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!

Making snow at Mont Cascades

Making snow at Mont CascadesGreen grass and artificial snow – a peculiar sign of the end of November. The operators of the ski hills in the Gatineaus take advantage of every opportunity to make snow, when the temperature is below freezing. They’re trying to open for the season as early as they can, and build a base for the natural snow that is sure to come. This is Mont Cascades ski hill. Maybe it’s not much compared to the Rockies or even the Laurentians, but it’s very popular with Ottawans who always find a way to enjoy winter.

All Saints’ Day

Mushroom in bole of treeNovember 1 is All Saints’ Day. Western Ukrainians observe the custom of visiting the graves of relatives, and remembering them on this day. My Taras cousins in Lviv oblast visited the graves of my great-grandparents. In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 6,900 km away, I visited the grave of my grandparents. They were separated in life, but for us there was a connection in remembrance.

The photograph is of a mushroom in the bole of a tree, seen along the way to the gravesite in the cemetery. The leaves have fallen from the trees, but even in autumn life is tenacious.

Queensway-Kent Street rapid bridge replacement

Queensway-Kent Street bridge replacementGood infrastructure is the mundane secret behind a developed economy. That means that the bridges don’t fall down, and they get replaced before they do. Amazing infrastructure in an advanced developed economy is getting the disruption of replacing an old highway bridge down to a matter of a single weekend. The replacement bridge for the Queensway (the east-west highway through Ottawa) that goes over Kent Street has been under construction all summer long, but beside the old bridge. Only this weekend was the traffic stopped, the old bridge demolished, and the new bridge moved into place with self-propelled modular transporters. In this photo, the bridge section for the westbound lanes is fixed, and the section for the eastbound lanes is slowly moving into place. 48 hours after driving over the old bridge, traffic is now moving smoothly over the new bridge.

Watching the bridge replacementNaturally enough, this feat of advanced engineering in downtown Ottawa drew spectators. Actually, anyone in the world could watch on web cameras that the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario set up.

I count six dog walkers in this picture. We love our dogs in Ottawa!

Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general election

Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general electionI voted today. The general election for Canada is on October 19, but the advance poll was just along the street from me, it’s a beautiful sunny day in Ottawa, I had some time … so why not? I am an out-and-out militant when it comes to voting, and that comes from my experience as an election observer. Having seen how seriously most Ukrainians take the conduct of free and fair elections, and how they have had to fight for the franchise, I can’t imagine shirking my duty as a citizen and failing to vote.

While I was in the queue with other voters waiting to cast my ballot, an election worker distributed lollipops. I chose cherry. Now that’s something I never saw in Ukraine!

Emerald Anniversary

Emerald AnniversaryHappy Emerald Anniversary, Mom and Dad! My parents have been married for 55 years. To celebrate the Emerald Anniversary of their wedding, my brother, sister-in-law, and I took them out to dinner at Hy’s Steakhouse on Queen Street in Ottawa. Hy’s will close soon, and we thought we would give this old Ottawa institution a try, before it passes into history. Reflections on the past were light, talk of the future was mundane, and much of the discussion was about food and drink … the way it should be with such a happy gathering. Congratulations!

Savour Fall at Rideau Hall

Rideau HallRideau Hall is the official residence of the Queen’s representative in Canada, the Governor-General. It was originally built by a Mackay clasman, Thomas Mackay, the founder of New Edinburgh, and it is today sometimes called “Canada’s Home.” A grand open house was held at Rideau Hall, featuring the greenhouses and gardens and a lot of delicious free food on offer from cooking schools and area farms and all kinds of organizations. Musical entertainment was provided by a band doing covers of Neil Young and Blue Rodeo songs — what could be more Canadian than that!

Willow Tree by The Rideau Canal

Willow tree by the Rideau CanalThis willow tree looks ancient, but willows rarely survive longer than a century. The section of the Rideau Canal it stands beside was constructed 188 years ago. Before the European settlers came, the Ottawa valley was old growth pine forests. Once the land was cleared for the timber trade and for the pioneer farmsteads, this water-loving willow took up residence beside the canal, in what is now downtown Ottawa.

This is Labour Day, and it is fitting to commemorate the French-Canadian and Irish labourers who built the Rideau Canal — somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 of them. Possibly as many as a thousand workers died, almost all of disease, mostly malaria. The fruit of their labour lives on as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful (202 km long!) monument one can visit and sail or cruise along in pleasure boats.