Thursday, February 02, 2017

Conservatives: Canada's Liberal government must take concrete action and support Ukraine

OTTAWA – On February 2, 2017 Peter Kent, the Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs, and James Bezan, the Official Opposition Critic for National Defence, issued the following statement urging Canada’s new Foreign Minister, the Hon. Chrystia Freeland, and her colleagues to take concrete action and support Ukraine in the face of ongoing Russian aggression:   

“Russian forces continue to illegally occupy Ukraine’s sovereign territory and indiscriminate rebel artillery barrages are driving thousands of civilians from their communities. As conditions deteriorate, Canada should not hesitate in offering additional support to our Ukrainian allies. 

"While the previous Conservative government was proud to be a world leader in its support for Ukraine, many of our initiatives are set to expire.  We are calling on the Trudeau government to immediately renew and expand Canada’s support for humanitarian and military assistance and reverse the Liberal policy of appeasing the Kremlin and immediately restore the sharing of RADARSAT satellite images with the Government of Ukraine.

“The Canadian Armed Forces’ training mission in Ukraine, Operation UNIFIER, is set to expire at the end of March. For nearly two years, Canadian troops have been providing training in explosive ordnance disposal, flight safety, logistics system modernization, military policing, and medical training. In addition, over the last six months Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, has repeatedly called on Prime Minister Trudeau to extend Canada’s mission beyond March 2017.   He deserves a clear answer.

“The Liberals should also demonstrate their willingness to stand up to the illegal actions of the Putin regime by following through on their election promise to implement sanctions against corrupt foreign officials. The sanctions put in place by our previous Conservative government have been effective and until the illegal occupation and annexation ends, they should be maintained and strengthened.

“In addition, Conservatives have put forward ‘Magnitsky’ style legislation which, if passed, would hold Russia’s corrupt officials, murders and torturers to account. Prime Minister Trudeau’s first Foreign Affairs Minister refused to take a stand.  We urge Minister Freeland to reverse the government’s position and support our Magnitsky Act.

“Canada has long been a steadfast ally and supporter of Ukraine. As their sovereignty continues to be threatened, now is not the time for Canada to hesitate. The Trudeau government must translate their verbal support into concrete action.”


For more information:

Office of James Bezan, MP
Phone: 613-992-2032
Office of Peter Kent, MP
Phone: 613-992-0253

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Canada is back ... to giving lip service to Ukrainians?

The Trudeau government has followed up on a press release issued a couple of weeks ago by the Department of National Defence.

It's all very nice to appoint someone to sit on an advisory committee to discuss reform of Ukraine's military.

Not sure how exactly it will help Ukrainian people risking their lives (and often losing them) while defending their country against unprovoked attacks from Russia, nor the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire and left without heat, water, or food. 

Maybe that's not its purpose.

Here is the latest from the government. Decide for yourself what it means in terms of concrete action, because I have no idea.


Canadian appointed to serve on Ukrainian Defence Reform Advisory Board

January 31, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, has appointed Jill Sinclair, a former Assistant Deputy Minister with the Department of National Defence (DND) and currently Executive Director, Directorate of Strategic Concepts, Leadership and Engagement at the Canadian Defence Academy, as the Canadian representative to the Ukrainian Defence Reform Advisory Board (DRAB).

Canada was informally invited to participate in the DRAB during Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s visit to Ukraine in 2016.This informal request was followed by an official invitation letter to MND for Canada to join the DRAB.

The DRAB has been established to provide a high level of expertise and recommendations to the Reform Committee as well as to the President of Ukraine, the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, the Chief of General Staff – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and senior political leadership.

Since 2014, Canada has actively participated alongside North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in measure to maintain security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe — through partnering, training, exercises, and other operational tasks.


“Former Assistant Deputy Minister Sinclair’s contributions to the Ukrainian defence reform further demonstrate our determination to support efforts by Ukraine to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability.”

Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of Defence

“I am confident in the ability of Jill Sinclair to support the Defence Reform Advisory Board. Her breadth of experience and depth of knowledge will be invaluable to our Ukrainian senior government and military colleagues.”

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff

“I look forward to this valuable opportunity to be able to contribute to the Ukrainian Defence Reform Process. I am grateful to Chief of the Defence Staff Vance for his support and to Minister of National Defence Sajjan for accepting this opportunity to aid one of our European allies.”

Jill Sinclair, Canadian representative on the Ukrainian Defence Reform Advisory Board

Quick Facts

·                     Ms. Sinclair served as Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy) with the Department of National Defence between 2008 and 2014. Prior to this, she had an extensive career with the Privy Council Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

·                     Ukraine is initiating institutional reforms of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. To advance this process, Ukraine is establishing a Ministry of Defense (MoD) Reform Committee aimed at carrying out planning, organization, implementation, and control of reforms.

- 30 -

For additional information, contact

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-2353
Toll-Free: 1-866-377-0811

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trudeau Government has thrown Ukraine under the bus

Just received an op-ed by Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan from the press secretary of the Office of the Minister of National Defence. 

No mention in it of Canada continuing support for Ukraine. Obviously, Ukraine doesn't even make it onto the priority list, much less at the top ... where it clearly was with the Harper government.

In other words, Canada has just thrown Ukraine under the bus. It just would not do for this government to honour the promises of the previous one, now would it. 

But hey, they also sent a Ukrainian language version of the document. How inclusive. Also, pictures of Sajjan in Ukraine. So, presumably Ukrainian Canadians should feel honoured. 

Yes, Canada is back, alright. 

Here's the English language version: 

Looking forward to a year of change

2016 was a year of change for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. It was a year in which the government started the hard work of setting our nation’s military affairs back on track.

