On the wall of my dining-room I have a painting.
It is quite a large portrait
And dwarfs the other pictures in the room.
It is true to say that everyone who comes into the room
Is instantly drawn to it.
The caption states that it shows a 12-year old girl.
She is standing beside a table in a school-room,
Carrying a folder in her left hand.
She is wearing a brown dress with long sleeves,
And over the top of that is a white frilly pinafore.
An attractive girl, with long brown pigtails and dark, black eyes
She appears to stare right at you.
On the table is a vase full of brightly-coloured flowers,
Behind her is a blackboard on which a white dove has been drawn.
Above that the word Mir is written in Cyrillic script.
These details reveal what it is all about:
The first day of term in a Russian school.
The flowers are the traditional gift to the teacher,
And the dove and the word Mir tells us
That the very first lesson is on Peace.
The portrait is not by a professional artist,
But by another pupil, perhaps the same age as this girl.
Although it is a wonderful painting in its own right,
It is not perfect: one of the hands is a little bit blurred
Where the first attempt has been painted over,
Not entirely successfully,
And the head is just a bit too large for the body.
But therein lies the charm and the attraction.
I obtained the painting in the late 80s
When I was an escort at a youth peace camp in Hungary.
There were young people there from many European countries
Including Britain and The Soviet Union.
Things were very different then.
I have thought recently that what I should do
Is to take the painting down
As a reaction against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But it is comforting to hang on to ideals -
Visions of peace which transcend the current time.
For many years I was a peace activist
And my main preoccupation was to help break down
The cold war mentality that people held against Russians
And the people in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Now, I am almost ready to believe that I,
Like so many other people, were duped.
Perhaps, as the phrase goes,
We really were "useful idiots"
And the hawks were the ones who were more realistic.
But none of us saw what would occur decades into the future.
In short, we misjudged Russia and were far too lenient towards the country,
While the lies told by American politicians and the Pentagon were so plain to see.
Going back to the picture,
I do wonder about the sweet little girl
And the artist who painted her.
Now they will both be in their mid-40s.
Many in this generation and those who are older than this
Have swallowed the insidious propaganda put out by the Russian media
As dictated by their political leaders.
They will probably believe that it is a good cause to fight against,
What they are told, are the fascists in Ukraine
And anyone who says otherwise or disagrees with the narrative
Is a traitor.
So what happened about their lesson on Peace?
Why has all of this been dumped
In favour of mass killing, and the destruction of
Schools, Hospitals, Homes and all of the infrastructure
By Russian indiscriminate shelling,
Despite their oft-repeated statement
That civilian buildings are not targeted.
What, in fact, were they taught about Peace?
Is it something that only they could enjoy,
Whereas other people were not given this right?
I still believe in Peace, myself,
But a ceasefire would let Russia get away with
Their invasion of a sovereign country
And their attempt to wipe the Ukrainian culture
Identity and its entire population
Off the face of the earth.
Russians have, it seems, inherited the genes of
Genghis Khan and the Mongol Hordes
Which are reflected in their resort to brutality and savagery
In times of war, and even towards each other in normal times
Under certain circumstances.
They are slaves to deference towards their masters
And seem unable to comprehend individual freedoms
And the concept of democracy.
No-one should give any excuses for the behaviour of their armed forces.
Nor the evil dictates of their political leaders.
It is time the country faced up to reality
Or the moment of realisation by ordinary people
Will be catastrophic for the country.
To prevent that happening, there is nothing,
Absolutely nothing which the Russian government
Will rule out as it lashes out at other countries and its own people.
Genghis Khan was indeed brutal,
But even he did not have the means which the present leaders have
To get their own way.
A nightmare scenario is on the horizon...for all of us.----------------------------------------------------------
Here is a useful video about the history of the USSR
June 1st 2020
What is the Russian Federation doing about the climate crisis? Fueling tanks and other military vehicles into Ukraine, shelling cities and destroying buildings, setting fire to everything they come across including silos of wheat, holding military exercises in Belarus and nuclear weapon exercises in Russia - in fact, just what is needed to reduce the projected 2-3 percent rise in the global temperature!
Statement made on 23rd May 2022
My name is Boris Bondarev, in the MFA of Russia since 2002, since 2019 until now - Counsellor of the Russian Mission to the UN Office at Geneva.
For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year. The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing our all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country.
Those who conceived this war want only one thing - to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.
I regret that over all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry has been increasing all the time. However, in most recent years, this has become simply catastrophic. Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda cliches in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s. A system has been built that deceives itself.
Minister Lavrov is a good illustration of the degradation of this system. In 18 years, he went from a professional and educated intellectual, whom many my colleagues held in such high esteem, to a person who constantly broadcasts conflicting statements and threatens the world (that is, Russia too) with nuclear weapons!
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country. Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy.
I studied to be a diplomat and have been a diplomat for twenty years. The Ministry has become my home and family. But I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy.
The powerful speech by Zelenskiy on May 8th 2022
Here is a link to a video about the different Republics in the Russian Federation breaking away from it.
The Kyiv Independent is reporting that the Security Service of Ukraine has intercepted phone calls that prove that Russian troops near Kharkiv were ordered to shoot at civilians, including children.
