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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Victory Day 2009

On May 9, Ukraine celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany.

We lost 7 million men, women, and children in WW II, approximately one-third of the total casualties borne by the Soviet Union.

This number does not include the thousands of Ukrainian Americans and Ukrainian Canadians who fought in the European and Pacific theaters.

May the lives they lost and sacrificed never be forgotten. May the heroes who fought for their native land, through the cannon fodder reality of that war and into today’s poverty, never be forgotten.

For me, it’s always been a day of remembrance, a day of thanksgiving and — as I grew up and learned more history — a day of reconciliation.

On this warm sunny day, I took a walk to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Park of Glory, like I did last year. Then, passing through the Holodomor Memorial, I proceeded to the WW II Memorial.

WW II veterans descending into Arsenalna Station

It's their day. People greet them with flowers and thank them.

The Union of Left-Wing Forces

Soviet Navy

Entering the Communist sector

This day also serves as a forum for Communists, Stalinists and Russian imperialists.

“No Fascism in Ukraine!”

“Capitalism brought tragedy to Ukraine. Solution: reviving the socialist society. Down with capitalism!
Good point but wrong solution.

Nash BTR vpered letit

He does have a point about Ukraine currently being a criminal state with no future. The sad thing is, people like him helped make it happen.

The Usual Suspects: Yushchenko, Bandera, Shukhevych

“Thanks to the USSR and the Red Army, Ukraine was liberated from the Nazi-Fascist invaders.”
Was it because of Stalin, or despite him, that we won?

The All-Ukrainian Union of Soviet Soldiers

Thousands lie buried on the Dnipro River bed. They died liberating Kyiv from the Nazis in November 1943.

Left-bank Kyiv

Glory to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!

The Holodomor Memorial

Gate Church of the Trinity at Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Descending into the WW II Memorial

“Their sacrifice will live forever. Their names are immortal”

Mother Motherland

Look who's here!

The Eternal Flame

Same guy

“Eternal glory to the heroes!”
Greetings from President Yushchenko


Ukrainian Canadian said...

You give these commies way too much picture time!

Also I have to really suggest you upload your pics to Flickr and use an embedded album to show off all your great pictures!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful Taras. The first photo is quite sweet.
Are the Russian imperialists making any headway in Ukraine? Or were you being humorous?

Gabriela said...

Very insightful post, despite the few words on it.

elmer said...

It's not much of a choice - Nazis on the one hand, and sovoks on the other.

I have never quite gotten the "hang" of why every one seems to have an obscenely garish number of medals on their chest - whether on a military uniform or on civilian clothes.

Noone gets that many war medals on such a wide basis - except if they're handing out medals for breathing, or crossing the street, or shaking hands, or just for being in the sovok union.

Plus, in typical commie fashion, the commie who preaches and rails against capitalism is obviously failing to make a distinction between government (open, honest, free, representative, and resonsible government) and an economic system - capitalism (which can certainly be distorted and corrupted by a corrupt government).

Oh, well, the commies didn't have to be troubled with all that - government/the economy/glory to the sovok union/propaganda - it was all one and the same thing. No need to think.

I am glad that Ukraine did not have a military parade, like rasha did - much more dignified to remember and honor people in a civilized way, rather than have goose-stepping military marches trying to re-create the sovok union.

Here's a very interesting article from a Hungarian on the whole sovok union thing:

Hungary's role in the 1989 revolutions

Hungary's part in the 1989 revolutions was low-key but essential. It was the country which first punched a hole in the Iron Curtain - and through it poured such a torrent of refugees that it destabilised its communist neighbours. The BBC's diplomatic editor, Brian Hanrahan, who reported on events 20 years ago, talked to the man who made this possible.

For the past few months on my travels around Eastern Europe, I've felt duty-bound to ask people if they have any regrets about what happened in 1989.

Imre Pozsgay says he was fighting to alter the system, from the early 1980s
Their response has been to look at me as though I'm mad and then politely - as though to a simpleton - explain that nobody could want to return to a system so cavalier about human rights, so indifferent to the welfare of the people which it controlled.

I'm beginning to be wary about asking, but just recently in Budapest I found someone I thought might have reason to give a different answer.

Imre Pozsgay was a leading reformer in Hungary's Communist Party. He had fought his way up to the top of the party, and in 1989 was one of the handful of people who controlled it.

