Archive for the Category Brigid’s notes


May 9th Victory Day Parade in Kiev

Dan and I went down to Kiev’s main boulevard, Khreshchatik, to watch the Victory Day parade, which marked the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.  There were marching bands, tanks, war veterans carrying bouquets of flowers, and lots of Ukrainian army conscripts dressed up in World War II style uniforms.

This woman told us she was born in Kiev one day before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, June 21, 1941.

Dan with the Red Army on Victory Day in Kiev

IMG_5178We decided this picture needed a caption.  Just WHAT is that other guy thinking?

“*They* won the Cold War?”
“No, Durak, the strap goes over the *right* shoulder!”  Rob Gurwitt

“He looks too happy; we must have him deported.”  Lori Ashford

“How is that man listening to the voices in his head, without headphones?  Tim Fretz

“The Red Army synchronized swim team sizes up its new Mennonite coach” Matt Frumin

“Jew?!” David Rubenson

“Where are the KGB when we need them?” Monica McCarthy

“Big fancy American. He don’t even have no stinkin’ medals!” Peter Breslow

“Hey, what’s he doing out of the Gulag?”  Scott Simon

“My belt’s too tight and it’s making me grumpy.”  Cheryl Weber

“The hairdresser said if we wear these ‘permulators’ on our head for 4 hours, we can have hair just like this guy.” Tim Fretz

“Grrr…I bet he’s going to post this picture on facebook, too!”  Sonya Charles

“Bearded barbarian.  No medals or stylish cap either. Yet, he seems happy!” Tim Charles

“Weirdo go home!!!”  Sarah Swartzendruber

“There goes the neighborhood!”
“Bloody pacifists!”
“If only we still had the Gulag!”   Cal Eigsti

“I vant heem, vit catsup…maybe vit onions. Make dat catsup AND onions.”  Firoozeh Dumas

“I didn’t know Lenny Cosmos has a beard!”  David Bucher

“He’d look better in one of my hats”  Susan Stamberg

“NPR reporter interviews Ukrainian cosmonauts before attempted launch on flying saucer”   Chris Joyce

“I can’t believe we lost the Cold War to these smiling, medal-less fools…”John Borrazzo


Gotta love those light-hearted Ukrainians!  What’s Dan smiling about?  Margie McCarthy Hall

Were you asking too many questions?  Rhoda Charles

I’m glad you guys are getting out of there soon. . .Jane Stewart

Nice to see he’s making friends over there. Dianne Torreson

It’s touching how welcome Dan’s presence is– and it’s hard to tell him apart from the natives.  Lizzy McCarthy

Why does it look like the guy is going to kill Dan??  Cathleen McCarthy

What did you do to deserve a look like that? How can those guys hear anything?  Sharyn Tieszen

I noticed the soldier is holding holding/restraining his hands, which is reassuring. Maureen McCarthy

Maybe the Red Army guy is wondering where Dan’s bathing cap and earplugs are?  Sheila (McCarthy) O’Brien

He’s back!



When we first arrived last summer, we came across a curious sight. Just around the corner from our apartment stood a large statue swathed in layers of green gauze. We soon learned that underneath all those bandages was none other than Vladimir Illych Lenin. He was recovering from an injury. Last June, some Ukrainian nationalists had smashed the Bolshevik leader’s face and arm with a hammer. (They want to get rid of statues and symbols that glorify Ukraine’s communist past).

We never actually saw anyone repairing the statue, although some ardent Communist Party members erected a tent next to the statue and kept a round the clock vigil. (Usually they were just milling around, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes).

lenin2So we were surprised when a few weeks ago, the gauze came off and Lenin was all better! There was a little celebration, with speeches, a band, and people laying flowers at his feet. The festivities were only marred by some malcontents who hurled red paint at the Bolshevik leader. They were quickly arrested, and the red paint scrubbed off.

A group of true believers now keeps a 24 hour watch over their man. With his chin thrust forward, Lenin strides resolutely into the bright socialist future.

Flu update

maskThe government of Ukraine is sticking with its over-the-top reaction to H1N1: Shutting down all schools for three weeks and banning big public gatherings (except, of course, for important ones like soccer games). Although from what we hear, the rates of illness and death pretty much reflect a normal flu season. Why? Brigid looked into this for The World. You can listen to it, download it, or read the transcript at this link.

One country, two languages

One thing that strikes you immediately about Ukraine is the interplay of two languages, Ukrainian and Russian. Ukrainian is the country’s sole official state language. Yet about half of all Ukrainians, especially in cities and and in the more heavily populated eastern part, still prefer to speak Russian.

Everybody here — except for outsiders like us — speaks both languages with at least some fluency. They seem to treat it as a natural state of things, and switch back and forth with casual ease. But everything about the relationship between Russia and this young, still insecure country can turn controversial these days, and that includes the relationship of their two languages.

Brigid just did a radio story about this for The World. You can read and listen to it by clicking on this link.
If the link doesn’t work, go to this url:


Castle in the courtyard

castleKyiv is a city of hidden homes and courtyards. There are the rows of apartments that, like ours, face the street. But often there’s another cluster of apartments tucked in behind them, almost like a second row of teeth. They’re accessible through small archways between the buildings.
Our kitchen is the one room in our apartment that faces away from the street. It looks out over a courtyard with this majestic, mysterious pink palace. Every morning as I sip my coffee, I stare out the window and try to imagine what this crumbling four story mansion must have looked like in its prime, and who might have lived there. I’m guessing it was built at the end of the 19th century, when Ukraine’s burgeoning coal, iron and sugar industries fueled a building boom in Kyiv.
castle_nightThe government undoubtedly owns it now. Maybe it will be restored and re-inhabited at some point. Who knows. The small archway that leads to its courtyard has a rusted iron gate that’s padlocked, so we can’t get any closer to it than our kitchen window.

Independence Day distractions

Ukraine turned 18 today, and the center of Kyiv filled up with crowds looking for a good time. There was music, costumes, and a lineup of armored vehicles. But we found our eyes drawn to something else. Call us shallow, but we couldn’t stop looking at the astounding shoes on display in this city. So Nora and Molly started snapping pictures. Below, in slide show format, we present some of Kyiv’s finest footwear.