Saturday, 17 October 2015

Please Support The Petition For The UK To Recognise Holodomor As An Act Of Genocide

We are petitioning Her Majesty's Government to recognise Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, as an act of genocide.
The Holodomor, was engineered by the Soviet government. Seven and a half million people died of starvation over a period of one year. Twenty Five countries have currently recognised this as an act of genocide, as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

25 countries have formally recognised Holodomor in accordance with Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on Prevention & Prosecution of Genocide, which defines genocide as:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

All British Citizens, and all others who are legally resident in the UK are eligible to sign the petition, which can be found online here:


Holodomor: Made in Russia

“Death solves all problems. No man, no problem.” - Josef Stalin
In 1932-33 a politically engineered famine took place in Ukraine. Holodomor, as it was to become known, saw some seven and a half million people, approximately one third of them children, brutally starved to death.
This famine was to take place on the most fertile soil in Europe, and it was to be carried out in secret.
Following the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, the Russian Empire fell apart, and Ukraine quickly moved to assert it’s own identity, declaring independence in January 1918. During an ensuing period of political instability, Ukraine faced armed incursions by Poles in the west, and Bolsheviks in the east, and Bolshevik rule was soon to replace the fledgling democracy.

During this early period, the Soviet government introduced a policy of indigenisation, under which, over several years, Ukrainian culture flourished. A Ukrainian language based education system saw dramatic increases in literacy levels, and in literature, the theatre, and in public life the Ukrainian language blossomed. During this period of Ukrainisation, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was founded.

However, the policy of Ukrainisation was to be brutally reversed from 1928, starting with the arrest and execution of much of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, destruction of churches, and dispossession of the Kulaks, the most productive and successful of the peasant farmers. Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism was declared to be problematic, and a threat to the Soviet system. The renaissance was over, and in the Kremlin Josef Stalin was planning what was to be, in terms of cruelty and in numbers, one of the most brutal acts of genocide the world has witnessed.

The elimination of the intelligentsia and the Ukrainian elites was to be followed by the collectivisation of the agricultural sector, something that Ukrainian farmers resisted strongly.

Collectivisation brought quotas, imposed in 1932, whereby villages were required to deliver unrealistic quantities of grain. Failure to deliver resulted in seizure of all foodstuffs within the community, and all trade was banned, making it impossible for the peasantry to obtain any food at all.

The desired outcome of these actions was unequivocal. A Politburo resolution, dated November 18, 1932, states: “Comrades Redens and Kosior have until November 23 to develop an efficient plan for exterminating the main counter revolutionary clusters of the Kulaks and Petlura, first of all in Pavlograd, Uman and Bilotservka districts and also in the areas outside the towns of Borzny and Miny…”

As farms and villages failed to meet their totally unrealistic quotas, they were penalised by having those quotas raised. Soon, armed cadres of the Communist Party and the GPU, forerunners of the KGB, were ransacking homes, taking away any and all foodstuffs.
All food was deemed to be the property of the Collectives, and by extension, the property of the state. Possession of food was therefore theft, punishable by imprisonment, or execution by shooting “…with no reduction of the sentence possible”.

“The Communards took everything to the last grain. They sought everywhere in barns, pantries, thrust pitchforks into the ground to check on foodstuffs… A peasant woman, Krupchya (she was 37), was sentenced to five years imprisonment for wheat ears. And she had five children, they wanted to eat”. - Olga Vasylivna Kozlenko, Holodomor survivor, Malyn District.

As the tragedy rapidly unfolded, escape was made impossible. Villages and entire districts were ‘blacklisted’ and surrounded by armed men, those attempting to flee the famine and reach cities were either turned back, or imprisoned. Although the cities were less badly affected by the famine, the street cleaning services in Kyiv collected over 9,000 bodies in 1933. Soon the death rate was to reach 25,000 per day.

“The mortality rate has been so high that numerous village councils have stopped recording deaths”. - Zinovy Borisovich Katsnelson, Head of Kharkiv department, GPU.

One of the more tragic statistics of the time is the fact that 2,500 people were prosecuted for
cannibalism during the period of the Holodomor.

