Former Business Offices Of Prokop Babiy, Burkaniv.
INFINITE DREAMS (БЕЗКОШТОВНІ МРЕЖІ).
“How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all”?
—The Firesign Theatre..
Isn’t that what “Dreaming” is – being cognitively in separate spaces at the same Time – “Anywhere” and “Nowhere” at once? Life then, like the song lyric, may indeed be a Dream, infinitely intertwined along a continuum of separate realities. How many of us right now at this instant are alive on this planet; seven plus billions? Life then, might be a projection of seven billion multiple realties radiating from seven billion human bi-locating sources; finite creatures interlinked via rhizomatic networks along finite timespans, dreaming versions of the ultimate non-sequitur: Immortality.
When we were young, we thought that senescence was an end state somewhere in the distant future, meaning we could act in the present as if we would live forever, seemingly unable or unwilling to intuit that, Grid Forbid, The End is inevitable and eternity is unknowable. So we dream — not to know – but to forget that we are all literally doomed to be forgotten and ultimately erased by Infinity. “Timing is everything” a paramour once reminded me as we said a last goodbye.
Hence the advent of and addiction to distractions such as social media where, as author and journalist Chris Hedges relates, “we spend hours each day getting little bursts of dopamine from electronic screens, [believing] we are unique in human existence”, its platforms become proscenia for a vast digital theater where users display their pathological obsessions with acting out primal desires for approval, acknowledgement, and authorization in exchange for what is valued most — Identity, and as a result in a fit of cultural mass self-delusion effectively erase themselves in Real Time with each click: an algorithmic manifestation of multi-coherent mass dementia.
Social media as bellwether for popular culture has in essence devolved from a channel for communal interaction and shared experiences into a portal for mass propaganda and cultural paralysis not unlike theonomies – their regimes notwithstanding – featuring a pantheon of pulchritudinous pundits proselytizing for the privatization of knowledge, the expurgation of reason, and the demonization of dissent, the fruit of its loins so-to-speak being personal data [yes, those likes and viral posts] stolen from its users and marketed to its customers whom are not synonymous.
Its goals however are synonymous with those of the capitalist National Security State with whom digital media data-logic mavens (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Palantir, and Microsoft among others) are contractual partners – literally defense contractors as author Yasha Levine discusses in his book “Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of The Internet” – sucking on the taxpayer’s teat while enforcing and enhancing neoliberal economic hierarchies via, among other stratagems, the privatization and manipulation of public consciousness as another resource to be exploited, effectively dumbing us down at our expense; who then anoint themselves as sole arbiter for the why, the how, and to whom information is disseminated; and most important of all – as media analyst and former FCC commissioner Marshall McLuhan laid out in his book “The Medium Is The Massage” – ultimately determine what the message is; its portals featuring a “Barbie” or “Ken” propped up in front of a symbolic institutional edifice force-feeding The Word to The Herd.
Mainstream and Social Media [MSM] at its core is anti-social – a digital playground ostensibly created for a user to freely express uniqueness; a freedom that, as promulgated and practiced under the ethos of neoliberalism, is however subject to a regimen of algorithmic policing; the recording and storing of every comment, every Like, each share, each emoji, each selfie [yeah..even what you look like], every friend, all faves, each preference; the totality of every user’s shared experiences and personal metadata – to be subsequently vacuumed up, privatized, and effectively embossed with an imprimatur of corporate copyright – legally accomplished without paying one red cent to each user for that metadata – then subsequently deploying the results algorithmically to brainwash the population. As Counterpunch columnist Jennifer Matsui posits in a recent post:
“Neoliberalism, under the subterfuge guise of technology and “progress”, keeps you interminably on hold and demands that you not only agree to, but rather embrace its terms of service in order to proceed with a transaction it invented five minutes ago to extract more data from you. It calls this sadistic vampire process of life-depleting exsanguination, “a time-saving solution”. You seldom notice that there was never a problem to begin with, only a confounding technology to now overcome in order to do something that was once as simple as blowing your nose.”
In practice MSM has actually become weaponized for the Orwellian purposes of creating and sustaining both a climate of fear and an obedient audience of good little lumpkins desperate for recognition who’ll shop ’til they drop.
CREATIVE SCATOLOGY (ТВОРЧА СКАТОЛОГІЯ).
On the other hand, this brain fart of mine on bi-location or multi-coherency – a projected dream state of being physically or mentally in more than one space at the same instant – stems from the very process of participating in an act of creation – an universal trait of living things, yes? None of us would even be here if not for mitosis; Life formed from cells mutating and recombining; energized by the impact of external physical stimuli on sets of interconnected yet unique environments, not because of a supra-natural act by either an overarching all-knowing “intelligent designer” or a predictive algorithm. Otherwise we’d all look alike, think alike, and be alike, which is likely what faith in both The Grid and a God ostensibly demands.
Likewise intuitions, ideas and inspirations are similar in origin and design; brain stimula that we ingest, recombine then regenerate back into the Ether engendering further brain farts in an infinite geometric progression of ideation. I know this sounds a bit like a chapter out of Sergey Snedov’s “Люди как боги” — “Humans As Gods” in which a race of super-humans finally “get” Infinity and are ultimately able to bi-locate across Time and Space and seemingly “live forever”; sort of like getting to inhabit one’s dreams. That’s kinda the point of procreation though, isn’t it? Fuck your brains out so you’ll figuratively get to live forever in somebody else’s body. But even after coming up for air long enough to take a short breather for critical introspection we’re forced to ask ourselves – where has it led us?
In Truth humans do not live forever nor physically co-locate nor comprehend eternity and never will. Take global warming as one case in point. Climate change is being enabled by our addiction to self-consumption, gobbling up the resources of an entire planet leaving in its wake the excrement of our obsessions, trapped in a catabolic rush towards extinction, much akin to an Ourouborus devouring its own tail. We instinctively understand this reality; that we’re here together and it’s up to us to keep it all going because “there is no Planet B” as activist Greta Thunberg reminds us.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosytems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
And notwithstanding election cycles (which have become interminable), nobody else, no politico, priest, phantasm or pundit will make it happen for us. But there are self-styled savants of the sort whom like to preach that they have the Fundamental Brain Fart and only believers in the One True Fart will bask forever in Elysium and get to revel in its eternal effluvia.
This is a state Truthout columnist Justin McBrien calls the Necrocene Era, the result of Neoliberal Capitalism’s legacy of necrotizing the biosphere, leaving only the detritus of its obsession with “eco-genocidal accumulation”.
“Through to the present, accumulation of capital has proceeded by the violent dispossession or outright murder of peoples, followed by the necrotic extraction of resources that destroys its local ecology for the sake of accumulation. The cumulative results of this process, replicated across the globe, have come to affect deep-time transformations to life at the planetary scale through its very erasure.
“This is how capital capitalizes on its own catastrophes, sustaining the production of “life” under its aegis every day and accelerating the death of life across the Earth. This is no “creative destruction”; it is simply self-annihilation.
