Field Museum Exhibit

On Sunday, Boris and I went to the Field Museum to see a relatively new exhibit, Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery

I wanted to go to this exhibit with Boris because the subject of the exhibit is uncomfortable to many people, and I knew for sure that it won’t be uncomfortable for him, and that our views on the subject of the exhibit are similar.

Did I see what I expected to see? Yes and no. I expected a little more comparison of different cultures, rituals, and religious views. It was all present, but less than I expected. On the other hand, more emphasis was on “what do you think?”

The model of ta dead whale sank to the bottom of the ocean becoming a foundation of a new ecosystem
I was not aware of that concept. It basically means you are dead (or is not born yet, I guess) until you are baptised
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Several posts in drafts and too many things going on. Just this one thought I wanted to post today. I am shocked not only by the Dnipro horrible war crime but also by the reactions of many people in Russia. There was only one person who messaged me with a normal (at least what I believe is normal) reaction. And I know there are several other people who think the same way, even though they didn’t message me. But these people are inminority.

Today’s War News

That’s how my morning was: the first thing I saw on my phone was, “Soledar is taken by Russians.” Then – “According to Ukraine, the fight is still going on.” And then the news about the tanks. I am so hopeful that this will finally happen – that the tank will reach the front. If it takes the Soledar standoff to make it a reality, I would say it was not for nothing. At least something is coming.

Since the day Biden announced that we are giving tanks to Ukraine, I kept asking Boris how the tanks would get to Ukraine and how long it could take. But it’s not even a question of “how long,” because I do not think something happened since they were promised.

That’s where I am, between hope and despair. And meanwhile, everything in my life is going great. So good, that even with my boundless optimism, I am starting to worry about how long the universe is going to treat me so well. I thank the universe for everything every day, grateful that I am able to support so many people and causes, but how much I wish I would not have to support that cause!

A Book I Am Excited About

I am finishing the Berlin Dairy by Willian Shirer. What an amazing book! I can’t believe I knew nothing about it until I saw a recommendation from a friend. William Shirer was a CBS broadcaster who worked in Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1941. He wrote several books about the history of WWII and the history of Nazism, and now I want to read them all! 

I think that it is a combination of two factors that make this book so amazing: first, he was an outstanding journalist with an extraordinary analytical mind who knew both how to get access to information and how to interpret it. And second – that it is an actual diary, so the readers follow events in “real-time.” When he wrote something in his journal, he did not know what would happen next or the implications of the events he had just recorded. It’s something like: I can’t believe Molotov and Ribbentrop are meeting! How can they negotiate when Russia is the most fierce critic of Nazism. How is it possible that they could reach any agreement?! They did?! 

It turned out there were lots of historical facts I didn’t know. Take the Winter War – I thought I knew everything as much as I could, visiting Finland several times a year. Still, I had no idea that it started with the air raid shelling Helsinki – I thought that all the war events happened at the frontline. 

This book has way too many parallels with the current war in Ukraine, like when the author explains how Germans have “no morals.” A German is lamenting about “bad Finns who fight against Russians, and why they are doing such a horrible thing as resisting? When Shirer says that Finns are fighting for their independence and asks won’t the Germans do the same if they were invaded, the response it: but that’s different! Russians are our friends!

Or when he cites a conversation with a German waitress about the British air raids: why are they bombarding us? – Well, because you are bombarding London! – But we only shell military objects, and they through bombs on our civilian objects? – Why do you think that Germans only bombard military objects? – That’s what our newspapers say!

Sounds familiar, right?! Way too familiar!

I almost finished this book, and I have three other books in queue, but I am urged to drop them all and read all the rest of the books by Willian Shirer(which will definitely take a while!)

Closing The Holiday Season

It was another extremely productive week. Still, many people at work were on vacation, and although many questions and issues required my intervention, I had long periods when I could focus on my big projects or debus something complex. 

Also, I kept a list of my tiny “do-to” things that must be done at some point – everyone has such a list! I managed to cut it dramatically during the first week of the New Year. I dare to say I did everything I planned:).

I keep thinking about how fortunate I am with my job, where my knowledge and skills are so much needed, and people treat me with respect and appreciate my community work as well. It feels good every day, and I am counting my blessings.

My list for this weekend was modest because the workweek was productive, but I had three huge items on my agenda: to take off all Christmas decorations, take off all tree ornaments, pack everything, and put it back into storage. And it took pretty much the whole day (except for talking to Boris and visiting mom). It sounds right because decorating took many hours as well:). When I decorate house my house for Christmas, it is one of the most joyful things because it makes my place magical. And when I take the decorations down, it feels like: Ok, the holidays are over, and it’s time to dive into life, into the new year, into all new things I want to do. 

And once again, looking back at 2022, it was just an outstanding year for my professional development, although war dominates all aspects of life. And once again, I am not depressed because of the war. I am angry but also very active and productive.

The last glance at my holiday cards before I pack them, sign the year, and put away – Thirty-four this year!

