HALL OF HEROES

Hall of Heroes, Park Pobeda, Moscow, 301116

Deportation from Russia & The Ukrainian Civil War 2014-?

The article published on March 1st, ‘The Ukrainian Civil War 2014-?’ has attracted more than the usual number of comments and replies. Many people, not surprisingly, don’t trust the mainstream narrative. Some Ukrainians, who may now be former friends, felt that the article was anti-Ukrainian.

Not surprisingly at this time many Ukrainians find it difficult to be pragmatic and philosophical. Who in their right mind enjoys watching others suffer? There is also no doubt that in certain situations our behaviour can change into something that would normally be unrecognisable to us. Such are snippets of the current horror, not just in Ukraine but Yemen, Syria and Palestine too.

Some people have the impression that I am supportive of Russian military operations inside Ukrainian territory. To be quite clear, I am not in favour of violent solutions. By the same logic it is impossible for me to support Ukrainian government policy in Lugansk and Donbass Oblasts during the last 8 years. Regardless of opinion on the rights and wrongs of opposing views on separatism, the situation there should have been solved peacefully, long before now, without the substantial number of deaths, casualties and displacement of the civilian population. Many Ukrainians find this a difficult truth. Difficult truths tend to make us angry.

Initially I intended that the aim of this article would be in part an attempt at reconciliation with those friends and acquaintances who were offended by the previous article. That notion should not obscure the fact that my own personal experience living in both countries leads me not to simply agree with the widespread mainstream view of Ukraine good, Russia bad, especially when I find it difficult to see exactly what Ukrainians are fighting to preserve.   

Since 1991, at the end of the Soviet period, when they voted in a referendum to form an independent nation, the choices of leadership offered to the Ukrainian people have at best gone from bad to worse. Since the coup d’état of 2014, they have been nothing short of a disgrace. Successive degenerates posing as political leaders and their associates including the oligarchs, have brought the region to this current situation.

Initially visa requirements to visit the newly formed nation of Ukraine and lack of facilities stemmed the flow of foreign visitors. However it wasn’t long before the flow increased especially of western wolves in sheep’s clothing, intent on plunder. The ability of these pirates and privateers to throw cash around while Ukraine’s Russian neighbours to the east were also struggling economically, created what one Ukrainian woman used to call gold taps and bubble bath syndrome, as the locals foolishly imagined everybody in the west living in the lap of luxury. In these days the only game in Kiev for locals and speculators arriving from the provincial towns and cities was to ‘catch a westerner’ who they imagined would magically solve all their problems using the contents of their fat wallets.

They play the game at all levels. From the global establishment, to one of visits by ‘sex tourists’, I played it myself for a few years until impoverished. Fortunately, lucky stars led me to Crimea, where, with my last fistful of dollars, I bought an old shack, and with less cash available than I ever had, enjoyed many of the best days of my life, so far.    

Home Sweet Home, March 2006
Ten years later, May 2016

To recap, from 2001-4 I lived in Kiev before relocating to Crimea where I stayed until the end of 2016. The story is touched on in the about section here and also in more detail in the article ‘Universal Declaration‘. The end of my sojourn in the former Soviet Union ended abruptly in November 2016. Two years and 8 months after Crimea was reunified with Russia I attempted to depart. It was poorly planned and executed. While attempting to board a ship docked in Sevastopol bound for Zonguldak on the coast of northern Turkey, an overnight sail across the Black Sea, I was apprehended by Russian Border Control officials. There was no arm up the back rough stuff, more of a disbelief from them, that there was a foreign visitor in Russia with a completely unmarked newly issued British passport, which I had sent out from Britain the previous year.

Death to the fascists! WWII Locomotive, Sevastopol

Further interrogation involving the local Immigration Service convinced them that I was not a threat to Russian national security and they allowed me to return home that night provided I reappear the following day for a court appearance. Next morning after mug shots and finger printing there was another session of questions from a group of young men representing the FSB, previously KGB. The atmosphere was friendly. They actually suggested I contact the local TV channel to publicise my case to remain in Crimea as a legal resident, before we parted with hugs and handshakes.

The court judge, Ludmilla Michaelovna Bessaraba enjoyed my responses to her questions in probably the worst Russian language performance she will ever experience from a defendant. I was found guilty of being on the territory of the Russian Federation without an entry visa and sentenced to a ‘voluntary administrative deportation’ and a relatively small fine of less than $50.00. For fifteen days I was permitted complete freedom of movement within the Russian Federation. My last three nights would be v Moskva.       

Court Verdict page 1
Court verdict page 2

It appeared from the Court verdict and words exchanged with Ludmilla Michaelovna that I could return as soon as an entry visa was obtained. Then I could communicate with the Immigration Service on how to receive legal resident status. I was already registered in the first Russian census of Crimea after the reunification. You can therefore imagine my horror, when 3 months later, having begun the entry visa application process, I was advised by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs that I would not be permitted to enter the Russian Federation for 10 years. I and a number of native speakers have since checked and double-checked the legal statutes on the Court Verdict and these make no reference to this penalty. There was a 10-day window after sentence when an awareness of this would have allowed me to appeal, but now at a distance, any attempt to obtain information or challenge the situation understandably encounters bureaucratic disinterest.

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him: lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Matthew 5:25&26, Sermon on the Mount.

Red Square, St Basil’s, The Kremlin & Lenin’s Mausoleum Moscow 291116
On a winter’s night fully lit, it could be the finest manmade sight on earth
Park Pobeda, Victory Park, Moscow
By Mos.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87860639

So, there are probably few people on earth with a more genuine axe to grind against the Russian justice system. Imagine being sentenced in court but not being made aware of the full extent of the penalty until a later date. I didn’t realise as I walked around Moscow for the first time from 28th-30th November 2016, that I would probably never return. On the afternoon of 30th I visited a quiet Park Pobeda, Victory Park, a huge memorial complex to commemorate the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War, WWII. My final moments there were the honour of 15 minutes alone in quiet contemplation in the Hall of Heroes. This room contains the names of all those who were awarded the honour of Hero of the Soviet Union during WWII. The award was almost certainly presented to thousands of Ukrainians. In fact, Ukrainians are such an integral part of the memorial that the centrepiece, an enormous bronze statue was designed and sculpted by a Ukrainian.   

Hall of Heroes, Park Pobeda, Moscow 301116
Hall of Heroes, Park Pobeda, Moscow 301116
Hall of Heroes, Park Pobeda, Moscow 301116

Given the brotherhood and unity expressed in this monument it becomes even more difficult to comprehend what has occurred in Ukraine during the last 30 years. How can these two countries that appeared to be so inextricably linked, have come, in such a short space of time, to where we are today? Not so long ago we were all thankful for their joint effort in defeating Nazi Germany. Until 2014 Russians and Ukrainians moved freely between each other’s country. What provoked that loss?

School trip to Park Pobeda, Moscow 301116

The last image here from Park Pobeda is a panorama of the Liberation of Kiev when in November 1943, almost 80 years ago, Russians and Ukrainians fought together to liberate the city.     

Liberation of Kiev panorama, Park Pobeda, Moscow 301116

It feels wrong to speculate here on the source of the poison that has spread through the relationship between these people but the sooner both parties reunite to identify and lance the poison the better. I’m grateful to have been able to remind us all of a recent time when the people of the two countries most prominent in the Hall of Heroes saw each other in a better light.

4 thoughts on “HALL OF HEROES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: