pickles were, she recalls, a huge hit at the wedding.

That comes as no surprise to me whatsoever. I tried her recipe and it is out of this world easy to make, and utterly delicious! I only had about 5 lbs of cukes leftover (they were too big to dill) but had I known how good these bread & butter pickles would be, I’d have ordered 100 lbs of cukes instead of just 80. Well, there’s always next year!

You can experiment with this recipe, it’s quite flexible. Try adding cauliflower broken into flowerets, sliced blanched carrots, any colour of bell peppers, pearl onions, even zucchini.

What I did for variation, in addition to following this recipe, was cukes with no onion (by accident) and I also sealed some. Each taste slightly different, although are all yummy. To seal, what I did was reserve some of the brine, added cukes and onions and returned to a boil, then packed into hot jars and sealed. I thought what nice gifts these pickles in pint sealers would make … but I only did 3 and one is already gone, so I’m not sharing! (Next year … maybe.)

In the meantime, here is Judy’s recipe for Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles:

You will need a gallon container (you can use an ice cream pail, but I just used a couple of big jars). You’ll need about 5 lbs of cucumbers, 3 medium onions, and 1 red pepper, if desired.

Wash cucumbers thoroughly. Do not peel. Cut into thin slices. Slice onions and chop red peppers. In a large container, combine cucumbers, onions, peppers and ¼ cup of pickling salt. Let stand for 3-4 hours or overnight.

For the brine, you will need 4 cups of sugar, 4 cups of vinegar, and 1 ½ teaspoons each of ground turmeric, whole celery seed, and whole mustard seed. Bring to a boil, and boil for five minutes until all sugar is dissolved. Cool.

In the meantime, drain cucumbers, onions, and peppers, and rinse well. (I didn’t rinse mine.) Put into your ice cream pail, pour the cooled brine over vegetables, and refrigerate. Keeps nice and crisp for months in the fridge, but they’ll be ready to eat the next day.

Smachnoho!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Vancouver audio archives a bit late being updated

The audio archives on the Nash Holos website will occasionally be a little late getting updated during September.

I'm juggling several projects this month, including a book deadline, so will be spending less time in cyberspace and more time in the real world until things settle down, hopefully by October.

There will be no change to the radio program broadcasts ... the show must go on, after all! And the XML feed will be updated as usual for podcasters, so all you "time-shifters" can listen to the show. However, website updates will be somewhat irregular, as will blog posts.

Apologies for any inconvenience, and many thanks for your patience, listener loyalty and continued support.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mlada - exciting young artist from Ukraine

When I went to Mlada's website to get the link to her website for this post, I was suprised and utterly delighted to find that she has released a whole new album.

I'll always remember the story of how I lucked out in learning about this fabulous young singer. Vasyl, author of the wonderful UAMuzik blog, mentioned that he was out and about somewhere, and as he was getting off (or on?) a bus, this young girl came and thrust a CD in his hand. From there, he generously shared what info he had on her, including her website.

Unfortunately, the tracks for this album are samples rather than the full tracks, but with any luck I'll eventually get my hands on a copy. In which case I'll let you know where you can get one too. Stay tuned!

This song has received a fair bit of airplay on Nash Holos. It was last featured on the August 30, 2009 broadcast.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Zubrivka featured on Ukrainian TV

It's very neat to see a Canadian group (especially one that one that gets a fair bit of airplay on Nash Holos!) profiled on Ukrainian TV. This one is Zubrivka, from Toronto.

Ukrainian agriculture in foreign hands

I am born in Britain of Ukrainian and Irish descent.

I watched the BBC article on the "land rush"by foreign companies in Ukraine and did find it interesting and very well done. Congratulations to them. You can hopefully still see it here:

I have just got back from Ukraine myself, and as always I found that there is no learning like just talking extensively with friends and family, and even strangers on long train journeys who end up becoming friends. Thankfully for me and thanks to my father for his efforts (and Irish mum for her patience!) I am fluent in Ukrainian and can have extensive conversations about complex topics in the language. On one train journey to Kyiv my talking companion thought I was from Ukraine and my wife was probably from Germany! Obviously for someone only just arrived that was a compliment!

