Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Photo: Erin Clark/Globe staff.
Olga Yulikova sorts through donations that people drop off “onto the front porch of her Arlington home to help a Ukrainian family fleeing war,” the Boston Globe reports.

Because I’m downsizing and complaining about how difficult it can be to get some items into the hands of people who need them, Suzanne told me about our community’s Buy Nothing Project on Facebook. So far, no one there has wanted an old ironing board, but lots of people were interested in beat-up posters. I picked the first to raise her hand.

Meanwhile, in Arlington, they call their Facebook group Everything Is Free and are using it to help refugees get settled. To me that’s a worthier cause than giving free things to people who could often afford to buy them ten times over.

Sonel Cutler writes at the Boston Globe, “In Ukraine, Olena had a fulfilling job in real estate and an apartment she loved. The only time she had ever left her home city of Zaporizhzhia was to go on vacation.

“[In] February 2022, Olena, who asked to be identified by her first name only for privacy, became scared for the safety of her young daughter and made the most difficult decision of her life: to flee her home.

“She and her daughter left Zaporizhzhia abruptly in March after Russian forces took over a nearby nuclear power station. They took only passports, her daughter’s birth certificate, and few other items before driving to western Ukraine and then to Germany.

“In April, the Biden administration launched the Uniting for Ukraine program, which helped Olena and her daughter seek refuge in the United States. They arrived in late June, staying with childhood friends in Arlington until January, when their hosts had to bring their own parents to the country from Ukraine. …

“Connecting on Facebook, Olena became friends with Arlington resident Olga Yulikova, who helped her secure an apartment and turned to the town’s ‘Everything is Free’ Facebook group for donations to furnish the place.

“Arlington residents overwhelmingly answered her request. In a matter of days, the previously bare apartment had a fridge, coffee maker, queen-sized mattress, dish soap, and more essentials for Olena and her daughter.

“ ‘I’m completely overwhelmed, and I’m so grateful for all the help,’ Olena told the Globe, with Yulikova translating. …

“Yulikova, who immigrated from Moscow as a refugee in 1989, had been organizing humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees since the war began last year.

“She and Olena became close friends after meeting online, sharing stories over cups of coffee, and connecting over the discovery that Yulikova’s great-grandmother hailed from Olena’s hometown in Ukraine.

‘I cannot stop the war. I’m very much against it,’ Yulikova said. ‘I cannot save the Ukrainian people that are suffering. I can only help one or two individuals.’

“Yulikova posted her request for donations or small amounts of money in the community Facebook group on Jan. 22, and set up a wish list, listing a drop-off location for donated items.

“ ‘She [had] an empty apartment with no money,’ Yulikova said. ‘She’s very happy, but she [didn’t] really have a mattress to sleep on. So I figured I’ll put it on our Arlington lists, just like I did for everything else when I was collecting donations to be sent to Ukraine.’

“Daniel Icekson, a 54-year-old Arlington resident and friend of Yulikova, had been following Olena’s story after they had met briefly months before.The tragedy of the war in Ukraine moved Icekson, whose relatives perished in the Holocaust. When he heard Olena was looking for donations, Icekson began disassembling a large wardrobe, planning to reassemble it in Olena’s apartment.

“ ‘I thought, Why not? We have this extra wardrobe. We’ll just give it away,’ Icekson said. ‘If I can just contribute in a small way to one family, then I guess that’s a good thing.’

“Yulikova said she initially worried about how she and Olena would transport hefty items like a kitchen table and a jumbo bean bag into the apartment by themselves. But, according to Yulikova, ‘people came out of the woodwork’ to help.

“ ‘[They] said “Oh, no problem. I will drive. I will bring. I will assemble, disassemble,” ‘ she said. ‘People just volunteer.’

“While she knew Icekson, the majority of donors were complete strangers to Yulikova, something she said helped restore her lost faith in humanity. …

“Though her young daughter has immersed herself in school, performing with the local theater, and learning English, Olena remains troubled by her separation from her son and father, who remain in Ukraine to support the army.

“ ‘Every day, I don’t know if my son and my father will live another day,’ she said. ‘Every day I keep the phone at my fingertips and check in on them 100 times a day.’ “

More at the Globe, here.

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Permission to Stay Warm

Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters.
Residents take shelter inside London’s Roehampton Library, Dec. 14, 2022. The library is being used as a “warm bank,” according to CSM, welcoming members of the community to spend time there in the winter months as an alternative to heating their homes amid increased energy costs.

After Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, oil prices and heating costs went up for everyone. And rather than help people out, oil companies gave their windfall profits back to themselves. In the long run, that can only help to spur alternative energy development. But meanwhile, folks are just trying to keep warm.

Natasha Khullar Relph writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “String lights, boxes full of postcards to share a story, or a sign on the door that lists the top five David Bowie songs with the message, ‘Come in and argue’: There are many ways to make people happy to come out of the cold and into a public warm space, says Maff Potts. The key, he adds, is to make sure they feel welcome and not judged.

