Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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Dariya Marchenko: Art from Ammunition

Here’s the brilliant Dariya Marchenko making a humanitarian statement on the continued atrocities perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. This Reuters report should leave you provoked and moved. Daria assembles a portrait of Putin from bullet cartridges collected from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, and the art is being presented in conjunction with a novel (which I’d very much like to read).

Please share this report.


Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

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Russia at the UN: matter of a faecal nature

A Lithuanian Facebook friend sent me this chain letter—its author unknown—that had made its way through Lithuanian e-mail and Facebook messages. My friend felt I might translate it. After reading, I realized that, as a global citizen, it was my civic duty to translate and share this important document.

I only wish I knew the original author so that I might buy them a drink.


Stenographic records of a recent United Nations Security Council meeting:

Chairman: Are there any proposals?

Churkin (Russia): Do you mind if I shit on the table?

All: Nooooo!

Churkin: (Shits on the table before Klimkin, Ukraine) Thank you.

Ukrainian representative: Everyone saw it, right? Russia just shat on our table!

Churkin: You have no evidence.

Ukraine: It was your ass. The shit left your anus.

Churkin: Please present us with facts.

USA representative: Our experts have completed an analysis of the contents of this material. We have assembled coordinates to estimate its point of release. We conclude, without a doubt, that this is shit shat by Russia.

Churkin: Please provide us with proof

UK representative: This is appalling. Russia undoubtedly shat the shit. This cannot continue.

German representative: I suggest we consider the possibility of expressing our common concerns regarding Russia’s current behavior.

Churkin: Veto! (Shits again on Ukraine’s table.)

Ukraine: You saw, yes!? Here, again! Russia just shat on our table. Here’s the shit! Here’s the ass. Here, he’s pulling up his trousers!

UN chairman: If these facts are confirmed, we’ll have at our disposal a variety of possible responses.

Churkin: I’ll repeat. Provide us with a single bit of evidence!

Germany: We believed that sanctions would be effective. However, the stench here is only intensifying. We suspect that Russia is potentially shitting on Ukraine’s table.

Churkin: Provide us with the proof.

UN chairman: I move that we accept the resolution that we are all deeply shocked.

Churkin: Veto. (Shits on UN chairman’s table.)

Ukraine: You saw it, yes?! Here and now! Russia just shat all over the chairman’s table. Russia is dangerous and can at any moment shit on any European table.

Churkin: You’ve failed to provide a single bit of evidence we find acceptable.

US representative: The Pentagon has recorded the risking levels of stench wafting from the direction of Russia. We’ll have to consider the option of revoking Russia’s rights to shit during UN meetings.

Churkin: Veto. (Shits on Ukraine’s table.) You don’t have any proof. In fact, most of the evidence points to Ukraine shitting itself.

Ukraine: You saw that Russia just shat on our table once again.

German representative: It’s becoming increasingly complex to remain here. We invite both sides to a dialogue.

Churkin: Russia elects to exercise its right to a supplementary announcement. (Takes a plastic folder, employs it to scatter shit onto all UN member states.) Russia is a magnificent country and will not allow anyone to pressure us. Without providing us with any evidence, you have no right to dictate conditions. It’s best you now have a look at yourselves. You’re all shitheads. You’re sitting in shit, and the stench is wafting from you. Given this, how can you prescribe any behavior? Thank you for your attention. (Leaves the chamber, throwing the stained folder to the UN chairman and spitting on the US representative’s shoes)

UN chairman: Thank you all for expressing your positions. The next meeting scheduled to consider our concerns over Ukraine will begin after we have ventilated the room.


And now for something that only appears completely different. Here are some dashcam videos:




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Putin’s information war

Please read and share this article from Forbes titled How the Western Press is Getting it Terribly Wrong in Ukraine. It contains updates at the end that are particularly useful, and it strengthens the point I made in an my earlier rant about Ukraine being far from a “divided country”.

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Western media is misrepresenting Ukraine

At this point I’m unable to tell if the Western media, particularly cable networks, but to some extent also newspapers , are simply irresponsible or actually asinine when it comes to representations of Ukraine and the current situation there. Sure, I have a unique and biased point of view: my wife is Ukrainian, and I get news via social media from friends and family. I’m clearly on the side of Ukraine in this conflict, just as the rest of the civilized world should be. That aside, a lot of the stuff I see in the media is just mind boggling.

Let’s start with this one: What the fuck is a “Russian speaking” person? What sort of rights and protections should this person get?

