Ghost of Kyiv UNCOVERED

Ukraine flag photo created by natanaelginting –

My father grasped a plastic bag in his dry, reddened, calloused hands, a mirror of the good earth that he loved to work on. During our frequent train trips to the East Village, a part of Greenwich Village in New York City, my dad’s blank face pointed one way: forward.

“Come on!” he commanded in his broken English when we arrived at the station, finally breaking the silence after the nearly two-hour ride. He grabbed his other half-dozen or so bags and boxes in the train’s overhead compartment and slid some over one arm and the rest over his other arm.

He ricocheted across Grand Central Station. My short, young legs fell farther and farther behind. He streamed outside, squeezing through the crowd on Lexington Avenue and hailed a cab. By the time I caught up, I could see the cab driver’s face as he veered towards the sidewalk. The driver parked, and we got in.

The cab snaked through the city streets to a retail clothes store on Second Avenue. Inside, the shiny skinned, Russian-Jewish shop owner, with his one lazy eye, mildly greeted us. My father hoisted his items on the counter for him to inspect every inch of the clothes, shoes, socks, purses and scarves, so many scarves, that my dad and mom had collected for my dad’s mom and the rest of his family in Lviv, Ukraine.

My dad, who was fluent in French and a number of Slavic languages, spoke to the man in Russian. I didn’t comprehend many of the words, but I detected a stiffness in my dad’s tone. At last the store owner approved my family’s goods to be shipped to Ukraine (and I believe he always did), and began packing everything into a large parcel. My father cracked the first smile of the day, retrieved his faded cowhide wallet from his pocket and enthusiastically purchased about a half dozen extra scarves to add to the package. In addition, he also handed him an envelope addressed to my relatives to also enclose. After that, the store owner copied the mailing address from a tattered, folded up piece of paper that my dad kept in his wallet and finished preparing the package for shipment to Ukraine. At the end of the exchange, my dad paid for the scarves, postal fees and services.

Once the door closed behind us, back outside my dad always said the same two phrases and nothing else, “Hope it goes through. Damn communists.”

He bought me a hot sweet potato from a street vendor down the block and refrained from spending any money on a treat for himself. His steps were lighter and easier for me to follow as we walked partially back to Grand Central Station before hailing another cab.

My dad passed away in December of 2000. Since the attack on Ukraine by the Russians last Thursday, I find myself remembering so many things about the man whose legacy of action outweighed any of his promises, because, in fact, I don’t ever remember him promising anything. He lived his motto: promise low, deliver high.

I am relieved that my dad is not alive to watch the atrocities and devastation in his beloved homeland. I don’t think the Ghost of Kyiv, an anonymous fighter pilot who is said to shoot down Russian planes, is just an urban legend. I think it is my reincarnated dad doing all he ever did, being his real self and fighting for freedom, family, country and tradition.

I was a first-generation American who spent most of my childhood playing and riding my bicycle in my affluent, white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant neighborhood in Connecticut. Days were rare when my dad didn’t stand outside on the porch and echo, “Nastuna!”

The name, as far as I can figure out, was a child-like rendition of my actual name, Anastasia.

I furiously pedaled home and begged him to shush. He yelled it louder and started throwing out a few other choice Ukrainian expletives that intercepted his usual lecture about loyalty, heritage and truth and made sure everyone in earshot could hear his Ukrainian words mixed in with English ones. I didn’t dare cup my hands over my ears. Apart from a few isolated minor strikes on my rear, my father did not employ corporeal punishment, at least not on me, the only daughter in the family. In spite of that fact, I still held an innate fear of my father.

My dad exasperated the bullying situation, and the neighborhood kids snickered and laughed and instead of calling me “Anastasia,” they mocked my father and called me “Petunia.”

I never lived down the foreignness of my dad even after the second grade teacher took it upon herself to change my name to “Stacy.” (That’s another story for another blog.)

I never was able to purchase a pack of petunias without my heart beating inside my eardrums until I was around forty years old.

My dad, on the other hand, rose above the element of exclusion that followed us as well as many other first-born Americans of foreign parents.

“Ehhh. I’ll outlive them all,” my dad insisted.

And in the end he did. He lived to be 86.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s and even into the 1990s and after, oddly, Americans weren’t familiar with Ukraine. My mother, who was born in Belarus but adopted my dad’s family heritage, advised me just to tell my first grade class that my family was from Germany. Everyone, of course, knew about Germany. I even wrote a paper about my family’s “native” country of Germany. The idea of “coming from Germany” wasn’t totally inaccurate because my parents were “displaced people,” refugees,  without a country for about seven years, after they lost their homes to the Nazis before they immigrated to America. My mom and dad met and married and birthed my two older brothers in Germany.