“ ‘What gets people in is that it’s not a church. It’s not a charity,’ says Mr. Potts, who founded Camerados, a social movement that’s been opening public living rooms in communities across the United Kingdom since 2015. ‘There’s no fixing, no answer. There’s just permission.’ …

“While the U.K. Health Security Agency is encouraging people to warm their homes to at least 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 F), more than 3 million low-income households cannot afford to heed this advice.

According to analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, around 710,000 households across the U.K. cannot pay for warm clothing, heating, and food, with approximately 2.5 million households – a fifth of all low-income households – going without both food and heating.

“And with power prices hitting record levels and energy costs double what they were last year, warm spaces have popped up all over the country. To avoid any potential stigma, they’re being presented as communal spaces where people can come to chat rather than charitable offerings of heat or food. While the main reason someone would go to a warm space or public living room is most likely to be warmth, it’s the camaraderie and conversation that keeps people there. …

“Britain’s poor people face the worst winter in living memory, tweeted former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in December. ‘A year ago we talked about people having to choose between heating and eating, now many can’t afford either,’ he wrote. Two-thirds of the country will be in fuel poverty come April, which includes 70% of pensioners [retirees] and 96% of single-parent families with two or more kids, he noted. …

“If you’re struggling to pay to heat your home, you only really have three options, says Matt Copeland, NEA’s head of policy: You could rack up debt with your energy supplier, ration your energy and use less than you need to stay warm, or simply turn off the heating, the impact of which can be significant. Research shows that more people die from cold homes than they do from alcohol’s short- and long-term effects, Parkinson’s disease, or traffic accidents.

“ ‘We know of households with prepayment meters who just can’t afford to top them up at all,’ says Mr. Copeland. ‘They’re going days, weeks, and sometimes months without access to energy.’ …

“Where the government is failing, communities are stepping up. ‘It is completely absurd that one of the 10 richest countries in the world can’t put a sufficient priority on things and make the right choices so that we have somewhere to keep people warm,’ says Mr. Potts of Camerados, whose public living rooms are now being used as templates for warm spaces around the country. After almost 30 years of working with people at the margins, Mr. Potts says he doesn’t have faith that the solution lies in the civil service. …

“An LGBTQ+ community space in Brighton. A bakery in North Yorkshire. A gaming cafe and ‘geek culture’ store in Ipswich. A vegetarian restaurant in Tunbridge Wells. A brewery in Devon. A former shoe store in Worcestershire. Warm spaces are popping up all around the country, in all manner of ways, in a community effort that started organically, from the grassroots, without a central organizer.

“In addition to community halls and churches, hotels, hairdressers, and cricket clubs are opening up their doors for anyone who needs some warmth, some company, and perhaps even a drink. Even legendary soccer club Manchester United has gotten in on the action and is offering Old Trafford, the club’s stadium, as a free warm hub, with its restaurant, the Red Café, opening its doors on Monday and Wednesday evenings ‘to help those facing difficult months ahead.’

“The Warm Welcome campaign, an organization that has encouraged thousands of faith groups, charities, and businesses to provide such public spaces, said they’d seen 80,000 people use their facilities during December’s cold snap. The campaign notes that there are now warm spaces in every town and city in the country, and lists over 3,200 venues on their website, which include spaces run by local authorities, charities, and businesses. …

“ ‘What we have in Brighton and Hove is a tremendous community-mindedness among residents. Despite the stark reality facing residents this winter, people have stuck together and they’ve really helped each other through some of the starkest problems,’ says Brighton and Hove City Council Leader Phélim Mac Cafferty, who notes there are more than 40 warm spaces available to the public across the city. …

“This nationwide response to the energy crisis is unique in how much of a community effort it is. The effort to create warm spaces was neither government- nor council-led, nor the work of any one particular organization. As the need became obvious, first volunteers, then organizations, and later local councils jumped in feet first.”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Office of the President of Ukraine via Reuters Connect.
Ukrainian soldiers capture the moment when Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the liberated city of Kherson on Nov. 14, 2022. War is hell, but soldiers rejoice when they can, even putting dance videos on TikTok.

When the Ukrainian oligarch gave up control of U24 news and the volunteer social-media team I was on disbanded in May, I knew that the outlet would be managed by the government. Now a new law makes it official that freedom of the press is out, at least for now. (See New York Times article here.)

Naturally, I am worried about that. Freedom of the press should not be a luxury only for peacetime. But I don’t feel I have the right to judge, and I am waiting to hear what some of our Ukrainian colleagues have to say.

In the meantime, I want to share the playful videos from Insider, where you can see Ukrainian soldiers relaxing with goofy dance videos that get put on TikTok.

In early December, Andrew Lloyd wrote, “Across social media, videos showing what appear to be Ukrainian soldiers taking part in lighthearted trends and dances are going viral, drawing a mixed response. 