But eternity is not in our DNA. Each of us is here for but an instant; a gleam in a lover’s eyes; a flash of cognition; a spark of ideation; an inkling of the palpable. There are no Absolutes; no Rights, no Wrongs, no Truths, no Lies, no Fundamentals, no Guarantees, no Laws, no Heaven, no Hell, and no “MF’n A” Deal. Every facet of these memes has been legitimized in order to perpetuate the Plutocracy, whom as history has shown, place themselves and their interests above those of the precariat; an economic strata of the population characterized by economist Gary Standing as:
We should understand by now that only autocrats and demagogues speak in absolutes. There is just Life in flux coherencing across spectra of possibilities which is why we – collectively through rhizomatic networks – have our life’s work ahead of us my brothers and sisters, which is to save our collective ass from this kakistocracy before Absolute becomes Eternal. Yet, perhaps this is why distractions such as MSM and pulpits exist.
ALTERNATIVE NEWS (АЛЬТЕРНАТИВНІ НОВИНИ).
Ergo, my advice is to cease worshipping at the altars of Social Media. Okay. Okay. If you make your living via social media and rely upon it for publicity and/or connecting with clients you ultimately have to make a bargain with the Beast, because as the saying goes, that’s where the details lie. And I’m not advocating for a two tin cans and a wire redux, although semaphore might be an option but then we’d have memorize another language and walk around with flags stuck up our bootays like the bushido boys of yore. Maybe a shift to texting might work; expedient if increasingly anti-literate; or virtual meetings via webcasting; but as we’ve blogged about before, The Oracle – [you know that mobile tracking device you have in your hand] – knows everything about you; where you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going, what you’re saying, what you’ve said, who you’re saying and have said it to, what you’re watching and have watched; and ultimately what acronym it – The Oracle – is designed to ultimately share all of that metadata with. As author Shoshana Zuboff in her seminal book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” queries: “Who knows, who decides, and more importantly, who decides who decides?”
No wonder what we view as “News” – a term my internal skeptic views as being just another acronym: the Four Cardinal Points of the compass conjuring up even more fodder for bi-localized BS – codified opinion re-branded as gospel – thus by inference becoming a prima facie argument for why what does get disseminated via the Mass Media – is increasingly being thought of as being “fake”. Consequently amidst the public cacophony of opposing 140 character “chirps”, it seems the only way to have any primacy [i.e. identity] at all is to just make shit up which is also kinda what creating “friction with fiction” is.
Pulpits are another story. Billions of humans world-wide are devotees of theocracies of one flavor or another, each advocating for a “One True” Being whom will “Immanentize The Eschaton“. Okay, animists, pre-Christian Greeks and Romans, plus Hindus and Buddhists among other faiths have had lots of these divinities, but in each case there is a well-defined hierarchy – promulgated by — wait for it — humans [read: “males”]. There’s the rub. Doctrine, dogma, encyclicals, liturgies, sermons, fatwas, The Quran, The Bible, The Torah, The Scrolls, The Oracle (the Buddhist One); all inscribed and prescribed by mere humans busily proscribing fiction from fact, albeit inspired by visions and dreams of unknowable eternities. How sublime and yet how human.
The physical manifestations of such devotion are prevalent everywhere; enormous reclining Buddhas in Asia, BoudhaNath, Pashupatinath, the Qorikancha, the Kaaba, the Tabernacle, the Vatican in Rome with its museums, 26 in all by our count from it’s website, comprising 54 galleries, or sale, in total. These museums contain roughly 70,000 works of art, of which 20,000 are on display – a veritable fortune that alone could potentially wipe out world hunger. One travel agency claimed that if one were to spend only five minutes examining each item currently on display, it would take 30 years to complete one tour of the museums. The massive Basilica San Petronio in Bologna [see image] is said to be large enough to accommodate 28,000 worshipers. Billions worldwide, bi-locating in multi-coherent universes, dreaming of infinite eternities bound by theocracies whom have historically been working hand in glove with the plutocracy in legitimizing what has now become The New Feudalism. It is Faith, brothers and sisters, an infinite state of what some might term as delusion. Maybe it is possible to be in two (or more) places at once. You can believe it or not.
But I digress — a state of multi-coherency I often find myself in when ruminating on The Past while being inundated by The Present. But on the other hand we do not live in a vacuum, so what is a proper recurrent mind set for any self-styled kazkar? How can we even begin to tell a story – especially one about exploring mortality – if we can’t first bi-locate to a state in which that story can be told. Okay. Okay. Just so you understand, this will be a tale.
For this current coherent instance, your kazkar had prepared for this installment of The Old Country blogrolls by having visited both the gorgeous city of Lviv and the Oblasts of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil twice before, coming away with a bevy archival documents gleaned from old Orthodox Church records held in the State Archives that contained evidence of our ancestral heritage there, plus many photographs, videos, souvenirs, personal encounters, and potent memories; every iota of which having been due to the efforts of our sublimely-talented and seriously much-revered guide and translator Diana Borysenko.
One of the many significant facets of Ukrainian history and culture that Diana revealed to us is the ubiquitous influence of the Orthodox Church in its several incarnations (Greek, Ukrainian, Russian, Uniate, Armenian) on the fledgling nation’s traditions, mores, and society in general. According to some popular travel guides, Lviv alone is currently home to more than 100 churches, including Saint George’s Cathedral (Greek Orthodox – Uniate), The Latin Cathedral (Roman Rite), The Dominican Church (Greek Orthodox – Uniate), The Armenian Cathedral (Armenian Orthodox), Dormition or Assumption Church (Ukrainian Orthodox), among others which you can check out in the blog about our previous visits to Lviv Oblast.
Much of the country’s storied arts and crafts traditions such as in Pysanka writing have their roots based in church lore and have been kept alive by master folk artists and displayed in venues like Lviv’s open air museum at the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life (Shevchenkivskiy Hai). Ukraine also has a rich literary and musical history including the writings of Taras Schevchenko (whose statue seems to be a major attraction in literally every town we’ve visited so far in Galicia), Ivan Franko, and the poems and plays of Lesia Ukrainka; the paintings of Nikifor Krynicki; the music of Volodymyr Ivasyuk; and the voice of Solomiya Krushelnytska to name just a very few.
Of course the 20th Century was not the best of times for Galicia; at one time a province of the Austria-Hungarian Empire (when and where our immediate paternal forebears and theirs were born) until the end of World War I; then during the interregnum for a second time Poland (many of our ancestors bear Polish surnames) until 1939 when the Soviets – Russia in proletarian guise – briefly claimed power; followed by Germany when most of the Jewish population was literally exterminated; then during the post WW II era the Soviets again when Poles were forcibly expelled back West of the Carpathians to the to the Recovered Territories, and Ukrainian partisans banished East to the Gulags; then finally in 1991, independence – but alas, no respite from the struggle for self-determination and an unique identity.
It outwardly feels almost nonchalant to write these lines, impersonal and unemotional, yet these facts belie the effects of an almost complete eradication and revision of much of the history and the people who once populated this blood-soaked region; the abject terror and the profound suffering and the catastrophic loss of life seemingly just a footnote in the Wiki. But the truth is that more than 100 million people died as a direct result of WW II alone. Poland lost 17% of its population. [The image here is of Cheslava Kwoka – Polish girl, 14 years old – taken shortly before she was to be executed at Auschwitz]. The Soviet Union lost a staggering 25 million deaths – 14% of its 1939 population; Yugoslavia 11%; Germany 9%. Plus my siblings and I came within 50 meters of potentially having different fathers as well. War, birthed as a perpetually bellicose stratagem eternally bound to its economic progenitor, Plutocracy. The entire focus of waging War has always been the preservation of class power, the transformation of freedom of the many into freedom for the few — both mantra and meme that define Neoliberal Capitalism and functionally all forms of economic feudalism.
