It is hard to stay silent with the recent events in Ukraine. I’m one of the thousands of Russian-Ukrainians. As a child I used to spend all my summer holidays with my Ukrainian family in the Luhansk Region, which is now in the epicentre of that war. It was such a beautiful place with wonderful people – very caring close-knit community of Ukrainian and Russian coal-miners, working shoulder to shoulder in the deepest and some of the dangerous coal-mines in the world. Amazing men who were going 700-800 meters under the ground to feed their families, always coming home with a big smile and a hug for us, kids! Such a terrible crime against people, such a terrible war…..


This area has never recovered from the 2014 war with sobering pictures of destruction. Here is just one of the images from that time – an airport before and after the 2014 war.

Donetsk Airport before and after the 2014 war

Who could ever imagined that Kharkiv in 2022 would look like London in 1942. Kharkiv is the second-largest city and municipality in Ukraine that I used to travel through when visiting my family in Ukraine in 1980s. Beautiful city with wonderful people – people who have nowhere to run now and are hiding under the ground from shelling.

Kharkiv in 2022

Russians of all genders, ages and walks of life are standing with Ukraine against the war! In all major Russian cities people are protesting the war. The breathtaking bravery of people who know they’ll be arrested and prosecuted for this….

Russian people are protesting the war in Ukraine

NO to WAR!

Stories of Compassion: Franz Stigler

“There are no tales finer than those created by life itself.”
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

This week I came across a beautiful story of compassion that I would like to add to my blog.

Franz Stigler


“A pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision. “My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.” He’s going to destroy us,” the pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

The B-17 Pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany. Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.


But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn’t pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War Il.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket.  He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder. Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family’s ancestry to Knights in 16th century Europe. He had once studied to be a priest. A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed. Yet, Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him: “You follow the rules of war for you–not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17’s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American Pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany.

“Good luck,” Stigler said to himself. “You’re in God’s hands now.” Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England and wondered for years what happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

Franz Stigler 1

Brown did survive and late in life he took on a new mission. He had to find that German Pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life? He scoured Military Archives in the U.S. and England. He attended a Pilots’ Reunion and shared his story. He finally placed an ad in a German Newsletter for former Luftwaffe Pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the Pilot.

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read:  “Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home? Did her crew survive their wounds? To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.”

It was Stigler. Stigler had lost his brother, his friends, and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German Air Force. Only 1,200 survived.  The war cost him everything. Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz.

Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions. Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. Some time before their death Stigler had given the book on German fighter jets to Brown with the following inscription:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a   B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged, it was a wonder that she was still flying. The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was. Thanks Charlie.

Your brother, Franz”


Over the years I collected a number of real stories of compassion from different time periods, cultures and geographic locations. Among them are:

I’m always looking for more stories, so if you know any, please leave a comment. Thanks.




This can happen to anyone…

“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, Mother, what was war?”

Eve Merriam

This is what war does to children…

Can’t stop thinking about children suffering from war in places of my childhood where I felt so happy and safe as a child.

Syria, Ukraine, Russia, BosniaAfghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya… – this can happen to anyone 😦


Image from pinterest.


Who wants war?

It worked and still works the same…


Related posts:


War is Evil, War is the Devil…


War is evil
War is the devil
War is between politicians
War is about religions
War is destruction
War is not construction
War is depression
War is an obsession
War is fighting
War is killing
War is sorrow
War is no tomorrow
War is explosions
War is confusions
War is blood
War brings tears like a flood
War makes you cry
War makes you die
War is death all around
War makes you die on your own ground
War is fire
War is not to admire!
War is creed
War is between your own breed
War is cruel
War cost a lot of fuel
War is amputations
War is mutilations
War last forever
I wonder if it ends in Heaven
War is only release
For those who are killed
It means ‘PEACE’

Славянск, разрушенияFrom

Thinking of my dear relatives who got caught in the current civil war in Ukraine: some of them forced to leave their houses and all their belongings to move to a safer part of the country, others – stuck in the war zone, hiding in rural areas as all towns and cities are being shelled and bombed with lots of peaceful civilians (including women and children) killed or mutilated. A beautiful peaceful coal-mining town that was full of smiles and laughter when I was spending my summer holidays there as a child is now in the middle of the war zone full of grief, pain and tears. Still struggling to believe that… 😦

When will those who are still living get some peace? 😦



WoMEN for Women in Iraq

Excerpts from Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal Omar


I was among the first international aid workers to arrive in Baghdad in 2003. I would also be among the last to leave. The two intervening years inside Iraq would transform my life forever…

My international colleagues were struggling to force Iraqi culture into convenient boxes, but I simply accepted its unique, fluctuating shape. International journalists marveled over the fact that women who were covered head to toe walked side by side with women with orange-colored hair and wearing tight jeans, but I simply shrugged. It was natural to me. The mosaic of identities inside Iraq was not hypocritical or schizophrenic; it was what made the country powerful. Nevertheless, that mosaic was shattered by the eruption of violence that followed on the heels of the U.S. invasion…