There were unprecedented levels of consultation about Canada’s new defence policy, announcements about our renewed commitments to NATO and the United Nations, the beginning of efforts to replace our CF-18 fighter fleet, the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada, and the expansion of our mission in Iraq to defeat Daesh.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence for all they have accomplished. It’s truly remarkable.

In the first months of 2016, the CAF assisted with the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees here in Canada. CAF members supported whole-of-government efforts to welcome refugees to Canada where we forward deployed personnel to assist with security and health screening, as well as logistical support.

We also announced Canada will lead a multinational battle group in Latvia, becoming a NATO framework nation and a leader among our allies. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised this decision as a sign of a “strong transatlantic commitment.” It fits with the way our government views Canada’s role in the world. When President Obama visited our Parliament, he said “the world needs more Canada.” I couldn’t agree more.

Through a whole-of-government effort, we refocused our contribution to the global coalition’s fight to defeat Daesh. Expanding our train, advise and assist mission with the Kurds, and increasing our intelligence and air refuelling capacity was applauded by our coalition partners.  Efforts made by our Ministerial Liaison Teams, Role 2 medical facility, and All-Source Intelligence Centre are having significant impacts on the ground as our Iraqi partners take the fight to Daesh. These efforts are paying tremendous dividends as now the Iraqi Security Forces are in the process of liberating ‎Mosul, the last major stronghold of Daesh.

Our commitment to multilateralism also extends to United Nations and I look forward to talking with Canadians more about peace support operations in 2017.

Our government is committed to providing the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces with the training, equipment, and resources they need. Last year, we announced the way forward on the replacement of our legacy CF-18 fighter aircraft. This consists of a three-step approach that will see the government move forward on the purchase of an interim fleet of Boeing Super Hornets, hold an open and transparent competition for a full fleet replacement, and invest in the recruitment and training of new pilots and technicians. This is a significant investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and provides expanded economic benefits for Canada’s aerospace and defence sectors and high-value, middle-class jobs for Canadians. 2016 also saw great strides made in other procurement projects, including a decision on new search and rescue planes – 12 years after the need for new planes was identified – and investing in our Navy through the National Shipbuilding Strategy. 

Over the past year, we held an unprecedented number of consultations about the future of Canada’s defence policy, hearing from over 100 stakeholders and policy experts, receiving more than 20,000 online submissions, and consulting face-to-face with dozens international partners and allies.

The new Defence Policy will have a significant focus on how we take care of our women and men in uniform, and their families. I’ve heard too many stories of soldiers, sailors, and air personnel who have fallen through the cracks, read too many letters from veterans struggling after leaving the Forces, and spoken to too many parents and spouses whose loved one might still be here today if they had received the right support. We need to do right by our military personnel and their families. It will take time to get this right, but we won’t rest until we do.

In 2017, our government will continue to build upon the work we’ve done over the past year to ensure our women and men in uniform have the support, training, and equipment they need to ensure that Canada and Canadians are safe at home and abroad. We also look to recruit more women into our Forces, and to work towards the kind of diversity in our ranks that will make the Armed Forces better reflect the cultural mosaic that is Canada.

I am so proud of the work done by the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. It is truly an honour to serve them as Minister.

Harjit S. Sajjan
Minister of National Defence
MP for Vancouver South

Friday, November 25, 2016

Member of Parliament James Bezan Marks Holodomor Memorial Day

Despite changes in leadership, the Government of Canada still supports the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the right of self-determination for Ukrainians.

On November 25, 2016, James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, issued this  statement to mark Holodomor Memorial Day:

“Today we stand united with Ukrainians in Canada and around the world as we mark the solemn anniversary of the Holodomor. We remember the millions of innocent men, women, and children that perished as result of the forced starvation and oppression by Joesph Stalin’s soviet regime.

“The Holodomor was an attempt to put an end to the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a free and independent country by a ruthless communist regime. This horrific act of genocide, which took place between 1932 and 1933, saw Europe’s breadbasket depleted to a barren land of suffering. It represents one of the darkest chapters in human history.

“With the passing of my private member’s bill in 2008, Canada became the first country to officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide. It is vitally important that we remember and raise awareness, not only to honour the victims and survivors, but to make sure future generations never witness such an atrocity.

“It is also important to acknowledge that the struggle of the Ukrainian people is not over. Canada stands proudly with the people of Ukraine as they work towards a brighter future for their children and grandchildren. Today, the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine is once again being threatened by an authoritarian Russian leader. Vladmir Putin and the Russian military have illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and continue to maintain military aggression in the east of Ukraine.

I encourage all Canadians to attend Holodomor Memorial Day services being held in communities across the country and remember the millions of victims and honour the courage of those who survived. Their memories shall be eternal.

“Vichnaya Pamyat”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Armistice Film series on Canada's First Internment operations

Ryan Boyko of Armistice Films has created a brilliant series of video vignettes on Canada's first internment operations from 1914-1920.

There were 26 camps from coast to coast, including one in Nanaimo on Canada's west coast.

I don't really consider myself an internee descendant. I am only the great-niece of an internee, and don't recall ever meeting my great Uncle Harry (perhaps as a young child). I only recently met his son, Ed (my dad's cousin) and his wife Josie in person when they were here visiting Nanaimo this past fall.

Still, I think the experience had an impact on the entire family, if not succeeding generations of Ukrainian Canadians descended from that time.

Maybe it explains how such a large family as ours became so disconnected in just a generation or two. Dad loves to tell stories of how close everyone was in his youth. Yet of all the cousins I have, including those I was so close to during my own youth, I am in (infrequent) touch with just a handful.

Who can really know the full extent of the consequences resulting from the cruelty and indifference that human beings are capable of manifesting?

Last November Ryan and his film crew came to Nanaimo to document the camp that existed here, in which Uncle Harry may have briefly been.