And yet all of this seems lost on our Neocon-dominated Neoliberal National Security State (the 3 N’s) because people – Grid Forbid – are still dying in places like Yemen, Iraq, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Kashmir, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, and Bolivia. And the U.S. too; starving in the immigration gulags along our borders where women are enduring forced hysterectomies [among other atrocities] ; in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Camden, in Virginia Beach, El Paso, Odessa, Orinda, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Louisville, and Dayton; unabated many believe because of a deliberate strategy deployed by a para-militarized “Deep State” to normalize violence as a means for controlling dissent and perpetuating disparity.
And one main tool for disseminating the acceptability of this sadistic agenda for public consumption is – you guessed it – MSM, the Mass and Social Media where pucker-lipped orange-haired mooks pass SBD’s while dog-whistling the faithful into a frenzy by gaslighting supposed aliens, activists, even allies, the opposition du jour, and socialism as threats to Empire with tropes largely made-up to mask both personal prejudices and systemic failures like xenophobia, homelessness (up double digits in some locations this year), wealth inequality, lack of affordable [or any] healthcare, infrastructure decay, climate change, interest payments alone on the bloated National Debt nearing $1 trillion annually [payable to the Rentier class],; and then there is The Forever War – whose chickens, if you are at all cognizant of both historical and current events as they portend the future, have come home to roost. Just ask the BLM Movement, whose viral public protests of white supremacist-dominated police murders of people of color have so far only resulted in prodding our political duopoly into a state of ethical paralysis, their heads stuck firmly where the Sun doesn’t shine. You have to ask why the plutocracy and their sycophants always term a struggle against perceived threats to Empire as a “war”? Answer [chirp, chirp]: because war promotes fear and is very profitable for the Ruling Elite.
FORWARD INTO THE PAST (ПЕРЕГЛЯДУЙТЕ В МІНЕ).
There we go, multi-coherencing yet again. Some people – often including myself – have asked where do you go to get your inspiration for creating what you write? What? You’ve never had similar interior dialogues with yourself? You know, those internal voices telling you to get off your ass and do something? Of course the ones I hear are always attenuated by a disturbingly loud buzzing in my ears; tinnitus caused by a collision I once had with a poplar tree in our backyard as a youth while playing football. It probably just means Saturn is once again doing its worst or that someone is talking trash about me or that Google has pirated the contents of this blog and sold the comments scribbled here to one or more of its sycophants – as I found out recently after being spammed with pseudo-cures for tinnitus. “Just put your finger in your mouth and blow“. Yup,. Trash.
Okay, our previous two journeys to Ukraine alone generated enough inspiration for several blogs and videos, a process by which your kazkar got to re-live them mentally and emotionally, then figuratively pull shit out of the Ether that’s probably been the root cause of the buzzing in my ears anyway, a kind of subliminal soundtrack with a Jazz and Blues backbeat. Voices from infinity vying to be heard. How about calling this chapter of the story “Reflections in a Galician Mirror”? Because reflecting back on this the third visit to The Old Country it seemed as if we’d stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass – and gone down the Rabbit Hole into a parallel universe. One that cast ourselves as chimera from the Past, reflecting back images of babas clothed in dresses decorated with floral patterns, one of whom, her gaze and insistent voice capturing me as if in a polaroid: red-eyed, over-exposed, inert, transfixed, and infinitely mesmerized; her ice blue eyes glistening like silver, as if we both existed simultaneously in Time – here, there, everywhere – and always had. Talk about a Deep State.
Initially emotions were high this time because also joining me on this “trip of a lifetime” were my two “baby” brothers, Dan and Dave. How we all got there (and back) is also quite a tale which we’ll relate below. Like most travelogues it was not only an adventure in time but an endurance contest as anyone who travels a lot can attest, since flights to Lviv from the US tend to be 12 to 14 hours in length at least with several connections depending on the route.
Dave’s saga was the most challenging of all involving cancelled flights and re-routes that delayed him two days just getting to Lviv. But one thing (of many) I love about him is his determination. Once he makes up his mind…..Dave is the artist in the family whose aesthetic embraces free-form sculptures, ceramics, leaded and slumped glass figurines, panels, and installations. And then there is his house in Memphis [see photo] which he shares with his husband Brian who is also an artist; literally an art gallery inside and out; each room featuring one or more installations featuring their works (or those of friends) including a chandelier no less! And outside, the backyard is a series of installations as well, featuring a garden that surrounds a pool embellished by an extensive rock garden. Oh yeah. Dave is also a rock hound. Makes you wonder how he gets his bags on the plane at all.
Dan also had routing issues with the airlines, especially on his return flights with airport delays taking off and landing, having been routed away on arrival from Chicago to Minneapolis, then having to wait there for hours before catching a flight back to “The Strait”. His problem has been and continues to be back pain stemming from a bad traffic accident some years ago that resulted in titanium rods having been surgically inserted along his spine for stabilization. As a consequence sitting in cramped seat in Economy Class with his knees tucked under his chin (literally as opposed to virtually since he’s six foot seven) for 12 to 14 hours had to be excruciating and is neither something I’d like to do nor recommend. Of course I can’t recommend running into trees either, just sayin’. He made it and save for a few sleepless nights and one missed concert, he toughed it out. I think the beer helped a little, that and the borsch soup. Life can be an MF.
Dan is an avid outdoorsman whose free time (and now that he’s retired he should have lots more of that outside of Kathy’s “honey do” projects) is spent seasonally out in the boondocks up a tree stand scoping out wildlife for a holiday meal or two or in an ice shanty over a lake freezing his butt waiting for those damn crappies to bite. But his real passion is golf. Before he hurt his back he was a “scratch” golfer – PAR or better more often then not – and could stroke a ball a mile. Putting, like with a lot of “duffers”, tended to be his bane however. Nowadays he just loops for fun, showing up on the links in his traditional “plus fours”; brogans, cap, socks and pantaloons – a source of joy and a sight to behold. Fore!
THE ARCHIVES (АРХІВИ).
One of the primary reasons to re-visit Galicia for a third time was to spend as much time as possible delving back into the archives in both Lviv and Ternopil for evidence of ancestral ties, especially those relating to the Chuda lineage. During our previous visits Diana and I had attempted to find archival records, first in Ternopil that pertained to the Chuda ancestry, particularly any linking Grandma Anna to her parents Paul and Kseniya “Lenka” Lemiszka – specifically her baptismal record. Though we found many that detailed various Chuda births, deaths and marriages, our given search criteria (Zolotnyky and/or Burkaniv), plus our time constraints (just one afternoon), and what little historical background data we had from both family verbal history plus a century-old marriage license, we found none that either tied Anna to her parents or even mentioned her parents or siblings at all. We did however find the baptismal record of her cousin, also named Anna Chuda, the two having been born in late August of the same year 1893; meaning their fathers were likely cousins or even siblings. More on this later.