The hopes and dreams that Iraqis once dared to share evaporated in the smoke of car bombs. The diverse people who populated Iraq – Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Muslims, Christians, Sabaeans  had once sipped tea at their doorsteps, but now they had disappeared from the streets. Women hid behind closed doors. The only images from within Iraq were of death and destruction. The only feelings people described were betrayal and despair. Overnight, that brilliant diversity – Iraq’s own secret superpower – was forgotten, buried under the rubble left by bombs…

Iraqi woman
An Iraqi woman and child watch US soldiers carry out a raid in Tikrit 

I had been offered the position of country director with Women for Women International, a group that helped female survivors of war to rebuild their lives… Women for Women International focused on the most vulnerable women. This usually meant those who were the primary breadwinners in their house: widows, divorcees, or unmarried women living with elderly parents. In addition to the economic challenges, there was a social stigma attached to these women. This meant that their finding work was even more difficult…

First, the program addressed the pragmatic challenges of securing food, water, and shelter. Our main objective was to train the participants in a job skill that would enable them to earn an income. Second, the program hosted bimonthly sessions in which women would discuss ways to improve their lives. A large portion centered on protecting their rights. At the same time, we would organize awareness workshops centered on health care, family planning, and access to education…



Without any programs established, our staff consisted only of a local logistics team: Yusuf, Fadi, and Mais. Since we did not have an office space, the first time I met them was in the hotel restaurant… The three staffers stood in a line, looking at me as if I had landed from outer space. I reached out to shake their hands. All three appeared to be frozen in place, and then they shook my hand awkwardly and gave me tight, forced smiles. The look of disappointment on their faces was obvious, although I didn’t know its source…

I jumped in to try to break the ice… “Well, that’s all good. But at the end of the day it’s still a bit odd. Women for Women, and all I see in front of me are… men.”… The moment would have been less painful if I had slammed into an iceberg. The three continued to look at me with blank stares…

Later I learned that the three men had been promised an opportunity to work with an American woman. Instead, their boss looked a lot like an Iraqi women….

“Look,” said Fadi… “ when we joined the organization, Mark told us an American woman was coming. We were thrilled. We had seen all these blond and blue-eyed women and thought we would have the chance to get to know one. Instead, we got an Arab.” He grinned.

“Not, that’s not it,” Mais interrupted. “It’s not just that you’re not blond, although that was a bit of a shock. It’s that you’re also covered. I mean, who covers in America?”…

I laughed… and assured them that I could understand why they were disappointed. I also told them there were more where I came from. There were many Muslim American women who were veiled, gregarious professionals. They were excited to hear about my experiences growing up and pleased to see that I had liberal views despite my conservative dress…


Manal Omar

Mais and I reached the checkpoint outside the convention center…  A soldier asked for our IDs, and we promptly handed them over…
“Women for Women. Now that’s a great organization. Are you with them as well?” he asked Mais. Mais nodded, not daring to say anything.
“Well, then, I guess it’s only appropriate that you get searched with the women.” He pointed toward an Iraqi female translator seated a few meters away…

The Iraqi woman searched me, but she was too embarrassed to search Mais properly. She just patted him on the back and sent us on our way.

Mais turned completely red and murmured about how he had been humiliated… Two hours later… Mais was still fuming about the incident at the checkpoint. I could hear him as he told Fadi and Yusuf how the soldier had humiliated him.

“Saddiq? (For real?),” Yusuf asked. “Are you saying that you were patted down and body searched by a woman?”

Mais nodded, his face again turning red.

“I can’t believe you are complaining,” Fadi whined. “I am never that lucky!”

The entire ride back they both continued to tease him and asked him to recount the experience.


Body Search Cartoons

The security situation was fragile, and Mais argued that new employees had to be recruited based on strong relationship. At first, I thought this had been a setup for Mais to hire his brother or cousin. Instead, he brought in a childhood friend, Salah. After I saw how easily Salah integrated into the team, I understood Mais’s point of view.

The companionship between the four stood as a living testimony of a diverse yet unified Iraq: Fadi was a Christian, Mais a secular Shia, Yusuf a practicing Shia, and Salah a Sunni from the western province of Fallujah. These four men represented different communities in Iraq, and each one introduced me to a different side of Baghdad.

Early the next morning Salah stopped by with his wife, Nagham… She shared with me her stories of the four men who were now my self-appointed bodyguards. I was always aware of the camaraderie between the four friends, but I never realized how deep their relationship was with one another. She described them as neighbors who became friends, friends who became brothers…

Their friendship stood in defiance of talk of the inevitability of a segregated Iraq. As the situation inside Iraq disintegrated around me, I had the privilege of watching these four interact. They loved each other in a way Western culture reserved for blood brothers. Each one was quite literally prepared to take a bullet for the other. And somehow I had been allowed into their circle…


Iraqi Boys

Yusuf’s and Fadi’s families had adopted me as a long-lost cousin. Yusuf’s mother sent pots of food for me, and his sister, Maysoon, would send her housekeeper twice a week to clean my home and do my laundry… During this time, Hussein and Maysoon would often visit… During these visits, I also came to know Hussein.

