Vera Graziadei

I'm a British Ukrainian Russian actress and writer.

It’s mid-July and I’m on a flight to a place that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to with these menacing warnings:

“Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea. Following an illegal referendum on 16 March, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March and tensions remain high. Flights in and out of Simferopol airport are subject to disruption. … Train and bus routes out of the peninsula are still operating, though subject to unscheduled disruptions. There are reports of road blocks, with passengers being searched but traffic is able to get through. If you’re currently visiting or living in Crimea, you should leave now. If you choose to remain, you should keep a low profile, avoid areas of protest or stand-off and stay indoors where possible.”

Had I not been going to this exotic peninsula on the edge of the Black Sea every single year since I was 6, I would probably follow this mis-advice, which is still current on the UK government’s website. Even at the peak of the Crimean crisis in March 2014, when I was phoning all my numerous Crimean friends, worrying about the situation there, I was always reassured that most of the things I read in the western media were a lie. None of these friends, mainly living in the southern area of Crimea, have encountered any problems, seen any little green men, been searched, threatened or in any way intimidated. The majority of ordinary citizens were not affected at all, and far from ‘keeping a low profile’, people flocked to the streets at any opportunity to celebrate what most see as a ‘re-unification’ with Russia.

“I was crying with joy. I’ve never seen the sea front so full people. Everyone was ecstatic (re: Russia’s Day, 12th June). The day Crimea joined Russia was the happiest day of my life”, told me on the phone one of the old friends of my family Lyubov (65), who was born in Yalta and lived there all her life. All my other friends and acquaintances, 23 to 70 year olds, whom I’ve spoken to voted for independence from Ukraine and told me that all their friends and family have done the same. The only person I knew, whose experience was different, was a Crimean-born Ukrainian singer Jamala of Qimily Tatar origin, who wrote to me back in March: “when my grandpa heard that Russian occupied Crimea, he barely handled it. He will not be able to endure another war, that’s why I’m in hysterics as well.”

The Crimean Peninsula is a unique cultural crossroads where east meets west – amongst feather-grassed steppes, forested mountains and a picturesque coastline you can find Greek ruins, Italian fortresses, Scythian burial tumuli, the Palace of the Crimean Khan, Jewish synagogues in caves, Tsar’s and Russian nobility’s palaces, as well as many Soviet era spas. Ethnically 58% of Crimean population is Russian, 24% is Ukrainian and 10.2% are Tatars, along with other minorities, including Belorussian, Volga Tatars, Armenians and Jews. All of these people’s welfare mainly depends on tourism and agriculture, so it’s ironic that while the governments and press of the West profess their love for the minorities of Crimea, they are actually economically impoverishing those people when issuing warnings against travel to their homeland.

I’m worried that when I arrive to Simferopol airport, I’ll encounter empty lounges, so I question the first airport assistant I see about how busy they are. “We used to have 23 flights a day and now we have 80. All from Russia. We are very busy”, she replies. Of course, many people used to drive to Crimea via Ukraine and with the war in Donbass, that option is not available to them anymore. During my July trip I find Crimea quieter than usual, though by August it seems quite busy again. As a regular tourist I don’t see any major changes except forRussian flags everywhere, placards advertising Russian political parties and police being dressed in a different uniform. Otherwise, Crimea remains just like I love it – culturally and geographically rich and with always something new to explore. Needless to say I never encountered any  major road blocks, never been stopped, searched or threatened (even though both my husband and I always spoke in English). Crimean beaches are not empty, there is food in the shops and most of what I’ve read about Crimea before I went there was just not true. One of the goals of my trip was to talk to people themselves, to hear their voices unmediated by the press and to understand what they think and feel about their new political status.

On both trips, I visit Hotel Yalta, a modernist giant that recalls a large ship, where my parents used to take me when I was a girl and a teenager, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find it full not much under it’s usual capacity. Owned by Moscovites for quite a few years, it was only this summer that the owners decided to do numerous renovations, including a new pool, new playground, new restaurants and a lounge Cinema-themed bar, that looks like it could easily belong in the South of France. Many more works were still underway – a sign of the owner’s renewed optimism in the future of the business. “Things are going ok this summer, but next year will be better”, a young lady at the reception quickly answers me, but she avoids giving me more specific numbers and pretends to be busy with papers.

Two receptionists at the Alushta’s Sanatorim Druzhba, a Soviet modernist masterpiece resembling a spaceship out of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, are far more willing to engage in a conversation given that their dilapidated workplace is only 1/3 full. Lyudmila, 43 and Alyona, 48, both of whom voted for re-unification, are now upset that the prices have gone up, but their wages remained the same (only now they are paid in rubles). “No one controls prices, so some shops have raised them more than others. It’s like a free-for-all.”, complains Alyona. “It’s better in Sevastopol, because they have a good mayor, he actually walks around the city himself, checking prices”, adds Lyudmilla. Despite their complaints, both conclude that it’s much better to be with Russia than to have a war like in Donbass. As Alyona starts recounting some horror story from the battlefields that she saw on TV, somewhere in a distant hall Bethhoven’s Moon Sonata starts playing and I start feeling a knot in my throat.

A 25-year old Oksana, whom I’ve just spoken to about how badly business has been for the games arcades where she works, suddenly mentions to me that she’s not from Crimea, but from Donbass. As I tell her that I was born in Donbass too, we both stare at each other in silence for a moment – two strangers sharing the same pain. Then she tells me about her mother in Gorlovka, who keeps calling her in the middle of the night in fear, as the area where she lives is being shelled. She tells me that even though she planned to stay in Crimea for the whole tourist season, now she’s going back to Gorlovka within a week to be by her mother’s side. As if to avoid breaking down in tears, Oksana goes back to the issue of business: “It was very bad this summer, many arcades are closing down, but only temporarily, because here they have faith in the future.” The last sentence hangs heavily between us – Donbass civilians are still being shelled by the Ukrainian Army, some managed to escape to Russia and Crimea, but those remaining don’t have much ground for having faith.

Anatoliy, a native Crimean 50 year old ex-KGB agent, who now rents out holiday homes in Gurzuf, is full of faith and enthusiasm, despite the fact that he only had 1/3 of his usual summer gains. He’s sure that business will be back to normal once the Kerch Bridge, that will connect Crimea with mainland Russia, will be built, which should happen in 3-4 years. He said that he voted for reunification, even though by doing so he lost all his professional contacts in Ukraine.  He seems very proud of his new Russian passport, of his new president and is optimistic about Crimean prospects within a larger country. He admits that since Crimea became a part of Russia, it became harder to make extra money by overcoming laws: “Ukrainian corruption meant that you could find your way around making a few more hryvnas, but Russians are much stricter about corruption, which is great for Crimea, even if it means that personally I will be getting less.”

Some of the younger generation are not as optimistic – Crimean-born Liza Kuzub, who’s been living in Kiev since 2012, but has come back home for the summer, shares with me that many of her friends, who are young interpreters and translators like herself, are concerned about their career prospects, as there are no foreign tourists and there are fears that there won’t be many in the future, if “Crimea will become an anti-globalisation isolated place”. As a result, 70% of the young people she knows are planning to move out of Crimea in search of a more promising life. A Maidan activist, she still says that she always loved Russia and Russian people, even though recent events have made her look at everything “in a different light”.

In contrast,  Olga Rogacheva, a 27 year old translator from Sevastopol, is not planning to move anywhere and dismisses my question about whether Russia enforced a referendum upon Crimeans. “All my family and friends in Sevastopol wanted to join Russia for a long time. I even have a video on Youtube, where the people gathered at the Popular Assembly on the square and decided to separate from Ukraine. Back then there was not even talk about the Russian army, or seeking Russia’s help. It was just the people of Sevastopol deciding themselves that their city should become autonomous, because they didn’t want to be with Kiev anymore.”

Sevastopol has always been a Russian city with a special status, so it’s not surprising that they would be pro-Russian, but it’s not much different for the rest of Crimea. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine voted to be independent, Crimean support was the lowest of all of the Ukraine (only 54% in favor) with very low turnout (65%). The following year the Crimean parliament voted in favour of a referendum, but it was forcefully suppressed by Kiev’s administration, as a New York Times article from 1992 testifies. Since then separatist activism in Crimea is well-evidenced on a historical timeline of the UN resources library. It’s a myth to portray the Crimean referendum as an outcome of Russian state intervention. On the contrary, if one looks at the historical timeline, it appears to be Kiev who was suppressing Crimea’s constitutional right to self-determination for many years.

Olga Sergeeva, a 60 year old conservation architect, who worked on the restoration of all of the main architectural icons of Crimea, including Alupka Palace, Livadia Palace, Bakhchisarai Palace and Keraites Kenasas, told me that “there’s a huge layer of Russian history in Crimea, expressed in buildings and city plans.” She explains to me that while during Soviet times, there was a law requiring 10% budget to go towards restoration, after the collapse of the Union that money disappeared, which meant that she really struggled with keeping buildings standing and mainly did ‘cosmetic’ works. “Ukrainians had different priorities and were not able to properly restore, rebuild and create new pieces, but now everything is in its place and Crimea will eventually have state support for the regeneration of Russian Culture.” Sergeeva told me that after the results of the referendum were announced, she cut off all her long hair, to mark a new beginning. “Everyone was crazy out of happiness! The whole meaning of my life has been crystallised – I understood what I was doing in my job, and I was ecstatic to be reunited with the land, where my ancestors are buried.”