On this occasion, Diana had arranged for a two week access to the archives in Lviv located in a former Bernardine Monastery adjacent to the Saint Andrew Greek Orthodox Church [see photo] near the City Center in order to search property and tax records from 19th Century Burkaniv and Zolotnyky that were stored there. I also wanted to take another look at the archive folio for the towns from 1863 in which we had found the baptismal record of a Catharina Babiy, daughter of our Second Great Grandparents Ignatius (Ignat) Babiy & Magdalena Kurys which included the names of his parents but only a partial record of hers. Archival records made available to us at that time included only the years 1849 through 1865.
So this time, while Dan and Dave searched property records in both villages dating from 1828, Diana requested the folios from 1863. In our correspondence leading up to this visit, she had stated that procedures for accessing archival records had changed — hence the requirements for making reservations in advance. One other thing had changed as well; public access was now limited to micro-film copies for these particular folios, consequently we were given several rolls of film and directed to the large readers situated on tables located in the back of the room. After several minutes of fidgeting with the apparatus’s controls and aligning the reels, Diana was able to slowly dial the film across the scanner’s light well. Keeping the film properly aligned with the guides was one problem; another was keeping the image in focus. After a quarter hour or so Diana found the record we were looking for from 17 April 1863 – Catharina’s birth – and we were able to decipher all but Magdalena’s mother Helena’s maiden name.
After sharing the screen with him, Dave grabbed a property log from 1828 (in Polish) that both he and Dan were reviewing and browsed to a page with a numbered list of properties and their owners. About halfway down the page was the item “267 Grochowina, Luc” – “Grochowina” — that was it; Thomas Kurys and Helena Grochowina, now revealed as another set of 3rd Greats. But could Luc Grochowina be half of a set of 4th Greats living in 1828?
One big dent in our plans was learning that the archives in Ternopil were closed until August 1st, when its re-location to another venue (a church of course) would be completed. That meant there was little need to visit Ternopil and its archives which frankly I’d really have liked my brothers to see, and for that matter little necessity for an overnight there at a local hotel. It also meant that if we were to find records that pertained to the Chudas, including Gramma Anna’s birth log on this visit, we would have to rely on the archivists to do so for us — which also meant coming up with some mordida to compensate them for their efforts, which we expected to do, since Diana and I had discussed this possibility beforehand. More on this later.
THIRTY SECOND COMMERCIAL (ТРЕТИЙ ДРУГИЙ КОМЕРЦІЙНИЙ).
Thus, as per usual Diana would take over and handle the negotiations while we continued to explore Galicia, which by-the-way we’ve already documented [see links below] in two (yes two) newly-published, highly-informative, Pysanka-crafted, appetite-filling, spell-binding, thought-provoking, thrill-packed, G-rated (“G” for geezerlicious™), hair-raising, ground-breaking, tear-jerking, jazz-driven, tours de force videos that are guaranteed to knock your socks off and get you off your butt and onto a plane or a boat or a train and multi-coherence to Leopolis before you can transliterate: “Чому ви це читаєте? зателефонуйте своєму туристичному агенту зараз та забронюйте рейс до Львова. Тільки тоді ви дізнаєтесь, про що ми говоримо.” Okay, Ukrainians, no fair cheating.
REPASTS FROM THE PAST (ТРАДИЦІЙНА ЇЖА).
One of the delights of visiting another country is to sample its cuisine. If you’re from a place like San Francisco or New York or London, you have many options available for channeling the ghost of Anthony Bourdain and travel the world vicariously by chowing-down on palate-pleasers like Sushi, Dim Sum, Guyash, Fondue, Pad Thai, Sauerbraten, Spotted Dick, Paella, Gumbo, Bouillabaisse, Ceviche or succulent Jamon that can be had at local restaurants. And, when you are actually traveling, you can sample the host country’s local cuisines at your hotel or the restaurants in the tourist areas of town.
But have you ever had the good fortune of being invited over to someone’s house to sit at their table and share a home-cooked meal prepared just for the occasion? Okay, we’ve all done the holiday, birthday, anniversary, and pot luck versions with family and friends. But to do so as traveler in another country at the behest of a stranger or a new acquaintance is a very special thing indeed. Breaking bread with folks is an emotionally binding experience; at once spiritual in its unifying simplicity and everlasting in its social significance as a way of celebrating what it means to be Family. Plus the meal always seals the deal.
On my second visit to Lviv, Diana invited me over to her Soviet-era apartment for a dinner of holubtsi that she had prepared, stuffed cabbage with a pork and rice filling – what Gramma Anna had called “pigs in a blanket” – that we shared with her daughter Alicya and son August [see photo], myself seated at the same table in the same chair that her father used to occupy. Family.
Likewise, on this latest trip there were two such events, the first being a meal prepared by Diana’s oldest son Ilya, a chef at Baczewski’s – one of Lviv’s premier restaurants – and his girlfriend Anastasia consisting of a salad, some mashed potatoes, loads of holubtsi and a creamy tiramisu for dessert. Diana passed around some family pictures, one a faded class photo from a Soviet-era girls school prior to which she asked us: “which of my children look like me?” Everyone responded, “Alicya”. Then she pointed at the class photo and asked: “Then where am I in this photo?” There were perhaps 50 or more young girls in the photo, all in uniform with cap, jacket, camisa, long socks and skirt and they all looked the same. After several minutes of examining and passing the photo back and forth between us, I finally handed it to Ilya who glanced down at it, pointed his index finger at a girl seated front row center and replied: “Alicya”. Family.
Our second invitation to a home-cooked meal also arranged by Diana was a day later in the Austrian-era apartment of one Kataryna located downtown. We entered through the back along a balcony bedecked with flowering plants into Kataryna’s kitchen where she was busily preparing holubtsi in a pot on the stove, the image conjuring up memories of Grandma Anna at her stove in Croswell. Kataryna then ushered us into her parlor, a large room with a three to four meter high ceiling festooned with family photos on one wall and a painting of the Last Supper on another, where she had set out a low table with places for all of us including Diana’s documentarian Valeriy.
The meal itself was a multi-course affair that must have taken her hours to prepare but only minutes for us to devour during which the conversation centered on healthy foods, eating habits, and vitamin supplements upon which Kataryna seemed quite the expert – as with her cuisine which she showcases via culinary masterclasses she conducts regularly.
During the cheesecake dessert course however, I have to take credit for biting my tongue to not bring up the subject of how coconut water was a natural laxative beneficial for regular bowel movements, among other things. We ended the meal by remembering to take some photos and promising to do it all once again in the future, just like with family.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN (ЗНОВУ В ДОРОЗІ).
What would a trip to Ukraine be like if we didn’t all pile into a van and venture off into the hinterlands for some breath-taking views and more than a few bone-jarring bumps? On my first visit, three years ago many of the roads we drove on in Diana’s red-painted speedy Saab sedan she called “Mary” [which means “beloved” – BTW] were either under repair or badly in need of it. It was the boondocks, after all and Mary proved to be more than equal to the task. This time around, with three burly Babiys in tow, we’d need a bigger vehicle, which as it happened, either by stroke of Fortune or [much more probable] fortuitous planning or both, Diana had previously purchased. It was a nine passenger Mercedes van — also painted Red — which she had christened “Mario” which stands for “manly” or “warrior” so named ostensibly either as a challenge to the roads it would travel or as an homage to a virile “peep” or just because “Mario” is a male counterpart to “Mary”. Inside it was spacious and very comfortable with the two DB’s stretched out in the rear and your kazkar perched in the catbird seat for optimum camera angles.