The most viral video in the genre appears to be a 23-second clip shared by the official Twitter account for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine on December 5. It shows a person in military attire performing a dance in the snow while what sounds like gunshots could be heard in the background. …

“The same account had previously shared a 21-second clip of a soldier dancing on the hood of what appeared to be a military vehicle, which was viewed over 285,000 times, and included the caption, ‘Morale is high.’ 

“The videos have received a mixed reaction from Twitter commenters, some of whom expressed exasperation with the soldiers.

” ‘What is the point of these dancing videos,’ one comment with over 1,400 likes said. ‘War is hell, soldiers in trenches are freezing to death and most likely are not thinking about pikachu dance.’ …

“But another commenter with over 700 likes came to their defense. ‘Maybe, just maybe, it is to help cope with that hell.’ 

One Twitter user wrote, ‘For those of you who think this is bad: Not sure if you’ve ever been in a combat zone, but I have. … People do things to have some semblance of fun, joy, and normalcy when we could.’

“In the comments, some Twitter users also shared older footage of soldiers dancing and photos of soldiers engaging in ‘silliness in WW2’ in response to the dancing video. Similar videos have also circulated on TikTok, although they don’t appear to have been posted by official accounts. 

“One user who goes by @diyak_yuriy has posted three videos in the past month showing a person dressed in what appears to be a Ukrainian military uniform. … Diyak Yuiry, the 24-year-old dancer behind the account, told Insider he’s been in the military for more than three years and he was ‘very grateful to everyone’ who watched his TikTok and left comments. …

“Viewers seemed to have a more positive response on TikTok [than on Twitter]. One comment with over 1,800 likes said, ‘Damn! These Ukrainians do have a sense of humor. I’m rooting for you,’ while a comment with over 200 likes said, ‘You can’t break a brave soldier’s spirit. Keep on dancing.’

“Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but Vladimir Putin’s troops have since lost half more than half the territory they had initially gained, the BBC reported in November. 

“Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was damaged or destroyed as a result of attacks from Russia, which caused a ‘devastating energy crisis,’ according to Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.”

More at Insider, here. No firewall.

Because Ukraine’s media is currently under government control, it is not possible to be sure this dance video is a real thing. But I have to enjoy it anyway.

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Artists Leave Russia

Photos: Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for NPR.
Choreographer Polina Mitryashina, artist Victor Melamed, and jazz producer Evgenii Petrushanskiy are Russian artists who have recently fled Russia to live in Israel.

Most of the Ukrainians I worked with for those precious few months after the Russian invasion believe that all Russians support Putin’s war. But although I would probably feel the same if I were constantly being bombed and had no electricity and was running out of food, I believe that nations aren’t monoliths.

Today we learn about some Jewish Russian artists who are against the war and have left their country. It’s not just about saving their own skin. It’s outrage.

As Daniel Estrin reports at National Public Radio, “Some of Russia’s biggest artistic talents have immigrated to Israel this year, finding a safe place to rebuild their careers and voice their conscience about their country’s war in Ukraine.

“Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it has cracked down on even the slightest opposition to the war, forced thousands of citizens to enlist to fight and drawn tough sanctions from the West. All this has prompted many Russians to flee.

“More than 28,000 Russian nationals have acquired Israeli citizenship since the war began, according to Israeli government figures. …

” ‘Staying behind the Iron Curtain was incredibly scary,’ Russian artist Victor Melamed says. … Melamed, whose portraits have appeared in the New Yorker magazine, fled to Israel in June. He says: ‘I want to be a person of the world.’

“Russians are relocating mostly to Turkey, Kazakhstan and Georgia. But Israel offers one big advantage: Those with at least one Jewish grandparent can get Israeli citizenship for themselves and their close family.

” ‘When the war started, I think, like, everybody literally remembered their Jewish grandma,’ says Liza Rozovsky, a Russian-born Israeli journalist tracking Russian celebrity arrivals for the Haaretz newspaper. …

“Some Ukrainian immigrants in Israel wish the Russian newcomers would stay in Russia to protest their leadership, despite the risks. ‘They’re trying to run away,’ says Ilona Stavytska, 33, a Ukrainian-born barista in Tel Aviv.

“But Russian exiles say their protest is more effective here. ‘Go protest in Moscow. I will support you. I will say, “Oh, look, this person is protesting.” Then I will send you letters to jail,’ says Maxim Katz, 37, a Russian YouTube blogger and former opposition politician who escaped to Israel and publishes anti-war videos to audiences in Russia. …

“What a difference a year has made for jazz producer Evgenii Petrushanskii. Last year, his record label in Russia, Rainy Days Records, produced a jazz album which got nominated for a Grammy. This year, the record label has gone silent.

” ‘I don’t feel it’s the right time now to release music as a Russian label,’ Petrushanskii, 36, says at a Tel Aviv coffee shop. ‘For the ethical reasons, I stopped.’ Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, he left St. Petersburg for Tel Aviv, claiming Israeli citizenship based on his father’s Jewish roots.

” ‘It’s impossible to release a record in Russia so it goes to the foreign audience,’ Petrushanskii says. ‘A majority of music aggregators who release music toward the platforms like Apple Music, Spotify … are not presenting in Russia anymore.’ Now he’s re-registering his record label in Israel, hoping to release new records of Russian artists next year.