So devastating was the famine, that large areas of Ukraine were effectively de-populated. The Kremlin addressed this problem by sending large numbers of Russian and Belarussian families and workers to the affected areas, beginning in December 1933. This colonisation of Ukraine by Russians was to help sow the seeds for today’s conflict in the region.

The Soviet population census of 1937 showed such a drastic fall in the Ukrainian population that on Stalin’s orders all those who had carried out the census were either sent to the Gulag, or shot. The census results were suppressed.

Indeed, the very fact of Holodomor was suppressed for many years. Any suggestion of famine was down-played, and if there had been a famine, then the official Soviet line was that it had been down to a poor harvest caused by drought in the region. There remains to this day much debate on the matter, and we can see here how the present Moscow regime is attempting to sanitise the past.

Whilst in 2006 the Ukrainian Parliament passed a legislation definiing Holodomor as ‘Genocide’, in April 2010, Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin former President Viktor Yanukovych told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that “Holodomor was a common tragedy that struck Ukrainians and other Soviet peoples, and that it would be wrong to recognise the Holodomor as an act of genocide against one nation”. Twenty-five countries have recognised the tragic events of 1932-33 as genocide.

“This was the first instance of a peacetime genocide in history. It took the extraordinary form of an artificial famine deliberately created by the ruling powers. The savage combination of words for the designation of a crime - an artificial deliberately planned famine - is still incredible to many people throughout the world, but indicates the uniqueness of the tragedy of 1933, which is unparalleled for a time of peace, in the number of victims it claimed.”
Wasyl Hryshko - Author and Holodomor Survivor.

The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory hosts an exhibition ‘The Holodomor 1932 - 1933 - Genocide Against Ukrainian People’. Open daily from 10a.m. - 6p.m. (except on Mondays) it can be visited at 3 Lavrska Street, Kyiv (nearest metro station Arsenalna).

The Last of the Summer Wine.....

Walking through Felix Hap Park, in the European Quarter of Brussels, on an otherwise dull day, I took this photo, which I rather like.

The sky suddenly cleared, and so I guess we were treated to the last sunburst of the year.

I am not too depressed yet - I love the colours and moods of an Autumn landscape.

Just around the corner, my 12th Brussels winter awaits, and experience tells me that I can reasonably expect to see the sun overhead again sometime in May. A few years ago Brussels endured snow and sludge well into March: It was sad to note that suicide rates in the Brussels Region reached their highest levels since the Second World War that winter.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

You're Under Arrest......

And so.... Today I was apprehended by Brussel's finest.

Walking in to my club this afternoon, I found the whole district sealed off by riot police. This is, of course, nothing new in this part of Brussels; if even the 3rd Junior secretary for irrelevant affairs from Monaco drives the 50 metres from his hotel to the European Commission for a cup of coffee, entire roads are closed down for hours.

But today was a bit different. Today, the Communists were revolting.

Well, some may say that there is nothing new in that, and who am I to disagree? But it is unusual to see the police deploy in such numbers, and carrying gas masks - that I never saw before. And so my interest was aroused.

The mood was generally good. The Greeks were there, protesting against Austerity measures -which means that they are upset that they can no longer retire on full pay at the age of 50 at other country's taxpayer's expense. Lazy bastards.

I took lots of photos.

All was going well until I took a photo at Maelbeek Metro station. Then the riot police moved in. Then there developed a fiasco that only I could create.

The police, who by the way were politeness personified, demanded to see the photo I had taken - who am I to disagree with a couple of guys wielding batons? The problem is, I had taken the photo on my infamous Smartphone, which I have some issues with. 30 minutes later, after much fussing and calling in assistance from others, we eventually got the picture open. No offence was committed.

There then then followed an interesting conversation. I enquired as to why there was such a massive police presence. I was informed that it is "because the far-left are much more violent than the far-right....". I wonder if the Metropolitan Police, or indeed any British police force, would dare to admit to that?

It's Life Jim, But Not As We Know It.........

It came as no surprise to me to learn that one in four UKIP voters think that aliens have made contact with Earth, but that the government has covered it up.