After working a number of jobs while learning the language, he met Peter Martini, a first-generation American from Italian roots, who owned a septic cleaning business. He gifted my dad with the best thing you could ever give someone: a future. He taught him everything there was about septic systems.  My father, in fact, asked Mr. Martini to be my Godfather, and Mr. Martini obliged. Because of his generosity, my dad landed a job at the town’s sewerage treatment plant and worked there until he retired.

My dad was the most predictable man on earth and never missed pulling down our driveway after work at 4:08 p.m. When he stepped inside our house, it was one of the few times he wasn’t his stoic self, because he had a smile as wide as his face.

His lips were sealed with gratitude. In my dad’s book, if you worked hard and did the right thing, you were a good person. Simple as that.

Years later, I learned from one of my dad’s former co-workers that my dad’s boss sent my dad to investigate any underground sewer gas leaks or other toxic sewer systems emergencies. Long before organizations like OSHA appeared with safety measure implementations, my Ukrainian-American dad’s “alien” status ranked him as the low man on the totem pole, and, thereby, he was the scapegoat of the department and was the one to have his life jeopardized by fixing hazardous sites.

A WWII war refugee, my dad never went beyond grade school, but to this day, he is the smartest man I’ve ever known and I am quite certain, he knew he risked his life during those toxic emergencies. Leave it to “pops,” he did it fearlessly, honorably and humbly because he was also the most loyal man I’ve ever known. He did it for his family and those he loved.

He was a man of pride. I think one of his proudest moments was when he learned the man who took over his job after he retired held a degree in engineering.

Over the years, my Ukrainian father never stopped correcting people who insisted he was from Russia. He would grow frustrated, saying, “One day, they will know. The world will know about Ukraine and its people.”

“Today,” I wish I could tell my father that the world knows. THEY KNOW! In the eye of evil and calculated, intentional injustice and genocide of the Ukrainian people, the nation without divide of class or jurisdiction – former beauty queen alongside 80-year-olds – has entered the ring to fight against the evil dictator, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his consort of dark angels.

As horrified as I am witnessing the destructive path of one man, I am honored by my dad’s Ukrainian roots.

I am lifted up by the humanitarian efforts of people across the globe and the people in my own tribe, including Kathy, an old-time friend whom I’d lost touch with over these last few years, asked me over the phone: “What can I do?”

I intended to write about how the developing news of this loss since last Thursday magnifies other losses, and, yes, we do have family still in Ukraine. Instead, I ended up writing about my dad, because so many times when I am lower than low, he is my ghost pilot that lifts me up and gives me faith like no other: “Get up and do what you’re suppose to do. I don’t care you hurt.”

So, thanks to the legacy of this mighty oak of a man, I am proud to report that I am organizing a Stand with Ukraine rally on March 5th….. and invite my blogging community to join me IN PERSON if you can — and certainly in spirit!

22 thoughts on “Ghost of Kyiv UNCOVERED

  1. Let’s not forget that all the major Western Central Banks, The Fed, BofE and ECB have crippling debt that they can’t sell on.

    Inflation is one way to tax the population as a quantative squeeze begins while War allows the very same Bankers to keep printing more money.

    For the first time Europe arms itself. Is it coincidence that Von der Lyon has a defence background, I wondered. I think not.

    For a good read on the conditions giving rise to this I have turned to Telos and The NLR both from 1986 and 1987 where the idea of Market Socialism was thrashed out giving rise to the conditions for greater economic harmonisation. Or so was thought.

    And for good reporting I read the Financial Times and the Week End Edition of the 19th February signals the sheer enormity of the debt burdens.

    Like Stacy I was told that I am German when in fact I am Irish. My family had a very clear lineage to the IRA. Being German made sense.

    Now, I am reminded of the Cranberries song Zombie and the words ‘in your head’ are on repeat play as the narrative of jingoism takes shape.

    You see for me the term IRA , now, means Ideological Reference Architecture a term coined by a fellow blogger Snow Cone Diaries.

    We, meaning most of us, simply don’t have a say in much of what is being done in our name.

    It is because of this that I support Stacy’s effort to bring a solidarity with the people’s directly impacted. I do though urge a caution to identify the real drivers behind this situation.

