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Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Photo: Yehor Milohrodskyi via unsplash.
Ukrainians of all ages are offering to help others in wartime.

Volunteering an hour or two a day with journalists in Kviv to refine their English for social media, I am continually struck by the spirit of the people. A fence riddled with bullet holes gets transformed into a fence painted with flowers, the bullet holes becoming the flowers’ centers. Everyone does what they can. Today’s story is about a teen who put away childish things to serve her people.

“ ‘Some of them ask my age and when I say, “16,” they’re shocked,’ Anna said. …

Washington Post reporter Hannah Allam writes from Lviv, “The adults who approach teenager Anna Melnyk sometimes cry, sometimes yell. They see ‘information’ on her green vest at the train station in the western city of Lviv and ask questions: How to get to Poland? Where is the bomb shelter? What to do next? Anna’s calm demeanor seems to reassure these new arrivals, displaced by war from besieged cities. They turn to her for a sign that everything is going to be all right.

“Anna, herself displaced from Kyiv, is undergoing a drastic transformation alongside other Ukrainian teens, who are trading high school concerns for work that will shape the kind of nation they will inherit once the fighting ends. …

“Just a few months ago, Anna was a typical 10th-grader. … She would plead with her mom and stepdad to let her stay out late. She didn’t always do her chores. If she got a bad grade, she said, she’d sulk and think, ‘Life sucks.’

“She now laughs at such frivolous cares. The camera roll on her iPhone traces the abruptness of the before and after. Photos show her posing and singing with classmates, followed by footage of Russian helicopters she recorded from her window. Since a harrowing escape from the capital in March, she has lived with her mom, grandmother, dog and cat in a tiny two-room flat in Lviv.

“She spends mornings in class via Zoom, then hops a bus to cross town for an afternoon shift at the train station. She said she feels empowered when she slips on the green vest to assist bewildered families.

‘Something changed in the way I see my troubles, my daily life,’ Anna said. ‘Now, every day I wake up and think, “Okay, I can do something.” ‘

“An only child who didn’t grow up with her biological father, she learned to navigate the world from the hard-working, churchgoing women who made sacrifices to give her a middle-class life in Kyiv. Her mother, Olga Kuzmenko, 36, is a linguist who interprets for Italian companies in Ukraine. Her grandmother, Olena Shevchun, 60, is an ophthalmologist who taught her poetry on walks through their favorite parks. …

“Anna’s mother took her on trips throughout Europe and the Middle East, always reminding her how lucky she was to have such opportunities. She also instilled in her daughter a love for Ukraine, visiting cultural museums and spending time in the Carpathian Mountains. Anna said the stunning vistas were ‘like freedom.’ …

“Like many adolescents, Anna’s family said, she became more rebellious and stubborn around age 13. She reveled in new freedoms such as going to McDonald’s alone with her friends. She crafted her own look — Billie Eilish-inspired baggy clothes, black combat boots, no makeup and short tousled hair. She would spar with her parents over walking the dog or helping with dishes.

“On Feb. 23, the day before Russia invaded, she and her classmates chipped in to buy a chocolate birthday cake for a favorite teacher. At the time, rumblings of war were background noise. … At sunrise the next morning, the sound of explosions jolted the family awake. Kuzmenko crept into her daughter’s room.

“ ‘Don’t panic, Anyuta,’ the mother said, using her daughter’s nickname. ‘Just take your stuff, whatever you will need for a couple of weeks.’ Kuzmenko remembers that Anna insisted on bringing the cake.

“Anna, her mom and stepfather quickly packed some clothes and important documents — as well as the cake. They drove to her grandmother’s house in the northern suburbs, where that night Anna sat bitterly in front of the TV, eating birthday cake while watching news of a war that was suddenly unfolding just outside her window.

“[Soon] Anna’s parents realized they’d made a grave mistake by driving north. Shevchun, the grandma, lives only 10 miles from Bucha, where Russian ground forces would leave a trail of death and destruction. They could hear the bombardment, and they stayed up night after night gaming out how they would react, what they would say, if Russian troops appeared on their doorstep.

