Mark Your Calendars

Please mark your calendars for the online Ukrainian event where I’ll be speaking about the history of Ukraine. It will be on YouTube live, so nobody will see you.

It will take place on April 6 at 5 pm US Central Time. A link is forthcoming.


The first post-Soviet Russian attempt to breach the territorial integrity of sovereign Ukraine and annex Ukrainian territories happened in 2003 (not a typo), which was not even a decade after the signing of the Budapest Agreements. It also happened before the famous eastward expansion of the NATO.

In 2003, the Ukrainian president was on a state visit to Latin America, which is very far away. Russians used that moment to proceed with a far-reaching and long-existing plan to move towards annexing the Crimea. The first step in the plan was the Tuzla Island. It’s a tiny strip of land between mainland Russian and the Crimea. While the Ukrainian president was in a different hemisphere, Russians (who, once again, only a few years ago recognized and guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity) decided that Tuzla was Russian land and started building a dirt road towards it. Which makes it extremely easy to then build a stretch of road to the Crimea.


The Ukrainian President immediately returned and pushed back. Russians had to wait until 2015 to build their dirt road and until 2018 to annex Tuzla.

There is no evidence to support the idea that Russia at any time was going to keep its promise to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. Or Belarusian sovereignty. Russia did everything to compromise Belarusian nation-building in the 1990s (and, of course, since then). This was also before the NATO eastward expansion.

Palestinian Talk

Today, I not only speak at one of my many Ukrainian events but I attended a Zoom talk with a female politician and artist in Gaza. What was really unexpected is that the speaker addressed me in Spanish. This is a very educated person is what I’m saying. A very strong, highly educated woman.

The speaker lost me a little bit the moment she informed us that there’s “a white supremacy in the US” and went off on a tangent about the suffering black women in the US. The talk was filled with neoliberal vocabulary to the point where it was like listening to Ronald Reagan in a hijab. But then it switched into the BLMing and a discussion about patriarchy and privilege, and sounded confusing.

Obviously, this is not the fault of the speaker who is trying to talk to Americans in the language she believes they will understand. We all have to do what we have to do to make the world notice what’s happening to us.

Then people started asking questions and everything became a lot more genuine. The speaker told us she doesn’t want to live because the way life is in Gaza isn’t worth living. The way she spoke about it I know she meant it. I cried. Now I’ll look like I’m coming straight from Mariupol during my upcoming talk.


The 1990s were the best time in Russian history. Not in Ukrainian history because Ukraine has experienced better times since. But for Russia it was an undeniably wonderful, hopeful time. There was intellectual effervescence, there was a sense of hope and possibility that were finally inwardly oriented. By “inwardly oriented” I mean that people were starting to feel a sense of agency. What if our problems and consequently solutions to these problems are of our own making? they began to ask.

By 1997-8, it was all pretty much dead, though. Too much work, too much responsibility, who needs all that? Paralysis and self-pity set in. Soviet imagery came back and the Soviet past began to be idealized.

So yes, theoretically this could have all gone differently but the chance for that was lost almost as soon as it appeared.

Harsh Day

Today was one of the harshest days for Kyiv. Endless bombing. Not surprisingly, this happened immediately after Russians declared during “the peace talks” that they would withdraw from Kyiv.

It’s always the same, yet people continue getting excited about these cheap manipulative tricks.

The whole day has been very difficult. The perversity of the sexual violence that Russians have unleashed against civilians, including very small children, is horrific. Nobody who has heard the stories of the survivors will ever be the same. I struggle to fall asleep, and when I do I dream that I’m in Kharkiv and bombs are falling. Obviously, I’m not the victim here but it’s still hard.

I finally found the strength to look up the street where I lived in Kharkiv and now I don’t have any more strength.

A friend from next door went to get her elderly relatives out of Ukraine. She came back today and says it’s an unspeakable tragedy.

Sorry, no good news today.

Intercepted Phone Calls

By huge popular request, here’s one of the many intercepted phone calls from Russian soldiers bragging to their relatives about raping children and eating dogs:

I mostly avoid listening to these phone calls but since people asked. There’s also a bunch of really cute ones where wives excitedly ask their husbands to steal some nice clothes and sneakers for them. Every conversation is filled with the most extraordinary obscenity that even I didn’t know existed.

Book Notes: Lisa Jewell’s The Girls in the Garden

I took up this book as a light, entertaining read but it turned out to be a lot more warped than I was hoping to find.

The main idea is that homeschooling is bad because it turns children into freaks. Anti-social, hyperactive, unkempt, neurotic, mental wreaks.

Moreover, they are such incredible freaks that they are incapable of having sex on their thirteenth birthday. They want to because who doesn’t, right? According to this novel, everybody does and supports children in doing it.

The homeschooled girls’ extreme jealousy over the joys of 13-year-old sex turns them into murderous fiends. Seriously, there’s a graphic description of a 13-year-old girl having sex, and it’s depicted as the most wonderful, “empowering” thing imaginable.

Another part of the novel’s message is that women should never work because it’s terribly degrading and turns them into horrible mothers. Instead, they should accept absolutely any indignity from men – pedophilia, violent lunacy, infidelity – because otherwise they won’t have nice houses to live in.

So it’s half ultra-liberal, half ultra-conservative, and both halves very disturbing.

I’m so fascinated by all this that I’m now going to read another book by this author to try to understand if this novel is a fluke or part of a coherent worldview. I read a lot of this mommy lit stuff but I’ve never seen the genre go in this truly creepy direction.

Be very careful what you pick up at the airport.

Kids Today

I was driving Klara’s 5-year-old friend home from a playdate today. Tried to make small talk about art lessons and springtime activities.

“Yes, OK,” she said. “You are Ukrainian, right? Tell me about the war in Ukraine. Who’s winning? I asked my dad but he seems confused. He says that the Russians have a bad president who is making people fight and they are afraid he’d kill them if they don’t. Doesn’t sound right to me. What do you think?”

Of course, you’ll think I’m inventing this but this kid could read fluently at the age of 3, freaking out adults. Precocious doesn’t begin to describe her.

“This Country Shouldn’t Exist”

The translation doesn’t remotely give justice to the vile language Krasovsky uses to express his hatred for Ukraine.

Krasovsky, by the way, is one of the most outspoken and famous gay rights advocates and a champion of AIDS patients’ rights in Russia. Before anybody starts telling me that he’s bouncing off the wall in his attacks on Ukraine “to save his life,” please understand that I’ve followed this dude for 15 years. I admire his AIDS patients advocacy. His life is more comfortable than that of any of the people who are reading this. He’s wealthy, popular, and very sincere. Yes, he’s HIV positive but it’s not a death sentence any longer.

A Bit of Humor

This is an uproariously funny parody of Arestovich. For those who don’t speak Russian, in the video an actor who is playing Arestovich is reacting with his trademark calmness to the news that a nuclear war started, aliens invaded the Earth, Satan is conquering the world, and a black hole is about to swallow the planet.

“Russia has dropped two nuclear bombs on Ukraine,” the actor says. “That’s good news. Putin now has two bombs fewer.”

I laughed until my whole body hurt.