Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

Last night our school had a quiz which happened as normal, although there were only about 12 students there. The pub was near the main square where people have been gathering here. At 5pm, when I went past, there were knots of people, and a couple of Russian flags, but not many. An article on the BBC talks about a relaxed atmosphere and a kind of Saturday stroll in Sevastopol, and this is how it felt to me for all of the five minutes I was outside walking from the bus stop to the pub.
After the quiz, I went to a friend’s house to play a game and try to forget about the situation for a few hours for the first time in a couple of days. This worked until he got a message saying “We’re at war.” I deliberately didn’t look at the media until this morning, and when I did I discovered that about twenty minutes after I last checked it yesterday, the whole situation had changed again, or at least crystallised. Obama’s veiled threats to Putin on Friday have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Looking out of my window this morning, everything is normal. It’s 8am on Sunday and the streets are just beginning to wake up. I’m not going to put myself into dangerous situations, and even if there is an invasion, they aren’t going to start randomly picking off civilians in the streets. It will be focussed on key strategic points, which I’m not anywhere near. I sincerely hope that Putin and the Ukrainian government are sensible enough to stop before it gets to the stage of violence.
Part of the frustration is the comparison between the fighting at Maidan two weeks ago, which was seen as in some way acceptable because it was fighting for the ‘right’ reasons, and the pro-Russian protests, considerably less violent in most cases, which are apparently seen negatively by the media.
The rise in tension and associated violence (for example in Kharkiv yesterday) seems to be happening because of the lack of reasoned dialogue. Instead it’s a case of hot-headed people standing off against each other, with none of them really wiling to talk and to come to a compromise over the situation. The Crimean parliament is led by a man who nobody has elected, and who has taken control of most areas of the government without any real authority, including taking it upon himself to ask Putin for support and protection. This worries me, because they are playing with the lives of thousands of people. However, the Ukrainian government is in exactly the same position: nobody has elected them either. The help they are asking for may be mostly financial, but they are still following the same path of making large-scale decisions which potentially alienate sections of the population and could have important repurcussions for the future of Ukraine. Agreements for closer ties with the EU fall into this category, and I don’t think anything like that should be signed by an interim government, because there will always be an argument that people did not elect them, and therefore they do not have the right to speak for the country.
The BBC have interviewed four people from Crimea and this seems to be a fairly representative spread of opinions to me. It also shows the kind of information people are drawing on to form their opinions.
I would like to see representatives from all of the affected groups gathered together and discussing exactly what it is they want, listening to each other, coming to a compromise and working out how best to achieve the stability and security Ukraine and Crimea need so much right now. For me, this discussion should include the current Ukrainian president and prime minister, and representatives of each of the main political parties from Kiev, the Crimean leader, representatives of the pro-Russians, Tartars and any other large groups from Crimea, Putin, and an EU representative. The last two should be there as outsiders to be consulted with as they are likely to be the closest economic partners in any Ukrainian/Crimean future, but Ukraine/Crimea should not need their approval for any decisions. I don’t believe that Obama has any place in the discussion unless America are willing to offer financial help. The restrictions associated with any economic aid, wherever it comes from, should be realistic and should not place additional burdens on the country, and I can’t help feeling that they should be tied to economic and not political requirements. I also don’t see what use visits by random international politicians, like William Hague, can actually do on the ground, apart from distracting politicians here from doing the work they need to.
Everything I’ve said in this post are my personal opinions. They are an idealistic view of what politics should be designed to achieve, and of a sensible, patient group of people who are willing to cooperate to achieve the best for this country. Unfortunately, this is not what I can see at the moment, with those concerned sitting in their isolated castles posturing at each other, and all trying to be the strongest man in the situation, with a general air of distrust and accusations and rumour flying all over the place.
I have no idea what will happen next. I’ve been asked whether I’m going to leave Crimea, as advised by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At the moment the answer is no, because I don’t think it would help. In my daily life, I feel completely safe. I actually see fewer soldiers, sailors and military units on a day-to-day basis than I did before the whole situation began. I’m constantly thinking about whether my decision to stay is the right one, but leaving would cause problems for the school I work for, would leave me with nothing to do for an indeterminate period of time, and would leave behind people I care about and worry about, people who don’t have the same luxury of being able to drop everything and leave. No matter what I’m doing, the situation is always at the back of my mind, even when I try to forget about it. I just hope it can be resolved soon, and without any more violence.