Polina Mitryashina, 28, worked at one of the world’s leading dance institutions, Russia’s Mariinsky Theater. Then when the war broke out, her dancers began to vanish.

” ‘Now they’re in Oslo,’ she says. …

“Mitryashina attended a recent networking event at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, which brought 100 Russian and Ukrainian artists in film, music, art and dance — new immigrants like her — to meet veteran Israeli artistic directors and try to rebuild their careers in Israel.

‘Sometimes I’m angry [at] the people who stay … and continue to work for the big companies, and continue to make money’ in Russia, she says. ‘I am like, “Are you crazy? You, you’re like a sponsor of the war.” ‘

“Artist Victor Melamed, 45, moved his family to a quiet Tel Aviv suburb to keep his teenage boys out of a potential Russian military draft — though they will likely be drafted into the Israeli army.

” ‘I have no romantic visions of, you know, Israel’s policies,’ he says. ‘The Israeli army is an institution that cares for every person they have … as opposed to the Russian army.’

“Each morning he draws a black-and-white portrait of a Ukrainian civilian killed in a Russian attack, and posts it on Instagram. He says it’s his way of pinching himself, not to get too comfortable in his new home in Israel. …

” ‘We need to grow up,’ he says. ‘We cannot afford to stay the same.’ “

More at NPR, here.

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Sending a bonus post this morning.

Longtime readers know that my blog is hosted by my daughter’s jewelry company, Luna & Stella. As it happens, both my children are entrepreneurs!

John’s company is Optics for Hire, and his staff in Ukraine and Belarus have invented many technologies that I haven’t known how to describe. Until now. This time my son’s team in Ukraine has invented LED technology for a knife sharpener that tells you how sharp the knife is, and Farberware is using it in a new product. Check it out here.

It’s really been fun hearing how the technology developed from the germ of an idea about the sharpness of hockey skates. (John’s son and daughter are both ice hockey players.)

Got to love the way inventors think.

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They Stayed in Kyiv

Photos: Iryna Dobryakova.
Young creatives who stayed behind in war-torn Ukraine.

Blog readers know that Asakiyume and I spent a few months helping media people in Ukraine with their English social-media outreach. (See this post.)

It’s not the same, but the native English speakers and Ukrainians on the team do keep in touch via Facebook. And we donate to former colleague Vitali’s work to help children traumatized by war in Rivne. Vitali has not seen his little daughter since the war started, which makes me sad. At least he knows she’s safe outside the country. And while he stays behind, he volunteers to help other children.

Shelby Wilder writes at Mic about some others who stayed behind.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has disrupted the lives of millions. Many people fled their homes when mounting evidence of the impending ‘special military operation’ surfaced. As the country’s economy nosedived and the possibilities of work and earning a living wage evaporated, Ukrainians have pivoted their careers and reinvented themselves for the sake of survival. … It’s young people — the future of the country — who are leading the charge. History has shown that wars are not just fought with guns; they are fought with art and stories by creatives with the capability to fortify hearts and minds.”

MICHAEL FOSTIK | МИХАЙЛО ФОСТИК Profession: Director, Cinematographer, age 32

“Michael Fostik, a director and cinematographer by trade, resides in London but returned to Ukraine during the COVID pandemic to be closer to family. He was shooting commercial and creative projects while in his home country, but just as the pandemic began to wind down, news of a potential war with Russia started to spread. At the beginning of February, Michael relocated his mother and grandmother from Kyiv’s northern suburbs to his hometown in Transcarpathia, a remote region in western Ukraine. His family initially resisted immediate evacuation, but in time, Michael’s insistence would prove vital. Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, and within a matter of days the Russian military was within reach of the family’s by-then-vacant home.

“Once Michael moved his family to safety, he had planned to return to the U.K. ‘My life was in London,’ he tells Mic. ‘I have an apartment there, I had jobs lined up, everything was waiting for me, and then overnight it suddenly stopped.’ Less than 24 hours after Russia invaded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree of martial law that banned male citizens ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country, in case they were needed to defend their homeland. So Michael stayed in Kyiv. …

“Beyond being physically constrained within his country’s borders, Michael’s creativity was restricted by the conflict too. ‘The digital and creative content being produced in the country is centered around war,’ he says. ‘There isn’t capacity to create in other genres or to cover anything else; it’s not relevant. As a result, there’s currently an undeniable heaviness in our culture.’

“So, Michael pivoted to journalism, covering the unfolding conflict in order to make ends meet. He visited the front lines as Russia’s army made advances on the capital. Ukraine’s Armed Forces required that individuals reporting to the war zone have their own body armor, but Michael knew that it would be nearly impossible to acquire a bulletproof vest during the chaos. He tried to be resourceful and ordered a flak jacket on Amazon. But when it arrived, the vest was empty; the essential Kevlar was not included.