What wasn't included in this film is the discussion we had at the site with someone who had witnessed vandalism of the plaque from his apartment across the street.

Just as well, perhaps. Ryan tells a powerful story without it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Canada's Official Opposition calls on Government of Canada to enact tougher human rights laws on the anniversary of the murder of Sergei Magnitsky

On November 16, 2016, The Hon. Rona Ambrose, Leader of Canada's Official Opposition, issued the following statement:

“On November 16th, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in a Moscow prison after he uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history. To date, none of the individuals responsible have been brought to justice.

“The United States and the European Union have both adopted Magnitsky sanctions. Unfortunately, despite their campaign promise, the Liberal government has yet to act. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has repeatedly broken his party’s commitment to update Canada’s laws and ensure that foreign nationals who are responsible for gross human rights violations can be punished and sanctioned accordingly.

“Last month financial expert and human rights advocate Bill Browder announced that he and a team of investigators have tracked more than $13 million dollars associated with an elaborate tax fraud in Russia to bank accounts in Canada. It is clear that Canada is not immune to the actions of corrupt foreign officials, who would use our banking system to hide their assets. The time has come for the Liberal government to act.

“While Minister Dion has embarked upon a misguided effort to re-engage with Vladimir Putin, Conservatives have filled the void. MP James Bezan has tabled Bill C-267, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). Senator Raynell Andreychuk has tabled similar legislation in the Senate. We have provided the Liberal government with multiple options should they wish to finally listen to the advice of former Liberal MPs such as Bob Rae and Irwin Cotler.

“The world’s worst human rights violators must be held accountable. They cannot be allowed to hide their assets in Canada. On the anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder in a Russian prison, we urge the Liberal government, particularly Minister Dion, to remember their promise to human rights advocates both in Canada and around the world: support and pass the Magnitsky Law.”


Monday, November 07, 2016

Canadian government being urged to acknowledge 1944 genocide of Crimean Tatars

On Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, Member of Parliament Kerry Diotte started second reading of Bill C-306, Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act in the House of Commons. 
MP James Bezan seconded the bill and urged all Parliamentarians to recognize the grave human rights abuses and to forbid history from repeating itself by supporting Bill C-306.
The intention of Bill C-306 is to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide and establish a national memorial day. 

In 1944, the Soviet regime under Josef Stalin ripped hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children from their homes in Crimea, and sent them into permanent exile simply on the basis of their ethnicity and religion.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Bezan echoing the words of Sir Winston Churchill.  

“The mass deportation occurred over two days, Soviet agents forced all of the Tatars into cattle cars, onto trains, and onto barges and deported them to gulags in Uzbekistan, where they were put into forced labour camps.  Half of them died of starvation,” he added.

“As we think of the persecution imposed on the Crimean Tatars in 1944, we are eerily reminded of the plights they are faced with today,” said Bezan.

In 2014, Russian president, Vladmir Putin, illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, where the Tatars are the indigenous population.

“The Russians went in and immediately removed the Tatar’s freedom of the press by shutting down their newspapers and radio stations. Then they shut down their political ability to work together at the Meijles, their parliament. Then the Russians made sure that they could no longer go to their mosques to gather. There is no freedom of association, no freedom of political affiliation, and no freedom of religion,” said Bezan.

If passed, Bill C-306 will recognize the mass deportations of Crimean Tatars in 1944 by the Soviet regime as genocide and establish May 18 as a day of commemoration. 

In 2015, the Parliament of Ukraine officially recognized the deportations of 1944 as genocide, the first country in the world to do so. Subsequently, the Ukrainian Parliament called on other countries to join them in recognizing this atrocity as genocide.

“Today’s efforts by the Putin regime to eliminate the cultural identity of the Tatars should be an indicator as to why supporting Bill C-306 is essential. If we do not recognize and learn from the atrocities of the past, they are bound to repeat themselves,” said Bezan.   

Friday, October 28, 2016

Money laundering, Canadian syle

Financial expert and human rights advocate, Bill Browder, and a team of investigators have tracked more than $13 million dollars associated with an elaborate tax fraud in Russia to bank accounts in Canada.

Mr. Browder and his team echoed their earlier calls for Canada to adopt legislation to freeze the assets of corrupt foreign officials.

In response, James Bezan, Official Opposition Critic for National Defence, issued the following statement:

“The findings that were brought to light by Mr. Browder and his team are evidence that Canada is not immune to the world of corrupt foreign officials. "Individuals accused of gross violations of human rights have been using our banking system to hide their assets. Canada needs legislation to bring this alarming practice to an end and to hold these individuals accountable.

“In May I tabled Bill C-267, “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). This Bill seeks to strengthen restrictive measures against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Motions calling for the Government of Canada to adopt Magnitsky legislation and sanctions were unanimously adopted by the House of Commons and the Senate. These measures were supported by the three main parties during the 2015 Federal Election. However, despite support from within his own caucus, Foreign Affairs Minister Dion, has backtracked on this promise.

“This legislation will further enable the Government of Canada to quickly sanction individuals that are responsible for events like the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. Similar legislation has been adopted our allies in the United States and Europe.

“Gross violators of human rights must be held accountable; they must face repercussions for their actions. Sanctioning these individuals is the right thing to do.

“Bill C-267 is one way that Canada can take a stand against those responsible for human rights violations. I urge Minister Dion to listen to members of his caucus, to Mr. Browder, and to the international community, and support the Sergei Magnitsky Law.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For some backgrounder on this matter, check out Bill Browder's book
Red Notice:: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice published in 2015. A link and the Nash Holos review can be found here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday, April 04, 2016

Ukraine's ascending star

This video reflects a reality of Ukrainian history that my friend Marsha J. Skrypuch and I discussed today.

