Third anniversary vigil for the Heavenly Hundred

Vigil for the Heaven's HundredThree years ago, the Maidan protests that became known as the Revolution of Dignity reached their conclusion in Ukraine. On February 20, 2014, snipers from Viktor Yanukovych’s security services (trained by Russian special forces) shot many Ukrainians who were exercising their rights of free assembly and free speech. By the time Yanukovych fled Kyiv, 130 people, mostly civilian protesters, had been killed. They became known as the Heavenly Hundred.

There have been several protests and memorials in Ottawa about these events. Yesterday, we gathered on Parliament Hill for a vigil to commemorate the third anniversary of the Heavenly Hundred and also the thousands of people who have been killed since in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Crimea and Luhansk and Donetsk. Sadly, the Heavenly Hundred have been joined by over 10,000 killed and around 1.8 million made homeless in Putin’s war. The organizer spoke in measured but angry terms about Yanukovych’s crimes and Russia’s aggression. Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada spoke about people he knew who died on Maidan. He held the picture of a man who when he died had no identification; they called a friend on his phone and that’s how they found out who he was. We all held pictures of some of the men and women who were killed on Maidan. A priest delivered a prayer of remembrance. The mood was one of remorse, but also determination that they shall not have died in vain. Maidan may have started as a student protest in favour of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, but it evolved into much, much more. When it became the Revolution of Dignity and won, millions of Ukrainians had become activists for a normal life and a good life in their homeland.

Digging out

ShovellingThe Ottawa Valley was hit with a couple of big snowstorms last week, and an above freezing Sunday provided the opportunity to begin digging out. The whole family was at Mont Cascades to celebrate my brother Robin’s birthday — belatedly, because a blizzard put off our plans last week. I was on call to prepare the traditional feast of pirohi, as usual, but first there was some snow shovelling to do. Handyman Chris and his sister Megan came by, and the three of us tackled the mountain of snow at the front of the house so people could at least get in and out of the door. As you can see, the weight of snow and ice sliding off the roof took off the eavestroughing in places. When it snows again I’ll cry, but until then I’ll take pride in the good work we did. Such is life in Canada.

Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

Scottish Country Dancers TapestryThe Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is a monumental work of over 300 embroidered panels, illustrating the influence that Scots have had on the world. It is touring the world, and this month it is in Ottawa, at the Ottawa Public Library. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is the work of volunteer embroiderers from all over the world, many of them descendents of the the Scottish migrants whose achievements are chronicled in the panels. This panel shows Scottish Country dancing, which thrives in Ottawa and wherever Scots have settled.

Jenny Bruce, Tour DirectorAccompanying the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry around the world as Tour Director is the Scottish artist Jenny Bruce. She gave a talk about the Tapestry, before conducting a tour through the library where the panels were on display. Here she is holding up the Scottish Country dancing panel, to show and talk about it’s intricate construction. Online information about the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry is here, and there is even a downloadable app to use while viewing the exhibition.

Finnegan, my work supervisor

My work supervisorMy parents have been away on vacation, and for the duration my canine companion has been Finnegan, their parti poodle. I thought I would have the week “off-platform,” meaning not teaching in the classroom but working from home. An emergency came up, and I was a last-minute replacement for another instructor. I taught the course from the Ottawa office to the students remotely, using my company’s audio-visual virtual classroom. Finnegan was my supervisor in the classroom. Of course, he visited all my colleagues in the office, wagged his tail at them, and was an instant favourite.

Ready for WinterFinnegan also was a careful supervisor at Robin & Colleen’s country place on the weekend. Robin was lucky to bring in Chris “the wood guy” to work with his chainsaw and splitter, and I spent the day helping and hauling firewood all over the forest. Work and play, we enjoyed a warm, sunny fall day.

Carillon at Rideau Hall

Mobile carillon at Rideau HallThe Governor-General of Canada gives a summer concert series at his official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall. An unusual offering this year was a performance by the Dominion Carillonneur, using a mobile carillon. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur, and normally she plays the bells that are in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. She and her apprentice played a varied program for an intrigued audience on the grounds of Rideau Hall. We got a chance to see and hear a carillon up close. The how-to of this unusual form of music making was fascinating.

See and hear the mobile carillon.

Cuban National Team plays baseball in Ottawa

Cuban National Team versus Ottawa ChampionsTook in a baseball game on the hottest day of the year in Ottawa: the Cuban National Team played the local team from the Can-Am League, the Ottawa Champions. The Cuban National Team was a solid side, but the Ottawa Champions had better hitting against their starting pitcher, and won the game 6 to 3. There were almost 6,000 fans in the 10,000 seat park, and the game had all the fun rituals of baseball: the 7th inning stretch, silly contests between innings, singing “Sweet Caroline.” Added to this there was a good contingent of Cuban fans down the 1st base line, playing music and dancing the whole game long. There will be more international baseball here soon, when the Ottawa Champions play the Shikoku Island All-Stars from Japan.