“Then the first photos emerged of atrocities in Bucha, ‘and we understood.’ …

“The stress and pressure on the family mounted. One day, Anna locked herself in a closet for hours, crying and refusing to eat. The family prayed together and decided to make a run for western Ukraine. … They had no idea which districts were occupied by Russian forces, but their Protestant pastor told them about an escape route through back roads. …

“By luck, friends found them the two-room flat in Lviv. … They had shelter, but they were far from settled. Kuzmenko said she developed an uncontrollable tremor. There was bickering given the cramped space. The dog started growling at air raid sirens. Kuzmenko said it was her daughter who adapted best.

“ ‘There were some times when I stayed here and just cried without even seeing the future, the next day, how to go forward,’ Kuzmenko said. ‘And then she comes and says, “Mom, do you want me to hug you?” ‘ …

“During her shifts at the train station, Anna has developed a close bond with other volunteers. … Watching the girls’ enthusiasm gives Anna’s mother and grandmother hope that Ukraine’s next generations won’t grow up feeling yoked by a Soviet legacy.

“ ‘She doesn’t have these fears, that she doesn’t have dignity, that she doesn’t have the right to exist, to have her opinions.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Ivan Petrov.
Kyiv-born and -trained ballet star Ivan Petrov is working with ballerina Alina Cojocaru to help dancers whose lives are in upheaval since Russia invaded Ukraine.

It’s been interesting to see how many different kinds of groups are pulling together to help Ukraine since Russia invaded. College alumni groups, small towns, chefs, former military, athletes … the list goes on.

When I was reading today’s article on the dance world’s efforts, I was surprised by an observation about how ballet-world organizing after the death of George Floyd affected the speed with which dance folk are taking action today.

Sarah L. Kaufman reports at the Washington Post, “Amid the constant air raid sirens and shelling near her home in Kyiv, 17-year-old Polina Chepyk tried to fill her days with dancing.

“Her ballet school had shut down, so she stretched and spun in the apartment she shared with her parents and 8-year-old sister, Anfisa. Chepyk used the back of the sofa as her ballet barre.

“But lying in bed in the dark, she could not tune out the war. ‘At night you can’t control your feelings,’ Chepyk said in a recent phone interview. …

“Since early childhood, she had devoted herself to perfecting her pirouettes and learning excerpts of the great ballet roles. When war came, she feared that the world of music and grace she longed to inhabit was gone. …

“Yet the international ballet community has swung into action, led by the New York-based organization Youth America Grand Prix. Russian dancers Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev, who began their careers at Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet before emigrating to the United States, founded YAGP in 1999 to help students gain access to the world’s most selective ballet schools, through scholarship auditions. But since the war in Ukraine began, YAGP has been tapping its network of dancers and educators to help nearly 100 Ukrainian dance students (and often their entire families) flee danger and continue their art, by placing them in training academies throughout Europe. …

“Suddenly, Chepyk found herself packing a suitcase with leotards, tights, bottles of her mother’s perfume and ‘every gift my parents ever gave me, for remembering them.’ …

“After a five-day journey, she arrived March 21 into the embrace of a Dutch family with two girls. Chepyk said she has become ‘their third daughter.’

“And she has resumed her beloved dance training at the Dutch National Ballet Academy, where she is in the highest level. …

“The war in Ukraine has hit the tight-knit ballet world hard, and dancers have responded with an unprecedented storm of activism. Ukrainian ballet students and professional dancers are being taken in by far-flung academies and companies, swelling their rosters. Dancers are converging across borders for star-studded fundraisers. …

“Ballet is a profoundly international art, as well as a communal one. It depends on continuous, daily interaction with fellow performers, who are typically drawn from all over and who work together on a uniquely intimate physical and emotional level. …

“The ballet world’s rapid mobilization in support of Ukraine was prompted by something much more recent, according to Lynn Garafola, a dance historian and author of La Nijinska: Choreographer of the Modern. She points to the Black Lives Matter movement as helping set the ground for solidarity.

“ ‘Black Lives Matter primed the ballet community for self-interrogation,’ she said. ‘It responded in a very strong way with a lot of thinking and discussion, across the board, trying to establish new norms for diversity and inclusivity and equity. So people were already thinking in ways that were more ethical. And that’s what has come to the fore here.’