He used his position to open up the Iron Curtain which separated Hungary from Austria. He also helped persuade the Communist Party to give up power voluntarily rather than be forced out as happened elsewhere.

But were Hungarians grateful for the man who had brought free travel and free elections? Not a bit. His campaign to become president was spurned, and these days he has abandoned politics to teach political history. Surely he would have some regrets?

Coup threat

Instead, when I met him in his modest house on the outskirts of Budapest I got a very surprising answer. He told me that back in 1989 he had been less interested in reforming communism that destroying it.

In the 1980s, Hungary still had raw memories of Russian tanks putting down the 1956 revolution
"For a long time," he said, "I believed in communism. But from the early '80s I realised it was unreformable - and the only thing to do was to change that system."

Mr Pozsgay says he thought carefully about whether to resign from the Communist Party and then decided against it. "I came to the conclusion that I could do more for my country from the inside, in a position of power than as a marginalised opposition figure," he said.

So in 1989, according to Mr Pozsgay's account, one of the leading figures in Hungary's Communist Party was actively working to bring it down.

His twin concerns were hardliners in the Hungarian Communist Party and the danger of angering the Soviet Union.

Hungary still had raw memories of the way Russian tanks had put down the revolution of 1956, but Mr Pozsgay gambled that with Mikhail Gorbachev now in the Kremlin, the Soviet Union was unlikely to intervene this time.

Instead, he says, the danger came from closer to home. In April 1989 he learnt there were plans by some communist leaders to declare martial law and take control of the country.

But by now the Hungarian government was in the hands of the communist reformers, and they moved swiftly to isolate the party politburo.

Mr Pozsgay says he telephoned the party's general secretary to warn him that a military coup couldn't succeed.

"I bluffed a bit," he says, "but I was confident that the army and the security forces would not work with him. I told him that a Hungarian soldier ordered to shoot on his own people would either shoot his commander or go home to his mother. From that moment he backed down."

With the threat of a coup out of the way, the government went ahead with its plans to take down the iron curtain.

'Rotten society'

In May they removed the first stretches of barbed wire and electric fencing, and waited to see what reaction there was from Moscow. When nothing happened they pressed on.

By summer Mr Pozsgay was encouraging East Germans to cross the border even though technically it was still illegal. In the autumn Hungary changed the rules: anybody could now cross freely.

Hungary used to be a major holiday spot for East Germans. That summer many had stayed on and, once the restriction were lifted, they fled west in their thousands. It was a blow from which East Germany never recovered.

And the following year it was the Hungarian Communist Party's turn to be voted out of office.

One of the leading dissidents from that period in Hungary agrees that the communist party collapsed before it could be challenged. GM Tamas was the first opposition MP elected to the Hungarian parliament.

He believes that the party had long ceased to believe in communism, their only interest was staying in power, and once Moscow withdrew its support it couldn't even manage that.

But Mr Tamas has an interesting history of his own - he has gone from being a conservative in 1989 to a Marxist today.

So I tried out my question on him. Perhaps, given his change of mind since 1989, he might have some regrets?

He didn't hesitate for a second. "I wouldn't change it back for anything in the world," he said. "It was a rotten society, and it had to collapse."

elmer said...

If this was supposed to be some sort of memorial day, I am wondering why the "Union of Left Wing Forces" and commies, complete with hammer and sickle, come out to try to turn it into some sort of political carnival?

I still don't get the tons of medals on people's chests, every square inch of the front of their clothes covered with medals, medals, medals.

Some great pictures, Taras.

Taras said...


It took me quite some time to post all these pics. Pics uploaded to Blogger end up at a Picasa account. Perhaps someday I’ll sort them out and post them in the form of a widget.

Anyway, ever since I joined the Communist Party in the early ‘60s, I’ve been trying to paint the world red:)


Make no mistake: Russian imperialists were there. People who use May 9 to promote the view that Ukraine should be part of Russia deserve to be called Russian imperialists, don’t they?

As for the headway question, the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections will tell.


Muchas gracias! I hope the words helped my readers better understand the pictures and videos.


Terms like sovok and redneck should be applied selectively.

Otherwise, they lose their original meaning and offend decent people born in the Soviet Union or living in the United States. Calling the Soviet Union Sovok Union — regardless of the context — effectively labels all Soviet-born people as sovoks. I can only compare it to forums where Russians always call America Pindostan, a derogatory term for America.