I speak some Russian. Not enough to lecture on Stalin’s pubes but certainly enough to have a broken and strained conversation over breakfast. While I feel like a five year old when I try to read Russian, I can kinda do it, especially if I have a good dictionary or a smart phone with a translation ap. As a language teacher, I’ve often told my ESL students that they should not think of language as a machine that’s “finished” when all the parts are put together and the key is inserted. Instead, they should think of themselves as “already speaking” when they can say “What color is my dormitory? Let me tell you. It is green.”

So, to get to it. Какого цвета моя общежитие? Позвольте мне рассказать вам. Это зеленый. There it is. I fucking did it. Putin, send the fucking unmarked commandoes to defend me. I’m oppressed.

English speakers, especially Americans, have trouble understanding that multilingualism is standard fare in so many parts of the world. So prepare for this shocker: THE VAST MAJORITY OF UKRAINIANS ARE MULTILINGUAL, AND ALMOST ALL OF THEM SPEAK RUSSIAN. My wife is from Kiev, the place where the revolution started, and she speaks Russian with her family. If you go to a kiosk in Kiev to buy a toothbrush, you will talk to the lady in Russian. Russian is spoken out in the open. It’s on the radio and television. It’s the fucking primary language of conversation in the Ukrainian capital.

In fact, most people over 30 living from Tallinn all the way down to Baku—that’s from the north end of the Baltic Sea to the Caspian—will speak Russian. All of my Lithuanian friends in Vilnius speak Russian, and damn well. There’s a very simple reason for this. Those places were occupied by Russia and forced to speak Russian; Russia moved people there in order to “Russify” the place. That’s what Russia does when it sends the commandoes. Things get “peaceful” really quickly.

Now, it’s true that Ukraine has a variety of cultural identities. It’s a multicultural country. But to say that the country is divided into “east vs west”, into “Russian speakers vs Ukrainian speakers” is to draw a picture so oversimplified to be profane. My father-in-law, whose primary language is Russian, has a friend whose primary language is Ukrainian. They often play cards together, eat stewed fish, smoke cigarettes and drink vodka. My father-in-law will address him in Russian and the friend will answer in Ukrainian. They will pay cards like this for hours, each speaking his language of preference. But they understand each other perfectly well and could switch to the other language on a dime if the whim came over.

I spent parts of several summers in Odessa, one of my favorite places in the world—I love the city so much that I would like to retire there. Odessa’s primary language is also Russian–in fact, Odessa has a special place in Russian consciousness, the topic of many folk songs, a place of romance, lore and mythology, not to mention the site of Eisenstein’s famous scene from Battleship Potemkin. On any given night, in any given cafe or bar, you are liable to meet people vacationing from Lviv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Kiev or any other part of Ukraine. The vast majority speak both languages. I have witnessed it countless times: a woman will order food from a waiter in Ukrainian and hear the waiter give an explanation in Russian. No one will be offended or confused. It’s as normal as seeing taxis in New York.

The idea that people categorically want to join Russia, or to be invaded or annexed by Russia simply because they speak Russian is absolutely absurd. How they identify ethnically is another matter, but even that one is complex. What’s bothering me is that the Western media seems to be creating a Hollywood style narrative out of the situation: here are the “sides” that are “fighting” one another. Ukraine is a beautifully complex and nuanced culture. As in any place, they identify most strongly with the region they come from, not with what foreign forces might have gained influence over the place.

Currently, there are anti-Putin demonstrations taking place in “Russian speaking” Doneck. That news is unavailable in English. There are anti-Putin protests in Kherson. American media are also failing to report this. Most Russians themselves, according to this survey, are strongly opposed to Putin’s invasion. Time magazine’s Simon Shuster references similar numbers in this article, 4 Reasons Putin is Already Losing in Ukraine. The neat little divisions and “sides” people are considering fall apart under even the lightest scrutiny when you investigate the situation. Even an intern could do it.

Now, to be fair, there have been outstanding articles, especially in the New York Times. I recommend anyone interested in the situation read the following:

The Myth of a Divided Ukraine

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda

Fact Checking the Ukrainian Revolution

You should also follow The Euromaidan Journalist Collective on Facebook. They have many updates in English.

I’ll leave you with this photo from Donetsk. It represents, apparently,  the world’s largest Ukrainian flag. The people holding it do not identify with their language. They identify with their culture, their history and their future, one they want to be able to determine for themselves.


Photo credit: The Euromaidan Journalist Collective