She was telling me about the research she is doing for her next WWII-era novel, and reminded me that as recently as the middle of the 20th century, very few ethnic Ukrainians lived in the cities or even towns of what is now Ukraine.

How recent history has changed is that urban centres in Ukraine now are no longer populated primarily by occupying forces and/or re-settlers (with the sad and hopefully temporary exceptions of the Crimea and Donbas). Now, urban centres in Ukraine are populated by Ukrainians. Not necessarily ethnic Ukrainians, but with proud citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their ethnic heritage. And more and more of them speaking the native Ukrainian language.

I could ask if this is how a nation is born. The English word "nation" is the closest equivalent to the Ukrainian word "народ` (narod). But the Ukrainian word has so much more depth and breadth (just check out the list of synonyms on Google Translate) .

So to my mind, it is more accurate to say that this is how a state is born. The nation, it seems to me, was born long ago. 

This video to me illustrates an astonishing change in Ukraine's self-identity, and rapidly growing maturity as a nation-state.

To all my native Ukrainian friends ... I stand in awe (and the greatest admiration) of all of you. Molodetz!

Слава Україні!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Vopli Vidopliassova stopping in Vancouver on 30th anniversary North American tour

Valentin of Troika Entertainment is bringing Vopli Vidopliassova to Vancouver again!

Known affectionately as V-V, this iconic Ukrainian rock band has been entertaining fans in Ukraine and around the world for 30 years. Congratulations to V-V on this milestone anniversary!

V-V will be in Vancouver for one performance only, on March 24th at Venue, 881 Granville Street. Doors open at 7 pm. Concert starts at 8:00 pm. Tickets & info:  778-989-6674. Tickets also available at:

Euro Food Plus, 818 Bidwell St. Vancouver
Euro Food Tri-City, 555 North Rd #1, Coquitlam
Pavel's Food Store 3740 Chatham St, Richmond
A Taste of Ukraine 4976 Kingsway, Burnaby

I attended their show back in 2008 (with Joyce of The Female Beat, who was visiting in town). It was a riot! Even with his leg in a cast, Oleg Skrypka and his band-mates put on a superb performance, and no doubt they will once again. Besides, how can you resist an invitation like this?


Here's a video of their song Wild Music. Enjoy! Whether you're discovering them for the first time, or are longtime loyal fans, enjoy this trip down Memory Lane. And make sure not to miss your chance to see V-V live in Vancouver on their 30th anniversary concert tour!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Journalist exposing Kremlin trolls comes under attack

An article about a journalist being attacked by Kremlin trolls for daring to expose them was recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is chilling.

Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro worries that it's not only her coming under attack. She says that "trolls are having an unhealthy impact on freedom of speech and democracy more broadly."
"... ordinary Finns who are exposed to troll misinformation have 'told me that they have started to lose touch with what is true and what is not true ... for example, in the Ukraine crisis they don't know what is a fact and what's not, because trolls mess up the conversation.'

"Some of those attacking her say they are just exercising freedom of political speech. Aro has no time for that argument. In fact they are trying to suppress other people's free speech through aggression, she says.


"An EU official who has been studying Russian propaganda – and who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity – says Aro's case is "quite extraordinary".

"I'm actually surprised this is happening in the EU," he says.

"The amount of resources being put into an attempt to bully Aro was remarkable. "Not only money but also people. The purpose: intimidation ... to kill the debate."

"However, Aro is far from the only victim, nor the only topic of pro-Russian trolling, misinformation and propaganda, the official says.


"..."the troll network is used to 'road-test' conspiracy theories, seeding six or seven competing pieces of propaganda or misinformation and letting the Darwinian world of online information exchange prove which is the hardiest – which is then republished by more conventional media. It's a system applied, for example, to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

"'One of the biggest problems is we don't have a clue how much money they put into this,' the official says. 'We do not have clue how much media there are, how many people they target, how many people they reach. We can only guess from the results.

"'The aim is not to make you love Putin. The aim is to make you disbelieve anything. A disbelieving, fragile, unconscious audience is much easier to manipulate.'"

Read the full article here. It's an eye-opener.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Who will really end this war

(Ras)Putin’s “popularity” appears to be coming down like a house of cards. This despite his control of the Russia's media.

I was surprised to see this video of Russian people protesting in Moscow ... and not a little alarmed at the reason one Muscovite said that they are not protesting in larger numbers.

While the collapse of the oil market and the ruble may eventually bring the Russian mafia down, in the process it is bringing misery to millions who are mere pawns in high-stakes games of international finance, as we see clearly in the above video.

There are many other reports about the fallout of Putin's demagoguery in articles like this one about shopkeepers and mall owners losing their livlihoods at the hands of the state, and this one about Russian-owned gas stations closing in Poland and the Baltics.

There is plenty of misery to go around at the hands of the Putin regime, and I do feel sorry for the Russian people, but only to an extent. Some see the light but the vast majority, if the polls are to be believed, don't.

They trust a mafia boss to deliver a decent standard of living, as this video clearly illustrates.

They believe that Ukrainians are “fascists” for wanting a better life than what they could have under Kremlin lackeys.

They refuse to believe their own friends and relatives in Ukraine who tell them life is vastly different from what the Russian state media tells them.

So, now they are reaping the reward of their blind faith in a moneyed, criminal egomaniac. And, perhaps, in their own egos.

But will they eventually face reality? Or will they look for scapegoats, as happened in Nazi Germany?

As for the mafia-run government they still trust, how likely is it that Putin & Co. will go down quietly, much less alone?
The reality is that (Ras)Putin will cause as much damage as he can trying to hold on to his ill-gotten gains and position of privilege. Sort of a post-modern twist on the "scorched earth" tactic the Russians have used extensively in their imperialist ambitions, especially against Ukraine, most recently by Stalin in WWII.