“Echoes of BLM lie in the questions that dance artists have been asking themselves since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Garafola said, such as: ‘What can I do about it?’ …

“Romanian-born ballerina Alina Cojocaru, formerly of the Royal Ballet, and Ivan Putrov, a Royal Ballet principal from Kyiv, trained together in the Ukrainian capital as children. Before joining the Royal Ballet, Cojocaru danced professionally in Kyiv for a year, where one of her first partners was Artyom Datsishin, ‘a tall, very quiet person and very talented dancer,’ she said in a recent video call with Putrov from London. Datsishin later became an internationally known star of the National Opera of Ukraine. Two days after the Russian invasion began, he was hit by shelling, and he died three weeks later of his injuries.

“Datsishin’s death, which made headlines around the world as an especially poignant symbol of the war’s brutality, helped spur Cojocaru and Putrov to organize the Dance for Ukraine charity gala. … The gala came together in two weeks, and was an easy sell to their colleagues. ‘We already knew so many people from all over the world. We are just one phone call away from someone in Cuba, France, Germany and America,’ Putrov said.”

Read more at the Post, here.

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The Michael S. Van Leesten Memorial Bridge is a footbridge crossing the Providence River. The bridge connects Providence’s Fox Point neighborhood to the city’s former Jewelry District.

Spring is coming to New England in fits and starts. I warned Stuga40 before she left Sweden to visit Providence that she might need to bring clothes for anything from balmy days to a deep freeze. She was glad to know that, as it turned out we did have both.

The day we walked with her over the Providence River pedestrian bridge (above) it was cold but warm enough to eat our lunch outside at a nearby vegan restaurant. We were dressed for it.

When the I-195 highway was rerouted, Providence had a big debate about what to put in the old Jewelry District area where land was freed up. I’m so glad the pedestrian advocates won out. The bridge is truly magnificent, a model that other cities would be well to emulate. We don’t need to enable more cars and driving. And the bridge has become a major attraction, which helps local businesses.

While our Swedish relative was at Suzanne and Erik’s house, my husband and I stayed at a rental apartment nearby in order to have more time to explore the city with her. Below are two photos from our rainy day at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. The RISD Museum is a quirky collection of buildings featuring photogenic nooks and crannies that I like. I also liked this Georgia O’Keeffe. When I showed the photo to my 7-year-old granddaughter, she knew already that many O’Keeffe paintings are close-ups of flowers. She’d heard about the artist in school.

Stuga40 and I also walked the downtown area and chatted with the shoemaker at the new cobbler shop, recently reviewed in the Boston Globe.

The other photos are just things that caught my eye, both in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Note that signs of Ukraine solidarity are popping up everywhere. You might be interested in a Kyiv messaging project that Asakiyume and I (and many other volunteers) are working on. Podcast here.

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Photo: Asortymenta Kimnata.
People are working ’round the clock to save Ukraine’s museum collections.

Everyone is doing their part. You have probably read about groups working to transfer zoo animals from Ukraine to a safer country. In today’s story, we learn what Ukraine’s museum workers are doing.

Lisa Korneichuk at Hyperallergic interviews the founders of Museum Crisis Center on their work to safeguard museum staff and save Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

“Many art and cultural monuments in Ukraine fall victim to Russia’s full-scale invasion along with civilians. [Russian] troops have damaged libraries, churches, and a mosque, and shelled local historical museums in Chernihiv, Okhtyrka, Ivankiv, an art museum, architectural monuments in Kharkiv, and many more. As of this writing, they dropped a 500-kilo bomb on the Donetsk Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol, where over a thousand people were hiding from the shelling. 

While the Ukrainian governmental institutions are focused on saving the national art collections, local heritage and contemporary art remain vulnerable to the war threat.

“Moreover, museum teams in the region often risk their lives staying in the war zones to guard exhibits. To save overlooked Ukrainian heritage from vanishing, local citizens, cultural workers, and NGOs organize independent initiatives and evacuate art that has fewer chances to survive the war. 