The destination this Sunday morning was the twin villages of Burkaniv and Zolotnyky situated along the Strypa River in the Pidhaitsi Raion of Ternopil Oblast, ancestral home ground to Galician-era Babiys, Chudas, Lemiszkas, and Palychatas. Initially, Diana set off on the main highway Southeast toward Ternopil, choosing this route both because the road was excellent – a multi-lane thoroughfare replete with passing lanes – and because timing was critical in order to arrive in Zolotnyky in time for Mass at the Uniate Church where Diana planned to engage with the locals as part of her tried-and-true stratagem for contacting any relatives living in the area. Of course since it was a Sunday, traffic was light so Mario motored right along as Diana pushed both the speed limits and posted lane restrictions. Sure enough there was a speed trap set up to catch such scofflaws, ergo 20 minutes or so down the road we got pulled over by a minion of the constabulary and cited.
After 20 minutes or so delay, we were back on the road again finally reaching the outskirts of Ternopil then turning back Southwest along rough a two-lane track, heavily overgrown with foliage [see photo] , that took us into Terebovlia Region and onward to our destination. Somewhere along this stretch Diana received the first indication Mario might be having some problems navigating these remote washboard-like roads; a low left-front tire pressure light.
Eventually we arrived at the Zolotnyky town limits, pausing for a photo-op in front of its sign, a tall pylon emblazoned with its name arranged vertically and punctuated at its bottom by “1459”, the year of its founding during the reign of the Jagiellonian Polish kings Casimir IV and his son John (Jan) I more than a half-millennium ago – 560 years to be precise.
THE STRYPA (СТРИПА).
Upon reaching the local Greek Uniate Church named after a Saint Luke, Diana set about working the congregation as some were gathered outside near the front entrance that warm morning where they could hear the celebrant’s chants and the responses from the laity. After a few exchanges and responses to her name-dropping “Chuda” (pronounced Kh-yoo-dah in Ukrainian), Diana stepped close to the three of us and said: “We have the name of a contact who works for the town. Her name is Oksana Syvulska. Her mother is a Chuda. She lives in Burkaniv, just across The Strypa River, second house after the bridge, on the left.”
A few moments later, after crossing the bridge we disembarked from Mario into a decidedly more pastoral setting: views of livestock grazing freely along a narrow two-lane track that broadened up the hill in the distance as it bisected a settlement of fenced-in homes, a gaggle of geese scurrying along its fringes, the atmosphere punctuated by sounds of cackling chickens and crowing roosters. The trick was deciding which was the “second house”. True to her instincts, Diana opted for a home situated off to the left down a gravel footpath, a grassy knoll to its right featuring a hand-operated water pump. The home itself was fronted by a fence comprised of series of brick pylon posts each anchoring an array of vertical metal rods, “substantial” being its watchword. In the middle of the path sat a utility tractor with a wheeled cart attached. In a few moments, Diana was joined by a dark-haired woman in her mid to late forties. They spoke briefly then the woman went back into her house after which, Diana re-joined us: “That was Oksana. She is changing and will join us shortly.”
THE BABAS (БАБАС).
After Oksana joined us and introductions were completed, we piled back into Mario and proceeded up the road to Burkaniv’s village proper, an area that featured fenced-in homes bordering either side of the gravel lane. Oksana disembarked and began stirring the pot, rousting her neighbors into action. Soon the lane was populated by several locals, the conversation weighing back and forth over the existence of archival papers or written evidence pertaining to our Babiys and/or Chudas. No one seemed to know for sure and interest seemed about to peter out when we were joined by a Baba in a floral embellished frock, her head wrapped in a babushka, having ambled up the lane supported by a cane fashioned from a tree-branch [see photo]. “What’s your name”, asked Diana. “Magdalena”, she replied. “Born a Chuda. But everybody just calls me Baba.” Magdalena then launched into a rambling narrative that bespoke many of the economic issues facing rural Ukraine: the young offspring and the men leaving the area for jobs elsewhere – often in other countries including her daughter who was about Diana’s age. Magdalena had been a postal clerk who delivered the mail for the community that had over the years shrunk in population from a turn-of-the-20th Century high of 2,500 souls to less than 750 today. We assembled for some photos and subsequently said our goodbyes.
It was then that Oksana directed us back down the hill to a lovely cottage situated behind a wire fence, its yard and front porch festooned with flowers at that time of year. In the front yard there stood a couple, as it turned out both a year or two older than your kazkar. We were introduced by Diana as “Бабій” which immediately set off the Baba, a woman dressed in a blue-accented floral-patterned frock who stared at me with her pale blue eyes until once having made sure that she had my rapt attention, then proceeded to break into a monologue with a voice that sounded so personal and so intense I dared not take my eyes from her face. Vaguely I recall hearing Diana’s translations resonating in the background: she was born a Babiy; her name was Stefaniya; her Great-Grandfather was a Prokop Babiy who once had run a local business situated in a building back up the road that still existed; and her 2nd Great Grandfather was named Ignat Babiy whose tombstone could be found in the old Orthodox cemetery here in Burkaniv.
Once she stopped her narrative, I was released from the thrall cast by her voice and the recognition of what she had said hit full force, sending a wave of emotion washing over me. First was her given name, Stefaniya – a name our Aunt Estelle Babiy Spearman, the only surviving child of Anna and Ivan at 93, claims was her originally intended given name but for some reason was changed at baptism. Secondly, there was “Ignat” (Ignatius); Stefaniya’s 2nd Great who, if the archival records we’ve already published for the Babiys are accurate, is also our 2nd Great. Plus Ignat’s monument still existed — the physical evidence of which Diana and I were unable to identify at all in 2018 for any Babiy in the Burkaniv village cemetery dating from before the early 1890’s. And thirdly, from our previous archival research [see Babiy Lineage chart at right] which can be read in our blog “The Old Country: In Nomine Patris”, Stefaniya’s Great Grandfather “Prokop” was one of four sons born to Ignat Babiy and his wife Magdalena Kurys: Prokop (Прокоп) or Procopius, Vasiliy (Василій) or Basilius , Peter (Петро) or Petrus, and Panteleimon (Пантелеймон) or Pantilis, who was Grandpa Ivan’s father and our Great Grandfather, meaning Stefaniya was a cousin — a third cousin blood relative. We were all in shock, including Stefaniya’s husband who stood there with his mouth open, trembling.
We took some more photos [see photo at right] then with hugs and kisses bade a tearful goodbye to cousin Stefaniya and her spouse who directed us back up the lane with Oksana in the lead to where a long, low building sat with a gabled roof that appeared to be shuttered, its driveway showing little or no use. “This was Prokop’s place of business” Oksana offered [See Featured Image]. What kind of business; a store, a legal office, a tool shop, a doctor’s office? — Unfortunately we were too dumbstruck to ask.