Viktor Aleksandrovich Bezverhiy, 63, Head of Leisure of Dyulber, a sanatorium, that used to belong to the Verhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of Ukraine and now passed on to the Kremlin, expresses similar sentiments about his hope for the regeneration of his crumbling workplace. An aesthete, quoting Khalil Gibran, while talking about the history of this unusual  Oriental-style Palace built by Grand Prince Peter Romanov, Viktor Aleksandrovich confides that “during the Ukrainian reign nothing has been done here, everything was falling apart. Now we have hope. Already I’ve met our new bosses and they are totally different set, serious people. They are not just about ‘vodka i seledka’ (vodka and Herring) like the guys before.”

Crimean-born Igor, a 32 year old organiser of concerts, who developed patriotic feelings for Ukraine, but not to the extent as to “wear Ukrainian embroidered shirts” confidently states that even though in his opinion the referendum was illegal, “because the rules of the referendum were broken and sovereignty of a country was violated”, he doesn’t doubt that majority of Crimeans voted to be with Russia. He is a sceptical about reasons for such voting: “Only 20% people are sincere Russian patriots, the rest are just pragmatic people, who see it to be more “profitable” to be part of a bigger economically more powerful neighbour.” He is convinced that it was Russian media, that influenced people’s opinions: “I just hope for all the people that voted for Russia, expecting ‘golden mountains’, that those golden mountains will come to them.” Personally he did not vote at all, because he “prefers to be free and he doesn’t want his rights to be curtailed in Russia.” When I ask him which particular rights he’s afraid he might not be able to exercise, he replies “in Russia you can’t even re-post Navalny’s blog and I prefer to live not such a rich life, but to be free.” At the end of the interview, when I ask him whether he’s going to move out of Crimea, he admits that even though he has the means to do so, he’ll stay as he’ll be able to ‘live with it all’.

To get a minority perspective, I speak to Mustafa Seitumerov (60s) a leader of the Tatars of the Southern Part of Crimea, who confirms that during the time of the referendum some of his people had a lot of fear, because of the history of forceful deportation by Stalin. However, the war in Donbass make them grateful to be living in peace. He also reminded me that they used to be represented by Party of the Regions, which is now very weak and has no chances of winning in the near future. This means that even if they remained part of Ukraine, they would have no hope that their interests will ever be represented in the Ukrainian Parliament. However, he did express his regret that joining Russia happened in such a hurried and forceful way and said that even though some of his friends instantly hung tri-coloured flags on their homes, for the majority it will take a longer time to change their hearts. He shared his hopes that Tatar people will not be fooled and that the promises, which are made to them by the new government (e.g. 20%MPs in Crimea parliament), will be fulfilled. He denies rumours that Tatar people are planning an armed uprising against the new government: “Tatars fought for 70 years for their rights and we never took up arms. We want to be working with the new government, we do not want to be pushed away.”

During my second trip to Crimea in August, I get a chance to get the opinion of a Tatar man in his thirties, who works in the main Mosque of Crimea in Evpatoriya. He tells me that it’s untrue what the media says that all Tatars are united by one attitude. “Different people have different opinions. Some are pro-Ukraine and some are pro-Russia. We are peaceful and cooperative people. We want to be respected and we will respect back.” Already during the short time that Crimea has been under Russia, the Tatar language has been legalised as a state language (which Ukrainians refused to do for years) and one of the main Tatar holidays was made into a national holiday for the whole of Crimea.

Finally, I go to Karaites Kenasas in Evpatoriya to find out what Karaites Jews feel about being part of Russia. An answer is provided to me by the building itself – in the central yard there is a marble obelisk to Russian Emperor Alexander I with a Russian golden eagle on the top. Karaites, unlike Tatars, have no history of conflicts with Russia and on the contrary, they have always collaborated with them, have fought on Russia’s side during all wars, and many Karaites have taken high positions of power under previous Russian rule.

Overall, despite a slower touristic season, the majority of Crimeans seem happier to be part of Russia than Russians themselves, even though with any new political change there will always be those who are unsatisfied. The question is whether despite legitimate questions on how it came about one chooses to respect Crimeans’ right to self-determination as per the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’s constitution, or whether one chooses instead to disregard this right for the sake of other geopolitical and economic agendas. It’s clear that majority of Western governments and the press are choosing to the latter.

 

 

 

As wars rage around the globe, the world continues its descent into the lower circles of Dante’s Inferno – all with the help of an insatiable global empire, run by warmongering opportunistic Machiavellians and amoral realists, aided by masses of Uncommitted Souls, who will do nothing for either good or evil, as long their consumerist desires, created by the empire’s nightmarish ‘dream-making’ machine, are satisfied and their wealth and power (or aspirations to them) are preserved.

In the case of psychopathic Machiavellians, fixated on money, power and competition, it is their low emotional intelligence and lack of empathy and conscience that prevents them from having concerns for the victims of their wars or the poor. Amoral realists, on the other hand, view events on the international arena solely in terms of power – morality has no place, only national interests count. As for the Uncommitted Souls – they are just gullible dupes, whose beliefs and values are spoon-fed to them by media and advertising, the choices they focus on are those of a consumer, not of a human being.

To become a Committed Soul, one needs to make a moral choice, and, according to existentialists, to make a moral choice is to become authentic. Authenticity is opposite to ‘going with the flow’, it is about being open to one’s Being, being committed to one’s freedom, it is about becoming an individual and not just a cog in a machine. However, as Heidegger wrote in Being and Time, alienated western societies, where exploitation and oppression are rampant, foster self-deception about structural injustices that their practices sustain. In short, societies run by psychopaths and sociopaths will inevitably be unjust, but will have internal mechanisms of keeping people in bad faith about these injustices – the propagandist media’s role.

For existentialists, it is coming face to face with one’s own mortality which can jolt a person out of their inauthentic existence – once we realise one day we will no longer be, we gain some insight into what it means to exist. However, in western societies, which worship youth and beauty, old age and death are taboo. Real Death is sanitised out of our lives altogether or presented as a something casual, cute and ironic, as in the case of the fashion trend of putting skulls on clothing. While our entertainment industry desensitises us to blood and violence, the news industry tries to hide from us as much as possible the real deaths of the innocent victims of wars our western societies start and support, e.g. the BBC’s shameful coverage of Gaza and Ukraine.

Psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection argues that the abject horrors of war,  however stomach-churning they are, have the capacity to bring us to what Lacan called –  The Real, i.e. that which is authentic and true, especially in relation to our own self/being and the infinite. Facing a bloodied, mutilated corpse can produce a spasm within the deep core of one’s being, accompanied by the breakdown of everyday meaning, which leaves one literally beside oneself.  This primal physical and emotional response catapults one into a primordial realm of existence, where there’s an acute awareness of human smallness, insignificance, fragility, yet uniqueness, mystery, beauty. Kristeva also argues that oppressive and inhumane institutions, which wield power in the modern world, are built upon the notion that man must be protected from the abject (hence sanitisation of Death). By facing the abject face-to face one tears away the support of these institutions and embarks on the first movement that can truly undermine them.

It is not surprising then, that western media tries so hard to hide from us images of victims of supported-by-the-West wars – it may just jolt people out of their ‘going with the flow’ mode and to revolt against injustices and atrocities. Given how widely images of Gaza victims were circulated on social media, it was to be expected that it awakened such lively debate and protests around the world. Even though outrage against the war in Ukraine did not gather such a worldwide momentum, there’s a still a growing global network of people, who are committed to truth at whatever cost. For example, Mark Bartalmai wrote that speaking out against western support for war crimes in Ukraine led him to lose him job, but he is now a war photographer in Donbass, sending out images of victims to the world – an important work that can move other people out of their somnambulism.

In the face of the abject horrors of war, humans may decide to not want to be Uncommitted Souls anymore, but why should they become committed to good rather then evil? Why not become an authentic villain, like Maldoror, misanthropic nihilistic anti-hero of Comte de Lautreamont’s poetic novel? If existentialists are right and one should pursue one’s own freedom, then why not exercise one’s freedom to become an authentic Nazi?

Freedom is the ultimate value for existentialists, just as authenticity is their primary virtue. Simone de Beauvoir argued that the real requirement of an individual’s freedom is that it pursues ‘an open future’ by seeking to extend itself by means of the freedom of others. In other words, one’s real concrete freedom requires that, in choosing, one chooses the freedom of others, i.e. ‘open future of others’. If one is committed to maximisation of other people’s possibilities as well as one’s own, then it becomes ‘inauthentic’ to leave others to slavery, in a state of oppression or even worse, to subject them to death.