“On March 3, Olha Honchar, director of Lviv museum ‘The Territory of Terror‘ asked on Facebook if there were any funds supporting Ukrainian artists and museums in wartime. She later updated her post: ‘Meanwhile, we start making such a fund ourselves.’ In partnership with the team of the NGO Insha Osvita, Olha launched Museum Crisis Center, a grassroots initiative aimed at helping museum workers in the emergency regions and evacuating artworks. …

“The main task of the center was the rapid financial and organizational support of museum workers, many of whom found themselves face to face with the war and without a means to support themselves. The center has to look for ways to get around long bureaucratic processes to aid those who need it immediately.

Hyperallergic spoke to the Museum Crisis Center co-founders Olha Honchar and Alyona Karavai over Zoom about the balance between legal requirements and efficiency in times of war and their critical stances on international humanitarian institutions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Hyperallergic: Tell us exactly what your organization is doing?

Olha Honchar: We have offices in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv [cities in the west of Ukraine]. We joined our efforts and found more people to launch the Museum Crisis Center, or the Museum Emergency. I coordinate quick support for museum workers in war-torn areas that are under attack. We provide donations for basic things, like food, water, medicine. Many museum workers haven’t received salaries, their expenses increased. Our goal is to ensure that these people can survive the war. …

“We are developing an efficient algorithm for our work because within the bureaucratic Ukrainian system, it’s quite difficult to respond to people’s needs quickly. Everything is designed for a long bureaucracy. But in many regions we are working with there are no accountants, the treasury is bombed, or the culture department is not operating. Therefore, the only way to help is to send money directly on a personal card. Our task is to make it transparent and convince donors that help is received by those who need it.

“The next step will be the reconstruction of museums and infrastructure, but these are large-scale things. At the moment it is crucial to support teams and people so that there is someone to do the reconstruction later.

H: You are also involved in the evacuation of works, focusing on grassroots initiatives and art projects that will be the last to come to the attention of government agencies for cultural heritage.

Alyona Karavai: Or won’t come at all. The other day we met with the Minister of Culture and they said that they were focused on objects that are defined as being ‘of cultural value’ under Ukrainian law, i.e. objects that are 50 years old and older. Their primary mission is to save large national collections. Thus, they are unable to help even the small state museums which they have under their control. Grassroots initiatives and contemporary art are generally beyond their sphere of influence. We [NGO ‘Insha Osvita’] evacuate works from artists’ studios, private collections, and art centers. 

H: How often are you asked for help and do you carry out any selection of works?

AK: There is no selection. We help everyone we can. We’ve received 17 requests for assistance, so far we’ve fulfilled six. One request was from Mariupol, but it was clear that we could no longer help there. There are areas where we are powerless. …

OH: We help museums that we have personal contacts with. Our monitoring team includes museum workers [and] directors of centers, who call each other and gather information about needs. It is very important for us to do this through proven contacts because now there are many suspicious situations, fake news.

“People are afraid to say what they have in museum collections because it is unclear for what purpose this information can be gathered. That’s why we rely on the trusted network and work through the close contacts I have made during my career, including as the director of the ‘Territory of Terror.’ …

H: How do you evacuate artworks?

AK: We have a few volunteers on the ground. There are some people in Kyiv, in Odessa who help to evacuate artworks by buses. We’ve been looking for trucks. It takes a while to find any, we are not a transport company, we have never done that before. There were moments when we found a car and then it dropped [out] at the last minute. The situation on the roads is changing fast. So if we were able to use a route yesterday, it does not mean that we can go there tomorrow.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall.

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Photo: DeansBeans.
Dean Cycon of Dean’s Beans and his wife decided to go to Poland to help World Central Kitchen feed the influx of Ukrainian refugees. They both have forebears that were chased out of Europe by Russia.

Do you know the legend of the Jongleur de Notre Dame?

My francophone blogger friends should correct me if I get this wrong, but the way I remember it is that a man wanted to present a gift at the statue of the Virgin Mary but was desperately poor. He had a different kind of gift, though — a talent for juggling. The story goes that he juggled with all his heart and soul in front of the sculpture, and it gently bowed its head to him.

That’s the kind of miracle that feels real.

Today people are donating money and whatever talents they have in order to help Ukrainians invaded by Russia. First off, John, my son, who continues to employ optical engineers in Ukraine for remote work.