“In true Ukrainian spirit, Michael filled the lining of the vest with books instead and headed towards combat. Michael says he deliberately selected the books that would serve as makeshift armor: ‘I chose carefully. I couldn’t just fill it with any random book! I chose books that meant something to me.’ The literature ended up coming in handy when he was forced to retreat to a bunker for several days. He passed the time by removing and reading the books one by one. When he emerged from the bunker, he says, someone remarked that his vest looked different.

“ ‘I’d finished all the books by that time and left them behind,’ Michael says.”


“Viktoriia Petrova and Oleksii Stepankov are a husband and wife who have been separated by the war. A trained dancer, Viktoriia has worked as a choreographer in independent theater productions, specializing in modern dance with a focus on free form. ‘Improvisation is imagination,’ she says. Oleksii is an artist and director of photography who works in theater, cinema, and sculpture. He works with materials in their natural surroundings to combine textures and light, allowing the imaginations of viewers to interpret their own stories. Oleksii comes from a legendary family of artists: His grandmother is the famous theater and cinema figure Ada Rogovtseva.

“Since Feb. 24, the lives of Oleksii and Viktoriia have completely changed. On the second day of Russia’s invasion, Oleksii joined the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps for the defense of Kyiv. After Russia’s military retreated, he joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and was deployed to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, while Viktoriia has remained in the capital city.

“Viktoriia describes how their priorities shifted: ‘Men fight, and the volunteer movement rests on the women left behind. The theater that our family is involved in has become a volunteer center. Instead of rehearsals, we’re coordinating humanitarian aid.’ On March 27, the International Day of Theatre, Viktoriia, along with others from her theater troupe, helped organize an evening of poetry for Ukraine’s military. ‘We continue to hold theatre performances and film screenings whenever possible to support the Armed Forces,’ Viktoriia shared. She has held dance workshops since Russia’s invasion, and she sends all the proceeds to her husband’s unit in the military.

“Facing long periods of separation, the couple is never sure exactly when they’ll be able to see each other. So they communicate through art. Viktoriia sends videos of her improvisational dances, and Oleksii sends back photo collages from the front lines. Viktoriia insists that the ‘four days of vacation with him once every few months is still a gift.’ Of course, even when Oleksii is on ‘vacation,’ he continues to check in with his unit and deal with internal military affairs, ‘We know what we are sacrificing and fighting for,’ he says. ‘We dream of a free Ukraine and of love. This is our salvation.’ “

Also at Mic, here, you can read about BOGDAN ZHDANOV | БОГДАН ЖДАНОВ, actor, age 28 —  “We all cry these days. It’s okay. We cry and then we carry on” — and VLADYSLAVA SHLIAMINA | ВЛАДИСЛАВА ШЛЯМІНА, line producer, age 31 — “We are united as a nation, and we are not giving up.”

At the New York Times, here, you can find out more about the publication Mic, which was new to me.

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Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners (1857)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Wikimedia Commons

Not long ago, I heard an interesting story at Public Radio International’s the World about the origins of the dominant wheat we have in the US. In searching for more, I stumbled on a Palouse Heritage Blog post written by the main interviewee.

Richard Scheuerman wrote, “I was recently contacted by Bianca Hillier from National Public Radio’s PRI The World national radio program. Given the current food crisis stemming from the conflict in Ukraine, she asked to interview me regarding our work with heritage grains that have ancestral ties to that region. Our conversation ended up lasting over forty-five minutes as we covered a range of related topics, including our recent charitable work in Ukraine. For time’s sake, she could not include our full discussion in the show’s finalized segment (which you can listen to here). However, I wanted to share more of my comments from our conversation here in case it would be of further interest. …

The US is a major exporter of wheat around the world. But according to experts, most modern US wheat can be traced back to Turkey Red Wheat, which Mennonites brought from present-day Ukraine in the late 1800s.

NPR: Tell us a little about your background and where you live.
Richard Scheuerman: My wife, Lois, and I reside here in the Tri-Cities of Washington State which is located in a region of remarkable agricultural bounty known as the Columbia Plateau. We were raised in the rolling hills of Eastern Washington’s scenic Palouse Country. …

“Among the earliest immigrants to the area were Germans from southwestern Russia who had settled in the Volga region under Empress Catherine the Great in the late 1700s, while others established farming colonies in the Ukraine’s Black Sea region in the early 1800s under Catherine’s grandson, Tsar Alexander I. My great-grandparents immigrated from Russia to Kansas in 1888 and continued on to the Palouse in 1891. They first resided in what our elders called the ‘Palouse Colony,’ which was a small agrarian commune along the Palouse River where today we operate Palouse Colony Farm.

“We raise non-hybridized landrace ‘heritage’ grains for artisan baking and craft brewing. … The community of Connell in central Franklin County was first called ‘Palouse Junction’ for its strategic location as an important Northern Pacific Railroad grain terminal. Numerous Germans from Russia and Ukraine settled in that vicinity as well, and the area figures prominently in author Zane Grey’s 1919 best-seller The Desert of Wheat in which Turkey Red might well be called a principal character.