The entrance to Balaklava Bay (photo by Sandy Millin)

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Comments on: "Sevastopol, 2nd March 2014" (12)

  1. Thank you for the update on the situation – it is certainly very fluid.

    We are all thinking of you and your friends and colleagues and hope that you are all able to keep your school and businesses going during this volatile time.

    Let’s hope the politicians manage to talk more sensibly and create a peaceful solution as quickly as possible.

  2. Charles du Parc said:

    From the perspective of someone on the outside, who is trying to
    get a feeling of what the situation is, your analysis feels very accurate.

    I can’t help but feel the EU and the US supported the (ultimately violent)
    overthrow of a directly elected president;basically, because he was lining his own pockets at the expense of the state and a large number of people were demonstrating against him.
    This was despite the fact a huge proportion of the population , while maybe not happy with their government, could not see the ragbag of opposition parties offering a better prospect.
    If you overthrow democratically elected leaders in the name of democracy, you need to be very sure of your justification.

    I would just make two observations. I think the situation has deteriorated to a stage where a ’round table’ would be difficult to achieve. I think what is needed is leadership from both sides- two figures who can persuade the respective sides that they will represent their interests effectively and , more importantly, exercise some control over the more extreme elements on either side. A solution that keeps Ukraine together needs, at least in the short/medium term, to avoid the feeling that it is moving exclusively towards closer ties with either the EU or with Russia. Whether Russia or the EU will allow Ukraine the economic help it needs, without demanding their pound of flesh remains to be seen.

    Keep safe and trust your judgement.

  3. Tank you very much for understanding the situation in the Crimea and around it, and the feeling of respect you have to the population.

  4. The point is to change the situation when unelected people decide. There must be free elections, without weapons on either side, and the people in Crimea and the whole Ukraine must feel free to make their decisions. And that’s exactly what Putin’s invasion prevents, what any violence prevents. If there is, in any country, a national minority that feels oppressed or not equal with other citizens (which is probably the case of the new language restriction act adopted in Ukraine), no-one can blame that minority for wishing to join another state where their national status would be safe. However, land is involved too, not only people. And Russians are breaking treaties in that respect. As a Czech, this Russian ‘help’ to Crimea reminds me strongly of our situation in 1968, though that invasion was for political reasons, not nationalistic.

  5. HI Sandy, thanks for your sensible, informed comments. All interests have to be considered. The Russians in Crimea need to be acknowledged as having rights just as the non Russian parts of the Ukraine. Like you I wish the politicians would stop posturing and being macho about it all. Get around a table and talk about Everyone’s interests and freedoms. I do hope that as Hague is going, he will recommend those actions. Good luck and stay safe. xxx

  6. Len Holder said:

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for putting us in the picture. When we had riots In Liverpool, no-one from outside the country could understand that most of life goes on as normal. They only saw the news flashes which always picked out the sensational bits. That will always happen. We think you are very rational in your thoughts and aware of the hazards, but it must be worrying for you and we hope things soon settle down in a sensible compromise.

    Keep in touch. Love Len and and Nick XXX

  7. Hello, I’d like to talk to about taking part in a BBC programme today. Please DM me your contacts. natia.abramia@bbc.co.uk

  8. Thanks for sharing your personal views and experience about what´s really happening over there cause this is a picture of what real life is like in Sevastopol.
    I, like the rest of sensible people in this world, see and understand exactly what you mean and hope, as you do, for the best.

    Take care!!

  9. Elizabeth Landau said:

    Hi, I’m a reporter at CNN and wondered if we could talk. Please email me at elizabeth.landau@cnn.com. Thanks!

  10. mafezet70@yahoo.com.mx said:

    Hi Sandy,

    Not much to add to your very detailed report. Just a a word of encouragement and support to you. Only the heart knows what is best and it is people like you and your colleagues who stick together for the good and the bad that have an impact in the world.
    Let’s hope as you say that politicians will come to their senses and no more civilians get hurt.
    My prayers and thoughts go your way and may everything be favourable for love and peace to prevail and for the safety and happiness of human beings everywhere in the world!
    (this is the kind of thing Delta does not prepare us for!!!!!) Stay strong :)

    Marisol

  11. Guillermina Sánchez said:

    I hope everything will be right very soon!

  12. […] blogged again on 2nd March, describing the situation as I saw it and what I thought should happen next. I had decided to stay […]

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