Voices from Russia

Monday, 27 March 2017

Donetsk Greeks Celebrated Greek Independence Day with Dances and Concerts

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Today, members of the Donetsk Fyodor Stambulzhi Greek Society celebrated their past on the eve of the national holiday of their historical homeland… Greek Independence Day. Greek opera singer Medea Yasonidi, a Donbass native, attended the festive event. They held the festivities in the Electro-Technical School in Donetsk, beginning with a class in Greek dancing for all ages, with the Greek Folk Ensembles Panair and Terpsikhora taking part. Then, Yelena Prodan, the chairman of the Donetsk Greek Society, addressed the assembly, touching on the topic of the Greek War of Liberation against the Ottoman yoke in 1821-29:

Greeks around the world celebrate Independence Day, or Day of the Greek Revival, in honour of the heroes of the war of independence on 25 March.

Yasonidi added:

It pleases me that, in spite of the hostilities, the Donetsk Greek society carries on.

Yasonidi graduated conservatory in Donetsk, and now gives classes at the State Academic Philharmonic. She plans to give further classes at the Sergei Prokofiev Donetsk State Music Academy. Today’s celebration involved more than two hundred people, including those taking part in Greek and Russian musical numbers, as well as a large tea party.

The Donetsk Greek Society began in 1990, named after its first chairman, the prominent local Greek Fyodor Stambulzhi (1953-2003), and has about 1,200 members. The Society has Greek youth and women’s groups, along with sponsoring folk ensembles. It started a Greek Sunday School and helped start Greek language courses in a number of secondary schools. The Donetsk Greek Society maintains close ties with Greek associations in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Krasnodar, and participates in folk festivals in different parts of Russia. During the hostilities, they’ve received humanitarian assistance from other Greek Associations in Russia.

The history of the Greek community of the Azov region dates back to the 1770s, when more than 30,000 Greeks, Armenians, and Georgians emigrated from the Crimea. At the request of Metropolitan St Ignaty Gozadinos of Gothhia and Kafa, who feared the complete destruction of his flock in the Crimean Khanate, the Russian Empire gave the Crimean Christians resettlement assistance. The tsar allocated the Crimean Greeks land on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov near Pavlovsk, which became Mariupol in 1978. The Greek settlements in 1980 numbered about two dozen villages around the Sea of Azov. At the time of the DNR’s declaration of independence and the outbreak of war in the Donbass, there were more than 90,000 descendants of Greek immigrants, the vast majority of them living around the Sea of Azov.

26 March 2017

DAN Donetsk News Agency

https://dan-news.info/culture-ru/doneckie-greki-otmetili-nacionalnyj-prazdnik-tancami-i-koncertom-samodeyatelnyx-kollektivov.html

Saturday, 25 March 2017

In Memory of Aleksei Ivanovich Chelyapin

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I was born on 3 September 1926, in a peasant family. We lived in the village of Glazok (Michurinsk Raion) in Tambov Oblast. I received eight years of education in a rural school. After finishing my schooling in 1942, I worked on a kolkhoz. I listened to the war news on the radio. After three days, all the men in our village born before 1925 had to report for military duty. I had my call-up notice in 1942. We went by train to Chaadayevka, detrained, and then went by lorry to Michurinsk in Penza Oblast. At the end of October 1942, we took the military oath at the local club. We completed the young soldier’s course at a base in the Mari ASSR; I received training in using an avtomat. At the beginning of May 1943, we got warm clothes and equipment; they sent us to fight at the front (at the Kursk salient). We travelled at night and rested during the day. Our group arrived at the Maloarkhangelsk station, which was near Ponyri (Oryol Oblast).

They gave us our orders there. I joined an infantry company armed with avtomats of the 800 Rifle Regiment of the 143 Rifle Division (13 Army). I remained in this company until the end of the war. However, we didn’t take part in the Battle of the Kursk Salient. Rather, normal training continued, to complete our young soldier’s course. We did hold Observation Points (NP) and Checkpoints (KPP). After the Battle of the Kursk Salient, the 13 Army advanced towards Konotop. Our 132 Rifle Division moved up from the railway station. We had armoured and air support, so we liberated Konotop on 6 September. Our division received the honorary title “Konotopskaya” for this victory. After freeing Konotop, we liberated Bakhmach, Nizhin, Kozelets, and Oster.

We reached the Dnepr and tried to cross it near the village of Strakholesye, north of Kiev. Our first attempt to cross the river failed. Our forces weren’t completely concentrated at the assault point; much of our equipment was still catching up to us. We just weren’t ready to do it… but we tried anyway, using boats, logs, anything that we could lay our hands on… some even swam across. The Germans had a strong position; they were on the reverse slope of the high ground, which gave them a big advantage. We just lost too many of our soldiers. When we tried a second time, we used tanks and artillery and brought up pontoon bridges. With such support, we were able to cross the Dnepr in force. On 22 September, we liberated Chernobyl, then we freed Ivankov and Malin, and on 17 November, we entered Korosten, for which our division received a second honorary title “Korostenskaya”. By January 1944, we chased the enemy from Belokorovichi, Olevska, and Rakitnogo. For liberating Sarny, our division received the Order of the Red Banner. We crossed the Slech River and Stir River, freeing Rafalovku and Manevichi.