Another Massachusetts resident, Dean Cycon of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee, is going with his wife, Annette, to Poland to work with World Central Kitchen, which is feeding thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Dean and Annette both have forebears they say were chased out of Europe by Russia. Their story is detailed at the Greenfield Recorder, here.

Boston doctors, interviewed here, made YouTube videos to teach ordinary Ukrainians how to treat war wounds. According to the Washington Post, The video is less than 40 seconds long — but its creators say it could help save lives in Ukraine.

‘The data we know from the battlefield is that a significant amount of deaths are preventable with taking these steps,’ Eric Goralnick, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. …

“Goralnick is the doctor shown acting out the tutorial in the short video, which provides a list of actionable steps written in Ukrainian. Another video, about 4½ minutes long, features a more detailed, step-by-step narration in Ukrainian by Nelya Melnitchouk, a Ukrainian-born oncology surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.” More.

The nonprofit group End Hunger New England is pivoting from mostly local needs to help Ukrainians, too, but according to the Christian Science Monitor, the group was stumped about how to deliver the meals so far away. Then a Boston-based shipping company, BOC International, stepped up. “It’s handling all the logistics,” the Monitor reports, No charge.”

Along with Asakiyume, I myself have joined a crowd of editor-types to help media people in Kyiv clean up translations of events so the Ukrainians can share the latest on Anglophone social media.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, which Asakiyume, a friend I met 25 years ago when we were both copyediting at a management magazine, offered me.

How it works: bilingual Ukrainians translate local news into English the best they can, then send it to colleagues to check as well as to “proofreaders,” mostly American. As proofreaders, we try to make the English sound more natural.

The organization we are helping works 24 hours a day. I know I’m getting more out of it than I am giving. Talk about real! If I want to sacrifice, I ought to sign up for the sparse 2 a.m. shift.

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The Master and Margarita is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union during Stalin‘s regime. A censored version was published in Moscow magazine in 1966–1967, after the writer’s death.

John has worked with optical engineers in Ukraine for decades now. Some years ago, when one of the engineers was in the US to talk to clients, we got to share a meal and a chat. I remember it was a sweltering hot day. We had no air conditioning in our dining room, and we were all sweating.

At the time, I must have been reading Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a fantastical satire on the USSR, written in the time of Stalin. We began to talk about it, and John’s colleague described what one had to do to read the book’s loose unpublished pages before Ukraine gained its freedom. Under the table in the library with a flashlight.

That memory came to mind in the last few days as I watched the Soviet Union try to return from the dead in Ukraine. My train of thought took me to current headlines about banned books in the US and an article in the New York Times that gave students a chance to opine on that trend.

The Times staff explains, “In the article ‘Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.,’ Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter write about the growing trend of parents, political activists, school board officials and lawmakers arguing that some books do not belong in school libraries.

“As we regularly do when The Times reports on an issue that touches the lives of teenagers, we used our daily Student Opinion forum to ask teenagers to share their perspectives. The overwhelming majority of students were opposed to book bans in any form, although their reasons and opinions were varied and nuanced. They argued that young people have the right to read unsanitized versions of history, that diverse books expose them to a variety of experiences and perspectives, that controversial literature helps them to think critically about the world, and that, in the age of the internet, book bans just aren’t that effective. … Thank you to all those from around the world who joined the conversation this week, including teenagers from Japan; Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia; and Patino High School in Fresno, Calif.

” ‘I think the idea of people trying to censor speech is absolutely abhorrent. Right to freedom of speech, religion, peaceful assembly, petition, and press is our 1st amendment and one that we take for granted …

” ‘As a teenager I am still trying to find my way in this world; I want to know as many other viewpoints as possible so that I know my thoughts are my own and not just a product of a limited amount of information. Even if these books are not required reading they should be allowed in libraries. Families can decide what books are allowed in their homes but trying to force a community to get rid of a book is a way of forcing one’s beliefs on an entire community. Removing books about issues faced by marginalized groups is a way to ignore them, a way to minimize the issues faced by those groups and allow the banners to not have their opinions challenged. This is a democracy that should be open to discussion and if it is then people will find others who agree and disagree with them.’ [Jason, Maine] …

” ‘Maybe a student has past trauma that they may struggle to deal with, a book that has a topic based on their past may comfort them and bring them closure. These books also inform students on what really happens within the mind and life of someone else. Banning books is an overall loss for a school or library, it only limits human growth.’ [Alex, Michigan]

” ‘Reading the article and these comments just makes me think, ”Jeez, the fact these books are being challenged shows how much some people need education on the subjects of them.” These books may have hard topics but they essentially are a needed part of education. They might be brutal and hard to swallow, but they are the best examples of real-world problems and history. They provide a good sense of realism and give kids somewhat of an idea of what goes on and has gone on in the world.