Anyway, back to the BBC documentary.

The questions that arise for me on this issue are numerous. Who does Landkom featured in the programme deal with? Does it deal with the village folk directly or with the town and village councils, or with self appointed smartly dark suited "intermediaries" who pocket a percentage?
What rate do they pay for leases? Are they western comparable prices, or Ukraine standard of living prices? If the latter I can see why Lankom will be such a profitable venture.

Another thing came to mind. To what extent have the oligarchs and government ministers (same thing in most cases) invested in that Ukraine they love so much in this particular way? I would hazard a guess that the likes of Yulia Tymoshenko is a little richer and has more disposable personal income than Landkom. If shopping regularly on London's high street fashion stores is not a drain on her pocket and changing her clothes 2 or 3 times a day for Ukrainian TV appearances is the norm, how about a tractor or ten, Yulia? Spare cash to you, I'm sure. Hey Victor, how about you too? And that other vote rigger one, how about the same, and all those Yatseniuks, Akhmetovs, Tsurkis's etc, all gone quiet over there?

One thing I noticed on this year's travels is that the towns are flourishing cosmetically but the villages are in a state of decay. Kyiv and Lviv are the Paris's and Rome's of the east with their flourishing cafe culture, but some village roads are all but impassable for anything other than 4 by 4's. My wife's cousin's neighbour's house, once occupied, is falling apart with nothing other than a portrait of the couple who once lived there and some religious paintings hanging on the cobweb-plaited walls. The village club in my dad's western Ukrainian village, now derelict, looks strangely like something out of the Chernobyl forbidden zone... eerie, overgrown, and very sad. I walked through the rubble that was once the fully functional village cinema I visited when first there 15 years ago and stepped over discarded beer and vodka bottles. Why?

One answer kept cropping up in conversation. It was this. If there is no obvious profit for the various oligarchs and government ministers in a project or cause then they are simply not interested. I even heard an allegation that Polish companies in whom some of these people either have private shares, or completely own, import meat and gherkins and similar produce from Poland into Ukraine.

Think about it, a simple profit for them. A much better short term private investment for Ukraine's leaders than spending their cash on the Ukrainian rural infrastructure. Who would that benefit? The villagers of course, but who cares about them? Maybe these people need reminding that more than once our Ukrainian intelligentsia has said that "the village is the spine of the Ukrainian nation." If the village dies, Ukraine dies. Similarly if the village becomes the property of foreigners, so will Ukraine in effect, be sold once again.

It is interesting to note that although still theoretically communist, the Chinese Government has realised that this rush to the cities needs to be reversed. They are actually offering incentives to the young to return to their ancestral rural homes and work their land. In this global climate where for the "developed economies" there is the "post industrial era" and recession, and for the "developing world" industrialisation is rampant despite its disastrous effect on nature, surely this is an indication that the new oil is soil. Not only that, you cant eat oil, but with an ever increasing global population truly mutually beneficial wealth and wellbeing, and hopefully eventual population control will come from the ability to provide food, not petrol. It is poverty that contributes to overpopulation after all.

The problem as I can see it in Ukraine is understandable but needs to be addressed. The young are leaving the villages for their towns or to rush abroad in droves. They want a "quick fix" of cash now. The problem is that they are assuming that the same model applies to largely rural countries like Ukraine as to small ones like Britain, whose wealth came largely from the industrial revolution and imperialism and now (albeit with its disasters) from international finance and "city based" economies. Ukraine is more like France, largely rural, and its path to success is more likely to be in the black earth that the young are running away from.

They can't be blamed because without capital investment what chance do they have to even make a go of it? None.