At the beginning of March 1944, the 143 Rifle Division transferred to 47 Army in the Belorussian Front. We had orders to advance to Kovel, where the Germans had strengthened their positions. On 5 June 1944, our regiment was in Oblapy. During the night of 4 to 5 July, the recon platoon of our company had orders to reconnoitre the area chosen for the breakthrough. Before leaving, we turned in our Komsomol and military ID papers. We sewed a cloth patch on the inside flap of our tunics with our surname, first name and patronymic, as well as the address of our relatives, their last name, first name, and patronymic, so that if we died, it was possible to inform relatives. We all did this. In this battle, we dislodged the Germans from the outskirts, took a few prisoners, and came back alive. On the morning of 5 July, a massive assault on Kovel began. Both sides had heavy losses. Fighting in the city continued until the morning of 6 July.

On 21 July 1944, we crossed the West Bug River. Crossing the river was difficult as the Germans concentrated a lot of equipment on the opposite bank. As we crossed, the enemy opened up a powerful shelling our troops, but our artillery promptly counterattacked the German defenders. Many of us crossed the river on improvised means; I floated across on a log. On 14 September, we liberated the suburbs of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula. They promoted me to Senior Sergeant and made me a section leader. The next day, they ordered us to move to Jabłonna-Legionowo. When we liberated it, they told us to cross the Vistula. On the opposite bank, the Germans had three lines of trenches, from which they laid nonstop fire, not giving our troops a chance to get across the river.

On 14 January 1945, they told us to capture these trenches. Although we had heavy losses, we got to the other side and went on the attack. The Germans retreated, but they fought bitterly for every trench-line. By the time we captured the second trench, we didn’t have much ammo left. The Germans were running out of ammo, too. In the third trench, we went at each other in hand-to-hand combat. The Germans had to retreat. They ordered us to stop. We had to wait for other units to cross to our side on the railway bridge. We liberated Warsaw on 17 January 1945. Our Division crossed into Germany from Poland on 30 January. We took Deutsch-Krone (now Wałcz in Poland: editor ) on 2 March, reaching the Oder River. The Germans were on top of a hill, and we were in a meadow. At our slightest move, they immediately fired. The regimental commander called me. He told me to find out where the firing points were, if possible, take some prisoners. I took two soldiers with me. It went easily and without fuss. We located two machine guns, broke into their headquarters, and captured one of their soldiers. I went back to our lines, turned over our prisoner, and reported to the regimental commander. For this, I received the Order of the Red Banner. The 143 Rifle Division of 47 Army was on the banks of the River Spree at the end of the war. On 10 April 1945, I was seriously wounded, and received a medical discharge from the army.

Aleksei Ivanovich died on 20 March 2017, in Moscow. His burial was on 24 March with military honours at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery.

Вечная память!

СССР: Прекрасная страна, в которой мы жили (The USSR: The most beautiful country where we lived)

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

17 March… St Gerasim of the Jordan and the Arrival of the Rooks in Slavic Folklore… With an Excursus on the Evil Spirit Kikimora

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In Russia, this holyday coincided with time of arrival of the rooks. Because of this, the people called it “St Gerasim the Rook-Keeper Day”. The people said:

  • If you see a rook, spring is on its way.
  • I saw a rook, so, spring has come.

In folklore, the behaviour of the rooks on this day predicted how spring would go:

If the rooks return to their old nests, it’ll be a good spring. The ice will melt all at once.

However, if the rooks arrived earlier than 17 March, it was a bad omen. It predicted a lean and hungry year. In order to speed up the arrival of balmy days, peasants baked little rooks made of rye flour… “грачей” (grachei: rooks).

Another legend about this day was:

St Gerasim the Rook-Keeper brought the rooks back to Rus; with this, Holy Rus throws out the witches.

On St Gerasim Day, people baked grachei as talismans against Kikimora (a pagan Old Russian mythological figure). In popular belief, she was a dwarf with a thimble; her body was thin as straw. She was ugly, with slovenly and disordered clothing. Her eyes were of different colours. With one, she gave the evil eye; with the other, she gave leprosy. A less-common belief was that Kikimora was a naked girl or one who wore nothing but a tunic, wielding a scythe.

Folklore said that if you saw Kikimora, it predicted trouble in your house. Peasants believed that Kikimora was the harbinger of death in a family. People feared Kikimora and did everything that they could, no matter how difficult, to keep her away. On St Gerasim Day, people believed, Kikimora was quiet and placid; they could kick her out of the house. On other days, they protected themselves against Kikimora with prayers and talismans. The best talisman against Kikimora was a куриный бог (kuriny bokh: chicken god), a stone with a natural hole in it (that is, a hole not bored by a person). Besides this, people hung broken jugs over the flap covering the chicken coop to protect the birds against Kikimora.