Two more stops, the first at another Baba Chuda’s home, who shuffled out of her door and took a seat on a bench in the yard next to me [see photo]. Her name was also Stefaniya and she kept brushing the side of her throat where a massive swelling extended from below her ear to the tip of her chin. “I have a tumor”, she related to Diana. “But the doctors can do little to help”. Her son greeted us brandishing a folio that contained a hand-drawn family tree he had created. Upon further scrutiny and discussion however, it appeared to have no links to our Grandmother Anna’s lineage. After a brief exchange we shook hands and parted. This was more evidence of Ukrainian hospitality; an openness to strangers I’d experienced back in 2017 on my first trip to this area, and once more again from these Babas and their families who were willing share a part of their Sunday afternoon to the point of even getting off their sickbed to help a stranger. I could barely hold back the tears.
The second house was situated across the street from an Orthodox Church in Burkaniv where we were greeted by a woman whose surname was Stelmach – a Saxon name – who showed me a family tree that evidently had been given her by a relative whom had visited previously from the U.S. The Stelmachs were also related to the Chudas via an 1897 marriage of one Onesimius (whose father was a Peter Stelmach) to a Maria Chuda, daughter of a Danielis Chuda. But there were no apparent ties to Anna in that chart. She then told us that directly across from her home, in back of the church were the remnants of an old Orthodox cemetery – long abandoned – that still contained overgrown gravesites and decrepit tombstones dating back well into the 19th Century. And didn’t our cousin Stefaniya say that our Second Great Grandfather – Ignat – was buried in an old Orthodox cemetery? “Yes” was the answer. “I will show you where to look.”
THE OBELISK (ОБЕЛИСК).
At first glance there was nothing to see but an open field with clumps of bushes and undergrowth pockmarked randomly with burned out patches their ashes littered with discarded bottles and cans; evidence that the area was often a playground for local youths. In the back stood a copse of trees, dense with ground cover and thick vines that made each step more difficult the further we advanced into the thicket. Suddenly I stumbled upon a pylon, with a metal cross leaning over its fallen capstone – a sculpture of a now-decapitated saint holding a crown. That’s when the first mosquitos struck.
We ventured further into the trees, swatting at bugs, stepping gingerly over brambles and tangled vines while pushing herbage aside until we caught a glimpse of David standing near an obelisk that appeared to be even taller than Danny. Stepping closer to the lichen-covered pylon we were able to photograph its Cyrillic inscription, (and decipher it later). The transliteration reads: “Here Lies the Mortal Remains (Host) of Gnat (Ignat) Babiy – ‘Gospodar‘ – 23/12/1825 – 23/9/1898 – In Eternal Remembrance”.
There’s that word “eternal” again. If eternal was to be Ignat’s remembrance plus that of other Slavs whom had been buried here, how come this necropolis was abandoned, then? The most probable explanation is because of schisms from within the Byzantine Rite church caused in part by religious suppression from the Soviet Union for almost three-quarters of a century. How much more rejection and repression must the Slavs of the world put up with? At least in this case we might be able to right some wrongs and raise some Hryvna to recapture this sacred ground for posterity. But would the Church agree?
Ignat was our 2nd Great Grandfather. But what does the appellation “Gospodar ” mean? A transliteration offered the options: “master”, “host”, “lord”, “proprietor” prompting more questions like: “was Ignat somehow associated with the Austrian aristocracy?” A few days earlier while back in the State Archives in Lviv, Dave and Dan had researched the cadastral records of property owners for the Pidhaitsi [Podhajce in Polish] region looking specifically for surveys pertaining to Babiys, Khudas, Paluchatas, and Lemiszkas, and had recorded the results of their search on a spreadsheet for the years 1828 and 1858. The Babiys as a clan owned a LOT of properties in the region during that 30 year period; an Ivan leading the pack with more than 50; a Tymko with 26 including properties #1 and #202; and by 1858 an Ignat, perhaps our 2nd Great, tallied 28 including #202. To me it sounds like they were probably thought of as land lords back in the 19th Century. Правда?
THE ANNA CHUDAS (АННА ЧУДАС).
Among the vast collection of photos in my library, ostensibly growing at an exponential rate thanks to digital cameras and my obsession with travel, there are two that particularly stand out in relation to these “Old Country” posts on historic Galicia. Both contain images of the women whom have had a profound influence on my youth and adolescence and whose timeless love sustains me to this day. [Photo 1: L->R: Anna Chuda Popenik, Elsie Babiy, Anna Chuda Babiy, Olga Babiy Balboni, Estelle Babiy Spearman, & Mae Simon Babiy; Photo 2: L->R: Elsie Babiy, Anna Chuda Popenik, and Ann Chuda Babiy.] Obviously one of these women was my Mother Elsie, who – like every mother – taught me everything as a child – everything – who not only made me and brought myself and my siblings into this life but even saved my ass on more than one occasion. Others in one of these photos include Aunts Estelle (now 93), her sister Olga (both nata Babiys), and Mae, mother of our cousins Barry and Dale Babiy – who lived right next door to us, catching the same colds and getting paddled for the same transgressions. In both pictures, stand two cousins both christened with the same name, from the same country (although now an independent nation), hailing from the same district, and were even born ONE day apart in the same town. Talk about mirrored coherencies.
Two Anna Chudas, one being our Grandmother Anna responsible for among many things, my addiction to pirogis and holubtsi plus – together with Aunt Estelle – my obsession with and inspiration for connecting to our Paternal homeland of Ukraine. The other was our “Aunt” Anna Chuda Popenik — actually a cousin – whom we rarely met since she lived with her family on the East Coast. Grandma Anna did have a sister Maria, born on Christmas Eve (Gregorian Calendar) 1890 whom we never met.
After leaving Ignat’s obelisk we headed back – poor Mario still complaining about low tire pressure – to Oksana’s mother’s home situated along a bumpy track well off Burkaniv’s “main drag”. Her mother had little to add to our quest, so we extended our thanks and motored back over The Strypa to Zolotnyky where Diana pulled Mario into a parking lot just after the bridge. Oksana then led us across the street to a one story bungalow where a women named Sophia Vernyhora-Khuda, 80-ish, with red hair, also clad in a dress with floral design – apparently the dress du jour in these parts – greeted us as we stepped onto her cobblestone driveway. Shortly we were joined by her daughter Nadia, also clad in a floral decorated frock. The conversation soon became animated, especially after Oksana mentioned the name “Anna Chuda”. And translated feedback soon focused on a namesake who left the area early in the 20th Century, migrated to New York, got married and settled there. This was not our Grandma Anna, who did get married in New York City in 1916, but then together with her husband Ivan Babiy and their infant sons Peter and Paul had migrated West to Cleveland, eventually winding up in rural Michigan’s “Thumb District”, hence us Babiy Boys multi-coherencing there in their front yard. This meant Sophia and Nadia were literally referring to our cousin, whom we called “Aunt” Anna – who was actually their Great Aunt Anna! And when I dropped the surname “Popenik”, Sophia responded “Popenik!” Family!
I then began to relate our version of the saga of the Two Annas while vainly attempting to download one of the above pictures over the slow local 3G Network. No joy. Thus we posed for photos, embraced and made promises to return for a more lengthy visit, which I for one plan to honor as soon as practical. So ended one of the most eventful, emotional, timeless, and transcendent days of what I hope to be many such forays through the Galician Mirror and into The Old Country.