I had a lot of experience of UKIP over the years. I was once a party official indeed, and have worked with their MEPs - mostly really nice folk - in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Most of the MEPs believe that George W. Bush was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Centre, and that the Bilderbergers are trying to take over the world. I remember a UKIP branch meeting once where a stall had been set up selling DVDs about crop circle conspiracy theories. It was doing a brisk trade.

During a by election campaign I once had to drag a canvasser off of a doorstep as he screamed at a bewildered householder "The EU is illegal - Magna Carta, Magna Carta...."

Today, I was delighted to read that UKIP's London Mayoral candidate, Peter Whittle, has chosen to enlighten us as to the political preferences of homosexuals. His is himself openly homosexual, and I have no problem with that, and so I thought that his views may be enlightening.

According to Mr Whittle, " people... they’re more on the centre-right than on the left,” . However, he adds, “For lesbians, I think it’s slightly different and I think that’s because of the position of women being traditionally treated unequally; that has led to a much more political sense to lesbianism and I can completely understand why that is.”

So, he is saying that "gay people" and "Lesbians" are two different categories. Gays to the right, Lesbians to the left. I don't really understand the semantics of gay culture, but I do know sexual discrimination when I see it, Mr Whittle.

I must declare some interests here. I worked with UKIP's 2004 London Mayoral candidate, Frank Maloney. It was a great campaign, and despite UKIP having never previously registered on the Richter Scale in London, we got a credible 4th place, with 2 members elected to the London Assembly.

At that same time Gerard Batten was elected as an MEP, a position he holds to this day.

Job done!!

UKIP has never come within a whisker of the 2004 result since, by the way, and there are very good reasons for that.

I have also worked for a high profile lesbian politician, Nikki Sinclaire. Given her strong convictions on human rights, and her working class London background, both of which I share, she may be considered by some as leaning towards the left. But a stauncher Thatcherite, or a more proactive Eurosceptic you will never meet. Left wing lesbians, Mr Whittle? You might want to have a chat with Nikki about that. Good Luck!

So, as is my wont, this morning after dropping my son off at school I took a stroll around the lakes near my home to reflect upon those matters that concern me.

And so I came to the conclusion that Mr Whittle is simply a complete idiot with absolutely no political nous whatsoever.

Mr Whittle might find it enlightening to take a look at the history of UKIP, particularly the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the sudden and highly controversial closure of the Broadwick Street head office (only UKIP could have had a Head Office in a Soho backstreet). The UKIP leadership has always sought to keep influence and power away from London. The 2004 London Mayoral result really spooked them, and that is why the leadership will never again allow a credible candidate to stand for that office. Sorry Mr Whittle, you are just a patsy....

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Moscow Calling.......

The garbage and downright lies that are put out in the name of "news" by Russia Today can often be downright sickening. It is at least reassuring to know that in these troubled times, the Kremlin is not as good at propaganda as the Nazis were.

Their spin on the report, issued today, on the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is so ridiculous that it would almost be funny if the story did not involve the deaths of 298 innocent people. But then the Kremlin never cared about lives any more than it cares about the truth.

And the Kremlin has form here, of course.

On September 1st 1983, one of their fighters shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 from New York City to Seoul over the Sea of Japan, with the loss of 269 lives.

The Kremlin denied any knowledge of the incident, and it was only in 1992 that Boris Yeltsin handed over vital information about the incident. The Russians then claimed that the aircraft was on a spying mission - perhaps it was the 'Flight 007' that confused them.

Russia Today is very keen to interview western politicians who are critical of their own countries. Quotes from these interviews can then be used to add weight to Kremlin propaganda.

It is interesting that RT in Brussels told me that Nigel Farage is their favourite British politician, although I suspect he may be soon replaced in their favour by Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader. I wonder if he is now regretting his statement on LBC Radio recently that Putin and Assad are "on the same side as us"?

They are not on the same side as me. They are not on the same side as Great Britain. They are not on the same side as Europe, or indeed NATO. So I wonder which "us" Mr Farage was referring to?

I could never have said that, no matter how much you paid me.....

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A young Hero.

The young man in the centre of the picture, between myself and Inna, is Vitaliy Panasjuk, a 26-year-old lad from the Ukrainian city of Lutsk.