The Ukrainian leader who realises this will be the one who saves Ukraine. Let us see who is first to visit the villages in the forthcoming election campaigns and invest heavily in rural Ukraine. Call me a cynic but I can already imagine the scene in my Fathers village, successive helicopters setting down these "caring" oligarchs and ministers on the overgrown forgotten village square so they can tell everyone that they love them, make a vague electoral promise, and then take off again back to the city, as if being rescued from a war zone.

Sadly, it is more likely that they will only "put their money where their mouths are" when they can see there is something in it for them.

Sadder still , it is foreign companies now instead of foreign armies, that can see the opportunities that have been "sitting on the end of Ukraine's nose" or should I say, under Ukrainians feet, ever since Ukraine existed. I'll end on a humorous anecdote I heard a few times: "In soviet times we had the money but there was nothing on the shelves to buy, today the shelves are full but we have no money."

I have to end with a question here though. In the coming years whose produce will be on those shelves?

I sincerely hope that with the help of this foreign investment by companies such as Lankom it will be mostly that of Ukraine's rural population before any produce is exported for that "mutual benefit". That remains to be seen.

Better still if some of those leaders of ours copy Landkom, and invest a few billion in soil, and not just oil.

- Stepan Pasicznyk a.k.a. "Ludwig."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Nash Holos Recipe: Super Sour Dill Pickles

Pickles are a staple in most Ukrainian homes. Certainly they are in mine, and Judy’s. And we’re talking home-made whenever possible!

Because I am such a wonderful wife ;-) I make dills for my DH... who can’t get enough of them. So I usually pickle about 40-50 lbs of cukes (which I get at Mary's Garden in Surrey) for a year’s supply of dills.

Until this year, I always made only two kinds of pickles. Most of the cukes get processed in a canner with the standard vinegar brine. For those dills I use my MIL’s recipe, which is very yummy.

The other kind are my baba’s recipe … the old-fashioned traditional Ukrainian variety using just garlic, dill, salt and cold water. Because they’re fermented, they don’t last as long, so I just make a few jars and generally don’t share them. :-) I’ve already polished one off, and am stretching it out by adding lettuce leaves. They pickle really quickly (usually overnight), so I satisfy my pickle cravings with them, and am not as tempted to open another jar too soon!

This year, totally by accident, I bought way more pickling cukes than usual. I bought 80 (count ‘em, 80!!!) pounds. Well, I thought I would never get through them all. I had to buy more jars, vinegar, salt, chasnyk, and dill, but I pickled every last one. Exhausting as it was, it was totally fun!

Since I had so many extra cukes this year, I decided to add a couple of new recipes to the mix. And wouldn’t you know it, Judy just happened to come along with a couple of her favourite pickle recipes to share with Nash Holos listeners! Serendipity or what?!

Here’s the first one: Judy’s Favorite Super Sour Dills.

First, make a mild brine by bringing to a boil 1 cup vinegar, 8 cups water, and 7 teaspoons pickling salt.

In the meantime fill 6-7 jars with well-scrubbed pickling cukes (you'll need about 5 lbs). To each jar add sprigs of dill (use the flowering dill), several cloves of garlic and, if desired, one small dried red pepper. If you happen to have a horseradish plant in your garden, add ½ or ¼ of a leaf. This helps keep the pickles crisp.

Judy likes to add raw carrots or sliced onions for a different taste. I always buy several bunches of new carrots when I'm getting the cukes, and add one or two carrots to each jar of cukes. (I think the carrots also help with the crispness, but I'm only guessing.)

Add hot brine to filled jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Place covers on jars and store in a cool place for 6 weeks. They will turn cloudy, which is perfectly normal.

If you absolutely can’t wait the full 6 weeks to try these pickles, Judy says 4 weeks is ok. But definitely *not* just one week. (Ahem.) Although, I must say they’re delicious even before they get “super sour!”

Next week’s recipe will be Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles. Stay tuned!