The Ottawa Stadium is a good one, and was built for a Triple-A team called the Ottawa Lynx. That team faded along with their major league affiliate, the Montreal Expos. A couple of minor league teams succeeded the Lynx, notably the Fat Cats, before the Champions came to town. Ottawa is enjoying a professional sports renaissance, with fun-to-watch teams in baseball (the Champions), in soccer (the Fury), in Canadian football (the RedBlacks) and in hockey (the Senators).

Doors Open Ottawa, 2016

HMCS CarletonDoors Open Ottawa, 2016 edition, had some new buildings to check out. The naval reserve base on Dow’s Lake, HMCS Carleton, has been there since 1943, and they’ve had a shiny new building for less than a year. I should call it a ship, for naval reserve bases with the designation “HMCS” are considered to be “stone frigates.” The kitchen is a “galley,” the floor of the drill hall is the “deck,” walls are “bulkheads” and the toilet is the “head.” These uniforms and the engine order telegraph are from the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. The RCN played a major part in the victory of the Battle of the Atlantic, and several thousand sailors were trained at HMCS Carleton.

Ottawa Paramedic ServiceThe Ottawa Paramedic Service also has a big new facility, used for communications and logistics. I call this picture, “My tax dollars at work.” An ambulance costs $180,000 fully equipped, and it is a major endeavour to keep it provisioned, maintained, staffed, and dispatched. The Ottawa Paramedic Service has a full spectrum of equipment and vehicles, from a bus and command vehicle for major events to saddle bags for bicycle-riding paramedics. Canada Day (July 1) is their biggest day of the year — nobody gets that day off.

Rideau Valley Wildlife SanctuaryAlso first-timers this year for Doors Open was the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a volunteer organization with facilities in North Gower, quite a ways south-west of downtown but still within the City of Ottawa. They’re a rescue centre for injured and orphaned animals. As this is springtime, there were a lot of babies to be fed, weaned, and hopefully released into the wild again. This little racoon was getting some Tender Loving Care from the volunteers, but she didn’t seem to appreciate it!

Ottawans are proud to show what they do for their job or as volunteers, and where they do it. The spirit of a generous community in Ottawa shows well with Doors Open.

Vigil to the Heaven’s Hundred on Parliament Hill

Andriy Parubiy at vigil for the Heaven's Hundred on Parliament HillTwo years ago, snipers opened fire on protestors in Kyiv, Ukraine, killing over one hundred. These victims of a brutal and corrupt state have become known as the Heaven’s Hundred, and the EuroMaidan protest in which they died has become known as the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Two years ago, I took part in a vigil to the the memory of the Heaven’s Hundred around the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Yesterday, I did the same again.

The occasion was the the second anniversary of the Maidan killings, and also the visit to Ottawa of Andriy Parubiy. He was a leader on the barricades on Maidan, and served as deputy speaker of Ukraine’s parliament after Yanukovych fled his post. Parubiy gave a fiery speech at the vigil, and paid special tribute to his friend, Serhiy Nigoyan, who died of multiple gunshot wounds when the police assaulted the barricades on Hrushevskoho Street. Members of Parliament from all three of Canada’s major political parties made brief remarks. Particularly affecting was Borys Wrzesnewskyj talking about his cousin who was on Maidan. When the crackdown by regime forces turned violent, his cousin said: “It is better to die a free man than to live in slavery.”

Ustym Holodnyuk :: Устим ГолоднюкAt the vigil, I carried a black flag and a portrait of Ustym Holodnyuk. Ustym was 19 years old, and came from the Ternopil region of western Ukraine. He felt compelled to come to Maidan early on, in November of 2013, to fight for a better Ukraine. He was wounded, but after he recovered he returned to the barricades for three cold, tense months. In the final assault by regime forces against the Ukrainian people on 20 February 2014, Ustym Holodnyuk was shot by a sniper and died. I honour his memory. Slava Ukraini! Heroim Slava! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!

Skiing along the Ottawa River

Skiing by the Ottawa RiverThe winter skiing and skating season is a bit late, but finally here. The Rideau Canal only opened for skaters this weekend, and as you can see the Ottawa River is not completely frozen over. The heaved ice from the wind and the current makes the Ottawa look like the wild river it really is.

I tailed along after my parents, skiing on the same path we bicycle on in the summertime. I’m wearing my “müts” — that’s the one word of Estonian I know, and it means “toque” (now the Canadians know what I’m talking about). I bought it in Tallinn last year.

The traditional (?) Christmas Eve car washing

Washing the cars on Christmas EveMerry Christmas! I should have been hip-deep in snow on Christmas Eve, and getting out the snow blower. But 24 December 2015 broke the weather records for warmth in Ottawa and its environs. To prove some sort of point, when I got up to the country place I washed three cars that were in the driveway with my dad. Mom took the photo — with a flash, as it is winter by the calendar and it gets dark early. Christmas has to have snow, and so this year didn’t fit into the proper spirit of things, but you can see I made my own fun. Merry Christmas, everyone!