Tag Archives: Ukraine


Cecilia Woloch reports on the Ukraine from Poland

March 23, 2022

“Cecilia Woloch reports on the Ukraine from Poland”
AND a postscript on the impact of the Invasion of Ukraine on the James Bond Franchise

I’ve been utterly swamped at school the past ten days, but wanted this evening to pass on word about Agni magazines’s publication of reports on the conditions in Ukraine and on the experiences of refugees in neighboring countries.

Agni was founded a half-century ago by a group of writers at Antioch College, including a Ukrainian-American named Askold Melnyczuk. Before you read anything else, though, please attend closely to his statement, which can be found here:

In addition, I would call particular attention to the “dispatch” from Cecilia Woloch, who is currently a Fulbright Scholar based in Poland. Though primarily active in Los Angeles, Cecilia has also spent several decades roaming both the United States and Europe as a poet intent on bringing personal history into dialogue with the ominous aftermath of previous historical devastations. It does not surprise me at all that she is the one poet I personally know at this particular moment who has voluntarily inserted herself into accelerating alignment with the precipice that human foolishness has currently lured us toward. Such proximity is not what I would dare to undertake right now, and I hope that Cecilia manages to return to us safely so that she can bear witness about these events to those of us in Los Angeles who wish for the war to halt and for Putin to acknowledge that he has caused incalculable suffering for which which there is no remediation possible in his lifetime. That the American government and its European allies are complicit in the reprehensible conduct of the war by Russia should not be overlooked. Anyone who thinks that the CIA and the Pentagon are not absolutely tickled at a chance to see how the Russian war machine can perform is totally naive. “Generals and Majors”: It’s time to cue up the classic XTC song.

You can find Cecilia’s report at the following link:


Here is a list of the other writers and poets who have contributed to these “dispatches” from the regions most affected by Putin’s invasion:
Olga Bragina
Olha Poliukhovych
Liliya Malyarchuk
Marina Stepanska
Sándor Jászberényi
Ostap Slyvynsky
Halyna Kruk, translated by Lola Caracas
Taras Tsymbal
Yuliya Musakovska
Tara Skurtu
Anton Shapkovsky
Anastasia Levkova
Oleksiy Panych
Kseniya Kvitka
Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Virlana Tkacz
Tamara Hunderova, translated by Virlana Tkacz
Volodymyr Dibrova


As a kind of gallows humor post-script, I append the following:

“The Silver Lining in the War in the Ukraine”

I suppose there are situations in which no one benefits, but the horror in the Ukraine is not one of them. One would think by now that the James Bond film franchise would have reached its limits of enduring popularity, but Bond appears to be on a roll that will exceed even the longevity of The Rolling Stones.

Come to think of it, that might not be potential future script joke. Imagine this: whoever the next Bond is finds himself pursuing a villain who has purchased choice seats to enjoy the 2,765th live performance of “Sympathy for the Devil,” and Bond finds himself working the way through the crowd, which includes glimpses of all the living actors who have played Bond.

In any case, both the novels of John LeCarre and the James Bond franchise will benefit from Vladimir Putin’s nefarious endeavors in the Ukraine. In the case of the Bond franchise, those who sit down to enjoy the spectacle should first watch a six-hour documentary film that annotates the true production costs of the next Bond installment.


The Great Regurgitation: MAD and the 21st Century’s “Cuban Missile Crisis”

History is regurgitating the Cuban missile crisis, except this time Russia is playing the role of the United States, and the nation of Ukraine has found itself cast as “Cuba.” Just as the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s believed that communist satellite states were endangering the heartland of capitalism, Russia has felt the encroachment of European political power ever since it lost the buffer zone of the subjugated nations of Eastern Europe thirty years ago. In declaring war on the legitimately elected government of Ukraine, Russia probably hopes to drive a wedge into Europe in the same way that its backing of Syria’s dictatorship has given it leverage in the Middle East.

The driving force in all of Russia’s paranoia is the same one that has been at work in all global confrontations since World War II: MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). Putin obviously believes that the “mutual” part of nuclear warfare is no longer a matter of a zero sum game. That he is already willing to hint at the nuclear option he has at his disposal indicates how desperate he is to reestablish Russia as a belligerent superpower on par with any other country’s imperial dominance.

My students at CSULB have no memories whatsoever of the Hungarian Revolution or the “socialist spring” of Czechoslovakia in 1968 or of the attempt in China of students to bring democracy to that nation, but I have memories of these repressions, and I do not expect Putin to show any mercy whatsoever. He is a war criminal, but can not the same be said of George W, Bush and his facilitators (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.), not to mention the newspapers who collaborated with Bush’s disinformation campaign and thereby reinforced the votes needed in Congress to launch an invasion of Iraq? Who are we to accuse Putin of war crimes after the horror we unleashed in Iraq? I know the readers of this blog opposed that war, even as they oppose the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I confess that it feels hopeless.

I turn, therefore, to my only enduring solace all these years: poetry.

In this instance, the poetry of William Pillin, who was born in the Ukraine in 1910 and who died in Los Angeles in 1985. His birthplace had a different name back then, but the city is now known as Zaporozhe. (You can find the entry for the city in Wikipedia, which will give you an idea of just how ferociously this part of the world was fought over during World War II. The entry is worth reading to give one a sense of historical perspective to the current war.) Now you might think I am about to honor Pillin as a poet from the Ukraine that is now being invaded by Russia, but that’s not where I’m headed, in large part because Pillin’s family was Russian; but it was also Jewish, and the persecution of Jewish people by Russia grew so intense that Pillin’s family uprooted itself in 1917, and eventually ended up in the United States.

Pillin learned English and began to write poems that were published in many magazines, including Poetry. His books of poems were published by some of the leading independent poetry publishers in the nation, including Swallow Books (which also published Thomas McGrath) and kayak books, the legendary press operated by George Hitchcock in Santa Cruz, California. Papa Bach Bookstore published TO THE END OF TIME: New and Selected Poems in 1984. On page 65, there is a poem entitled “The Survivors.” It ends with an affirmation of a remnant of resistance.

Late at night they sit drinking coffee.
The city is asleep. The streets are empty.
They laugh. They whisper. The drummer
multiples intricate sums in the air.
The nimble guitarist
gleans a harvest of blue events
from his golden meadow of metal.

Such a gathering is impossible to imagine in the Ukraine right now, but the impingements that forestall such gatherings in Los Angeles right now are more linked to the ideologies that launched the invasion of the Ukraine than one might suspect. Neither side wants to give up MAD, and we who are old can only mourn the futility of our protests.



Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War

Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War