Kikimora was just one of the household spirits from Old Russian paganism. She feared juniper branches, so people hung them around the house, even wrapping juniper twigs around the salt-cellar to protect it so that she wouldn’t spoil the salt, as it was very expensive in olden days. If Kikimora rattled the dishes and made noise, then, people had to wash the dishes in water and sprinkle the juniper branches to make her go away. Then, people searched for any foreign object that Kikimora may have placed in the house. They had to remove it carefully from the house and throw it away… it was even better to burn it. Superstition had it that if someone wanted to harm another, they’d leave a cursed object in the house. To remove the curse, you had to remove the object. Folklore had it that if you swept the floor with a wormwood broom, unholy things couldn’t bother you, including Kikimora. This was one of the most powerful talismans. People thought that the pungent smell of this herb repelled evil force and evil people.

17 March 2017

Russia-Российская Федерация

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Chrystia Freeland’s Granddad was Indeed a Nazi Collaborator… So Much for Russian Disinformation

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The news conference on Monday by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was interesting not for the announcement that Canada was extending its training mission to the Ukraine but for the questions and answers about the minister’s grandfather. There have been a number of articles circulating about Freeland’s Ukrainian grandfather Michael Chomiak and his ties to the Nazis. Some of those articles have appeared on pro-Russian websites. Freeland, who strongly supports the Ukraine and is a major critic of Russia’s seizure of the Crimea, suggested to journalists that the articles about her grandfather were part of a Russian disinformation campaign (The Russian government sees Freeland as virulently anti-Russian and placed her on their travel ban). Freeland told reporters after they raised questions about the articles about her grandfather:

American officials have publicly said, and even Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilise Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.

The Globe and Mail also reported that an official in Freeland’s office denied the minister’s grandfather was a Nazi collaborator. In addition, those in the Canadian-Ukrainian community dismissed the claims were outright. Paul Grod, president of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress told the Globe and Mail:

It’s the continued Russian modus operandi that they have. Fake news, disinformation, and targeting different individuals. It’s just so outlandish when you hear some of these allegations… whether they are directed at Minister Freeland or others.

Well, it actually isn’t so outlandish. Michael Chomiak WAS a Nazi collaborator. What are the sources for the information that Freeland’s grandfather worked for the Nazis? For starters, The Ukraine Archival Records held by the Province of Alberta. It has a whole file on Chomiak, including his own details about his days editing the newspaper Krakivski Visti. Chomiak noted he edited the paper first in Kraków in Poland and then in Vienna. The reason he edited the paper in Vienna was because he had to flee with his Nazi colleagues as the Russians advanced into Poland (the Russians tended to execute collaborators well as SS members).

So what was the Krakivski Visti? The Nazis seized it, like a number of other publications, from their Jewish owners and then operated them as propaganda outlets. Here is what the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum has to say about Krakivski Visti and a similar newspaper, Lvivski Visti, both publications associated with the Nazi régime:

The editorial boards carried out a policy of soliciting Ukrainian support for the German cause. It was typical, within these publications, to not to give any accounts of the German genocidal policy, and largely, the editions resorted to silencing the mass killing of Jews in Galicia. Ukrainian newspapers presented the Jewish Question in light of the official Nazi propaganda, corollary to the Jewish world conspiracy. In 1943 and 1944, both Lvivski Visti and Krakivski Visti hailed the German-approved formation of the 14th Waffen SS Division Galichina, composed of Ukrainian volunteers.

So much for Russian disinformation. On Wednesday the Globe and Mail reported:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper.

8 March 2017

David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/chrystia-freelands-granddad-was-indeed-a-nazi-collaborator-so-much-for-russian-disinformation

Editor:

The Galician Uniates are the diehard nationalists in the Ukraine. Firstly, the fact that they were under Habsburg and Polish rule cut them off for centuries from their fellows in Malorossiya. Secondly, the semi-Polish creole spoken in Galicia isn’t common… most “Ukrainians” speak Russian or Surzhik (a dialect more biased towards Russian than “Ukrainian”). Thirdly, Galicia is the Dogpatch of the Ukraine… it’s the poorest and most backwards region (the abject poverty of the region is what led so many to emigrate). It has NOTHING in common with Cossacks, yet Uniates prance about in Cossack costume… there’s only one problem… ALL Cossacks are anti-Uniate to the bone. If the Cossacks caught Poles or Muslims… they’d let them live and go home. If they caught Uniates, they killed them on the spot as traitors to Holy Rus and its faith.

The notional Ukraine is sinking and all of Freeland’s soldiers and all of Freeland’s money won’t put Humpty back together again.

Here’s another interesting take on l’Affaire Freeland from the Jewish POV

BMD

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