But the western military-industrial complex won’t allow the global economy, to crash. Recently financial gurus have been opining about how "war is good for the economy."

So I'd say there's a good chance that another world war is on the horizon. And with nukes in the hands of rogue states it doesn't bode well for humanity.

Still there is hope. According to this recent article, mercenaries fighting for Putin are starting to see the light.
Former Russian insurgent calls those whom he was fighting against in the Donbas patriots of his country and says he regrets coming to Ukraine with weapons.
This was stated by former Donbas militant Alexey in an interview with Russian website Rosbalt...
"I can only say of the armed forces of Ukraine, those poor creatures who had been drafted to the army and forced to protect their Fatherland - they are good eggs and patriots. I really regret about having to shoot at them. My enemies are not there! That's the TV that made me think so.
"It's a pity that I'm not the only one deceived by TV propaganda. It's a good thing that many of those who had been there started to realize that's not our war, that's the war of other people and their interests. Many of my comrades realized that we had been deceived and betrayed." 
This to me is the only hope for war to end, along with the misery it brings.

Not so much that people merely stop fighting, because that just makes it easier for tyrants to continue their oppression and totalitarianism. Which is what Ukrainians have been fighting for centuries, and still are fighting... mostly alone as they always have been.

Rolling over and giving in may end the use of heavy weapons, but it won't end the oppression of tyrants. 

No. War will not end until people stop allowing themselves to be used as instruments of evil. This calls for some hard decisions, honest introspection, and sacrificing of egos on an individual, personal basis. No finger-pointing or assigning blame ... except to the person in the mirror.
Is the human race up to it?

Well, we can only hope.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ukrainians being deported from Canada

Recently I came across an appalling story about a Ukrainian immigrant family that is being deported from Canada.

This young family, the Vasileyevs, came to Canada in 2012. Since then, they they have been going through all the hoops involved in the immigration process, following all the rules to apply for Canadian citizenship.

But now they are about to be deported. From Canada.

Many things about this story trouble me, not least of all that so far it is not getting much coverage in the media.

The only story on this family's woes was published in the Winnipeg Sun. It was reprinted in Canoe News and referenced by The Rebel in a brief video that takes a poke at the current Trudeau government.

How this family is being treated, by Canadian bureaucrats and Canadian media alike, is so wrong.

There is corruption in bureaucratic ranks that allows this sort of thing to happen, regardless of which political party is currently in power in Ottawa.

Yet no one investigates, no one speaks up, no one pays any attention at all until there is some political gain to be made.

Being in the media myself (albeit on the outer fringes), I can't blame The Rebel for taking advantage of this family's predicament. It is just doing what comes naturally in the media biz, which is more cut-throat than most, and is fast becoming as politically polarized as it is south of the border.

That said, it is an utter disgrace that the media ignores stories like these until they do become partisan issues. At which point all those left standing in the spotlight can see fit to do is point fingers at their political opponents.(Whatever happened to the meme of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?")

In my humble opinion, it is beyond disingenuous, and shameful, to play partisan politics with such travesties. Because while those of us living our lives of comfort and privilege enjoy the luxury of playing partisan politics (or not), hardworking, innocent, good people who just want to have a decent life keep getting screwed.

As for the few who will bother to watch the video and read the article, you can bet yer boots there are some among them who will soon be arguing about how either the current government or the previous government is to blame for this family's plight.

Meanwhile, nothing will be done to help the Vasileyevs, and they will return to their country with less than flattering accounts about ours.

Sadly, few Canadians, including those of Ukrainian extraction, seem to be very concerned about that. But hey, there are obviously more pressing matters (like arguing partisan politics) than helping people who are being victimized by incompetent and/or corrupt bureaucrats.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Donetsk Airport

Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy performed at Donetsk Airport on 1 March 2014.This song is considered to be the "anthem of Europe."

Just weeks after this performance, Russia dispatched its proxies in Donetsk, who attacked this beautiful new building with the intention of destroying it. This is what "Russkie Mir" (Russian peace) looks like. Any wonder Ukrainians are fighting back?

The Ukrainians who defended their airport against foreign aggressors were nicknamed "Cyborgs" because they continued to outwit the Russian aggressors and impeded their progress in occupying Ukrainian territory.

I was honoured to visit a wounded Ukrainian "Cyborg" in Kyiv last spring. His story is very inspiring. If you haven't seen my video with footage of that visit, check it out here.

If you like it, please leave a comment, here and/or on YouTube. I have more photos and footage I'd like to share from that and previous trips in video, so I'd appreciate your feedback to help me make them as interesting and informative as possible. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

Щасливого Нового Року!

My heartfelt thanks to the listeners of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio, the guests and contributors to the show, and the advertisers and sponsors whose  generosity and support have kept the show on the air and online in 2015. Warmest wishes for the New Year!

З побажаннями здоров'я, щастя, і всього найкращого в Новому році.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"This is why we had a Maidan."

Photos and footage of my visit with a "Cyborg," one of the Ukrainian Heroes who defended the Donetsk airport and survived an ambush in Debaltseve.

My guide and translator, Nick Buderatsky, shows us a side of the war seldom shown by the western media to a world that still can't seem to grasp the reasons "why we had a Maidan."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ukraine's 21st Century struggle for independence

While watching one of the wonderful, breath-taking and thought-provoking videos out there these days, a couple of things occurred to me.

First, that the dance steps in Ukrainian dance, in particular of the men, were developed with more practical purposes than for entertaining audiences on a stage.

They were, literally, moves designed to save a solder's life and for defeating a murderous enemy.

