Archive for November 28th, 2015


Holodomor – A street with a million (+) names?

November 28, 2015

The problem with history, certainly when it comes to numbers, is often visualising the horrific loss of human life certain events cause – particularly those events that are “man-made”.

Most people can visualise a dead person, perhaps several.  Some can, and have seen, dozens at a time, occasionally hundreds.  Very few may have witnessed thousands of dead bodies in one place, but beyond that?

Be it any large war, the Holocaust, or the Holodomor, visualising millions and millions of dead is simply beyond comprehension.  The monuments we erect to commemorate such hideous outcomes are often simple and understated, and deliberately so out of somberness, respect and humility – but are therefore mostly forgotten until specific State appointed days of remembrance fall upon the societal calendar.

For how can there be a a monument of suitable scale that is commensurate to the sacrifices, or sacrificed?  How also to bring about remembrance in a more continuous subconsciousness within today’s society outside of the alloted day or hour?

There are museums of course, and libraries and the Internet – all accessible to many, but generally they too fail to adequately impress the sheer number of deaths involved in a manner that makes it digestible and comprehensible with any sense of lasting mental impression.


As these events travel further back in time with each and every passing hour, clearly justice becomes more and more symbolic – as perpetrators and survivors alike reach the natural ending of their days without their day in court.  Justice it seems, is that those who died and/or survived be not forgotten – at least for one day in the year.

It is of course possible to begin belated investigations and perhaps even reach judicial outcomes to cover the events of the past to some degree, and thus to provide some sense of finding of guilt.  If with regard to the Holodomor, Ukraine was to follow the lead of Germany in its ruling against Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor, who was found guilty not of any specific act himself, but being part of the “extermination machinery“, then it follows perhaps that there be room to find guilt of Joseph Stalin, the leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the time etc. The question that arises is how far throughout that murderous and repressive apparatus does one go, and/or what parts of the institutions are targeted (apart from the obvious like the political leadership and the NKVD)?

Thus far, with regard to the Holodomor about 800,000 victims have been positively identified amongst figures that range from 3 to 7 million.  No doubt yet more will eventually be identified, and eventually there will be a far more accurate, although never precise, figure reached regarding the actual death toll.

If the names of these known Holodomor victims were individually placed on the average sized cobble stone that makes up Deribasovskaya, the main pedestrian street in central Odessa, it would more than re-cobble the entire street – which thus returns the reader back to the issue of visualising the horrendous and horrific loss of life.

Initially in Germany, and then latterly across Europe, there is something called the Stolpersteine.  It is a project where commemorative stones are laid outside the last known addresses of Jewish victims prior to their deportation (and in most cases extermination).  There are tens of thousands of such stones laid across Europe, outside tens of thousands of addresses throughout Europe.  They are a daily reminder to those now living at the address and/or walking along that street of the dark past it once witnessed – rather than a statue in a pleasantly manicured public space seldom visited.

Imagine, however, all those Stolpersteine laid together along a single public street.

If it is not the graphic images of WWI and WWII in museums or on TV that seem to leave the greatest impact, but when visiting, it is the sight of miles upon miles of headstones in cemeteries across Flanders, Artois and beyond that do, what societal impact would a major Ukrainian street cobbled/paved with individual names of those victims of the Holodomor have on an every day, rather than annual, basis?

Perhaps one day Ukraine will embark upon its own Stolpersteine project and place individual stones outside the addresses of all those known victims of the Holodomor as a daily reminder for those that walk there – or perhaps it will make a bold statement of remembrance where the name of each victim literally stretches from one end of the street to the other.  With 800,000 identified victims from millions, it will have to be a very long street, and rather than being a street with no name, it would be a street of a million names (and more).  Perhaps the boldest act is more appropriate for the victims who will never see justice?  A matter for the authorities (if they ever think of it).


It’s not the hours you put in – It’s what you put into the hours

November 28, 2015

Of the best bosses your author has every worked for, both have been women – and fearsome, professionally demanding, but quite brilliant women they were too – as is perhaps to be expected for those that reached lofty institutional heights within late 1970’s Britain.

One in particular was fond of stating “It’s not the hours you put in – It’s what you put into the hours” – and then continued to work all the hours God sent with incredible and unfailing insight, intuition and accuracy, setting an incredibly high standard for the mere cogs that made up the machinery of the department (such as you author).