When Putin's hordes invaded Ukraine in the spring of 2014, Vitaliy volunteered to defend his country. He is not a professional soldier, he is a volunteer. He fought at Donbass, and has been decorated. Vitaliy is a very softly spoken, modest young man. He is still young enough that he hasn't really decided what to do with his life, but he thinks that he might want to continue to serve his country as a professional soldier.

Vitaliy has suffered from what we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is interesting to
note that this has been picked up very quickly - certainly more quickly than would be the case in the British Armed Forces - and Vitaliy was referred to an art project set up to help soldiers like him to come to terms with their issues.

He enjoyed the experience, and as a result has even sold a painting. And he shared his thoughts with us today, together with his comrade Olexander, another Donbass veteran.

We wish Vitaliy and his fellow fighters the very best, they are on the front line of the defence against the barbarity of the Moscow hordes.

Many thanks to Andriy Kuzmenko, Charge D'Affaires at the Ukrainian Embassy in Brussels for making possible this very special afternoon, with great music, great food, and above all great company.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Henri Cartier-Bresson in Brussels

Having earned my living as a photographer some time ago, I retain an interest in the medium, albeit somewhat limited. I am not really one for the avant garde, (as I am often reminded) and as with other art forms I much prefer classical imagery.

And so it was a great pleasure to visit the Cartier-Bresson expo at the Jewish Museum in Brussels yesterday.

Over 130 images made in various parts of the world, and over a period of some decades. Not only are these images special in themselves, but they touch heavily on my interest in social documentary.

The exhibition runs for another week.

Rue des Minimes 21
1000 Brussels

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Statistics on Cause of Death of Falkland Islands Veterans
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) publishes an annual report into the causes of deaths of veterans of the Falkland Islands War of 1982.

These statistics were first published in May 2013 in response to a high volume of external interest in the cause of death amongst the veterans. In particular there was considerable interest in those that have committed suicide, with various sources quoting that over 200 Falklands veterans had taken their own lives. As a consequence the MOD was repeatedly accused of hiding the true cost of the conflict and of not recognising the difficulties faced by the veterans community.

The figure of 200 has been disputed - MoD officially puts the figure at 95, itself a highly disturbing statistic - but to put these numbers into context, 255 British military personnel lost their lives during the fighting, along with 649 Argentines, and three Falkland Island civilians.

As shocking as the figures may seem, to this number can be added those whose who have subsequently died prematurely through alcohol or drug abuse. Countless others are living with acute mental health issues. Levels of homelessness are also very high among ex-servicemen in the UK; former Army personnel are more affected than veterans of the other services, partly due to the fact that many of their skills have no relevance in the civilian workplace, partly due to high incidences of trauma. In 1983, the British press reported that up to 9,000 former service personnel were homeless, accounting for some 10% of rough sleepers across the UK.

Argentine veterans have experienced similar issues, with Reuters reporting in 2004 that over 300 suicides had been recorded. Argentina does not have the support system that British veterans have, and many wounded veterans are reduced to begging in the streets.

Whilst MoD admits that there are still deaths occurring each year, it is now seeking to report every five years, instead of annually. This, it is stated, is in order to free up resources for other areas of work, particularly the Armed Forces Covenant.

Many veterans, however, have memories of the MoD cover-ups following the first Gulf War of 1991. Soldiers reported symptoms that were widely referred to at the time as ‘Gulf War Syndrome’.

The children of veterans were being born with severe deformities, and in many cases were still-born. Despite evidence to the contrary, MoD refused to lay the blame on the use of Depleted Uranium (DPU) munitions, widely used in anti-tank weapons. It was only after the release of leaked documents from the chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down that MoD was forced to admit that it had been investigating the effects of DPU on veterans for some time.

The treatment of the British Nuclear Test Veterans was also appalling: only when most were dead did the government choose to acknowledge their plight.

The youngest Falklands veteran is 49, the oldest is 77.

UK Veterans Agency…
Combat Stress
Soldiers Off The Street

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Memories of Swinderby

This is me and the lads. Royal Air Force Swinderby ('Swinders') September 1978. Thats me in the middle rank, third from right. The chap to the right of me is Peter Orme, from Sheffield, one of the great characters of our intake.