In the last half of the 20th century, and the first couple of decades of the 21st, the origins of the dance moves were but a distant memory, interesting footnotes in the history of Ukrainian dance.

 Now of course, the circumstances that led to the development of those dance moves are no longer a distant memory, but today's stark reality.

Things have changed tho.

So my second thought is how today's Ukrainian freedom fighters will be mythologized long after we're all gone from this earth.

Hand to hand combat is pretty much a thing of the past now, thanks to the horrible weaponry developed in the last century. So intimidating posturing and clever kicks won't be of any use to today's kozaky fighting for Ukraine's freedom.

With the resurgence of folkloric symbols and musical styles, probably the dance moves will remain, albeit modified somewhat by modern choreography.

But the rest of it ... the songs, the symbolism, and the sentiments ... these should be recorded for posterity.

It's a different world, and not just because of technology. It's the attitudes and mindsets that technology empowered.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Ukraine may, for the first time in centuries, be able to break the yoke of foreign oppression, once and for all.

 So we should all chronicle this time in our lives.

We should keep meticulous records, digital or analogue (or both), for future generations to understand better than we ourselves do, being in the middle of it with only an eye of the storm view.

Perhaps if, with details chronicles and records, we can help them step back in time, we can help them avoid the mistakes that we have made, and are bound to make before this is all over.

 I'd be interested to see if this video inspires you as it did me. Enjoy. Lyrics and translation below.

Їхали козаки, їхали по полю
І лунала пісня про їхнюю долю.
Про їхнюю долю, про справжнюю волю.
 Їхали козаки, їхали по полю...

Cossacks rode, rode on the field
And the song was heard about their fate.
About their fate, and about the price of freedom.
The Cossacks were riding, to the battlefield ...

Їхали козаки та й пісню співали.
Про те, як любили і як воювали
За рідную землю, за батьків і друзів,
 І за спів дівочий, що дзвенить у лузі...

The Cossacks rode, singing songs.
About learning to love and how to fight
For their native land, for family and friends,
And the songs of their sweethearts rang throughout the meadows.

Ой, у лузі-лузі тая пісня ллється,
А дівоче серце, як пташина, б'ється...
Віддала кохання хлопцю молодому
Їхали козаки, їхали додому...

Oh, in the meadow a song flows
And a maiden's heart beats like a bird’s wings,
Because she gave her love to a young man.
The Cossacks were riding, coming home ...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Polish rock group dedicates song to Ukraine's freedom fighters

This morning I received a Skype message that tugged (well, tore) at my heart.

It was from Orest, in Ukraine. He originally emailed me a few months back, soliciting support for his charity, and we ended up connecting on Skype.

His English and my Ukrainian are at about par, so our conversation was a bit rough around the edges.

However, this time I could understand him just fine.

He shared a song with me, and this message:

In Ukrainian:
І крилами лелеки, повернуться живі!
Мати, син, калина, лелека - святі речі для кожного українця.
Слухаючи цю пісню нагортається сльоза.
Пісня "Біля тополі" з документального фільму "Рейд" Відомий польський гурт Enej присвятим воїнам, що загинули за свободу та незалежність України, пісню. 
English translation:
And on the wings of a stork, return alive!
Mother, son, kalyna, the stork – these are sacred things to all Ukrainiansю
This song will bring tears to your eyes.
It is called "Near the Poplar" from the documentary film "Raid."
The famous Polish group Enej (Aeneas) dedicated this song to the soldiers who died fighting for the freedom and independence of Ukraine. 
Having never heard of this film, I decided to see what I could find out about it. What I found out surprised me ... Raid is about the popular video game World of Warfare.

In the video below, the young man speaking before the song starts reminds me very much of a "Cyborg" I visited in a Kyiv hospital last spring. His name is Vadym. He was caught in an ambush during a real-life raid in Debaltseve. He survived, fortunately, albeit without his arm and both legs.

I'll share his story here soon. In the meantime, enjoy the song that Orest sent, in memory of those who did not survive the real-life raids unleashed on Ukraine by their Russian "brothers."

The song is Біля Тополі - Near the Poplar, by Polish group Enej (Aneas) joined by popular Ukrainian artist Taras Chubai.

Слава Україні ... Слава героїм!

Monday, November 09, 2015

My Excellent Adventure at the 2015 Borsch Fest in Victoria

Had a wonderful time at the 2015 Borsch Fest in Victoria, BC on Saturday, November 07!

One of the organizers, Maria Koropecky (who was interviewed on the Nov. 4 edition of Nash Holos) challenged me to enter the competition, so I did.

I was honoured (and, quite frankly, astounded) that my entry won the People's Choice Award ... and also Judges' Honourable Mention.

Came home with a cash prize (which covered the cost of ingredients and gas for the drive down to Victoria. For the Honourable Mention, I received a copy of a great cookbook by one of the judges, Cinda Chavich, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet.

The theme of this book is especially poignant, as Ukrainians tend to abhor wasting food, given how often throughout history, especially during the soviet era, it was denied them.

Along with Cinda, the other judges were Lee Aitchison,Hospitality Management Instructor at Camosun College; and Michael Tymchuk, producer of CBC's food show The Main Ingredient.

The borsch I entered was not the typical beet red that most people associate with borsch. That's because it was made with yellow (golden) beets.

It's called Remembrance Borsch, in honour of the Holodomor, the soviet-engineered famine that deliberately starved to death 7-10 million Ukrainians in 1932-33.

The colour yellow is symbolic of mourning in Ukrainian tradition, so that's why this borsch is made with yellow beets. 
I've been sharing the story of Remembrance Borsch with listeners of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio for several years now. If you're not familiar with it, and would like to be, check out this blog post. You can also find links there to two audio versions of the story as well.