News yesterday that Russian forces had shot and killed 10 people who were standing to buy bread in Chernihiv and fired on a theatre in Mariupol in which civilians, including children were sheltering filled me with horror.
The TV editor in Russia who demonstrated against the war on TV had so much courage. Here is a clip about it.
The office of the UN high commissioner for human rights has documented, as of Tuesday, at least 170 people killed in the Kharkiv region - including five children.
From the Guardian newspaper:
Yesterday my brother and my mum managed to find a spot where they could find a connection to call us. They were risking their lives going outside but they know me and my dad are extremely worried about them. They were on the phone for four or five minutes. My brother was trying to be positive but I could hear in his voice that he's feeling desperate and they don't know how they're going to leave the city. It's been one week without enough food and water, without electricity, and without heating and it's hard because Mariupol is pretty cold.
I was born in Mariupol and I lived there for the last 10 years. In the last few years, our mayor made many changes; lots of areas have been rebuilt, and it has become a much more beautiful city. There was even a new shopping centre. And now everything is destroyed.
I can't imagine this is happening now. I feel this is surreal. I feel like I'm just dreaming and as I'm talking about it, my hands are shaking, it's so hard to process. Thankfully my dad, who's a ship engineer, was onboard when the war started. Now we're together in Germany where his company is based. Normally I'm studying in another country but I'm with him because he can't handle it. He's very emotional, he's crying every five minutes because his wife and son - my mum and brother - are in Mariupol.
My brother told us that a rocket had hit the neighbouring building to the underground car park he and my mum are living in. It's safer in the carpark than our apartment, which is on the 5th floor and is very dangerous because some of the buildings around it have been completely bombed. They're sleeping in the car, so they can keep a little bit warm and can charge their phone. There are around 10 or 12 people down there, and my brother told me that everyone is trying to help each other; if someone has spare food or water, they share it.
There is very little food and water now. I know my mum and my brother cooked a huge amount of porridge at the beginning, a week ago, when they still had electricity. They also filled the bath in the apartment with water. They did some shopping to stock up when the war started but it's never enough.
My mum told us, on the phone, that they've lost so much weight, she said it's because they're so stressed. She said: "Without food, that's fine, you know. We're not scared anymore, we're just tired, tired from this situation. There's no fear now, we kind of get used to all this, shooting - that's fine, bombing - that's fine." She said they're not craving food anymore, even though they're hungry. They're just so tired. They want to leave, they want to be safe.
I heard in news reports that a kid died of dehydration. I couldn't believe it was possible to die of dehydration in the city, in 2022. It's crazy, it's really crazy.
It made me and my dad feel a little bit happier yesterday because we heard their voices. They were trying so hard to be positive when they were talking to us. My brother said we have to be strong and we have to believe in them and in Mariupol and that they will win and they will survive. My mum said "Hope dies last" even when you're devastated and destroyed emotionally, you have to believe in the best.
Maternity hospital destroyed in Ukraine. Putin is a child-killer.
Music is an international language. Jazz, in particular, allows everyone to have their say and to be understood by everyone else, regardless of their race or nationality. Jazz is at its best when people listen to each other and contribute their own ideas to something which is a creation of all their efforts - a musical and emotional experience.
In short, jazz is about co-operation and co-operation is the opposite of conflict. If politicians from every country were jazz musicians we would live in a more peaceful and equitable world. Well, in theory, at least!
When a country resorts to violence and destruction, or even just the threat of unleashing such forces upon others, it is a sign of its own failure to resolve crises or to further its own ends in a more grown-up civilised manner. War now is nothing more than mass murder. The vast majority of people who die in wars are civilians, particularly the weak, the infirm, the elderly and the very young. War does not solve problems: it creates new ones.
As a musician who attempts to create new things, I firmly oppose mindless destruction, however glossy and glamorous the weapons of war may appear to others. As a human being who cherishes life, I deplore the killing and maiming of other human beings. And when it is done in my name by my own country, I utterly deplore it and will protest against it however I can.
I have been very lucky to have been able to travel widely and to have lived and worked with people from many other countries.
Co-operation with others from other backgrounds leads to a One World philosophy, which I passionately believe in. We have enough problems in combating global warming and other ecological disasters without wasting valuable resources in nationalistic behaviour at the expense of others.
For those who are interested, here are some links to some
worthwhile organisations, many of which have branches worldwide:
To find out the state of the world, there used to be a world clock from an website called Poodwaddle.com which showed many useful facts, but it seems to have disappeared. Keep an eye out in case it comes back.
War on Want
Campaign against the Arms Trade
World Development Movement
Friends of the Earth
The Carbon Neutral Company
Human Rights Watch
New Internationalist Magazine
Center for Alternative Technology
Stop the War Coalition
The Syria Campaign
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Medecin sans Frontieres
Lend with Care
Lend with care is an excellent scheme run by Care International. You can lend money to people in poor countries who need some investment in projects. When up and running, the money is paid back and you can choose to reinvest in something else or take the money.
Click here to read about six factors which have a detrimental effect upon the environment.
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