” ‘Challenging these books is like trying to protect someone from the world. Then instead shoving them in front of something that makes them think, “Everything will always work out,” And, “These things will never happen again.” It makes them think the world has no struggle or insanely big problems. When in reality it definitely does and they will be directly affected by these problems.’ [Jordan, Massachusetts]

“While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the material your children are reading, as some material might not be age appropriate, there is almost never — honestly, never at all — justification for banning a book. …

“Books are the primary way to tell stories, to learn right from the mouths of people who have witnessed things we need to learn and grow from. Our society depends on the idea of future generations learning and progressing, and with the banning of books all we are doing is going backwards, not forwards.” [Meghan, Illinois]

Read more at the Times, here.

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Ukraine has banned TV shows from Russia, so Russia cannot afford to make many new shows. The Ukrainian shows are generally in Russian, and Russian viewers need shows, so their TV stations are buying shows from Ukraine.

Production in Ukraine is ramping up to meet demand, but there are challenges. Often the Russian actors that producers want to use have once said something negative about Ukraine, so they are banned, too. And since police procedurals are popular and need to work for both countries, uniforms have to be unidentifiable.

I loved hearing about this today on Public Radio International’s The World.

Alina Simone reports, “When Ukraine banned all TV content created in Russia after 2014. Russia didn’t impose the same ban on Ukraine. Instead, they started buying Ukrainian TV shows like crazy.

“ ‘When all of this happened, there was such a big kick in the butt,’ says Iryna Kostyuk, a producer at the Ukrainian media company, FILM.UA. ‘Volume-wise, everything is growing. Even the smallest production company is now filled with orders.’

“Kostyuk’s production company is behind Russia’s favorite detective series, ‘The Sniffer,’ about a cop who dissects crimes using his … olfactory superpowers.” More here.

Photo and video: FILM.UA
“The Sniffer,” one of the most popular detective shows in Russia today, is made by a Ukrainian production company.

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My husband heard that the Kiev subway is a popular place for older Russians and Ukrainians to go dancing. So I Googled around a bit and found stories at Odd Stuff Magazine, here, and the Daily Mail, here. And a video at YouTube. In today’s world, you can’t keep a good story down.

At the Daily Mail (which seems to favor bullet points) Helen Lawson writes, “Saturday night fever: The subway where Kiev’s pensioners dance and find love.

  •     The dancers cannot afford to pay for a venue so they use a metro subway
  •     The group meets every Saturday at 7 pm to socialise and dance
  •     About 20 couples are known to have met thanks to the meet-ups
  •     Reuters photographer Gleb Garanich documented the weekly gatherings

At Odd Stuff, photographer Garanichev Hleb (is that the same Reuters guy?) asks the subjects of his photos about the dance scene. “Milevsky Nicholas was born in 1938 and Natalia Stolyarchuk born in 1955 met at these dances and has since moved in together. This is one of the 20 couples who met at these clubs. ..

“Despite his age, both retired and still work together earn about 4,000 hryvnia per month. …

“These people do not communicate in social networks, but still remember all the holidays of childhood and youth, when put on the table, to visit friends and neighbors come, everywhere sounded cheerful sounds of accordion.” More.

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Gene Sharp (founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and the go-to guy on nonviolent revolution) is proof that one and one and 50 make a million. Sharp is one man, but his writings have had a powerful influence on many of the players in the 2011 Arab Spring and democracy movements elsewhere.