My first blog entry was written in a state of shock after watching a video of the first Lugansk Bombings on the 2nd June. I cried uncontrollably for hours that night when I saw the death of Inna Kukuruza, as she lay there bleeding, with her legs amputated by the bomb and her body and face covered in blood.  I couldn’t get out of bed the following morning, as I literally felt ‘beside myself’ – there was a total breakdown of meaning. However, I felt propelled to write in order to express my doubts about my professional direction, pain and grief that I was feeling and to make a commitment to truth. In retrospect, I now can see that, unconsciously, I have gone through the process that Kristeva talks about in her essay – an existential re-awakening in fourth gear. However, given that witnessing the horrors that Kiev’s government is subjecting their citizens to has provoked a psychological need for change, the direction in which I was to take it could have gone in many different ways.

While I was prepared to express my outrage about the loss of lives in Donbass (The Wrong Side of the Barricades or Why East Ukrainian victims are ignored), to speak out against western media bias (The Cunning Demons of Russian Propaganda, or what the BBC forgot to warn us about) and, most importantly, against ‘the anti-terrorist operation’, which is effectively a genocide (Ukrainian Genocide and it’s Cheerleaders), I wasn’t ready to start writing about the nitty-gritty of the war itself. Firstly, because there are people who are already doing it quite well and secondly, because I’m really against wars.

As a pacifist, I find great inspiration in Ghandi, who opposed British Imperial rule in India with “satyagraha”, i.e ‘truth force.’ His strategy of non-violent conflict was to convert the opponent; to win over his mind and his heart. In the West Erich Fromm came to the same conclusions in his 1970’s lecture Resolving Conflicts Without War, in which he said that conflicts can never be resolved by war, but only by either one of these two approaches. First, which relates to Ghandi’s winning over the mind, is a political-realistic approach which requires that a) one know facts and b) one interprets facts correctly, while avoiding selective inattention. Second is a human, philosophical, spiritual, religious or psychological approach, which relies on the human potential that transcends the realm of calculation, and which, I believe, relates to winning over the heart, as Ghandi professed.

A recent article explained how the “cosy club” of people educated at private schools and Oxbridge still dominates politics, the judiciary and media”. This relates to George Monbiot’s article called “Unsentimental Education”, which is about the psychological effects that public/private and especially boarding schools have on children. In it he mentions psychotherapist Nick Duffell’s book “The Making of Them”, which describes how boarding children, ‘artificial orphans’, survive the loss of their families when they are sent to board at the age of 8 by dissociating themselves from their feelings of love: “Survival involves “an extreme hardening of normal human softness, a severe cutting off from emotions and sensitivity.” Unable to attach themselves to people, they are encouraged instead to invest their natural loyalties in the institution.” This system, Monbiot argues, creates “extremely effective colonial servants: if their commander ordered it, they could organise a massacre without a moment’s hesitation.”

While Britain is ruled by an elite detached from its own feelings, the US (and the rest of the world) is run by people, who can only be described as sociopaths and psychopaths (see: The Establishment Plagued with Sociopaths, Psychopaths and Useful Idiots; Masters of Manipulation: Psychopaths rule the World). It is no surprise at all then, that the world is plagued with wars and the planet itself is being ruined on an unprecedented scale. There is a distinct lack of heart in all of this and this is why, it is so important during these times to hold on to whatever ‘heart’ we have left.

To conclude, I’d like to return to Erich Fromm and his poignant warning about the dangers of privileging institutions over people:

“Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. ‘Patriotism’ is its cult… Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”

For Fromm ‘Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence’, but we must not forget about getting our facts right about this insane world and then learn to interpret those facts correctly, even if it means going against what our institutions and their media want us to believe instead. This can be a lonely and frustrating undertaking and Fromm encourages people in such situations to not give up, but to grow even more independent in their thinking:

“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity,his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.”

At the time of writing this, the world wide web had not been invented yet. Now that we are able to connect to many like-minded people around the globe at the tap of a finger, there is no excuse for being Uncommitted Souls anymore – during these inhumane times we have to become human – we have to develop our authentic thoughts and feelings, independently from mainstream media, to connect to people with similar values and beliefs, expand our hearts and learn how to solve conflicts peacefully by changing minds and hearts and not fighting wars.

 

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Place where the novel Crime and Punishment begins – S.Place = Stolyarniy Pereulok (above)

“On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.”
K.Bridge = Kokushkin Bridge (below)“An anxiety with no object or purpose in the present, and in the future nothing but endless sacrifice, by means of which he would attain nothing – that was what his days on earth held in store for him… What good was life to him? What prospects did he have? What did he have to strive for? Was he to live merely in order to exist? But a thousand times before he had been ready to give up his existence for an idea, for a hope, even for an imagining. Existence on its own had never been enough for him; he had always wanted more than that. Perhaps it was merely the strength of his own desires that made him believe he was a person to whom more was allowed than others.”

“Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!”
“Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind “for every man must have somewhere to turn…”House where Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment (above)

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

“I drink because I wish to multiply my sufferings.”
“We’re always thinking of eternity as an idea that cannot be understood, something immense. But why must it be? What if, instead of all this, you suddenly find just a little room there, something like a village bath-house, grimy, and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is. Sometimes, you know, I can’t help feeling that that’s what it is.”“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

“When reason fails, the devil helps!”
“I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,” he thought, with an odd smile. “Hm … yes, all is in a man’s hands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most… . But I am talking too much. It’s because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I’ve learned to chatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking … of Jack the Giant”Raskolnikov’s House (above)

“In a morbid condition, dreams are often distinguished by their remarkably graphic, vivid, and extremely lifelike quality. The resulting picture is sometimes monstrous, but the setting and the whole process of the presentation sometimes happen to be so probable, and with details so subtle, unexpected, yet artistically consistent with the whole fullness of the picture, that even the dreamer himself would be unable to invent them in reality, though he were as much an artist as Pushkin or Turgenev. Such dreams, morbid dreams, are always long remembered and produce a strong impression on the disturbed and already excited organism of the person.Raskolnikov had a terrible dream.”

“Man has it all in his hands, and it all slips through his fingers from sheer cowardice.”
“I saw clear as daylight how strange it is that not a single person living in this mad world has had the daring to go straight for it all and send it flying to the devil! I…I wanted to have the daring…and I killed her.”

“The people who have nothing to lock up are the happy ones, aren’t they?”

“A hundred suspicions don’t make a proof.”

“He vividly recalled those old doubts and perplexities, and it seemed to him that it was no mere chance that he recalled them now. It struck him as strange and grotesque, that he should have stopped at the same spot as before, as though he actually imagined he could think the same thoughts, be interested in the same theories and pictures that had interested him … so short a time ago. He felt it almost amusing, and yet it wrung his heart. Deep down, hidden far away out of sight all that seemed to him now—all his old past, his old thoughts, his old problems and theories, his old impressions and that picture and himself and all, all….
He felt as though he were flying upwards, and everything were vanishing from his sight. Making an unconscious movement with his hand, he suddenly became aware of the piece of money in his fist. He opened his hand, stared at the coin, and with a sweep of his arm flung it into the water; then he turned and went home. It seemed to him, he had cut himself off from everyone and from everything at that moment.”“Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen.”

“Catch several hares and you won’t catch one.”

“I used to analyze myself down to the last thread, used to compare myself with others, recalled all the smallest glances, smiles and words of those to whom I’d tried to be frank, interpreted everything in a bad light, laughed viciously at my attempts ‘to be like the rest’ –and suddenly, in the midst of my laughing, I’d give way to sadness, fall into ludicrous despondency and once again start the whole process all over again – in short, I went round and round like a squirrel on a wheel.”
Pawnbroker’s Flat (below)“Money is the honey of humanity.”

“the most offensive is not their lying—one can always forgive lying—lying is a delightful thing, for it leads to truth—what is offensive is that they lie and worship their own lying…”

“And if only fate would have sent him repentance – burning repentance that would have torn his heart and robbed him of sleep, that repentance, the awful agony of which brings visions of hanging and drowning!”

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”
Pawnbroker’s House (above)

“That’s just the point: an honest and sensitive man opens his heart, and the man of business goes on eating – and then he eats you up.”

“the lawgivers and founders of mankind, starting from the most ancient and going on to the Lycurguses, the Solons, the Muhammads, the Napoleons, and so forth, that all of them to a man were criminals, from the fact alone that in giving a new law, they thereby violated the old one, held sacred by society and passed down from their fathers, and they certainly did not stop at shedding blood either, if it happened that blood (sometimes quite innocent and shed valiantly for the ancient law) could help them.”

“”What do you think?” shouted Razumihin, louder than ever, “you think I am attacking them for talking nonsense? Not a bit! I like them to talk nonsense. That’s man’s one privilege over all creation. Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen. And a fine thing, too, in its way; but we can’t even make mistakes on our own account! Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I’ll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a bird. Truth won’t escape you, but life can be cramped. There have been examples. And what are we doing now? In science, development, thought, invention, ideals, aims, liberalism, judgment, experience and everything, everything, everything, we are still in the preparatory class at school. We prefer to live on other people’s ideas, it’s what we are used to! Am I right, am I right?” cried Razumihin, pressing and shaking the two ladies’ hands.”
“Don’t be overwise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don’t be afraid – the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.”

“I know that you don’t believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!”

“Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once. Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

“He did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering.
But that is the beginning of a new story — the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”

Posted using Tinydesk blogging app

Two days ago the UN’s website published Ban-Ki Moon’s condemnation of Israel’s attack on Gaza, during which almost 1,300 people have been killed, 6,000 wounded and 140,000 displaced and hosted by the UN.

A-list celebrities Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Pedro Almodovar denounced Israel’s attack on Gaza in an open letter, while earlier  Israeli film-makers called for an end to Gaza Conflict. Brian Eno wrote a heart-wrenching letter about Gaza and The Loss of Civilization.

It’s not just the political and cultural elites that are expressing their disgust at Israel’s actions. There is a widespread outrage amongst the international public. Social media is overfilled with posts about Gaza with even the most apolitical people expressing their shock and horror. The protest is not confined to sofa activism – thousands of people around the globe, from Sydney to Mexico, took part in a worldwide protest against Israeli attack on Gaza.

This outrage against Israel, reverberating throughout our planet, is totally justified in the face of such a large number of Palestinian casualties, including more than 240 children.  A Guardian front page succinctly summarised the situation – “The world stands disgraced.”

So the question that I have is this: how can the world be outraged about over 1000 civilian death toll in Gaza, but not about a similar death toll in Donbass, an Eastern part of Ukraine where the Ukrainian army has been fighting anti-Kiev government rebels?

The numbers of casualties in Gaza and East Ukraine are almost the same. As many as 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in mid-April 2014 until July 26, according to a UN report. However, in this report the focus is on condemning the abductions and tortures performed by local criminals, who re-branded themselves as members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, and not on condemning Ukrainian government, who are firing Grad rockets at residential areas, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch has issued two reports on the use of Grad rockets by the Ukrainian Army, calling for the end of indiscriminate rocket attacks (Ukraine: Unguided Rockets Killing Civilians: Stop Use of Grads in Populated Areas), which, they cautiously state, ‘may amount to war crimes’. Why such caution in the face of such atrocities?

Reuters reported that “The Red Cross has made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is officially in a war, opening the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH-17. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, and as such is considered a reference in the United Nations deciding when violence has evolved into an armed conflict.” However, “The ICRC has not made any public statement – seeking not to offend either Ukraine or Russia by calling it a civil war or a case of foreign aggression – but it has done so privately and informed the parties to the conflict, sources told Reuters.”

The Red Cross, ‘the gatekeepers of international humanitarian law’ are afraid to ‘offend’ Ukraine in the face of over 1000 civilian deaths, the UN fails to condemn Kiev’s actions, even though they report casualties, and Human Rights Watch are tiptoeing around, unable to firmly state that indiscriminate use of grad rockets against civilians are definitely war crimes.

At the same time, Kiev started using Weapons of Mass Destruction, deploying OTR-21 Tochka ballistic missiles also known as SS-21 “Scarabs” against the people of eastern Ukraine. Their use was revealed by a CNN report, released just as US President Barack Obama announced that the US and EU would be issuing more sanctions against Russia. CNN also claimed that “another of the U.S. officials said using the missiles is “an escalation, but Ukraine has a right to defend itself.” Thus, the US and their media are upping their support of Kiev’s atrocities and are now justifying the use of weapons of mass destruction by Ukraine on its own people.

The use of Ballistic Missiles, which classify as WMD, is contravened by the Geneva Convention – it is an international crime to use them. This is front cover news, yet no western paper has given this crime the proper attention that it deserves. The BBC website has not mentioned one word about this. The paper which I used to respect, The Guardian, has released 17 articles in the Ukraine section between 29th-30th July, needless to say not one of them was about the illegal use of WMD, though there are numerous articles about sanctions on Russia. Oh, and there is one 1 min 16 sec video of traumatised civilians in Donetsk. 1 min and 15 seconds is what the victims of Kiev government’s war crimes get from the Guardian in one week. Working class people are being killed by the Ukrainian army of an oligarch president and the private armies of other Ukrainian oligarchs and the New Labour paper of Britain is showing its solidarity and support for the Ukrainian labour force by spreading neo-con propaganda about sanctions on Russia for reasons that have yet to be proved.

The rest of the British media is no better and a brief look through The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph will reveal the same preoccupations – how to frame Russia, either on the downing of MH17 or on financing rebels. Reporting international war crimes and the suffering of innocent people is apparently not mainstream British media’s priority and only gets very marginal coverage. No wonder there is no public outrage – hardly anyone knows about what is going on in Donbass.

Donbass civilians, many of which are ethnically Russian, just happened to be on the wrong side of the barricades for the western press, international organisations and general public to feel comfortable about supporting their plight and to express their empathy for them. Gaza has no leader who poses as a bastion of economic and political threats to the “New World Order”, ruled by the US, while war in Donbass is continued to be presented as an act of ‘Russian aggression’. Even though the UN admitted that they found no ‘hard evidence’ that Russia is supporting rebels, I’m sure that the western press will continue presenting them as ‘Putin’s agents’.

This fervour and dedication with which the majority of western journalists are cooking up the New Cold war is preventing them from giving an adequate amount of attention to the suffering of peaceful civilians. As Albert Camus argued in his powerful article “Neither Victims nor Executioners” (re-printed below):

“All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being.”

Being silent about victims is becoming accomplices of murderers, so not withstanding on which side of the barricades one is on, it’s the grand masters of war that we should all refuse to side with and to fight  them with all our force and being with words. For, as Camus said, “words are more powerful than munitions“. Journalists are privileged to have these weapons and so they should use them to protect innocent people against the hideous war crimes that the Ukrainian government is committing.

NEITHER VICTIMS NOR EXECUTIONERS by Albert Camus

Yes, we must raise our voices. Up to this point, I have refrained from 
appealing to emotion. We are being torn apart by a logic of history which 
we have elaborated in every detail--a net which threatens to strangle us.
It is not emotion which can cut through the web of a logic which has 
gone to irrational lengths, but only reason which can meet logic on its 
own ground. But I should not want to leave the impression... that any
program for the future can get along without our powers of love and
indignation. I am well aware that it takes a powerful prime mover to get
men into motion and that it is hard to throw one's self into a struggle
whose objectives are so modest and where hope has only a rational basis--
and hardly even that. But the problem is not how to carry men away; it is
essential, on the contrary, that they not be carried away but rather that
they be made to understand clearly what they are doing.

To save what can be saved so as to open up some kind of future--that is 
the prime mover, the passion and the sacrifice that is required. It
demands only that we reflect and then decide, clearly, whether humanity's
lot must be made still more miserable in order to achieve far-off and
shadowy ends, whether we should accept a world bristling with arms where
brother kills brother; or whether, on the contrary, we should avoid 
bloodshed and misery as much as possible so that we give a chance for
survival to later generations better equipped than we are.

For my part, I am fairly sure that I have made the choice. And, having
chosen, I think that I must speak out, that I must state that I will
never again be one of those, whoever they be, who compromise with murder,
and that I must take the consequences of such a decision. The thing is
done, and that is as far as I can go at present.... However, I want to
make clear the spirit in which this article is written.

We are asked to love or to hate such and such a country and such and
such a people. But some of us feel too strongly our common humanity to
make such a choice. Those who really love the Russian people, in
gratitude for what they have never ceased to be--that world leaven which
Tolstoy and Gorky speak of--do not wish for them success in power politics,
but rather want to spare them, after the ordeals of the past, a new and
even more terrible bloodletting. So, too, with the American people, and
with the peoples of unhappy Europe. This is the kind of elementary truth
we are likely to forget amidst the furious passions of our time.

Yes, it is fear and silence and the spiritual isolation they cause that
must be fought today. And it is sociability and the universal inter-
communication of men that must be defended. Slavery, injustice, and lies
destroy this intercourse and forbid this sociability; and so we must
reject them. But these evils are today the very stuff of history, so
that many consider them necessary evils. It is true that we cannot
"escape history," since we are in it up to our necks. But one may propose
to fight within history to preserve from history that part of man which
is not its proper province. That is all I have to say here. The "point"
of this article may be summed up as follows:

Modern nations are driven by powerful forces along the roads of power
and domination. I will not say that these forces should be furthered
or that they should be obstructed. They hardly need our help and, for
the moment, they laugh at attempts to hinder them. They will, then,
continue. But I will ask only this simple question: What if these 
forces wind up in a dead end, what if that logic of history on which
so many now rely turns out to be a will o' the wisp? What if, despite
two or three world wars, despite the sacrifice of several generations 
and a whole system of values, our grandchildren--supposing they survive--
find themselves no closer to a world society? It may well be that the
survivors of such an experience will be too weak to understand their
own sufferings. Since these forces are working themselves out and since
it is inevitable that they continue to do so,there is no reason why
some of us should not take on the job of keeping alive, through the 
apocalyptic historical vista that stretches before us, a modest 
thoughtfulness which, without pretending to solve everything, will
constantly be prepared to give some human meaning to everyday life.
The essential thing is that people should carefully weight the price 
they must pay....

All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect
on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those
who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the 
accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their
force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist,
it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five
continents throughout the coming years an endless strugle is going to
be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in 
which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success
than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his
hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circum-
stances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be
to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful
than munitions.

