Odds and ends

Most of the time when I set out to write this weekly column, an idea or theme pops into my mind, I take to the keyboard, and within an hour or two I crank out the 750 to 800 words that a typical column contains. And then there are days when my creative muse decides to take a little vacation and I am stuck pondering what to write about. This is one of those weeks, so this week’s offering is a hodge-podge of items that have crossed my consciousness in recent weeks.

The first concerns the English language weekly newspaper by the name of the Kyiv Post that has been publishing in Ukraine’s capital for some 26 years now. It has garnered a well-deserved reputation for being a thorn in the side of the often-dubious governments that have plagued the country since its independence, as well as exposing the nefarious doings of the ruling oligarchic elite. Although it has changed ownership several times, it has managed to maintain its high journalistic standards and editorial independence.

Last week in a sudden and unexpected move, its owner, Adnan Kivan, a real estate developer from Odesa, announced that the paper was “temporarily” suspending operations, and that all the current journalists and editorial staff had been fired. Since then, there has been much speculation that this was likely the result of strong pressure from either the oligarchic elite or the current government headed by President Zelenskyy. Both have been targets of criticism by the paper and would certainly be thrilled to see the paper silenced.

Since the announcement, the paper’s fired staff have announced their intentions to start a new paper, and Adnan Kivan has also declared that the paper will shortly resume operations with a new editorial staff. The circumstances surrounding this turn of events are certainly murky, and the future consequences are equally unclear. What is certain is that the state of health of an independent and trustworthy press in Ukraine is once again under attack, and that should be cause for all Ukrainians to be concerned.

The other disturbing news emanating from Ukraine of late is that once again, the Russians are concentrating more military forces on Ukraine’s borders, and there are great fears that Russia is planning either a full-fledged invasion, or at minimum another effort to seize more Ukrainian territory. Whether this is just another maneuver by Putin to pressure Ukraine, Europe and the West remains to be seen. Seeing the weak response to his incursions into Crimea and the Donbas in previous years, it is likely that he believes that he can carve out another slice of Ukraine with little in terms of negative consequences. Publicly, the U.S., NATO and most of the major European powers have sent him strong warnings, but it remains to be seen whether they are really prepared to react with anything more than words or anemic sanctions if he decides to go through with such a move. Whatever happens, this is psychological warfare at its worst.

All this is happening as Ukraine is under severe siege by the COVID virus. The country is experiencing some 30,000 new cases, with 700 to 800 deaths each day. Its hospitals are reaching a breaking point. Only 22% of the population is vaccinated, and there is strong resistance to getting vaccinated as a result of low trust in the authorities and a lot of disinformation running rampant. It does not look good, and I fear greatly for the people of Ukraine in the coming months.

A little closer to home and on a more optimistic note, it does my heart good to note that come January there will be Malankas resuming in many Ukrainian halls throughout Canada. The country is approaching a 90% fully vaccinated rate, sufficient to relax some of the current restrictions on mass gatherings. The January Malanka has always been one of the highlights of my wife’s and I social season, particularly when our favourite band, Zirka is playing. It’s return gives cause for a renewed sense of optimism and hope.

The other positive note resulting from the relaxation of Covid restrictions, is that the land border between Canada and the U.S. is once again open for travel by car. We will be taking advantage of this to hit the road and go visit our daughter, son-in-law and latest grandchild in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the American Thanksgiving Day holidays. Life goes on and spending time with our grandson Maksym also gives us renewed energy and motivation to do everything we can to try and ensure a better future for him and this planet.

Stay safe out there!