Into The New Year

The last (long) weekend appeared to be remarkably productive, more than I could imagine. I had a to-do list so gigantic that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to complete more than two-thirds of it, and I ended up being done with almost everything. In fact, I have a good chance to cross off the remaining items before Friday :).

Most importantly, I talked to lots of people. Having several days in a row when I had time to talk, to email, and meet people, I seized this opportunity. And it feels amazingly good.

I remember how I was going to prioritize interactions with people last New Year, and then how all my plans were ruined together with so many other things and became so irrelevant that I didn’t want to recall them. I am not making any grand plans for 2023, and I am not putting together a list of New Year’s resolutions. There were things that I wanted to complete during the last weekend, and I did. Some of them could be considered New Year resolutions, but overall I’d say: I know what the right things to do are now, next month, and next year, and always, And I am trying to do as much as I can, every day and every week, and I keep to-do lists and roll them over.

I feel good about the new year. I feel angry and productive – that’s my new thing, my new state of mind and soul, which I acquired in 2022: angry and productive. And it really helps:)

Just A Day Left…

One day left of 2022… I had an extremely productive day today. Realized that I have almost nothing to do at work (sure, the work is never done, but there was nothing that had to be completed in 2022), and at the same time, a lot of community work and my personal stuff actually had to be completed in 2022, I took a half day off and focused on my todo list. I am pretty proud of the progress I made; at least, I do not feel horribly behind. I published a blog for community discussion which I promised back in October, submitted two talk proposals for spring conferences (need to sum=bmit two more), and replied to several emails.

Also, reviewed my finances, closed the month and the year, and drafted the next year’s budget – hopefully closer to reality than my last year’s was. At least, I budgeted for war-related expenses, although I hold my hope that I won’t need it for the whole of 2023.

My todo list for this long weekend is bigger than ever, and mostly it is not about the New Year celebration, but about analyzing and planning of everything: work, finances, volunteering, health, and people’s connections. I am going to look back at my last year’s plans and see whether there is anything that went as expected:)

“No plans can survive the collision with reality.” (c)

In The Shadow Of The War

I know that it’s wrong to have your phone on your nightstand and check what has happened while you are asleep the moment you wake up. It might be wrong, but that’s what I do. Before February 22, I first checked whether there was an email from Boris, and starting from February 22, it was the BBC notifications… Last morning, I almost cried when I saw the notification about yet another missile strike. And I said it out loud, although nobody could hear me: they will pay for it. We will make them pay.

As much as I liked the December 26 Time magazine issue, all the articles, and all the photos, and as much as Ukraine is in the news every day, it can’t change the fact that the situation at the front is horrific. Every morning, I wake up hoping for a miracle. And every morning, it’s another missile strike. A miracle can’t help, and I know it. And I know that anti-missile weapons won’t appear miraculously, and I know that the troops need to be trained. Still, every morning…

All I Want For Christmas…

I am getting more and more disappointed in Russian society. I can’t believe I am saying this. I always used to say that the country has potential and healthy forces. Whenever others told me that nothing good would ever come out of Russia, I would always argue and remind others how much society has changed in 1991/92. I still have a lot of newspaper clippings from that time. I remember how we were hungry but hopeful and open to new ideas. I remember how in 1996, none of us, recent arrivals to the US, planned to stay here forever. We talked about going back and bringing back with us all the knowledge, all the new ways of doing things that we learned. I thought … well, does it matter what I thought back then?! 

I am shocked to find an imperial mindset in many people I thought were completely normal, intelligent, and understanding. The most frustrating thing is that these people do not understand that they have this problem. The level of entitlement is skyrocketing. I am horrified that I never paid enough attention to that and never noticed the level of this ignorance in the people surrounding me. 

Last weekend, Anna and I talked a lot about that. (This recording of Chervona Kalina I posted a couple of days ago was made during our conversation – there was a lot of singing). For many years, I told Anna that most of the Russian political opposition is not that much better than Putin and that being against Putin is not enough to be a decent person. Now she said she realized that. The opposition is continuous frustration and disappointment. Why do they feel OK behaving like a Big Brother when they come to other countries? Why do they believe that opposing Putin entitles them to some special treatment? Anna told me that at the beginning of the war, she thought that although Ukrainians are wholly entitled to say as harsh words about Russians as they want, they are indeed too harsh. But now, she says, she has concluded that the Ukrainians were right from the beginning. And that’s how I feel, as well. 

I can’t believe that even now, many people who once again seemed to be completely normal complain about the inability to travel to Europe as if it’s the worst thing in the world. There are a few of my very long-time friends who are not like this, but so few!

As for us, we feel the weight of collective guilt, and it’s more than just a word for me. There were many facts that I chose to ignore, not pay attention to, and not analyze. I have already said multiple times that I am not sure where I would be if I didn’t immigrate. I was thinking about myself thirty years ago, and I can’t be certain I would be on the right side of history. That’s why the blame is on me, and I can’t imagine people going around with their holiday activities without Ukraine in the background. 

I know that all I want for Christmas is a victory for Ukraine. Not peace, but victory.