 

 

 

 

Outraged by the western media’s lack of coverage of war crimes committed by the Ukrainian government against peaceful Donbass civilians and shocked to see that something as horrific as the Lugansk bombing was not even included on BBC’s timeline, I’ve decided to make an official complaint to the BBC. The URL, which I have chosen for the complaint is  BBC’s timeline of Ukraine crisis, which seems to outline casualties in the Ukrainian army, but never mentions any civilian casualties, which would have been in the 100s by the end of June.
BBC has addressed my complaint after a few weeks, arguing that the article, which I use as an example of inadequate coverage of war crimes, doesn’t need a correction, because “it referred to Kiev’s position on the incident at that time”, essentially agreeing that they were satisfied to present Kiev’s false claims as truth, even though, as I argued in my complaint, a minimal fact checking online would have allowed BBC to determine whether Kiev’s claims were correct. Supposedly there are other articles, which present rebels’ and Moscow’s claims too. I would like to believe that there are, but the BBC search system didn’t find any.
Also the BBC has included ‘further explanation’ from the European Editor for the BBC News website, who spoke about dangers and difficulties about reporting from the war zone, thereby justifying lack of coverage of war crimes committed by Kiev.
However, the important question that was not addressed is: Why are the Ukrainian government’s war crimes were not included on the timeline?
And now I have a new question: Why the BBC’s Ukraine Crisis Timeline has not been updated since 5thJuly, after which civilian casualties have increased to over 1000, as reported by the UN.
Complaint title:
Whitewashing of Ukrainian army’s war crimes
Complaint description:
On 2nd June 2014 the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians. All I could find about this war crime on BBC website was this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27661848 where the event is mentioned briefly within a longer report and where Kiev’s false claim that ‘separatists in the building could have mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system’ is presented as a possible truth, even though a minimal amount of fact-checking would have allowed the BBC to determine whether it’s correct, as there is plenty of video evidence online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvVav9JtpvQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLS-rqPDfI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mldussGO4mc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKV1wU0n0g The following day OSCE has confirmed these air strikes: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/119479 but the BBC didn’t run a story denying Kiev’s false claims. Luhansk bombings was a crime against humanity, for which the government in Kyiv should be prosecuted by the Hague tribunal, according to the Geneva convention. (Article 6) Why has the BBC not corrected their story after OSCE confirmation and why is this event not included on the timeline, where there’s every effort to document all the damage done by self-defence rebels? Would you agree that the BBC is trying to whitewash war crimes of the government in Kiev and if not, then why is this event (along with many others) not given the media attention that it deserves?
Response:
Dear Mrs Filatova
Reference CAS-2791646-KMMGGK
Thanks for your contact regarding http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26248275
The article to which you refer doesn’t need a correction because it referred to Kiev’s position on the incident at that time and was balanced by the article also explaining that:
Pro-Russian groups accused Ukraine’s military of carrying out an air strike.
And
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “The Kiev authorities committed another crime against their own people.”
I’d further explain that, far from being a “whitewash” we had reported what little details were known of the incident at that time in what was a breaking story.
It may also interest you to note that we followed up the brief references in this report in a further article which explained:
Investigations are continuing into the attack on the rebel-held regional administrative building in Luhansk on Monday afternoon. Rebels have accused the Ukrainian air force of killing eight civilians in the attack, and graphic video of bodies at the scene has been posted on websites.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said that, based on available evidence, “these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft. The number of casualties is unknown”.
But the Ukrainian authorities deny their planes were involved and suggest the damage was caused by the rebels themselves.
It’s also worth generally highlighting the difficulties associated with reporting from a conflict zone and our correspondent Daniel Sandford has illustrated some of these difficulties, with Luhansk in particular, at the following link, having recently gained access to the area:
Our European Editor for the BBC News website further explained:
“The conflict in Ukraine has proven extremely difficult to report, because it is so dangerous to go to the combat area – and that applies most of all to Luhansk. We will not publish a story until we are satisfied that it is correct. If we are slower than our competitors on occasion, that is the price we are prepared to pay. The incident on June 2nd was one of the most difficult incidents to cover because there were conflicting reports on the day and in the aftermath. The OSCE which was a key source on the story changed its story twice on this. There was video from the scene, but we have to be very careful with video from the conflict as so much of the video put out on the internet has been fake, or used from other conflicts. There was no agency photography from the scene either, so it proved very difficult to illustrate.”
We hope this goes some way towards addressing your concerns.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Kind Regards
Nicola Maguire
BBC Complaints

Early this morning I call Italian writer Christian Malaparte, who’s been in Kramatorsk with American photographer Patrick Lancaster. For the last five days, they’ve been living through heavy bombing and shelling, done by the Ukrainian army. Patrick has a lot of evidence that the army is targeting civilians and civilian homes on purpose, thereby committing gross war crimes.

Vera: How are you and Christian getting on there?

Patrick: Well, there is a little bit of confusion right now. We were – about half an hour ago – woken up by the hotel staff, the one person that have been staffing the hotel,  and they told us that officially hotel is now closed, but they said we are welcome to stay as long as we want. They told us that there’s an impression in the town that later on today the Ukrainian military will be moving into the town and will take in heavy equipment.

V: So are you staying or leaving?

P: I think we are going to be staying for a while. The bombing started about five days ago. We’ve been here almost a week now. Five days ago it started in the evening. And for the last five days every day and night, the majority of time, there’s been shelling of the city. And last night there’s been really a lot of shelling between the hours of 11pm till 3am, but it sounded not quite like the days before, it sounded – i’m not really an expert on the sounds of the shells and bombs – but it sounded like it could have been a different type of ammunition, because it was a much more broader sound.

V: Oh, my God!

P: But yeah, we are going to stay here. We are actually trying to talk to the security companies here to organise us some bullet proof vests and then, once we got that organised, we are going to be going out and observing the damage and seeing if we can actually find out what’s going on.

V: Are there self-defence forces inside the city as well?

P: Yes, yes, for sure. They are in the city and they are very active this morning. We can see them walking back and forth in front of the hotel. Basically, we are in the centre of the city, in the **** Hotel (I removed the name for safety), and near the centre there are at least two different militia compounds. It’s kind of their headquarters. There are a few others throughout the city, but here are the two main ones, I believe.

It’s kind of strange, because in the last five days of the bombing and shelling, we haven’t seen a single militia compound that has actually been hit. Every building that we’ve seen been hit by the Ukrainian mortars have been civilian buildings. We personally seen at least over 40 different civilian buildings bombed, that includes a school, an orphanage – we were in an orphanage the day before yesterday that was hit – and the very many large apartment buildings, like the very big apartment buildings have been hit . Some of the apartment buildings – it’s not like the Ukrainian army miss-aimed or something like this – the same buildings when they are bombed, they hit them very hard. We spoke to one woman who said that in the night a few days ago her apartment building was hit with ten different mortars.

V: Do you think they are targeting civilian buildings on purpose?

P: Well, if they are not targeting the civilian buildings, then I can’t see how incompetent someone can be as a military force or battalion. If they are not actually targeting the civilians…They are only hitting the civilians! Then it would be children playing with the mortars. I mean, children could possibly aim better than this, because they are not hitting any military buildings, they are just hitting the civilians.

V: Are there many casualties, Patrick?

P: I know there are casualties, but we haven’t been able to get an exact number on casualties. It’s been hard to get information about that. But there have been casualties. Some of the apartment building we have gone to – there have been trails of blood. Early in the week there’s been a city bus that was hit and I believe there’s been five killed there. For sure, there’s been others killed, but I just don’t know the totals.

I think last night has been the heaviest night of shelling, so there’s probably going to be many more casualties today. And right now… the streets – I’m looking out of the window of the hotel – the streets are very full: there are four militia men, DNR men, outside right now.

V: What are they doing?

P: They just keep walking back and forth. I think they are preparing for what might happen today.

V: Are there many civilians still in the town?

P: Yes, there are definitely many civilians.

V: So how do they, and you, survive all this shelling that has been going on for almost a week?

P: When the shelling starts, everyone – a siren goes off in the city or several sirens – the people go down to their cellars and stay there until the bombing stops.

V: That’s terrible. What about food and water? How is the town doing in terms of provisions?

P: There is food and water in the markets, but I think the major problem is that most of the day, while there’s shelling, everything is closed. In the evening it’s very hard to get to the markets. But the major problem for the people here is the money. Many of the businesses are closed, so no one here has income, so they cannot afford to buy groceries, even though there might be groceries in the market.

V: Are there any humanitarian organisations at all that are helping people out?

P: The only time we’ve seen a situation like this was in the centre, the main park, where some sort of humanitarian aid was going on. They were giving baby formula to mothers with their babies’ birth certificates, to prove that they have a baby. But that’s the only aid that we’ve seen here.

And another thing is…I believe that at least half of the city is without the electricity, because the hotel that we are in is ********* (removed info for safety) and when we first came we could see the lights at night throughout the city and now one half of the city is totally black.

V: Are people free to leave, if the want to?

P: As of yesterday, I know the buses were still running and I believe they are still running this morning, but not 100% on that.