I find nothing obscene in the medals and decorations worn by true WW II vets. By obscene, you probably referred to Leonid Brezhnev and his grotesque chest, showered with undeserved medals and decorations.

Don't be confused: During the war, soldiers won medals and decorations with their heroism and sacrifice, not nepotism or status. They had no status. They were a statistic that Stalin and his generals used as cannon fodder.

Besides, the battles fought by the Red Army, and the casualties suffered, can only be called obscene in the sense that they greatly surpassed those in the Pacific and European theaters. Ukraine alone suffered about 7,000,000 casualties, or about just as many as Germany did on all its fronts. By comparison, Britain and the United States lost 449,800 and 418,500, respectively.

The WW II vets in my blog post started out as soldiers. The top brass who commanded them — and often used them as cannon fodder — are long gone.

Capitalism can mean different things to different people. It all depends on what kind of capitalism we’re talking about. Every kind of capitalism has its faults, as far as the public good is concerned. Ours has nothing but faults. Unlike yours, ours benefits the select few, leaving the rest below or close to the poverty line. Our capitalism kills. You can tell that by our demography.

Ironically, among the beneficiaries of this killing kind of capitalism, one can find strange bedfellows.

Consider Petro Symonenko, the Communist Party chief who wears a $13,000 watch, dumps his wife of 35 years, and fathers a child with a woman 25 years his junior.

I wonder how this math squares with Symonenko’s initiative to restore the death penalty and apply it in cases of bribery.

elmer said...

Taras, what happens in a system when people just "go along to get along"?

When a culture of medals is promoted by the Kremlin - in order to promote and justify the thugs in the Kremlin.

The term "rednecks" came from an episode when coal miners in West Virginia stood up for their rights - against corrupt company coal mine bosses and their hired guns, and even against federal government troops.

They wore red kerchiefs or bandanas around their necks as a means of identifying themselves to each other.

They fought for their freedom, and some of them were killed.

The term "redneck" does not equate with the term "sovok."

It came from newspapermen who used the term to identify the coal miners wearing the red bandanas who were fighting for their rights.

WWII is a tragedy. You've made the point yourself, and correctly so, that the Nazis were defeated despite Stalin, not because of him.

What I find offensive is all of the sovok leftover drama queen baloney, and that includes the medals, and all of the sovok-religion hymns and symbols, including the hammer and sickle.

A day of remembrance - yes.

Sovok traditions overlying that? No.

What was the difference between Nazism and Commienism? Nothing.

Except that the Nazis counted better and kept records. The Commienists killed far more people - their own people - and hid everything, including the records.

As far as Symonenko is concerned - he's just carrying on a commie party tradition. Nothing new there.

Top commie leaders like Brezhnev and others used to order young girls, and other things, for themselves routinely.

"Some people are more equal than others."

I've seen it myself.

Some veterans in Ukraine were actually fighting for Ukraine, either in the "Halychyna" division, or in UPA - the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrayinska Povstanska Armiya).

The real tragedy is that Ukraine did not stand up against commienism/stalinism/rashan imperialism.

It has that chance today.

But not as long as people keep behaving like sovoks - or keep drinking from that sovok well, or doing nothing while the sovoks run wild.

Even if they don't call themselves sovoks.

elmer said...

One of the Socialist signs says:

"No fascism in Ukraine."

Well, what in the hell do they think they have had for the past 70 years, until 1991?

Veronica Khokhlova said...

Belated congratulations to you, too, Taras! I wish I had run into you and recognized you in the crowd there - would've made me feel more optimistic after too much exposure to Stalinist assholes... We were there at the same time, I guess: for example, you must've been just meters ahead of me when you passed the good-looking woman in gray dress who accompanied her veteran father/grandfather :)

Taras said...

Thank you, Veronica!

When I first saw your pics, I realized we’d been to the same places. It’s a small world! I should have turned around:)!

It’s hard to imagine Symonenko, Moroz and Vitrenko not trying to turn this day into a campaign event. They’re always there to sweet-talk the elderly into voting for them so as to convert the communist vote into capitalist cash.


Brezhnev earned his medals in the Kremlin in the 1970s. WW II vets earned theirs in the battle field in 1941-1945.

Brezhnev’s medal-mania can be traced to the Politburo’s cronyism and to the era’s personality cult. Thanks to these conditions, Brezhnev wore medals that he never deserved.

So, you could say, he stole those medals. But, unlike today’s leaders, he didn't steal money. His daughter inherited nothing but a passion for a lavish lifestyle. An alcoholic, she died in a mental institution.

