The Kiev Connection
My family in part comes from Odessa. There was and still is a large jewish community there. They've suffered through wars and pogroms, nazis and communists, and i have no contact with any that are living there now. That's because my family moved to the US in the late 19th century, like many jews did. Czarist Russia was far from a friendly place. They had cuktural wonders like Dostoyevsy, and Tchaikovsky, but also a heavy antisematisn which still exist today. In a way It's part of the defining aspect of European culture, both eastern and western, Russian and Ukranian. Which is why i see Zelensky with such admiration. The man had to rise above the hate, above the prejudice of being jewish in a country that has almost institutional despise for my people. He could have left as a youth, finding a home for himself in Israel. But he stayed and resolutely rose , first as an entertainer and then as a liberal contender for the presidancy. He could have sought refuge, he could have looked for an easy solution for himself, as many haters would have expected, but he stayed and STAYS still in Kiev! Imagine one of our leaders staying in a real danger zone! When asked by the state department if he needs to be evacuated , and obviously promised political assylum, he burst out "i don't need a ride, I need ammunition!".
I wish that leaders in other countries would face off current issues with such determination, and care for his fellow-citizens, instead of playing golf and tweeting.
Here in China, no one cares really where you're from. You are an outsider, and outsiders stick together (mostly).
A few years ago, i worked in a school here, with a nice couple. D. Was a sports teacher from the Ukraine, P. Was an English teacher from Russia. D could not speak English all that well, but he made for it with endless enthusiasm. If only i had sports teachers like him in my youth!
We often had lunch together, sitting in the school canteen. I tried to learn some Russian. I asked D once, if they eat chicken Kiev in Kiev. He did not understand what i was talking about. I described in great detail and salivated, longing for this very un-kosher dish. Finally it was P. that got my point. Idiot that i am, i couldnt see that it was the naming that i was wrong about. I guess Ukrainians are more humble, they just call it chicken cutlets, which is a gross understatment of this heavenly morsel.
They both married, and i lost contact with them. I hope they are safe.
In safer times, before covid, before the recent unpleasentness, i travelled a bit. Being extremely cheap, and having a depraved love of airline food, i did quite a lot of connection flights. I have somewhat of a collection of post-soviet airports i've enjoyed. The dreariness of the Tashkent intl', the uglyness of Baku. The martial presence of Vilnius, and Warsaw, the confusion and insanity of Moscow. I wish i could say i have fond memories of Kiev international. I savor no experience from there, I saw no domes and plazas from the glass windows. I tasted no fare, but a hurried fried egg sandwitch that offered nothing even of the traditional sourdough. People were not helpful, they knew nothing of the changes in gates and departures.
Perhaps unity in all things is to be wished for. Ugly , sad and depressing airports are truly humanity's common ground.