Today I went with Jane’s family to see a movie about Sharp at the Boston Film Festival. (Jane’s cousin, Ruaridh Arrow, directed it.) It’s a remarkable film. There were interviews with organizers of nonviolent change in Serbia, Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, and beyond. The documentary was interspersed with news footage and video from recent uprisings around the world. A key message is that change takes strategic planning (you can’t wing it) and is a kind of armed resistance, only people are armed with ideas for undermining the pillars that support an oppressive regime. In addition to conducting research on the subject of nonviolence, Sharp has offered a list of 198 techniques that effect change.

After a standing ovation, a frail Gene Sharp, 83, his assistant, Jamila Raqib, and nonviolent-change trainer Col. Robert Helvey, retired, came up on the stage with the director and took audience questions. Raqib was asked about the funding for the Albert Einstein Institution, which operates out of a small space in East Boston. She said that likely funders back off because the ideas do relate to overthrowing a government. The institution is struggling.

I wish you could have been there to hear a young woman stand up and say that she is Egyptian and took  part in the January uprising. She said the overthrow of the government was easy but the rebuilding is hard. She wanted to know if any studies had been done comparing the transitions to democracy of other uprisings. When Sharp said that studies had yet to be done, I couldn’t help thinking what a good use of new funding such research might be. The film itself was funded by large and small donations from around the world through Kickstarter, which I blogged about here. Perhaps it can kickstart nonviolent change elsewhere.

Update: Gene Sharp died at his home in East Boston on January 28, 2018. He was 90.

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This morning on my walk I noticed a sign about energy-saving LED (light-emitting diode) street lamps. The sign is hard to read here, but it says that the LED lighting was provided by the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park. It also says that “the City of Boston is testing different types of LED lighting systems around the town and wants to know what you think.” Tell the City here.

The main reason I’m interested is that John is in the optics business, and his team is always working on LED, 3-D, and other optical projects beyond my ken. (I blogged about his Eastern European optical engineers here and here. John and Gregg tweet at OFH_John and gfavalora.)

And while we’re on the subject of optics, check out an article about “bizarre optical phenomena, defying the laws of reflection and refraction. …

“Cambridge, Mass. – September 1, 2011 – Exploiting a novel technique called phase discontinuity, researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have induced light rays to behave in a way that defies the centuries-old laws of reflection and refraction.” They bend light. Kind of like a fun house mirror.

You can see what they are talking about here.

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Some years before Suzanne launched Luna & Stella, her brother started his own entrepreneurial business, Optics for Hire. John’s work has entailed regular trips to Ukraine and Belarus to meet with optical engineers.

In 2008, his dad decided to join him on a trip to Lviv, Ukraine (called Lvov when it was part of Poland). Here they are.

John is on the left, then the Good Soldier Švejk (Schweick), then my husband, then a Ukrainian engineer.

Do you know the Good Soldier Švejk? He is a character in a Czech antiwar novel written after WW I. The book reemerged as the thing to read around the time of the Vietnam War. The Wikipedia write-up says in part:

“It explores both the pointlessness and futility of conflict in general and of military discipline, specifically Austrian military discipline, in particular. Many of its characters, especially the Czechs, are participating in a conflict they do not understand on behalf of a country to which they have no loyalty.

“The character of Josef Švejk is a development of this theme. Through possibly feigned idiocy or incompetence he repeatedly manages to frustrate military authority and expose its stupidity in a form of passive resistance: the reader is left unclear, however, as to whether Švejk is genuinely incompetent, or acting quite deliberately with dumb insolence.”

I was delighted to see that Švejk is still appreciated in Lviv.

Meanwhile, whenever John goes to Lviv, I always ask him to hunt down the lost masterpiece of the Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, best known for The Street of Crocodiles. He is said to have given his greatest work to a Catholic friend for safekeeping just before being shot in the street by a Nazi officer. I have read a good bit about him, including the biography Regions of the Great Heresy, and I am really worried about the missing work, The Messiah. He was an amazing writer.

 This write-up on the Internet generally coincides with what I have read about Bruno Schulz, except for the emphasis on his Polishness. Nations fight over his legacy because that part of the world has shifted so often. Israel also thinks he is theirs and about 15 years ago undercover agents upset Ukraine mightily by absconding with a mural Schulz had painted and taking it to a museum in Israel. The web write-up also mentions the great Israeli writer David Grossman’s novel about Schulz,  See Under: LOVE, a difficult read.

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