But, in an addition to civilian homes that have been hit, they are targeting the infrastructure of the town as well. Sometimes the water doesn’t work, because I believe they’ve hit some of the water pumping stations. Yesterday afternoon we went to a gas station that was hit… Actually, it was twice the day prior – once in the afternoon and once in the evening.

The vast majority of the shelling has hit civilian homes.

V: Why do you think they are targeting civilians? It’s a war crime, isn’t it?

P: Yes, it’s very puzzling. I’ve been in Ukraine for the last four months. I started in Crimea and moved to Donetsk and the whole time I was down in Donetsk, I kept hearing about these things going on, that the Ukrainian army is targeting civilians and hitting civilian homes over and over. I really didn’t believe it. I thought it was just East propaganda, but once I came here…I see these enormous apartment buildings in the centre just bombarded over and over again. I really don’t understand… May be they are trying to get the local population to not support the DNR army anymore or it’s some kind of turmoil… I really don’t understand. It just does;t make sense at all.

V: It doesn’t seem to be coincidental that in Slavyansk the civilian and their homes are hit too. So what is people’s mood? Are they pro-DNR or pro-Kiev?

P: As far as the normal civilians, not the DNR people, are concerned..Since the bombing started, the sentiment has gone: “What is Poroshenko doing? Why is he killing us? Why is our president murdering our people? ” And as far as the militia soldiers go, from talking to them…We’ve talked to several of them over the week we’ve been here…The number one is, when I tell them that I am from the United States – the number one thing that they try to express to me is how they are not terrorists and that they are local people, who just want to protect their home from the government, that they call the fascists, the not real government in Kiev that just wants to kill the people. And I think they have no plans of giving up. For all of them – if they give up, their family dies. That’s an idea that I’m getting from them.

V: Have you seen any Russian soldiers?

P: It would really be impossible to tell the difference. I haven’t seen any military Russian soldiers. I can’t really speculate, but you would think  – how Putin justifies his actions in Crimea, that he’s saving the Russian population from attacks and what not, you’d think since this is happening, he would move in the military, because he said he wanted to protect the Russian citizens in Crimea and there are far more Russian citizen in trouble here. People are kind of thinking: “What is he waiting for? Why isn’t the Russian government helping us?”

V: So are people waiting for Putin’s help?

P: Yes, yes. Actually people are starting to get a little bit frustrated, because they got this idea from Crimea situation, but now they’ve done a referendum here and requested to go… Some of the people feel abandoned by Vladimir Putin and some of them think that he’s being a hypocrite at this point.

V: Poor people. We are really worried about them. Is there anything else that you can tell us, which you think is important for us to know?

P: All I can talk to you about is that the civilians are dying here and something needs to happen to stop it.

V: Are you scared for your own life? We are scared for you.

P: Not right now. There’s been a few times. Over the days… like the first day the bombing started ,we were out in town… I don’t know, if you saw the video? When we were walking along and then the bombs came down, we had to really run, as they were dropping all around us. My ears were actually ringing when we got back to the hotel, because the explosions were so intense. I think some mortars were hitting 3-4 meters away from us at that point. But since it’s been every day, every night kind of thing, it’s kind of getting more normal (laughs)and we are starting to understand how to react.

V: Has anybody given you instructions on what to do during bombing?

P: No, you kind of work it out for yourself. You look at the building where the damage has been done and think “it hit there and it blew up this way, so may be if we stay this far away from windows when the bombing is happening, then we’ll probably be ok.

V: It’s shocking that you don’t have this all over the news in the West. Why do you think the media has been almost completely blocking all this information out?

P: Hmm. I think…(pause) because it’s not Russia doing the atrocities, it’s the Ukrainian government. If it was Russia doing this, it would be a whole different  story.

V: Do you send out your footage to any news channels?

P: Christian has his blog: cbmalaparte.wordpress.com and I have my news youtube channel under name Patrick Lancaster. RT has been in touch with us and we are working on trying to get our footage out to other channels, but it’s been difficult.I have many hours of video and if any company would like to contact me, they can definitely do that.

V: What’s the best way to contact you?

P: On Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook is Patrick John Lancaster. My Twitter is PLnewstoday. Christian Twitter name is @CBMalaparte

 

Here’s a short account and footage of Patrick and Christian, as they get caught under bombs in Kramatorsk: (WATCH IT)

BREAKING NEWS Kramatorsk city center is getting hit by mortars. The explosions started at 2225 local time. I am here with blogger and writer Christian B. Malaparte and 10 other people, In the basement of the Kramatorsk hotel in the center. It seems like the mortars hit within 50-200 meters of the hotel. I am not sure but the hotel may have been hit. So far there has been two waves of motars with a break in between I am not sure how long each wave lasted, it felt like an eternity. After the first wave we thought it was over and we went out to try to document what we can. We got out side and down the block a bit and then hell broke loose motors where whistling over heads, explosions, shrapnel flying about and large chunks of metal hitting the ground all around us as we ran back to the hotel basement.

Scratch that the third wave just happened it was shorter then the rest only around 5 explosions very close. so that makes somewhere between 35-45 Explosions around us. It is a shame that many innocent civilians just lost there lives I wont be sleeping tonight so first light headed out to check the damage and to the morgue. Hopefully the mortars are done for the night.

 

 

Patrick’s other videos that document Ukrainian government’s crimes against humanity:

Apartment complex that have been heavily damaged by Ukrainian mortars

Ukrainian mortars hitting civilian homes in the city of Kramatorsk

2nd July 2014 Mortars hitting Kramatorsk

An 80 year old woman’s apartment takes a direct mortar hit

1st July Kramatorsk: destruction of civilian homes by Ukrainian mortar attack. 

1st July Kramatorsk: school hit with mutiple direct hots from Ukrainain mortars.

Kramatorsk city centre is getting shelled by mortars

Killing non-combatants (civilians) and wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages (not warranted by military necessity) during the time of war are WAR CRIMES, according to Geneva Convention, and war criminals committing such atrocities should be prosecuted at the Hague International Tribunal.

 

Today I have finally made an official complaint to the BBC about its lack of coverage of war crimes committed by the Kiev government. As a BBC license payer and a human being, I was shocked to see that atrocities like the Lugansk bombings are not even included on the BBC’s timeline of Ukraine crisis.

You would imagine that this crime against humanity would need to be included, especially given that the BBC take great care at including every single casualty of  the Ukrainian Army. Why are daily East Ukrainian civilian casualties that now run in hundreds not reported on the BBC timeline, which includes ‘two people die of gunshot wounds during clashes of 16-23 January’? 

I urge anyone else, who believes that these kind of events deserve more coverage, to also send their complaints, referring or using my complaint below.

Your Complaint

Type of complaint:
BBC Online
What is your complaint about:
BBC News website
Complaint category:
Not enough coverage
Contacted us before:
No
Complaint title:
Whitewashing of Ukrainian army’s war crimes
Complaint description:
On 2nd June 2014 the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians. All I could find about this war crime on BBC website was this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27661848 where the event is mentioned briefly within a longer report and where Kiev’s false claim that ‘separatists in the building could have mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system’ is presented as a possible truth, even though a minimal amount of fact-checking would have allowed the BBC to determine whether it’s correct, as there is plenty of video evidence online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvVav9JtpvQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLS-rqPDfI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mldussGO4mc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suKV1wU0n0g The following day OSCE has confirmed these air strikes: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/119479 but the BBC didn’t run a story denying Kiev’s false claims. Luhansk bombings was a crime against humanity, for which the government in Kyiv should be prosecuted by the Hague tribunal, according to the Geneva convention. (Article 6) Why has the BBC not corrected their story after OSCE confirmation and why is this event not included on the timeline, where there’s every effort to document all the damage done by self-defence rebels? Would you agree that the BBC is trying to whitewash war crimes of the government in Kiev and if not, then why is this event (along with many others) not given the media attention that it deserves?
Articles focusing on US media by US Investigative Historian Eric Zuesse:

Published by Business New Europe on 1st July 2014.

Vera Graziadei (nee Filatova) is a familiar face to British audiences, given her role in the cult Channel 4 series Peep Show, numerous TV dramas and widely-praised theatre and film work. Born in Donetsk, to a Ukrainian mother and Russian father, she came to the UK as a teenager and was educated at the London School of Economics. But Graziadei’s passions go beyond acting. Recent events in Ukraine have left her shocked and disturbed, as she tells Liam Halligan in London.

Liam Halligan: Are you Ukrainian or Russian?

Vera Graziadei: Actually, first and foremost I’m a Brit. I swore my allegiance, took citizenship and spent my formative years here, having arrived at the age of 13. Back then, I’d tell people I was Russian but born in Ukraine. That was a kid talking. As an adult, I say I’m Ukrainian. But if I meet two people from Vladivostok and Western Ukraine, I feel culturally closer to the person from Vladivostok, even though its thousands of miles away. I’m not saying I don’t like people from Western Ukraine. I’m talking about how close I feel culturally, not personally nor in terms of friendship. So – a rather complicated answer to a simple question.

LH: How did you feel when the Kyiv protests escalated in February?

