Paphos Arcæological Park

Paphos is a town in the south-west corner of Cyprus, and the site of a remarkable complex of building remains from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. Most of what has been revealed at the still largely unexcavated site dates from the period of the Roman Empire. Pafos (Kato Pafos) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been incribed on the list in 1980.

This mosaic is in a ruin called House of Theseus. It depicts the Greek hero Theseus, brandishing a club, slaying the Minotaur. The House of Theseus was a large villa, built in the second half of the 2nd century A.D., and was the home of the Roman proconsul or governor. It is remarkable that a mosaic so large has survived largely intact for so long. We’re lucky that the life and artistry of Paphos from two millenia ago can be revealed to us through a lost and found mosaic.

St. Hilarion Castle

St. Hilarion Castle seems to grow out of the rock of the Kyrenian Mountains in northern Cyprus. A monastery and a church was first built here in the 10th century. What you see today is mostly the castle built to defend the coast from Arab pirates, as improvided by the Lusignan rulers of Cyprus. The prominent tower in the middle of the photo is Prince John’s Tower, named after a Lusignan ruler who fought a four year war against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II for control of Cyprus. In the end, Prince John lost and Cyprus was annexed by the Kingdom of Venice.

Ruins of the Ancient City of Salamis

Salamis dates from the 11th century B.C.. The ruins that can be seen today date mostly from the period of the Roman Empire. These are the remains of the theatre, that once was able to seat 15,000 people.

Salamis is near Famagusta on the east coast of Cyprus. It is now in territory of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The theatre and the complex of the gymasium and baths are the most well-preserved ruins at Salamis. In this photo you see a courtyard with columns, with the sweating rooms and cooling rooms beyond. Swimming pools are to either side. The Romans were living better two thousand years ago than many people are today.

Doors Open Ottawa, 2017

Exhibits at Parks Canada Sheffield Road Collections Storage FacilityDoors Open in Ottawa gets bigger and more popular every year, and it’s a challenge to visit new buildings and not wrestle with big crowds and long queues. Parks Canada opened the doors of its storage facility on Sheffield Road, a warehouse filled with exhibits and reproductions from historic sites. Here’s a table with an interesting sample of items: a rejected version of the Canadian flag, a pair of skates, a jacket from the destroyer HMCS Haida, and memorabilia related to Dr. Norman Bethune.

MiG 21, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, OttawaThe Canada Aviation and Space Museum is at the old RCAF Station Rockcliffe, and for Doors Open Ottawa the museum opened its reserve hangar. Inside are aircraft that are undergoing restoration or that just won’t fit into the limited space of the main exhibit hall. This is a MiG 21 fighter that was built in the Soviet Union and flown by the Czechoslovak Air Force. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, this airframe was acquired by the Canadian Armed Forces and came into the possession of the Aviation Museum.

Stadacona Hall, OttawaStadacona Hall in Sandy Hill was built in 1871 for lumber baron John A. Cameron. Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, lived here, and Lady Agnes Macdonald was famous for keeping peacocks on the grounds. Today, the mansion houses The High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald Building in Ottawa (former Bank of Montreal)The former Bank of Montreal building on the O’Connor Street block between Sparks Street and Wellington Street has been closed and under renovations for as long as I can remember. At last it’s open, as a House of Commons meeting or reception hall. First opened in 1932, the renovation kept the architectural features of the great banking hall.

Wellington Building in Ottawa (former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company)The former Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building on the same block has also undergone extensive, years-long renovations. Built between 1924 and 1927 in the Beaux-Arts style, original features that were kept were the building’s facade and the entrance hall off of Wellington Street that has an elaborate mosaic in the vaulted ceiling. The praise of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was over-the-top: speaking of the Great Metropolitan Mother the mosaic proclaims: “Death and Disease Give Way Before Her.” Wow.

Michael in the witness seat, Wellington BuildingThis is me in the chair’s seat in a high-tech committee room. This can be said to be my proper and natural habitat. I’m not wearing a suit and tie, but I am wearing my Canada 150 t-shirt. 2017 is the sesquicentennial of the signing of the British North American Act and of Canada as a self-governing Dominion.

View of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings from the Wellington BuildingFinally, this is a view of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings, taken through a window of the Wellington Building. The Gothic Revival architecture of the Parliament Hill precinct in Canada’s capital is absolutely magnificent.

Volunteer Combatant statue in Kyiv

Volunteer Combatant statue in Kyiv

     Ми на своїй
 Богом даній землі!
We are are on our own
   God-given land!

A new statue has been erected in the Troyeschyna district of Kyiv, Ukraine. It is to the Volunteer Combatants of Ukraine in the Russo-Ukrainian War (2014 – ). Soon after Russia invaded Crimea, volunteers joined up to a hastily-formed National Guard to defend Ukraine. They were not in time to save Crimea, but they stopped Putin’s hybrid army in Odesa and Kharkiv and have been fighting him to a stalemate in Luhansk and Donetsk. Originally made up of EuroMaidan veterans with no combat experience mixed with a handful of army veterans, the National Guard is now a formidable fighting force.