But what could be next? Certainly nothing could top meeting actual living relatives or finding a physical link connecting family back in Time nearly two centuries. Well we had yet to find any documentation at all verifying either the existence of our Grandmother Anna Chuda or her parents. Was “Anna Chuda” even her real name? Was all that we “knew” about her just a family legend? Patience dear reader. Just a little more Pan-Coherencing (assuming that’s even a valid expression).
LIFE AS ART (ЖИТТЯ ЯК МИСТЕЦТВО).
First we had to get ourselves and Mario back up the road to Lviv so that Diana could have that tire checked out before we headed out the next day to explore the Carpathian resort of Yaremche near the Romanian border and the Hutsul city of Kolomyya, home to the Pysanka Museum. So bright and early the next morning we found ourselves at an auto repair shop located in what appeared to be a converted Soviet-era cement factory warehouse facility featuring an old silo which now served as a diesel fuel dispensary, guarded by a snarling dog on a chain. Several vehicles including Mario were parked in front waiting to be serviced.
The mechanic, someone Diana employs regularly to keep her vehicles in tune, jacked up Mario, pulled the left-front tire off and carried it into the shop interior where he slipped it onto a press and popped it off its rim. Along one wall of the shop was a curious oil-spattered poster board display featuring four panes centered around a tool storage rack that at first glance resembled an abstract piece by an artist such as Jackson Pollack. Upon closer inspection the abstractions that dotted these canvases turned out to be items much more mundane. Sure enough, after thorough scrutiny of Mario’s tire, the mechanic found the culprit, pulled it out with a set of pliers and stuck it on his poster board masterpiece – another nail. Life is art.
So it was on to Yaremche where we shopped the souvenir booths that lined the Prut River gorge, grabbed a bite then hit the road again for Kolomyya – one of my favorite places in Ivano-Frankivsk mainly for the Pysanka Museum, another example of creating Art from LIfe with its collection of tens of thousands of Pysanky from all over the world. We’ve published two short videos, the most recent featuring brothers Dave and Dan, shot in Lviv during our Pysanka Masterclasses with Folk Art Master Halyna Syrotyuk, who is a member of the Ukrainian Union of Master Folk Artists and a national treasure, during which she taught us the art of “writing” a Pysanka. Needless to say, there was only one master artist in that room.
I do not recall any of our immediate family ever even talking about Pysanky let alone “writing” any. I often wondered if this was a result of our parents “converting” to Roman Rite traditions rather than pursuing those associated with Byzantine Orthodoxy. Orthodox churches were few and far between in the hinterlands (you know, God’s Country), outside of historic ethnic enclaves like those at the time in New York City, that were then and are still now dominated by Anglo-Saxon Masons like our Mother’s people who did not approve of her marrying an “immigrant”. Assimilation was the rule then and always has been, “Forever and Ever, Amen!
Oh there was the seasonal Easter Egg “hunt” where we would hard boil some eggs; let them cool; then draw simple designs with crayons or transfer a decal to them, dip the prepared eggs into a dye bath, let them dry, then place them in the yard randomly for the kids to find. More often than not, we wound up just sticking them in an Easter Basket along with candies and chocolate bunnies to feast on. I mean I get the whole Spring fertility celebration thing, after all I’m an Easter Sunday (Gregorian Calendar) baby, but the bunny-egg-basket connection never resonated with me. I did however like lots of kids, eat lots of Easter “Art”.
JAZZFEST AND BEYOND (НАД ДЖЕЗФЕСТ).
One of the draws that brought me to Lviv the last two years — besides ancestral research and reaping the benefits of Diana’s talents, was jazz. On my first visit to Lviv in 2017, Diana and I were sitting in a cafe savoring some coffee and truffles when she handed me her earbuds so I could listen to a song by De-Phazz called “Death By Chocolate”. The track featured muted trumpets and a big band horn ensemble backed by a wicked slow bottom beat. I just sat there nodding away for seven minutes or so. When the song finished I handed back her ear buds and she asked: “What kind of music do you like?” When I replied “Jazz”, she just about jumped out of her chair. I knew then that we’d have a wonderful friendship, based at least on music and chocolates if nothing else.
So in planning my next visit in 2018, I found out about the annual Leopolis JazzFest traditionally held the past seven years during last week of June which featured five nights of performances by jazz luminaries from predominately the U.S., the U.K., and Europe, among them that year being Charles Lloyd, Jamie Cullum, Jacob Collier (a literal one man band), pianist Stefano Bollani, and the stunning Marcus Miller. There were also free acts performing in the main square at Rynok that included ONUKA, the amazing young guitarist Tom Ibarra, and a short set by one of Diana’s friends, Bria Blessing which we arrived too late for, other than to say hello as they were packing up. Anyway, they had me at “Jazz”.
As part of our 2019 visit, I planned to do the same — but this time for four of us for all five nights. The main problem was actually paying for the tickets and for some performances ticket were scarce, which thanks to the patience of our contact at JazzFest Olga Kondratyuk who had helped us the previous year, we finally managed to complete successfully [photo: <strong>The 3 DB’s at JazzFest 2019</strong>]. 2019’s lineup included Chic Corea, Bobby McFerrin with a large vocal group, pianist Kenny Barron, pop artist Lisa Stansfield, New Orleans funkmaster Jon Cleary (who’s actually a Brit), Diana Krall (one of Diana’s faves), and the multi Emmy Award winning band Snarky Puppy. So guess who turned out to be our favorite? Yup. Snarky Puppy. They just blew the house down (well the big tent anyway). If you don’t believe me you can go up to their website and download the entire concert yourself.
The day after JazzFest closed Dave departed for Memphis and a day later Dan left for Detroit, leaving Diana and I to do some souvenir shopping at the local crafts markets where the most popular item was Putin toilet paper, visit an “underground” coffee bar where we almost got our wicks singed, and have lunch with one of her friends who was also a travel guide. During all of this Diana was multitasking (or multi-coherencing) as usual, receiving emails and texts from various clients and contacts, including the Archive Director from Ternopil whom earlier in the day she had struck a deal with – basically a certain level of results in exchange for a set amount of money.
As we sat with her friend discussing food, culture, cosmetics, Ukrainian names, politics, and coming very close to setting up a program for a global universal basic income (caught you dozing, eh?), Diana started receiving the “results”; a series of text messages each containing images taken from archival records on the Chudas; the very first being the baptismal record for Anna Chuda – our Grandmother, listing her parents plus her mother Xenia (Kseniya) Lemiszka’s father and mother, Simeonis and Eudoria Skuszka.
The rest pertained mainly to births [see Chuda lineage right]; a sister Maria in 1890; and the offspring of her siblings Procopius, Basilius, and Michael that ranged into the 1920’s, all of whom proved to be most productive and fecund. Once again, Diana had done it!
I too, like Dave got stuck in the airport in Istanbul.
First, though the drama of receiving a last minute text that my hotel reservation for the “Royal Inci” hotel there had been cancelled, prompting an “emergency” telephone call to confirm that it had not — you know the old “ignore that message” re-bop — which did not assuage my anxiety of spending 12 hours in a town full of Turks (old archenemies of Ruthenians, BTW), Islamophobia notwithstanding. Subsequently Diana deposited me at the airport with a long goodbye hug and promises to visit us the coming the New Year (I foresee more Jazz in the Future).