VG: I felt the initial protests were positive. I was happy Ukrainian people were standing up for their rights. And I didn’t particularly like President Yanukovich. But as the situation escalated, it became clear [Oleh] Tyahnybok [Leader of Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda] and [Dmytro] Yarosh [who heads the far-right party Praviy Sektor] were the main agitators. Their messages were so Russophobic, so extreme, that it shocked and scared me. With such people in charge, and Kyiv pushing an aggressive nationalist agenda, I was frightened for ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. Our country isn’t inherently divided, but is culturally diverse. That diversity can be exploited – given the differences between the traditionally rural Western Ukraine and the more industrialized East. When the Maidan protesters were extremely violent towards young guys from Berkut [Ukrianian police], I got really worried. Berkut was doing its job – trying to protect gosdudarstvenost (statehood), maintaining law and order. It’s not as if they were backing Yanukovich. On 20th February, when the protesters were roused to become violent again, storming buildings, even though Yanukovich had agreed to earlier elections, I became disturbed. Why couldn’t they wait until the newly- scheduled elections in May? Why create these extra problems? I had little time for Yanukovich. But you must differentiate between an individual and an institution. The state, the rule of law, must be protected. The way Yanukovich was ousted undermined that. I wanted him to go in principle,

but he’d been fairly elected and that democratic contract with the people was broken. When one group gets power using violence then other groups will think, OK, so we can also get power using violence. This was a major setback for Ukrainian democracy.

LH: To what extent were events influenced from outside, in your view?

VG: Well, we have [US Secretary of State Victoria] Nuland on tape, basically ordering who should be in the Ukrainian government and who shouldn’t. If that’s not evidence, I don’t know what is. But there is plenty more. An apparently independent Ukrainian media channel Hromadske TV is sponsored by the Dutch and American governments. To my mind, that suggests Shell and Chevron – given the corporate struggle for Ukraine’s oil and gas. And we’ve had many Western-funded NGOs working in Ukraine before the protests, of course.

My mother is Ukrainian. I fully understand why some people want to preserve Ukrainian national identity. Many Western Ukrainians are happy to get outside assistance to do this. It’s not a secret – they’re proud America is helping them. But many others are different from them and would prefer to be closer to Russia. They can’t expect all Ukrainians to feel the way they do, even though I understand and respect their motivation.

What I absolutely don’t respect is the way West Ukrainian forces have tried to achieve what they want. Of course, Ukrainian consciousness is legitimate and we need civic society. But the way it has been done now makes me more and more against it.

LH: Who do you think was behind the Kyiv sniper shootings on 22nd February, which killed over 60 people?

VG: I’ve become pretty obsessed with this issue. [Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas] Paet suggested someone in the Ukrainian government may have ordered these shootings, to escalate the situation and generate total disorder. And it’s not as if he’s a friend of Russia. I can’t say if this is true or false. But, Ukrainian citizens should demand an investigation, an explanation.

LH: As a British citizen, how do you think our government has acted?

VG: It is difficult for me to accept, as a Brit, that the British government, for many months, backed a government effectively founded on violence. All governments do some things I don’t agree with – be they British, American or Russian. But in the UK an atmosphere has been created in which, if you don’t unquestioningly support our foreign policy, backing the Ukrainian government, you’re a Putin apologist. This makes me think people are only interested in Ukraine because they’re anti-Putin. They may know nothing about the history and culture of the country and broader region. They will just automatically say the side Putin supports must be wrong. Such narrow thinking, and claims that East Ukrainians are merely victims of Russian propaganda, is self-serving and generates more misunderstanding and tension.

LH: What do you make of how Russia is covered in the western media?

VG: I became angry during the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics – way before this unrest in Ukraine. There was a mania in the West to bash Russia and I felt sad for the Russian people, not least because I think they did a great job in Sochi. Many athletes, from all over the world, have since said how well organized the Games were. I was at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics – and felt genuinely proud of the UK. I can’t be proud of the Sochi Olympics, as I’m not a proper Russian. But I was impressed – as any objective observer would be.

LH: As the Maidan riots escalated, how did your western friends respond to you?

VG: I never felt ashamed of my views, even when I was criticized for them. They come from a place of truth, because I know what being East Ukrainian is like. I wasn’t too vocal at first, because I wasn’t sure if other East Ukrainians felt the same. But when I saw massive protests against the new Kyiv government, I knew I wasn’t alone. For us, the violent, aggressively nationalistic and Russophobic undercurrents of Euromaidan, along with all the fascist insignia, are entirely unacceptable. I’ve had some real insults thrown at me for not taking a mainstream stance, been called a Putin apologist and faced accusations he pays me money. I’ve previously argued against many of Putin’s actions – so it’s been rather bizarre suddenly to find myself placed in this pro-Putin camp. It’s pathetic blindly to accept what the Western media says without independent research or thinking. Many people I know in the arts industry were entirely uninterested in Ukraine. Then, suddenly, the rights of Ukrainian people were incredibly important to them. Sochi was over, so this was a new thing to use to beat Russia, the big evil other, allowing the West to feel good about itself in a complex world. When you have one big bad figure, and everything is Putin’s fault, the world is simple and you don’t need to think anymore.

LH: Are western commentators right to talk of “a new cold war”?

VG: You wonder what people’s motivations are. This narrative is driven by a desire to make Russia appear weak and marginalized. Just because people write newspaper columns, it doesn’t mean they’re right. Many commentators who supported the Iraq invasion are still part of the Western media establishment, writing articles all the time. Yet that was clearly a mistake – and Putin firmly opposed it, by the way. Again, you don’t have to be an apologist to agree with some of his foreign policy decisions. He was right again to argue against bombing Syria – as the British Parliament recognized. Acknowledging that doesn’t mean you agree with everything he does.

LH: How about Crimea? Despite its history, and a decisive referendum, what happened still transgressed international law.

VG: Yes, but at least there isn’t civil war in Crimea, as there is across Eastern Ukraine. Many of my friends and family from the East are now seeking refuge in Crimea. As someone with many friends living in Crimea, who has been there every summer since I was 6 years old, I know it very well. For the majority of Crimean people, the referendum, and its outcome, was a huge relief. I’m happy for them. And Crimea is now stable, compared to Donbass or Odessa, for instance, where we had a horrendous massacre at the Trade Union headquarters.

This atrocity in Odessa was celebrated in the Ukrainian press. People on prime time talk shows were applauding these deaths. Tymoshenko, too, said the Odessa massacre was a great thing, along with many other Ukrainian politicians and public figures. This total lack of empathy, with Ukraine going down a genocidal path, scares me very much. We’ve just seen slaughter in Odessa, which is part of Europe. As a Brit, it shocks me the Western media has been practically silent.

And what about other war crimes – like the bombings in Luhansk, Slavyansk and elsewhere? The British public needs to know what their government is supporting. Some people in the UK think Ukraine is now quiet. Actually, there is a civil war – and it will get much worse if the Kyiv government isn’t stopped.

LH: Does Putin want Eastern Ukraine to become part of Russia?

VG: I don’t think he wants to invade and I don’t think he will. Ukraine is just too culturally diverse, even in the East. A lot of Ukrainians, of course, want a united Ukraine – and if Putin tried taking the East of the country it would be an international scandal. On the other hand, if there’s a huge war right next to Russia’s border, some kind of action may be needed. What I think Putin truly wants is an agreement to unite Ukraine, but with Eastern Ukraine having close links to Russia. Everything should be decided, of course, by a countrywide referendum. It is for those living in Ukraine, not people abroad, to determine the outcome.

LH: What did you think of the post- protest Kyiv government? And what of the government now?

VG: In February I was frightened, and many in Eastern Ukraine were frightened too. The government instantly tried to delegitimize the use of the Russian language – an extremely provocative move. Svoboda would get barely 1pc of the vote. So why did they have 6 or 7 ministerial positions? Why was Yarosh allowed to oversee a legal militarized group? Praviy Sektor had been conducting atrocious crimes all over Ukraine and was then legalized. That was shocking.

Since the election, the extremists haven’t gone away. They’re still in power. Yarosh has a senior post in [President] Poroshenko’s private army. It makes me wonder who on the Maidan had an interest in provoking violence and getting power that way? They wouldn’t have gained power through a democratic process. Although the May election barely happened in the East, there was a glimmer of hope within me when Poroshenko took office that he’d be more intelligent than Yatsenuk and wouldn’t just be steered by the CIA and domestic anti-Russian oligarchs. But now I’m outraged at the bombing of civilians in the East by the Kyiv government. It’s very difficult to be positive. I don’t necessarily support DNR (the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic) but their motivations are powerful and legitimate. Where all this is going, I don’t know. But Iraq shows us that the more you suppress people, the more radical and extreme they become. The Party of the Regions has failed the people of East Ukraine. It always represented the oligarchs’ interests anyway. East Ukrainians feel no-one is looking out for them. We’re talking about largely working class people, with few connections to the political world. That’s why DNR has emerged – and it wants to negotiate with the government.

LH: Given your joint Ukrainian- western background, what is your advice to western political leaders?