NPR: How did you come to be interested in Russian and Ukrainian agriculture?
Richard: When you’re raised in rural communities many of your nearest neighbors and best friends are elders in their 80s and 90s! I came to enjoy visiting with first generation immigrants who told captivating stories about life in the Old Country — riding camels, encounters with the peaceful nomadic peoples of the steppes, raids by roving bandits, and the beauty and bounty of the native grasslands which their ancestors transformed into one of the world’s breadbaskets. …

“NPR: How have grains from southeastern Europe influenced American agriculture and culinary history?
Richard: Well, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that before pioneering Midwestern immigrant farmers started raising ‘Turkey Red’ bread wheat in the 1870s, that there was no bread such as we know it today made in America. Of course, folks were baking breads since early colonial times, but it was made from soft white and red ‘Lammas’ wheats from the British Isles and western Europe that is better suited to flatbreads, scones, biscuits, pancakes, and the like. Production of many of these varieties like White ‘Virginia May’ Lammas, which we have worked to revive and was used to make Northwest Indian frybread, were devastated in the 1770s by Hessian fly infestations. So our early ‘Founding Farmer’ families, like Washington, Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams … devoted considerable attention to acquiring new grain varieties. …

“It was not until German Mennonites from Ukraine settled in central Kansas in the 1870s that one of their leaders, Bernard Warkentin, began raising Turkey Red. It was a hard red bread grain native to the Crimea we call ‘Crimson Turkey,’ and its seeds began an agricultural and culinary revolution in the US in figurative and literal terms.   

PR: How was Turkey Red different from other grains raised in the US?
Richard: Turkey Red was America’s first true hard red bread wheat. That is, the kernels possess gluten proteins with a cross-hatch molecular structure that traps gases produced by yeast that makes bread dough rise. Not only that but the nutritionally dense inner endosperm and fiber make for an incredibly delicious loaf that has a naturally sweet, nutty flavor. … Of the many modern varieties of bread grains raised throughout North America, virtually all can trace their lineage back to the Turkey Red native to Ukraine. …

PR: What are your thoughts about the situation in Ukraine today?
Richard: The news of the war is deeply disturbing, and I hope Americans will stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine for freedom’s cause. During our Revolutionary War notable help came from abroad in terms of material aid as well as the heroic service of foreigners. … Perhaps lesser known but of special significance was the remarkable service of Polish officer Thaddeus Kosciuszko who helped win victory for the Continentals at the Battle of Saratoga, which is considered the turning point of the war. He later returned to Europe and fought against autocratic rule in his native land as well as in Ukraine.

“My special interest has been in joining with others to promote the work of A Family for Every Orphan (AFFEO) to provide safe havens for Ukraine’s most vulnerable children. AFFEO also provides food for those in need through its Operation Harvest Hope bakeries in Ukraine. Until the tragic outbreak of the war, no nation on earth had done more to reduce orphanhood than Ukraine through a remarkable collaborative of churches, government child protection agencies, and social service organizations.”

More text at Palouse Heritage blog, here. Listen at the World, here. No firewalls for either one. (Palouse: “Heartland of the Inland Pacific Northwest.”)

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Photo: Luba Petrusha via Wikimedia.
A mix of traditional Ukrainian, diasporan and original pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs).

Today’s story shows how artists help a country’s culture survive.

Katya Zabelski writes at Hyperallergic, “Last year, when I was writing my dissertation on the history of Ukrainian folk [art], my research found a repeated pattern: Despite long histories of suppression, erasure, and destruction, Ukrainian people often used folk art as a tool of resistance and a symbol of hope and preservation.

“During the Soviet era, artists found sly ways to incorporate folk art into their work, despite the possibility of serious consequences. During the Euromaidan revolution [of 2013], vyshyvankas (traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts) became extremely popular and are now a part of daily fashion. …

“Now, over 100 days since the war began, there is a resurgence of Ukrainian folk art symbols throughout media, art, and everyday Ukrainian life. And for the first time, the international community is using Ukrainian folk art to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. …

Pysanky are one of the most recognizable Ukrainian folk art forms. The decorative eggs are an indigenous art associated with Carpatho-Rusyn women in Western Ukraine; they were often planted in the ground to encourage fertility and growth. The legend goes that the fate of the world depended on the pysanka.

Each year, an evil monster, chained to a mountain cliff, sent his henchmen to see how many [decorated eggs] were created in the land. If the number of pysanky was high, then the monster’s chains would tighten up.

“If the number of pysanky went down, then the monster would be unleashed to sow destruction. As long as Ukrainians continue to create pysanky, the world continues to exist. 