For anyone who tasted my Remembrance Borsch at the Borsch Fest and would like to try making it, I am very sorry but there is no recipe proper (as in with proportions). And I am unlikely to ever reproduce the batch I made (with the help of my friend Gerri) as I didn't keep track of the proportions I used.

However, I will share what I remember, to the best of my abillity. The rest is up to you. Which is kind of fitting, because by nature Ukrainians are very individualistic and independent ... and that is in large part why the Soviets tried to wipe them out, by starvation and other methods.

November is Holodomor Remembrance Month, and the last Saturday of November is set aside as Holodomor Remembrance Day. At sunset, candles are lit in remembrance of those who perished in this heinous, man-made famine. To me, it's very important to make this borsch and remember the millions of innocent victims, so that never again will human beings be starved by the millions merely to promote an ideology. 

This recipe for Remembrance Borsch should create a reasonable facsimile of the one I made for Borsch Fest.

8-10 cups shredded or diced yellow beets
5-6 cups shredded cabbage
3 cups finely chopped onion
1-2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
6 cups diced potatoes
5 cups diced rutabaga
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups chopped fresh dill
1/4 lb. butter
3 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp black pepper
3 litres mushroom broth
1-2 litres beetroot broth
2-3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

Saute the mushrooms, onion, half the cabbage, and half the dill in butter until the veggies are a nice golden colour.

Put them in a large stock pot, along with the liquids, seasonings, and the rest of the veggies, except for the beets. Simmer until the potaotes and rutabaga are soft, about 1/2 hour.

Add the shredded beets, and gently simmer for about 1/2 hour.

NB: Make sure the borsch does NOT boil vigorously. Borsch should never be boiled. It makes the beets lose their colour and just does something to the taste that is less than desirable. Keep it at a gentle simmer.

This will make a huge stock pot full, about 10-12 litres, so you might want to cut the ingredients in half. 

A tip for preparing the beets for borsch, especially using red beets: Scrub really well, trim off any blemishes, and put them to simmer, with the skin on. When soft, drain the beets and cool. Reserve the liquid. This will be your beetroot broth. When beets are cool, peel and shred. Adding the beets at the end will keep the beets from going white, so your borsch will have a nice, rich colour.

I hope that some day serving this yellow borsch to commemorate Holodomor Remembrance Day will be part of Ukrainian tradition. We should never forget.

If you decide to try it, I'd love to hear how yours turned out.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the 2nd Annual Borsch Fest in Victoria.


If you're interested in Cinda's cookbook, you can get it here:


Saturday, July 04, 2015

This week on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio

All three weekly editions of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots are unique ... different tunes, news stories, proverbs and features. So check them all out!

On this week's 2-hour live Nanaimo Edition - July 1, 2015 Canada Day Special

Ukrainian Food Flair: Chilled borsch • Ukrainian Jewish Heritage: Ukrainian town of Brody • News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Feature Interview: Taras Kulish of Hope Worldwide Canada, on the work being done to help children and their parents cope with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the war in eastern Ukraine • Latest news from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian proverb • Great Ukrainian music by: Dumka • Shoom • Dunai • Borsch Eaters • Boris Sichon • Kubasonics • Ron Hynes • Zubrivka • Sloohai • Cheremshyna • Millenia • Steven Chwok • Homin • Canadian Rhythm Masters

On this week's International PCJ Radio Edition - July 3-6, 2015:

Ukrainian Jewish Heritage: Lidia Kotliarevsky • Latest News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian Christian Heritage: Fr. Theo Machinsky on Invan Kupala •  Dunai • Yulia Donchenko • Milla Jovovich • Cheremshyna • Kobza • Luhansky Kozaky • Komy Vnyz • By Request Band

On today's Vancouver edition - July 4, 2015:

Feature Interview: Taras Kulish with Hope Worldwide Canada on a groundbreaking new project dealing with PTSD in Ukraine (edited for rebroadcast) • Latest News from Ukraine (courtesy Ukraine Today) • Ukrainian Christian Heritage: Наші Свяащені Традіції with Father Theo Machinsky on Ivana Kupalo • Proverb of the Weeks • Great Ukrainian Music with a musical nod to our American listeners celebrating Independence Day. Artists aired on this week's Vancouver edition: Dunai • Darka & Slavko • Anne Pleskach & Bill Shcherbatiuk • Trembita • High Profile • Ambrose Brothers

Links to podcasts of all three editions at the Nash Holos website!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Meeting Crimean Tatars in Ukraine

While in Lviv, I had the great privilege to spend time with two women from Crimea – one a Tatar, one Ukrainian.

Dr. Gulnara Bekirova was one of the speakers at the UJE conference in Kyiv. She is with the Special Kurultai Commission for the Research of Crimean Tatar Genocide, Ukraine. She spoke (in Russian btw, with no ill effects) during the session entitled The ‘Traitor Nation’and the Destruction of the Crimean Tatar Civilization.

The other was her friend who survived deportation to the Urals. Dr. Bekirova’s friend joined us in the lobby of the Swiss Hotel, where the UJE entourage was staying. Much of the conversation was private and personal ... including finding uncanny personal connections. (She even thought I looked familiar!) So much for the proverbial "six degrees of separation." For anyone with a Ukrainian connection anyway, it's usually 2 or 3 at most!

Earlier, I had a rare opportunity to chat with Dr. Bekirova over breakfast. There was a bit of a language barrier as she speaks “Surzhyk” (a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian) and I speak просто (kitchen) Ukrainian. I bitterly resent the language barrier, but appreciate learning what I did from that discussion, and the meeting with her friend later. Fortunately our intrepid leader, Raya, joined us at breakfast and kindly translated when I got stuck.