VG: I understand the rights of East Ukrainians aren’t the primary concern of the British government. Yet there are thresholds that mustn’t be crossed. War crimes are happening in Europe. It’s a humanitarian disaster. Western governments must step up and tell the Ukrainian government to stop doing this. They won’t do this as the Western media is showing little of what’s happening – even though it’s all over the internet. These crimes have been filmed by hundreds of people, from every angle, but our mainstream media isn’t showing any of it – and that’s scary. Instead, events in Ukraine are often reported in a patronizing colonial manner. A BBC journalist visiting Eastern Ukraine saw old Soviet relics in the street and declared that local people are stuck in a Soviet mindset, leading them to support DNR. That’s entirely wrong. You’d think the BBC would make an effort to understand the concerns of local people. Such reporting brings the Crusades to mind. “These barbaric East Ukrainians have false gods! What they need is our god!”

LH: Can this rift between Russia and Ukraine be healed?

VG: I was recently at the Moscow State circus and, when a gymnast came on to a traditional Russian theme, the music triggered in me a realization of how much has been lost, that these two countries, which have always been very close, are now basically at war. I felt very sad and cried. As an East Ukrainian, I always saw these nations as brothers. Yet something has died in that relationship. I’m now aware that, for all these years, Western Ukrainians felt differently to me. Perhaps they never had this feeling of unity that I always had. Ukraine could split in two. Whatever happens, the outcome must be decided by those living in Ukraine. My sincere hope is that not everyone in Western Ukraine hates Russians and East Ukrainians and that, hopefully in my lifetime, these nations will come closer together again.

 

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We were driving at full speed through the sandy dunes of St.Mountains National Park. The vibrations and the noise from the quad bike’s engine had numbed my whole body, but my mind was still alert, taking in the endless rows of tall majestic pines, which were flashing past us. Suddenly, the yellow of the dunes with the bright blue sky above them made me think of the Ukrainian flag and reminded me that the last time I was driving through the Ukrainian steppes, thinking about zhovto-blakitny (‘yellow-blue’ in Ukrainian referring to the national flag), was eight years before that, when I was touring with a theatre play for kids around Central and East Ukrainian orphanages. Our company spent weeks on the road and at least half of that time, we’d be passing wheat fields set against high blue skies –  the landscape itself reminding us of what country we were driving through.

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So how did it take me eight years to drive through the Donbass wilderness again? Usually my visits to Ukraine would be confined to Kiev, Donetsk and Crimea, so this really was a rather rare and special occasion. It’s hard to feel connection to the earth in cities. It’s in the vast expanses of nature that we can become fully human in its primal sense – aware of our mammalian fragility. However, if you are also moving on the earth in which the bones of your ancestors lay, there’s not only a poignancy in realisation that it’s your moment in history, which will soon pass, there’s also a sense that this history is intertwined with generations of people, related to you in blood, who were passing these very same lands before you. This landscape was communicating both to my human nature and my national identity and, as we were moving through the magnificent forests of the Krasny Liman region, I’ve decided that I was connected to that land in more ways that I ever suspected before.

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I imagined lifting my spirits high up to the clouds and stretching my heart all the way to the pines. The best way of loving is by allowing the object or the subject of your love to fully flow through all your senses, so as we were cutting the dunes with the quad bike, exposed to all the elements, I was opening myself up as much as I could to the landscape that I loved, letting it touch me in ways, not experienced before, letting it connect to my core, allowing it to transform me.

I made a firm decision to bring our son to these dunes the following day – our boy was born in Britain, so it’s the rolling hills of the British countryside that he will love more, but I still wanted him to experience this land – perhaps one day he’ll be able to carve a little place for it in his heart. Our younger girl was still too little and would stay with the doting grandparents. I felt a sense of gratitude that I was spending this precious time with my children, my husband and my parents, all of us still alive and healthy, in the stunning nature of Donbass. In Ukraine, rather than in some exotic foreign lands.

At some point we were passing a birch tree and I asked to stop, so that I could get a good photograph of it. I love birches – my first memories are of my deceased grandfather Nikolai, taking me for walks in a birch tree forest. In honour of those memories I called my son by his name and we planted one birch tree in our garden in London. Moreover, the birch tree, a national symbol of Russia, amidst the landscape, which reminded me of our national flag, was a perfect natural expression of the identity of Donbass- a Russian symbol growing happily and proudly amidst the Ukrainian steppes.

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That’s what I also was when growing up in Donbass – a Russian, living among people who spoke Russian, in Ukraine. Within me I never saw it as a source of conflict, but rather as a unique opportunity for two cultures to co-exist in an intimate relationship, re-shaping and enriching each other. My Ukrainian mum’s efforts to bring me closer to Ukrainian culture did mean that I found aesthetic enjoyment in Ukrainian songs and stories, but it was Russian literature and poetry that has had a profound effect on my spiritual development. It’s through the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Tsvetaeva and Ahmatova, that I have found myself.

As we were zooming through this Russo-Ukrainian land, I automatically started reciting Dostoevsky in my mind: “I cannot remember my father. He died, when I was five years old. My mother re-married, but it was a marriage that brought her great suffering even though he married for love. My stepfather was a musician and he was destined to lead the most remarkable life.” Those words have been flowing through me for the last week up to seven hours per day, as I was rehearsing them with a director and voice coach from St.Petersburg – Alexander Markov and Valentina Beletskaya, who were also staying with us.

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My family were all on a holiday, but I was mixing leisure with work – in September we planned to film this play in Kiev and we had two weeks to polish it. I already performed it at least seventy times in London, Edinburgh and St.Petersburg back in 2006-2007. These words have changed my personal life. The first time my husband saw me was on stage, uttering those very same words and then the play has moved him so much, he was compelled to come and talk to me afterwards. If not for those words, my kids wouldn’t be born.

These words of Dostoevsky have flown through me so many times, their power was implanted deep inside of me. It was my director Alexander, who helped me connect to their meaning. A Dostoevsky-lookalike with a long grey beard and piercing light blue eyes, he carried within himself values and culture of 19th Century Russia – modern Russian life had not touched him or corrupted him in any way. Him and his wife, both devout Christians, were able to cut through all the superficiality and pretentiousness of modern theatre straight to raw existentialism – questions of love and death were exposed and brought to the fore.

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Coming back to the same text six year later, as an experienced (I hope!) actor, as well as mother and wife, rather than as a wide-eyed young girl fresh out of drama school, was a unique experience. It felt like visiting an abandoned home, that I once lived in and which I loved, but had to leave, because I was called for elsewhere. Britain has mainly seen me as a comedy actress – my best roles, from the few that were available to me as a foreign actor, were in sitcoms and comedies. To be given a chance to go through this intense drama again, and have it on film, was a privilege. I was back in my old home, but with much more clarity and vision, able to re-build it in a new way with the help from my special directors.

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All these different layers of my life – my family identity, my national identity, my work identity, my human identity, were going through a profound transformation in the midst of those forests near Krasny Liman, which themselves were influencing me through their sublime beauty. I’ve been in those forests before as a little girl – once on a long holiday in Slavyanogorsk with my father, and many times before with both parents and their friends on mushroom picking trips. The theme of coming back to an old home was being replayed there again.

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Despite an intense work schedule, we found time to explore the nearby forests and villages. We cycled through dilapidated holiday camps, we paid visits to beautiful lakes, we applauded each sunset and admired each rainbow. We took our children and my directors to Svyatogoriye, where we were given an intimate tour by one of the monks, we zoomed up and down Severniy Donets river on a boat. It really, without any exaggeration, was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had and on the last day of our visit to Ukraine, when all the filming was done and we were about to leave Kiev, all of us have decided to meet there again next summer to have a holiday and work on a new project. That would be this summer 2014.

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However, life had other plans. On 23rd September 2013, my director called me in London from Kiev to congratulate me with the film. He had just finished editing it and, even though he’s never been self-congratulatory, this time he allowed himself the liberty to admit: “I’m starting to love it”. He also said: “It’s strange how theatre demands our physical presence, but once a film is done, we are not needed anymore”. Two hours later, I got a phone call informing me of his death. Alexander had died instantly of a heart attack, while he was happily re-watching the work that we created together.

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I was still dealing with grief for my saintly mentor, when the protests in Kiev started. While I was watching my country descend into chaos, my father fell ill with pneumonia, and by the time the beautiful forests of Krasniy Liman and Slavyansk turned into a war zone, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness of the lungs.

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“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia”, said Milan Kundera. Indeed, whenever I see the news from that region – Krasny Liman, Semenovka, Slavyansk and all the other East Ukrainian towns, which have been shelled and bombed by the Ukrainian government, my pain and grief for the local people and my country are mixed with a deep sense of nostalgia for a peaceful stunning place, which has touched me deep inside and which is now being mercilessly destroyed. My heart bleeds along with the hearts of many other people and that blood paints the bright blue skies of Donbass into bright red colour, which, set against the black earth, burnt out by war, reminds me of one of the main culprits of this inhumane conflict.

Despite the darkness of the night that Ukraine has plunged into, I’m praying that the morning will eventually arrive, and the red from the sky will be washed out by the rain and the black earth will have new wheat growing on it. And birch trees will be growing freely against the zhovto-blakitny landscape.

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There are memories that live in the heart, and when people from those memories die and places from those memories are destroyed, the heart bleeds. 

 

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