“Sofika Zielyk, a Ukrainian ethnographer and pysanka artist, has organized the exhibition The Pysanka: A Symbol of Hope at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York. … Once the war is over, the eggs will be taken to Ukraine and planted in the soil, to help rebuild and fertilize Ukraine, in line with the ancient tradition. …

“Olya Haydamaka is a Kyiv-based illustrator whose work is influenced by traditional clothing. As a response to the Russian invasion, Haydamaka has created multiple illustrations of women in traditional clothing acting as protectors and healers of Ukraine. In ‘Чернігів. Сильне коріння. (Chernihiv. Strong Roots.)’ (2022), Haydamka responds to the particularly brutal attacks on Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. The woman wears a traditional embroidered vyshyvanka with exaggerated embroidered sleeves, along with a traditional red coral namysto (necklace). The iconic St. Catherine’s Church levitates in the air, with deep red roots dangling under it. This piece not only highlights Ukrainian folk clothing but also elevates the clothes to be otherworldly and ‘healing.’ …

“Danylo Movchan, a contemporary painter from Kyiv, created ‘Struggle’ (2022) in response to news that 25 paintings by Maria Pryimachenko, Ukraine’s most loved folk artist, had been destroyed. In this work, Movchan painted a Pryimachenko-inspired creature in yellow and blue, with a tongue that attacks a dark figure to the right of the composition. …

“It was not just Ukrainian artists who were impacted by the destruction of Pryimachenko’s works. The international community has also used her illustrations to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The group Justice Murals, which uses the medium of murals to inspire change and action, partnered with the Ukrainian Institute to project Pryimachenko works on buildings in California. Murals featuring Pryimachenko’s work were showcased in Oakland and San Francisco, with a text that read: ‘Art bombed by Putin. Boycott Russia.’ 

“The international music community is also seeking inspiration from Ukrainian folk art. Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine has recently released a new music video entitled ‘Free,’ featuring the British actor Bill Nighy. In parts of the video, Nighy and Welsh can be seen seated in front of a backdrop of petrykivka-style flowers, painted by Ukrainian artist Katerina Konovalova. At the end of the music video, Florence Welsh makes the connection between the title, the Ukrainian folk art paintings, and the war by dedicating the song to ‘the spirit, creativity, and perseverance of our brave Ukrainian friends.’ ” 

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall, but memberships welcomed.

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Photo: Yehor Milohrodskyi via unsplash.
The flag of Ukraine.

This will be a short post. I want to tell you about something inspiring I got involved with that ended yesterday.

Full-blown war in Ukraine started February 24 when Russia invaded the sovereign nation, but Russia had been attacking and nibbling away at Ukrainian territory for years, and Ukraine was ready to defend itself.

Shortly thereafter, a Ukrainian journalist called Igor Nalyvaiko, alarmed at the Russian disinformation he was seeing all over social media, especially English-language social media, set up a counter-effort.

Working with Ukrainian media people who spoke English, and reaching out to editor types like blogger Asakiyume and me who are native English speakers, he launched a noble experiment that lasted until July 11, when the media company backing him shut down. In the process, he built a team of new friends — Ukrainian and American — who feel invested in one another’s lives because we were interacting 24/7 across a seven-hour time difference.

If you have ever been devastated by an injustice in the world and learned that in addition to donating money, you could contribute a skill you happened to have, you will understand what a gift this was to the volunteer “proofreaders.”

I will quote from an explanation of the initiative that Igor wrote for the new proofreaders who kept signing on.

“Ukraine: Battling Disinformation In the Fight for Existence – A Voice From Ukraine 25 March 2022

“Hi Guys, 

“I was requested to shortly outline the principles of this translation initiative and its purpose for the new coming proofreaders. 

“U24 World is a 24/7 news outlet covering the current situation in Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Its aim is delivery of truthful information to fight Russian propaganda worldwide. The initiative was urged by a group of enthusiasts and workers of the national TV Channel Ukraine and volunteers who were able to join in the fight on the information frontline.

“Being assigned as a translator and a coordinator of the translators’ team (In my past life I used to be a host and a journalist but had to join the ‘international battalion’ and really think that can do much more here at the moment), I started to look for native speakers (English) proofreaders who could help in adaptation of the news for the western audiences (making the information readable), refining the word flow and delivery ,since we are working non-stop to cover every event that might be useful and can shed light onto the actual state of affairs taking place here in Ukraine.

“The work is arranged as follows: as we work 24/7 for optimization reasons we operate in 4-hour shifts. However the times are quite hard and not each one can afford 4 hours to devote to the project, so I am coordinating the group to make the process as comfortable as possible to the realistic extent under warfare conditions.

“There are editors who send Ukrainian news in the group chat, a translator (who is on the shift) picks up the news and sends a translation back into the chat tagging a native speaker who is on the shift. the English proofreader checks the translation and refines it so that it looks readable for English-speaking audience and then tags a Ukrainian proofreader (who is on the shift). The latter one checks if the information is not distorted in the final proofread adaptation compared to the initial Ukrainian news and tags an editor, which means that the editor can pick it up and post the news on one of these three platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. …

“Thank you for your assistance and support. Yours,  Igor.” 

I think it’s safe to say, that grateful as we are to have been part of the collaboration, it also meant something special to our Ukrainian partners running to bomb shelters that strangers across the world were donating hours of their time, expecting nothing in return — just wanting to say, “You are not alone.”