It is appropriate that the statue is in Troyeschyna district, as it is a working class area from which many of the volunteer combatants are drawn.

Their task is not yet done. Invaders from Russia illegally occupy Crimea and Donbas, and they are shelling Ukraine’s defenders all along the front line in eastern Ukraine. Daily casualty figures tell the toll the dead and the wounded, bringing the total to nearly 10,000 killed and over 20,000 wounded since the Russo-Ukrainian War began. A disproportionate number of these are the volunteer combatants: defenders of Ukraine, of Europe, and of the West.

Commemorations in Lviv

Choir in traditional Hutsul costumeA city in the heart of Europe like Lviv has a rich history, with a lot to celebrate and a lot to mourn. This is the 760th anniversary of Lviv: in 1256, Prince Danylo founded the city and named it after his son, Lev. That’s why the lion figures so prominently in Lviv iconography, including its Latin name: Leopolis. In Ploshcha Rynok (Market Square) a temporary stage was set up for performances. This choir, in traditional Hutsul dress, was singing songs of Zakarpatya (Transcarpathia) when I was there.

Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in UkraineMay 8 is Victory in Europe Day, commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. In the Soviet Union this day devolved into a display of militarism and chauvinism, and continues that way in Russia now. But in Ukraine it has become a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. There were a lot of “sides” in Ukraine in World War II: allies and enemies, victors and the vanquished. A day to solemly remember all of those fallen in war unites the nation. This is the spectacular Lviv Opera House, bedecked with special banners for the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation.

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!

Family history uncovered: Edward MacKay, 1840-1884

1883 map of New York City south of 93rd StreetMy father has made a remarkable discovery about our MacKay family in the 19th century. He has uncovered a previously unknown uncle, Edward MacKay, who was a brother of my great-great grandfather, James Harold MacKay.

Edward MacKay was born in Canada – likely in Prince Edward Island, but his death certificate says New Brunswick. He was a son of William MacKay and Mary Ann Warren. He was born in 1840, moved to the United States in 1870 at the age of thirty, and died in New York in 1884 when he was only 44 years of age. He died of “acute phthisis” — tuberculosis. He was a carpenter like his father and his brothers (who were also shipwrights). We speculate that the family of William MacKay and his five sons were very hard hit by the Long Depression, which began in 1873, and by the collapse of the wooden shipbuilding industry in the Maritime provinces of Canada. All of the sons except my great-great grandfather left to find work in the United States.

The map of Manhattan is from 1883, the year before Edward MacKay died, and I’ve indicated where he lived on 3rd Avenue.

Kraków Ghetto and the Holocaust

Nazi German concentration camp Płaszów, Kraków

The mass murder of Poles who were Jewish by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War was almost total in Kraków. Before the war, there were 70,000 Jewish Krakovians; today, they number perhaps 500.

This is the memorial at the site of Płaszów concentration camp. The hearts have been torn out of the five human figures. Mostly, Płaszów was a transit camp for the extermination camps, but many people were killed here, including personally by the sadistic commander, Amon Goeth.

Ghetto Heroes Square, Podgórze, Kraków

The Jewish population of Kraków was sealed in a ghetto in the Podgórze district. On Saturday, March 13, 1943, the Nazi Germans cleared the ghetto from a square which at the time was called Small Market Square. People brought everything they could carry, including furniture, but the Germans made them leave everything behind. A large sculpture occupies the square today, consisting of scattered and empty chairs. Small Market Square is now known as Ghetto Heroes Square.

Remuh Synagogue, Kazimierz, Kraków

Before the Holocaust, Jews in Kraków lived in a district known as Kazimierz, named after King Casimir the Great. These days, Kazimierz is enjoying a revival. This is one of two remaining working synagogues in Kraków, and it is undergoing extensive renovations, as you can see. Remuh Synagogue is a place of pilgrimage for Ashkenazi Jews, as it is the burial place of Rabbi Moses Isserles (c. 1525 – 1572). The Polish state is putting some money towards the restoration of Remuh.

The Historic Centre of Riga

The Three Brothers, RigaThe Historic Centre of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is listed for the mediæval old town and also for the late 19th century district which has the most substantial display of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. The first photo is the “Three Brothers” in the old town of Riga. The white building dates from the 15th century. Subsidence is due to the sandy soil and proximity to the Daugava River, and the small windows are the usual tax avoidance strategy of the Middle Ages: get around the window tax!
Art Nouveau staircase

The rows of Art Nouveau townhouses that were built at the end of the 19th century, just outside the old city walls, are impressive. The second photo is of a staircase inside one of them, looking up, in a building housing the Riga Art Nouveau museum.