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WHAT? (posted June 30, 2012)

Yaroslaw’s Revenge is the sequel to my first novel, Yaroslaw’s Treasure. In that first novel, I take the young Ukrainian-Canadian protagonist Yaroslaw (Yarko) and with him the reader on a whirlwind tour of history, and I dip both in the reality of modern post-Soviet politics.That story ends with a clear sign that the Empire has not loosed its grip, and is more than capable of striking back. As a rule, in Yaroslaw’s Treasure Yarko is reacting to events not quite within his control. In Yaroslaw’s Revenge, he takes control.

Yarko’s Ukraine is a post-genocidal, post-Soviet society that still finds itself in the grip of its old colonial masters. The players had deftly changed their costumes but not the screenplay. And the peaceful Orange Revolution changed only the country’s President. It thus set a figurehead to do battle with a civil service that was loyal to its old masters. It set one man to face the cunning of the Kremlin. The revolutionaries that had taken to the streets had dispersed back to the mundane routine of their lives, still trapped by their belief in the “good czar” as an effective medium for righting wrongs.

Only those in clandestine organizations could form any sort of effective resistance to a state apparatus that played with the rules, not by the rules. And so in Yaroslaw’s Revenge, Yarko chooses to become an active member of the “organization”. In today’s parlance, Yarko becomes a terrorist; but as the saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Throughout history the greatest terrorists have always been states. And so it was states that invented the perverse idea of a balance of terror in the nuclear age as a guarantee of something they liked to call peace.

In Yaroslaw’s Revenge, it is Yarko’s discovery of a disturbance in this balance of terror that drives the story from a local crime to a crisis of global import. The threat is summarized in the words of an analyst in Britain’s MI6, ““Economic and political modeling predicts absolutely ridiculous scenarios… One of our economist friends called it the political equivalent of dividing by zero.”

The Cold War thriller is back!


HOW? (posted June 16, 2012)

Yaroslaw’s Treasure ends with the death of Gen. Yuriy Kravchenko. This murder (termed a suicide for public consumption) is interpreted as a clear message to the newly formed “Orange” government as to who is still in power. In the novel I postulate that this “who” is the Russian/Soviet/Criminal hybrid that had maintained power during the Kuchma years. The staging of the murder scene was such that no professional could mistake it for anything but an execution.

In the photo published by Bez Cenzury magazine the pistol is lying under the chair with its barrel pointing upward resting on the chair leg crossbar. There is blood on the slide of the gun. There is no blood on the victim’s right hand despite two shots having been fired. In Yaroslaw’s Treasure these facts are examined in greater detail, but it is clearly a scene that cannot be a suicide. In Yaroslaw’s Treasure this is understood to be a sufficient signal to close down the archeological operation in the story.

In the political reality of Ukraine, this was one of many signs that the democratic process even when accompanied by a peaceful “revolution” could not change the state of matters. If nothing else, the “derzhaparat”, the state apparatus, (which is so politely called the civil service in Canada) would not heed instructions from elected officials. A pointed example of this happened just 3-4 months after the Kravchenko execution. President Yushchenko ordered the disbanding of the DAI, Ukraine’s traffic cops. This was the most corrupt arm of the “civil service” and one with which the public had immediate contact. Needless to say the DAI remained in place. The President didn’t.

The second factor making it impossible to enact effective change is the presence of a large Russian-speaking fraction of the populace. There is debate whether this segment of the population feels loyalty to Russia, or loyalty to the defunct USSR, or that they are simply sovietized to the point that they are incapable of understanding the concepts neither of individual liberty nor of a Ukrainian Ukraine. The size of this segment is open to debate. Election results would place it at no less that 44% of the population. More frightening conclusions may be drawn from statistics as to language use at home. In 2007 only 16.6 out of 46.5 million residents of Ukraine spoke Ukrainian at home. A brief visit to Ukraine will demonstrate that even fewer speak Ukrainian in the street or in the workplace. Over 8 million speak a patois of Ukrainian and Russian at home. The remaining 21.5 million speak Russian. My own experience during visits to Ukraine confirmed that the bulk of the “derzhaparat” civil service comes from this last linguistic segment. Is there any wonder why politicians interested in maintaining the status quo in Ukraine always cater to this russophone segment?

It may be this second factor that is the more important of the two. In Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili was able to disband their traffic cops; in fact he disbanded the whole police force. But Georgians, even though most know the Russian language, feel no loyalty to Russia. By contrast in Ukraine the post-genocidal east feels little loyalty to a Ukrainian Ukraine. They welcome, or at least feel no reason to oppose, the russification of the informational space in Ukraine. With russification comes the preservation of authoritarianism.