  2. A wonderful tribute to your dad, Stacy. Your story serves as a reminder that this vile atrocity is not a show on tv, it is very real and needs to be dealt with asap. It impacts on everyone right across the globe. Sitting back is not an option.

  3. All of my grandparents were from Kiev. Your post was such a beautiful tapestry of memories. Your father sounds like such an amazing man.
    Thank you for sharing, Stacy. I am so proud of you for organizing the rally. I wish I lived nearby!

  4. why is what I read and hear couched in, or even steeped in, such masculine architecture and archetypes…. von der Lyon stands out as the obvious oddity yet she and Europe gain with the cashe of lethal weapons delivered to her… Europe has now armed herself… von der Lyon is an unelected official and war monger too… I am reminded of the story of Pepe, a fool who ran with the hare and hound to stay alive when his respective masters were waging war… Zelensky, too was a comedian, no?…

    …. what’s not being said and by whom and for what reasons…. why has patriarchy become so fashionable and seemingly natural again…

  5. Stacy I appreciate your dad’s noble gesture and you have inherited as well Congrats
    *A wise explanation.*

    “War is a place where young people, who don’t know each other and don’t hate each other, kill each other,

    by the….

    decision of old people, who know each other and hate each other, but don’t kill each other.”

    – Erich Hartman
    Very apt for the current situation that is on between Russia and Ukraine

  6. this may be useful Stacy…

    set up, just today, by a young Ukrainian who is available here…

    For commentary on the financial picture I alluded to see the Financial Times Weekend Edition 19th February… the FT covers the investment in and out of the those institutions that gain from conflict…

    I hope that you are and yours are well 💜💜💜…. write Stacy, write….

    One of the ‘new’ ‘standard scripts’ is called the Common Procurement Vocabulary and is a huge list of codes for the exchange of practically everything…. when this system breaks, as it has under the pandemic, it paves the way for tyranny….

  7. it is impossible to conceive a society in which the affairs of any one of its members would not concern many other, if not all; still less a society in which a continual contact between its members would not have established an interest of everyone towards all others, which would render it impossible to act without thinking of the effects which our actions may have on others…. Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, Russian Philosopher

    …. this is the opener to a chapter on the difficulties and achievements of social integration by Bojan Radej and Mojca Golobic…

    Bojan is a friend of mine should it help to contact him do so… oops, I have to look up his email so will send it separately…

  8. forgive me the barrage of comments Stacy…

    here’s the email for Bojan. He argues for a fresh take on how we weigh up a situation suggesting a mesoscopic evaluation science is attainable…

    I, agree. The Marshall Plan and the de-Sovietization of the, then, buffer countries has been reduced to a micro-macro perspective nolonger suited to the needs of its people….

    you can contact him here if you want to

    Also Victor Zaslavsky writes about the price of Sovietization in Telos Spring 87 pg 155…which gives context to both Zelensky and Putin, today…

    • Alec, no need to apologize. You always give me so much food for thought. In fact, I will do a deeper dive on this after the weekend. Can’t believe our “German” connection! How ironic. Also, one of my dear friends, Kathy, who has been helping me with so many things for the rally, calls herself part of “the fighting Irish” team. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s a firecracker and lifts me up always. Actually, she was one of the few who showed up last-minute when my son was at an all-time low, but that’s another story. Thanks, Alec, for your support and encouragement!

      • as I type I wait to hear if my son is arrested and detained; an unpaid fuel debt has been sold on to a debt collection agency who are now in pursuit of cash or goods, with the police in tow. It’s all Court sanctioned of course but really…. authoritarianism is a peculiar thing, no…

  9. Nastunia, we were childhood friends and sometimes frenemies. Our fathers worked together in the bowels of our elite town and I remember our mothers whirling around on a raised wooden dance floor at one of many Ukrainian gatherings. I remember the long and silly phone calls between us (when we were 5? 7?); I remember the notorious rhymes for our foreign names. I remember wanting to hide who I was. Thank you for uncovering these memories and thank you for your continued strength in the face of oppressors. Thank you for reminding me that obstacles can only make us stronger.

    • Oh, Marika, wow! What a gift to hear from you at such a turbulent, tragic time in our history. You’ve also brought back memories for me …. I think of you often. Funny, when I write my blog posts I feel like I am writing notes to myself and then I get incredible feedback from all over. It reminds me of how small the world is and how deep our connections run. I can’t thank you enough for reaching out. Are you in town? I’d love to get together. 🤍

  10. Thank you for sharing this, Stacy! Although, now I feel bad calling you Stacy, instead of Anastasia. These are the types of stories the world needs to hear ❤

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