Then the short flight to the brand-spanking new Istanbul Airport that I breezed through two weeks before, that upon deplaning at 00:30 AM (or “Oh Dark Thirty” in military parlance), I proceeded unknowingly through domestic “passport control” first stopping to purchase ($30) a visa since I expected to be on the street looking for my ride to the hotel within the hour. The queue was long and by the time I reached the customs booth, 30 or more minutes had passed. I presented my passport to the agent who, upon taking one glance at my boarding pass for SF declared: “This is domestic. Go to International passport control 100 meters to the left”, gesturing with his outstretched arm. So I plodded off to find this “other” passport control queue, stopping along the way to ask another uniformed agent if I was indeed headed in the right direction to exit the terminal and find my taxi to the hotel. She just nodded her head and pointed to her left and said: “International 50 meters”. She was accurate about the distance.
After 50 meters or so I breezed through the second passport control portal, the one for international passengers, up a long escalator into a vast wonderland of “Duty Free” commercial venues replete with blinking lights and canned muzak hawking everything from clothing to Gucci bags to luggage to mobile device accessories to t-shirts to jewelry to confections….and did I mention “booze”? This space was “yuge”, stretching at least 2 kilometers from end to end — a capitalist’s wet dream with a captive audience, as I was about to find out. In this vast expanse of conspicuous consumption here and there were scattered small oases where travelers might get off their feet, each and every space populated by supine pilgrims in one state of fitful slumber or another – at least several hundred in number at first glance. My first thought was “how do I get out of this f*cking place?” It was 01:30 AM, well past the time I was to meet my taxi.
I found my way past an automated information kiosk emblazoned with the message “Need Help? Ask Me!” to a queue that included members of the Nigerian soccer team waiting for access to an actual human being. Before I had my chance to speak, another quarter hour had past and right in the middle of my spiel the woman behind me jumped in front of me blurting: “Excuse me, but I have an emergency….”. Unfortunately for her, I’d had enough and went off on her, but did calm down enough to promise I’d make my query short yet vehement. After I re-stated my dilemma for the third time, the perplexed spokeswoman took a breath then suggested I go talk to the agents for Turkish Airlines which as it turned out were located close to several of the main gates nearly a kilometer away: more walking and more time.
15 minutes later I was standing in front of an agent at the Turkish Airlines information desk repeating my spiel for the fourth time. He just rolled his eyes and sighed: “You need to go back up the escalator and proceed to the other end of the terminal and down an escalator to the right then go through passport control to get out of the terminal building”. Exasperated I responded: “ I already tried to go through domestic passport control. They directed me to International Passport Control. Which one?”
“There is a third passport control called “Passport Control”. You need to go there”, he responded. Three passport control queues??? I proceeded up the escalator having flashbacks to a vacation weekend spent in Perugia, Italy some years ago with all of its “escalators over the hill”, plodding past the great Duty Free “Wall of Dissipation” until I ran out of gas halfway along and started to look for the Airport Hotel. It was 02:00 AM. Of course it was full, with whole families strewn about its meagre lobby accommodations, hoping for a cancellation; plus they were charging exorbitant rates anyway. Let the traveler beware.
So I spent the early hours wherever I could find a free bench to crash on, having another flashback as I lay there re-living several days spent in another lifetime, in another airport, in another country, on another continent, in another century, then enduring another “Long Goodbye” with another past paramour. Ultimately I received another text from the Royal Inci stating that my reservation had been cancelled — this time for good.
Once again, Diana has done it! Is she a Wonder Woman or what? So all you Ruthenians reading this epic chronicle cum travelogue cum archival dig cum acronym-laced soap opera cum social screed cum homage to Ukrainian hospitality, nationality, and cuisine; I want you to multi-coherence by first getting from your chairs, then raise you hands in the air, stamp your feet to get back your circulation, bow down to the North [where all of your kids will live some day], and from tip of your nose to the tip of your toes including the bottom of your hearts shout at the top of your lungs: “Дякую, Діана!”
Then begin to dream of being Anywhere multi-coherencing [the next big thing] right now. Family Forever!
“You know it never has been easy
Whether you do or you do not resign
Whether you travel the breadth of extremities
Or stick to some straighter line
Now here’s a man and a woman sitting on a rock
They’re either going to thaw out or freeze
Strains of Benny Goodman
Coming through the snow and the pinewood trees
I’m porous with travel fever
But you know I’m so glad to be on my own
Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger
Can set up trembling in my bones
I know no one’s going to show me everything
We all come and go unknown
Each so deep and superficial
Between the forceps and the stone
Well I looked at the granite markers
Those tribute to finality – to eternity
And then I looked at myself here
Chicken scratching for my immortality.
In the church they light the candles
And the wax rolls down like tears
There’s the hope and the hopelessness
I’ve witnessed all these years….”
……..From “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell.
For now you can view the cemetery photo galleries of the Burkaniv and Zolotnyky cemeteries by clicking on the links provided.
Also you can view the marriage, birth and death archival records for our Slavic extended families on the Galicia Archives page. Just click on the archive thumbnail you wish to view. For these Photo Galleries, as with photos included in the body of this and other posts, clicking on the thumbnail picture will expand the image for easier viewing. Click the “X” box at the top right to close.
Plus thanks to Diana, you won’t want to miss the photo galleries of our excursions to Chernivtsi in Bukovina; the Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotin Castles in Podolia; and the Olesko and Pidhirtsi Castles in Lviv Oblast. You’ll get to see how the 1% lived in the 14th through 19th centuries.
We also have photo galleries from our visits to Dolyna & Kolomyya, Lviv, and Ternopil that you won’t want to miss.
And remember, you can read the complete saga of our 2017 trip to Ukraine published earlier in our blogs “The Old Country — Ternopil Oblast“, “The Old Country — Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast“, “The Old Country — Lviv Oblast”, plus more from our travels in 2018 found at “The Old Country — Salt of The Earth” and The Old Country – In Nomine Patris [AKA “Father Knows Best”]. Just follow the appropriate links.
Also be sure to watch our latest videos “live” and in color on our travels to The Old Country: the Psyanka Masterclasses featuring Folk Art Master Halyna Syrotyuk & our glorious guide Diana Borysenko, Yours Truly plus most recently Two DB’s – brothers Dan And Dave. Add to that two travelogues documenting our tours of Galicia: The Old Country – Galicia, and just released “The Old Country – Echoes In Time“. Of course, don’t forget to share the links with your friends.
And if all of this doesn’t whet your whistle for a visit to our ancestral homeland, check out Diana Borysenko‘s website DianaTours-WesternUkraine.com for links to all of the tours, masterclasses, activities, and ancestral heritage services she provides.
Dedicated in memory of Beth McDonald, daughter of cousin Anne Chavez and husband Jesse Chavez; to Oksana Romanivna Savchyn, Deputy Director of Ternopil State Archives, Ukraine; and lastly to Joanne Jamroz Neil, a final goodbye. Rest in Eternal Peace and Remembrance.
© Kazkar Babiy ™ MMXX.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.