In Yaroslaw’s Revenge, the protagonist joins the organization with a small “o”. I modelled the concept of the small “o” organization on the pre-war OUN. This Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was a youthful transformation of the UVO, the Ukrainian Military Organization that had been composed of veterans of the liberation war of 1918-1920. The OUN resisted by force, the encroachment of foreign nations on the rights and liberties of the native Ukrainian populace. It may be of some interest that there was only one instance of punishment enacted on the perpetrators of the Holodomor-genocide. This was the “shot in the defense of millions” by Mykola_Lemyk on Oct. 22, 1933 into the forehead of the Soviet diplomat and NKVD agent Alexei Mailov. A little short of a Nuremburg, but where justice sleeps Revenge must rule.


WHY? (posted June 14, 2012)

As a child my favorite response to everything was – Why? To be scrupulously accurate since the language in my Toronto home was Ukrainian, the response was “but why?” (a chomu?). As I matured this response became an attitude. It assured me of continuous conflict with teachers and figures of authority of all types. I tested everything that they said by first postulating the opposite. It is shocking how much common knowledge cannot pass this test! This was the reason why my marks in the humanities never reached the levels discovered in my SAT scores. It was why I chose Engineering over several disciplines in the humanities where marks would be subject to the whim of a (usually left-leaning) professor.

Anyways, I must now allow others to ask me the same question – Why? Why did Myroslav Petriw (known as Myron to his English-speaking friends and Mirko to the Ukrainian ones) write Yaroslaw’s Treasure, and why did he follow it with Yaroslaw’s Revenge. Why?

Yaroslaw’s Treasure began as a book written by me in Ukrainian, it began as Skarb Yaroslava. It was written while travelling for Ford all over Canada. It was written on cold nights in cheap motels in The Pas, Manitoba or Fort St. John, BC. It was written in Ukrainian because that was much harder for me. It was written initially for an audience of one, for my eldest, Yaroslaw. It was written in Ukrainian so that he dared not lose the language that he learned first. In time the story found a wider audience and I published it, having never been to Ukraine, in Ukraine.

Now I was being pressured by friends and acquaintances to publish the story in English. I stubbornly refused, keeping in mind that initial audience of one. Not only that, but history had changed. The Orange Revolution had changed the static government of President Leonid Kuchma who had conveniently stayed in power for ten years allowing for my very slow writing process of a politically charged story that had to end in his downfall. In fact Skarb Yaroslava with its bright Orange cover, saw the light of day in Ternopil some14 months before the Orange Revolution. I take no credit. My publisher designed the cover.

There had been a purpose to that book. As a student of Ukrainian history I had purposefully incorporated history into the storyline. The book was a way to present that history and demonstrate its relevance today, while entertaining the reader at the same time. That story still had a purpose. I relented and began writing the English book Yaroslaw’s Treasure by resetting the timeline of my story to place the core of its action against the background of that Orange Revolution. I was later stunned to discover that the breach of Kyiv’s fortifications in 1240 by Batu Khan’s Horde, the event that locks the treasure away for the book’s protagonist to find, occurred on the very same spot as the epicenter of the Orange Revolution, the Maidan Nezalezhnosty square. The space-time continuum had folded to allow prologue and epilogue to intersect!

I expect that most English readers will not have been steeped in tedious lessons of ancient Ukrainian history. They may be surprised to learn that Ukraine is the continuation of the ancient state of Rus’, or more accurately that a Rusyn or Rusych of that land, usually Latinized as Ruthenian, is today’s Ukrainian. What is more important is to realize that Winston Churchill’s riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, the Russia of today, is Muscovy. Back in 1876, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli suffered no such confusion - in a letter toQueen Victoria, he proposed "to clear Central Asia of Muscovites and drive them into the Caspian". A careful look at Muscovy as a state shows it to be, despite a series of regime changes a geographical and political continuation of the empire that Batu Khan had created. Ethnically, the population around Moscow was Finnish and a Slavic language of sorts, based on the written Church Slavonic (Bulgarian), was imposed on them rather recently by the czars.

Today’s Ukrainian (Rus’) nation is defined, or rather scarred by two historic events: the conquest by Batu Khan and his Mongol-Tartar Golden Horde in 1240; and the Holodomor-genocide orchestrated by Stalin in 1932-33. Both events form the foundation of the story in Yaroslaw's Treasure.