Dr. Bekirova told us that life in Crimea is dangerous now—for everyone, but especially for ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. She lives in Simferopol, Crimea and publishes children’s books in the Crimean Tatar language, so that the language and culture survive. So far she has managed to stay out of the cross hairs of the occupying Russians.

When the occupation began and the Ukrainian army was still in Crimea, the Tatars brought the soldiers food and other supplies, and begged them not to leave Crimea, but to stay and protect them. As we know, the Ukrainian forces were overpowered by the Russian army and Putin’s green men, which are now occupying the peninsula.

But, Dr. Bekirova said: “We didn’t bow down to the Russians, and we never will. Crimean Tatars love their land, Crimea... and Ukraine, and want to belong to Ukraine.”

She told us that there are only about 600 Ukrainians left in Crimea. Those she knows are too afraid to speak Ukrainian in public.

When I visited Crimea with family members on a tour in 2008, I recall that it was rare to hear Ukrainian spoken... unless you initiated the conversation. Then it was all smiles and the Ukrainian came out! I did detect a bit of nervousness in the people we spoke Ukrainian with, but not outright fear. Perhaps from 2008 till 2014, some progress had been made in Ukrainian language rights in Crimea. But Putin has obviously reversed that.

During breakfast and over coffee we spoke about her work as a children's publisher and cultural activist, and what we learned from her presentation at the conference in Kyiv about the little-known genocide of Crimean Tatars in 1946.

(Funny how many of Stalin's genocides are still unknown in the 21st century. A person could be forgiven for wondering if it's a case of error of omission —or deliberate oversight. Fortunately, the information is out there, at least for those interested and determined enough to search for it.)

At one point she said how nice it would be to have a similar conference in Crimea. I found that quite surprising, given the situation in her homeland.

There is no way UJE (or any diaspora organization) would even remotely consider the risk.Plus, imagine the logistical nightmare of housing, feeding and transporting conference participants—the tourism industry in Crimea isn’t exactly thriving under Russian occupation.

Organizing a conference is complicated and stressful at the best of times, as it was even in Kyiv and Lviv, where life is (more or less) normal. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part, or perhaps a bit of denial of the reality of what Crimea has lost, and how difficult (or unlikely) to ever regain and rebuild it.

The conference session in Kyiv on the Tatar deportation, as well as the delightful private conversations with Dr. Bekirova, her friend, and a young Muslim man who briefly joined our entourage, increased my awareness of the Tatar people in the Ukrainian national fabric, if not my knowledge.

It’s embarrassing to admit how little I know about the Crimean Tatars. Somehow they were just kind of always there, a fixture of Ukrainian history that was just “part of the woodwork.” Not unlike, perhaps, the First Nations here in Canada.

I’m looking forward to exploring this new topic in Ukrainian history!

Meanwhile here are some photos ...

Dr. Gulnara Bekriova and me at breakfast in the Swiss Hotel in Lviv.
Looking at her features, if I didn't know she was Crimean Tatar I thought
she could easily be mistaken for First Nations from the west coast.
Some of the yummy breakfast food we enjoyed.
Lots of fresh fruit, pastries, fresh dairy, meat, fish, cereals, etc.
And of course the ubiquitous tomatoes and cucumbers.
Oh, and coffee to die for!

One of Dr. Bekirova's children's books.
Депортация - Deportation.
Kids books by Dr. Bekirova.

Dr. Bekirova and Olexandr, a young Crimean Tatar man
who attended the conference in Kyiv and Lviv.
This photo was taken at a WWII era
concentration camp in Lviv.
A sign at the above concentration camp explaining
what took place at this site. Details in another post.

Here are some pictures I took in Crimea while visiting back in 2008. I was struck by the similarity in the topography to the west coast of Canada. I felt very much at home driving through the mountains and trees there!

I hope one day it will be safe to return to visit Crimea, and that the people living there will be happy and free—regardless if they are Crimean Tatar, ethnic Ukrainian, ethnic Russian ... or ethnic Martian for that matter.

Join me now on a little trip down memory lane...
Boarding flight to Simferopol-Sept2008. (That's me in blue.)

Looking out the window as we travelled through the Crimean countryside,
it almost felt like I was back on the west coast of Canada!

Near where the historic Charge of the Light Brigade took place.

We toured several palaces in Yalta ... built by Russian monarchs.

On a palace balcony with sister & niece - Sept2008
Iconic Kobzar at Yalta palace 2008.
I wonder if he survived Russian occupation?

View of the Black Sea from my hotel room.

View of Hotel Yalta from Black Sea beach.
On the Black Sea beach outside Hotel Yalta-Sept2008
The Black Sea beach is very stony (quite similar to Qualicum Beach
on Vancouver Island) so I went to the beach to enjoy the view but
preferred swimming in the hotel's lovely, enormous salt water pool.
On the tour bus with Mom 2008.
Enjoying a beer while strolling into the town of Yalta from hotel.
Some of the girls needed new shoes for the ballet that evening.
Outside the ballet theatre in Yalta with sisters and nieces.
Inside the ballet theatre in Yalta.
Dinner in the Yalta Hotel. Photo op requested by fellow tourist (local).
On our way from Yalta to Simferopol, where we caught the train to Lviv,
we stopped in the town of Bakchissaray for lunch and a tour of a
Crimean Tatar palace. Very different from the palaces in Yalta.

Lunch in Bakchissaray was delicious. Everything was new and unusual
so I put down my camera to concentrate! However I did have the presence
of mind to take a picture of this dessert. It was light, crispy and
melt-in-your-mouth. Reminded me of a giant ball of khrustyky!
Getting provisions for 25-hour train trip from Simferopol to Lviv-Sept2008.
On the way to the train station in Simferopol.
Don't imagine any Golden Arches there now.
Train station in Simferopol.
Hope one day to revisit.