Communism and Nazism indeed have a lot in common. Totalitarianism. Genocide. War. Both killed millions of people. And, yes, compared to Nazism, Communism killed more of its own people.

There’s an important distinction, though: Nazism was democratically elected; Communism was not.

According to one modern theory, Stalin viewed Hitler as the “Ice Breaker of the Revolution.” After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ignited WW II, Stalin planned to attack Hitler and thereby conquer the conqueror and all the countries he had already conquered.

Somehow, Hitler outsmarted Stalin — only to outspend himself on human resources. Stalin had a lot more human resources than Hitler had. Ukraine alone lost 7 million people, matching Germany’s entire losses.

Much of this war did not happen outside Ukraine. It happened right here, in Ukraine.

About 200,000 Red Army troops died liberating Kyiv from the Nazis in November 1943. Thousands of Red Army soldiers never made it to the other side of the Dnipro. They either carried heavy weapons or didn’t know how to swim. Once their rafts capsized under heavy artillery fire, they would drown instantly. How many medals should we put on the Dnipro River bed?

You’re applying the term sovok as an intellectual equivalent of the term redneck. Besides, you’re applying it to the entire country, right? Why? Are you saying that Americans, as a whole, are more educated than people born in the Soviet Union?

If so, I don’t agree with you.

We differ by history, geography, and living standards. Our history — much bloodier and much more complicated than America’s — left most of our people confused and depressed. It also left a minority of entrepreneurial but unethical people with a license to take advantage of the confused and depressed majority.

We never had institutions that Americans — having built them — often take for granted. We should distinguish being richer from being smarter. Ten times as rich doesn’t always mean ten times as smart. I get my clues from the current state of the U.S. economy. The argument-counter-argument boils down to this: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? If you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart?”

Back to Ukraine, in 1917-1920, Ukrainians did stand up to the Bolsheviks but failed due to being less organized. In 1941-45 — a whole generation later — it was a whole new ball game. Soviet Ukraine fought Hitler while the not-so-Soviet Ukraine largely fought both Hitler and Stalin.

It’s important to keep in mind that democracy did not exist in Ukraine at the time. Hitler was not the lesser of the two evils.

So, if a soldier fought for his native land, he or she deserves my deepest respect. My respect equally applies to UPA veterans and Red Army veterans.

Ten years from now, most of them will not be around. But if I’m still around, I will remember them and I will thank them.

That’s what I meant by remembrance, thanksgiving and reconciliation.

Leopolis said...

Elmer --

I always thought that "redneck" was a classist term referring to someone who worked outside -- red neck from sun as opposed to white collar working in an office. Then again, I'm from Missouri where we are all rednecks! ;)

elmer said...

A few random thoughts.

First, I specifically said that I do not equate rednecks and sovoks, nor did I make any sweeping generalizations.

I had an aunt who was killed during the war in Ukraine.

Her 2 brothers, my uncles, since passed away, were "guests" in sovok labor camps for being in the war.

My mother, may she rest in peace (she died an early death, as did my father) was a whiz at chess. When she was a little girl, somehow she wound up playing chess with a Nazi soldier in her village in Ukraine - and won. She promptly broke into tears, because she was terrified that she would be shot.

There was no "lesser evil" here, Taras.

What was it all for?

The sad fact is that Ukraine has always had its assholes and jerks who, throughout history, have sold out their country.

And that has led to slavery for Ukraine at various times.

In the US and other countries, remembrances are indeed days of remembering - and honoring.

Not days of political opportunism for the likes of Moroz and Symonenko.

Plus, the attitude of the soldiers themselves is - "we were doing our job."

We are in sync-

respectful remembrance - yes

reconciliation - yes

sovok political opportunism - no

elmer said...


The original term came from the coal miners who stood up for their rights against brutal coal mine owners - and their hired guns.

You are right, the term has morphed over the years into different meanings, including the connotation of people in the South who are viewed as illiterate, uneducated, and possibly racist. And including the "sunburn on the neck" connotation which you mentioned.

There are a number of Southern comedians who are capitalizing today on their "redneck" status ("Larry the Cable Guy", among other examples) in comedy appearances.

Anonymous said...

I want to send a friend in ukraine $50 usd a month, she is 24. is this a decent amount of money for food and helping with rent? she is a local in Ukraine. I can only think of $50 USD as a meal and a movie..