My team may never know why this noble experiment shut down so suddenly, but we will cherish the experience and will, of course, continue to support Ukraine in other ways.

If interested, check out an audio summary at Happiness Quotient, here.

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Photo: Sterling College, Flickr, CC BY-S.
Solar panels and sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. Solar energy and renewables can help keep oil tyrants from invading other countries.

One of the challenges Ukrainian allies have had in fighting back against Putin’s war is that so many of them have been dependent on Russian oil.

Bobby Bascomb at Public Radio International’s Living on Earth interviews environmentalist Bill McKibben on ways to get serious about renewables and free ourselves from the power of the fossil fuel industry.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: The horrors of Russia’s war in Ukraine are funded in large part by fossil fuels that it sells to the tune of half a billion dollars every day. Nearly half the federal budget for Russia comes from oil and gas revenue and the European Union is their biggest customer. … But the EU recently unveiled a plan to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and eliminate imports entirely by 2027.

“To help speed that phase out the Biden White House is reportedly considering a plan to use the Defense Production Act to rapidly manufacture and send electric heat pumps to European homes, many of which are currently heated by Russian gas. This idea to make Heat Pumps for Peace was first raised by writer and activist Bill McKibben, who co-founded 350.org and Third Act. … So first remind us, what exactly is a heat pump? …

“BILL MCKIBBEN: Think of it as an almost reversible air conditioner, made often by the same people. It takes ambient heat from the air, and uses that to heat the inside of your house, and does it pretty well, down to quite cold temperatures, because it turns out there remains some latent heat in the air even on a cold day. It’s wonderful technology because it’s able to produce heat with far, far less emissions than if you were running the gas furnace or the oil furnace in the basement. It runs off electricity, which means that the cleaner you get the grid, the cleaner the emissions result. And in the case of the current war in the Ukraine, it’s particularly significant because deployed in sufficient number across Europe, it would rob Vladimir Putin of his longtime weapon, the threat to turn off the gas supply to Western Europe. …

“What you really want, of course, is to connect them to a grid that gets steadily, steadily cleaner. … Not just in order to save the planet’s climate, though that would certainly be nice. But also because [fossil fuel] is the fuel of choice for autocrats.

“BASCOMB: Well, why push for heat pumps then and not say, expanded rooftop solar, for instance?

“MCKIBBEN: That works too, go to work on any of these things. In fact, some of the things are super easy. There’s a lot of spare capacity in the US, apparently, for producing insulation right now. And anybody who’s spent time say, in a British house knows that insulation was not a big feature of a lot of the housing stock. So let’s get bundles of that across the ocean as fast as we can. The point is that if we’re able to make use, say, of the Defense Production Act, which every president since the Korean War has used, and which both Trump and Biden used to speed up vaccine production, then we can take advantage of this spare capacity and get some of this stuff over to Europe before next October, when I would predict it’s going to start getting cold again. …

“BASCOMB: Well, how quickly can manufacturers ramp up production of heat pumps on the massive scale that would be needed to quickly phase Europe off of gas?

“MCKIBBEN: Well, the people that I’ve talked to in the federal government think that it can happen pretty fast, that there’s spare capacity at the big air conditioner manufacturers, companies like Carrier or Trane, that would allow them to start pretty quickly putting this stuff into operation — and that talking about the course of the next six months for getting a lot of these installed is not crazy. But again: heat pumps, insulation, whatever we can think of that help reduce the power of Vladimir Putin’s energy weapon. …

“BASCOMB: I looked into getting heat pumps in my house here in New Hampshire a couple years ago; we put up solar panels at the time and considered heat pumps to go along with them. But it was basically going to double the cost of our solar installation. What kinds of policies can be put in place to help bring down those costs, so they’re more affordable for many Americans?

“MCKIBBEN: Well, first of all, this is precisely, you know, one of the advantages of getting the government involved quickly in doing this. Once you start building things en masse, you get better at it, and they get cheaper, and more and more people know how to install them. And that’s already happening. You know, we have them installed here in [Vermont]. The local contractors are increasingly conversant with the technology. But that needs, as you say, to spread out fast. … There’s no way that we’re going to do what the IPCC has asked and cut emissions in half by 2030 if everybody’s still got a gas furnace blazing away in the basement.

“BASCOMB: Well, heat pumps are basically air conditioning systems in reverse, as you mentioned earlier, so they provide heat in the winter, and they cool homes in the summer. Around 5% of European homes currently have air conditioning. So to what extent can heat pumps [have] the added benefit of helping Europe prepare for the extreme heat waves that are going to be coming with climate change? …

“MCKIBBEN: A very significant point. It’s not just Europe, either. I mean, the demand for air conditioning is going to grow exponentially as this century goes on. And it’s going to grow most in the hottest and poorest places. Countries like India are forecast a huge growth in air conditioner usage. … Efficient, good technology like this is desperately needed around the world.”

More at Living on Earth, here. No firewall.

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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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