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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anthrax Cemetery Becomes Construction Site in Kyiv

How about I build you a home at a 19th-century burial place of people who perished from anthrax and plague, provided that anthrax spores can live for centuries? In the profit-crazed reality of Kyiv’s construction boom, it’s not a joke. It’s a fact of life — or possibly, death — as this story suggests.

The scandal has been gaining momentum over the last week, resulting in a string of articles and forum threads appearing online. Although the building permit had been issued in 2004, under former Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, construction proceeded unchallenged under current Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky.

However, faced with yet another public relations disaster, as the specter of early mayoral elections closes in, Mayor Chernovetsky ordered that the work be suspended and that the construction site be quarantined for testing and cleanup.

Located at Shovkovychna Street, which adjoins the premises of the Central Municipal Hospital, formerly known as the October Hospital, the site belongs in an upscale downtown neighborhood, a plum for any developer.

But what if that plum has a viral biological contaminant buried into it? Did the developer have prior knowledge about the cemetery? Aren’t there any historical records? This case warrants a full — and independent — investigation, for anthrax makes no distinction between the rich and poor.

Contrary to the woes of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and its financial impact worldwide, the bizarre, barbaric, and bubble-like proportions of Kyiv’s housing cartel remain an oasis for speculative capital.

Welcome to Kyiv, a city where average salaries run at about $500 a month and yet housing prices rival those found in London and Paris.

The profiteer prospers here, while the vast majority of Kyivites have no chance whatsoever of buying a home, given the average life expectancy of 67.7 years. And anthrax doesn’t prolong that expectancy, even if the person has the money to buy a home.



Orest said...

It seems like nothing matters in Ukraine except how much money one can accumulate through whatever means. Then flaunt a lavish lifestyle of expensive homes and exotic cars while claiming only a modest income.

Enjoy this now because times they will change!

Taras said...

That’s the game, Orest!

Now that we’ve been through the paradise of communism, we’re back to the hell of capitalism — to the old-fashioned version described in Das Kapital.

We’ve come full circle, and Marx must be peeing his pants from laughter.

Somebody’s got to pull the plug on this dystopian horror comedy.

elmer said...

Ukraine does not have true capitalism yet.

Ukraine has corruption.

As the West learned a while back, that may work for a while, but in the end - capitalism is about free, open and transparent markets.

Trust me, all of this land grabitization, and profiteering is nothing new.

The sad thing is that there is much resistance in Ukraine to learning from the mistakes of others. People get their back hairs up about the "West telling them how to live."

The only people who can pull the plug on this are - the people of Ukraine.

It's a big job, and people still haven't learned how to stand up for their rights effectively, nor to create the mechanisms for doing so. And they're still too afraid and passive to stand up for their rights. "в мене хата з краю, я нічого не знаю."

Taras said...

Unfortunately, the West wasn't much of a teacher, and Ukraine wasn't much of a student.

But you're absolutely right. The unplugging, a move long overdue, can only be done by self-organized Ukrainians.

I hate to think of growing old in a country whose social contract suits only 5 percent of its people.

elmer said...

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

For that matter, the совки сини watched the West very, very, very closely - they just didn't want to learn the right lessons.

One does not exactly need the West to teach anyone about democracy - history teaches it, and one can learn it oneself.

On the other hand, the Pandora's Box of democracy was opened, unleashed even, when that brave lady stood up on national TV in Ukraine, with her fellow journalists, during the Orange Revolution, and announced that they would no longer be bound by the "approved theme lists" - the темники put out by the government for what could or could not be broadcast, and how it was to be broadcast.

Freedom of the press - extremely important.

There have been major changes since 2004, and you can feel it, starting with the stark differences in the televised debates during parliamentary elections, and what is being discussed, now versus then.

Marcel Proust: ``Facts don't enter a world dominated by our beliefs.''

Those "beliefs" that held Ukraine down are changing.

There is a very good movie called "Archangel", about an English professor who goes to Russia on a history/archeology trip. The movie takes place in recent-day Russia.

He winds up in a remote village in the little house of the mother of the girl who was hauled to Moscow to have sex with Stalin (in the movie).

She still has a picture of Stalin on the wall, and she tells him "oh, Stalin was such a big, important man."

Which absolutely infuriates the English professor, who screams at her "he was a murderer, he raped your daughter."

The old woman just smiles.

Getting rid of that "reverence" to "big, important men" who trample all over people and even kill them is one of the keys in a democracy.

But, to me, it perfectly describes the genetic culture of fear which must be overcome as Ukraine continues to develop into a true, free and open democracy.

Taras said...

Actually, the West didn't show a whole lot of interest in Ukraine. Nor did it really understand Ukraine.

Initially, all the West cared about was our nukes. Just get those nukes, and let the crooks rule the Ukes. That was the policy, bluntly put.

Of course, the brunt of the straight-jacket that has kept Ukraine from realizing her potential should be attributed to Sovok. Call it slave mentality or Stockholm syndrome, as shown in Archangel, it’s still here, and it still hurts. It hurts this country real bad.

By the way, as far as I know, it wasn't Stalin who abducted and raped young women, but Lavrentiy Beria, his right-hand man. (Stalin specialized in genocide.)

Anonymous said...

The BBC drama 'Archangel' was based on a fiction book by Robert Harris by the same name. It is a fictionalized account which explores the idea - what if Stalin knew he was going to die and set up a project that his biological son would be a future leader.

It is an intriguing what if? esp. as Stalin was such an icon and any progeny of his would automatically be an inheritor. But Stalin of course did not have a son and yes, Beria (who btw in the book/film relates the existence of this 'Archangel' project to the book's hero) was a sadist and womanizer.


Taras said...

I haven't seen Archangel yet, so in my limited critique capacity I can only add that Stalin is known to have fathered two sons, Yakov and Vasily.

Have you seen Archangel? What does it say about these facts?

elmer said...

Well, I did not want to give away the plot of the movie, in case someone had not seen it yet, and most movies are made with a great deal of "poetic license." This movie is no exception, but I thought it was a pretty good thriller.

That scene with the old woman, however, really hit home.

Taras said...

It's OK as long as it captures the spirit of the Stalin era.