That expression however, has remained within the consciousness of your author – albeit today with regard to the blog, it is more a case of “It’s not the minutes that are put in – It’s what is put into the minutes” when producing the daily dirge relating to Ukraine.

white rabbit

All of which brings about this latest statistical barrage relating to the first year’s activities of the Verkhovna Rada.

This convocation worked 89 days, as opposed to its predecessor’s 78.  Over 4780 draft laws or resolutions were submitted – 34% more than the previous convocation.  Of the draft laws and resolutions submitted, 1344 (28%) were actually considered, of which 765 were ultimately successful.

85% of the President’s submissions for consideration to the Verkhovna Rada were successful.  Only 33% of that submitted by the government got an affirmative nod, and a mere 14% made the grade from the MPs of the Verkhovna Rada.

Though the statistics go further and paint an interesting picture, for the purposes of this entry there is no need to go on.

The numbers are mind-boggling.  4780 draft laws and/or resolutions submitted – meaning MPs spent the time (or their boiler room staff and/or “sponsors” spent their time) crafting legal text just over 70% of which was clearly nonsense and not even worthy of serious committee consideration – and duly wasn’t.

Of the 1344 (or 28%) that was given committee time, 579 submissions were also dismissed by the relevant Verkhovna Rada Committees, or failed to garner sufficient votes amongst the parliamentarians to be successful.

What of the exceptionally large number of successful new laws (61%) or adopted resolutions (39%) – all 765 of them over the past 12 months?

Can the printers of legal tomes that adorn the libraries of advocates and notaries even attempt to keep up?  Can the legal system and those that work within it keep up?  What of the institutions of State or the regulators?  By way of example, and without listing all policy areas, there were 65 new successful Tax and Customs Bills, 63 relating to law enforcement, and 51 national security and defence – with another 586 across all other areas of governance, it seems pointless to list them all when the point has been made.

Have any of these newly adopted legal norms been effectively implemented?  If so, is anybody monitoring the effects?  In short, is the newly adopted legal prose working as intended – or is it ineffective, or worse proving to be counterproductive?

If most of the 765 adopted legalese has gone unimplemented, would repealing 765 existing laws have been more beneficial to the Ukrainian constituency instead?  Lord knows the Ukrainian statute book is replete with Soviet legacy legislative (and by extension bureaucratic) hangovers.

(On the subject of Soviet legacy nonsense, why is it still required to show an internal passport to buy a rail ticket from Odessa to Kyiv or Lviv, when it’s possible to drive there or get the bus to these cities without showing any ID?  That such flapdoodle and codswallop persists, and for what purpose other than to continue a Soviet hangover, who knows?)

Now there will be literally thousands and thousands (and thousands) of legislative changes required to facilitate the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU over the next decade – there is no denying this – but it is structured (for if the EU knows how to do anything, it knows how to do bureaucracy).  There are time scales for different areas of legislative integration.

Therefore, within such a framework with specific time lines there are obviously priorities, and it may be that the feckless Ukrainian parliamentarians (that are so incapable of crafting decent legislation that only 14% submitted gets past the Verkhovna Rada committees and their peers in the chamber), will stumble and fumble in the face of legislation that is upon the immediate horizon (despite having 28 existing EU acceptable choices for almost all proposed laws to choose from already in existence amongst the Member States).

It will also be the case that there are domestic legislative acts that are not tied to the Association Agreement that are also deemed priorities (and again the 28 “European examples” will be ignored) that will garner the same entirely feckless response by way of speedily crafted and inept legal prose submissions – but other legislative requirements provide a little more time for consideration and can thus propose to amend entire legal chapters and/or frameworks in a single draft submission, freeing up countless wasted parliamentary hours both of the parliamentarians drafting poor text, and of the Verkhovna Rada Committees refusing – before even getting to a vote.

Less, as they say, is more (on many occasions anyway) – and clearly far less grotesquely substandard drafting, and far more consideration and thoughtfulness would provide for not putting in the extra hours, but increase the quality of what goes into the hours put in.

It’s not as though the additional 11 days this Verkhovna Rada convocation has sat, nor the vast majority of the successfully passed 765 Bills and Resolutions, have come anywhere near meeting even the lowest of expectations of society – and most of those laws and resolutions that come close to having a potentially positive effect have been pushed through by “friends of Ukraine” with carrot or stick, or by the IMF.

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