Front rank, far right, is Eric Mayne, from Biggin Hill. Eric was my roomate in the notorious 'spurs'. I actually preferred the spurs to the hideous Gibson Block, with its dormitories. Eric was very quiet, and got on with what had to be done. He was highly intelligent, and one of the older members of the intake, I was one of the youngest. He was the perfect roomate.

Front rank centre, with the pace stick, is Corporal John Weeks, our drill instructor. He scared the hell out of us for six weeks, and once threw my boots through a window because there was a speck of dust on one of them. He actually turned out to be a really nice guy. I met up with him again a few years later when he was posted to Wattisham as the guard room corporal. I remember us getting absolutely hammered together at a British Legion club somewhere on the east coast, after a Remembrance Day parade. I loved parades, and always volunteered for everything.

Rear rank, seventh from right, is Simon Gregg, from Market Harborough. I didn't have so much to do with Simon at Swinderby, but after passing out we went to Cosford together to do our trade training, and over the course of four months we became very close friends. We had similar tastes in music, and both enjoyed the cinema. He had a great sense of humour, and was very easy to talk to. One Sunday, I caught him listening to the The Archers on Radio 4. From that point on he was known as 'Archie' - everybody in the RAF gets a nickname. I was 'Ted', for obvious reasons. John Weeks had a different name for me - several of them, in fact!

At the end of our course at Cosford, we were told one morning "postings are up!", and so the four of us who passed the course ran off to the general office to see where we were to be posted, all hoping that we would not be sent to Scotland.

I got Wattisham, with its Phantoms, Simon got Wittering, with the Harriers. We were both thrilled.

February 2nd, 1979, in a heavy snowfall, we stood on the platform at Birmingham New Street station, shook hands, and went off to see what lay ahead. Simon was killed in a tragic accident shortly afterwards, something that upsets me deeply to this day. You couldn't imagine a nicer lad than Simon.

Swinderby is closed down now. Unless you have experienced it, you cannot conceive of what those six weeks were like. But the feeling you have when you pass out at the end of it makes it all worthwhile.

Well done to Michael Slevin for putting this little video together.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Canal Swimming Club - No Swimming Allowed

It is one of those truly unique 'Belgian' moments.

I love Bruges. If you have never been there, I suggest that you put it on the top of your 'must see' list. As Ralph Fiennes so memorably put it in the 2008 movie In Bruges "its like a f***ing fairytale..."

Well, even Han Christian Anderson couldn't have made this up. A swimming club where no swimming is allowed.

The canals of Bruges are lovely - I am often in the town myself - but to be frank I wouldn't want to swim in them. But what is the point of a swimming club where swimming is prohibited?

To be fair, there is some small print that suggests that swimming might be allowed in certain periods of the year, but only if the water conditions are "good".

Trust me, you do not want swim in those canals, as beautiful as they appear.

Interestingly, having inspected the recently installed waterside decking that is home to the Canal Swimmers Club, a great place for sunbathing, I noticed that there is a bar. However, drinking alcohol is also prohibited by the police.

A little advice - it is worth staying overnight in Bruges, as the town empties of tourists from about 8pm onwards, and becomes very quiet. That is the time for a stroll along the canals. Just don't go for a swim.....

Thursday, 25 June 2015

An angel.....

This is a memorial dedicated to the Glorious Dead of two wars. It is between the lakes by Place Flagey, in Ixelles, Brussels.

I saw it while driving by numerous times, but following a short meeting this week in the vicinity, I decided to go and take a proper look.

It is very beautiful. It is next to the lakes, in the shade, and surrounded by flowers. There are several features, but the dying soldier being tended by an angel I found especially moving.

This is a memorial to local people who died. And as I scanned the many names on the memorial, one sent a shiver down my spine. Miss Cavell. This is, of course, Nurse Edith Cavell, who was shot by the Germans in Brussels in 1915. Her crime was to tend to the wounded on both sides, and to help displaced and injured soldiers to return to their own lines. As I schoolboy I learned about her, she is a national heroine.

At St Martin's Place, near to Charing Cross station in London, there is a fitting memorial to Nurse Cavell. I wonder, is she also the angel depicted on this memorial?