A true representative of the modern Iraqi man, Hussein amazed me with how supportive he was of Maysoon. He loved the idea of her finding work outside their home. He would often tell me stories of the first time they met. They were college sweethearts, and he had admired her vibrancy and confidence during their freshman year…

Family1 Family1
Iraqi Family

There was a strong lobbying group inside the U.S.-appointed Interim Governing Council calling for an introduction of religious laws when applying the personal status laws in Iraq. These laws covered everything from the right to education to freedom of movement to inheritances to property rights to marriage and divorce, and child custody…

The passage of the 1959 personal status law had been the envy of all women’s rights movements in the region. It was a source of great pride. The law ensured that Iraqi women could marry under civil law instead of religious law, made polygamy more difficult, granted mothers custody of their children, and imposed a minimum age for marriage. Iraqi women had gained their rights in these and other crucial areas while other countries were struggling. Iraqi women were voting in the 1980s, for example, while Saudi women were still struggling for recognition… If the personal status laws were interpreted through a religious lens, however, the situation had turned dire. In almost all religious interpretations used in the Middle East, personal status laws placed women at a disadvantage…

On December 29, 2003, with less than a thirty-minute debate, the Interim Governing Council (IGC) voted for Resolution 137… Resolution 137 would push women’s rights back centuries. Whereas Iraqi women had been looking for ways to leap forward, they now found themselves in the unenviable position of fighting for the status quo…


Gender Equality – Steps Backwards

Work was flourishing. We had managed to recruit more than five hundred participants in Baghdad, Hillah, and Karbala, and our job skills training program had launched effectively. In addition to offering training in the more conservative jobs of carpet weaving and hairdressing, we introduced an untraditional course on carpentry… Due to the large number of widows and divorcees who were not allowed to call a male carpenter into their homes, a niche existed for female carpenters…

From Women for Women

Ironically, over the first six months I spent working on women’s issues in Iraq, I had been fully dependent on men. First, there was the male staff at Women for Women International. Yusuf, Fadi, and Mais had become my lifelines. I was dependent on them for everything from food and water to the ability to move around the country freely. Within months it became clear that any success I had in launching a program would be directly tied to them. Only years later did I fully grasp the extent of their loyalty; the risks they took were the sole reason I was able to leave Iraq alive. ..

Second, there were the male leaders in the communities. From Diyala to Karbala,to Tikrit, the one thing that remained consistent across the communities I visited was the need to go through the male elders before ever meeting with a woman. During my trips around the country I would have to meet with a room full of men in order to describe in detail the programs we planned to set up for the women in their community…

In almost every instance the men demonstrated a visible reassurance at hearing that Islam was my reference point for working on women’s rights…

womens rights
From Women’s Rights in Islam

“Did you know a woman had the right to charge her husband for breast-feeding?” an elderly man from Huriyah explained to me. He told me how this was an example of Islam acknowledging the mother’s role in contributing to society’s growth. It was also one of the many ways Islam supported the economic independence of women. He further explained that any property a woman acquired by her own work or through an inheritance belonged to her independently of her husband.

A son of a tribal leader of Fallujah outlined for me the women of the historical narrative of Islam. Among the stories he shared was that of Umm ‘Umara, a woman who lived at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and fought in many battles. He explained that she was famous for her effectiveness with weapons, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated she was better than most men.

I pointed out what I hoped was obvious: somewhere along the lines we lost that remarkable tradition, and women had suffered the consequences. In most cases the conversation was enough to grant me permission to meet with the women in the communities…


At some point during the first few months in Iraq, I came across Ashraf Al-Khalidi, a young civil society activist… Ashraf saw the potential in a democratic Iraq, and he worked day and night to fulfil his role in making it happen. He was a native of Karbala, and he urged me to expand my programs into the governorate…

Although he was based in Baghdad, his family home was in Karbala’s city centre. Ashraf had six sisters; two were married and four were still at the family home. His father passed away and, as the oldest son, Ashraf was considered the head of the household… The fact that Ashraf was an active member of civil society strongly distinguished him from other male heads of households. He urged his sisters to continue their education and encouraged them not to rush into marriage. I was touched at the way his sisters would run to greet him, love and admiration radiating as they embraced him each time he visited…

The New Arab Manhood: Ali from Iraq.

I stood straddling the toilet, yelling out the window for help… Thirty minutes earlier I had managed to lock myself inside the bathroom of one of our Baghdad women’s centres, which we were renovating… The first ten minutes I had been paralyzed with horror as I realized that I had not only locked the stall but also locked the front door to the bathroom as well. There was no logic to the fact that I had locked not one but two doors except that I was so exhausted that I was no longer thinking. And now I had to pay the price.

After the initial shock wore off, I started to bang and yell on the stall, but to no avail… It was almost sunset. The official opening of the women’s centers was the next morning, and we had been working late hours to make sure the center would be ready in time. I shook my head as I realized that nobody could hear me. My imagination ran wild as I realized that it would be easy for the staff to think someone else had taken me home. I prepared myself to be locked for the next twenty-four hours in the Baghdad bathroom stall. …

Just as I accepted the idea that I had been left behind, I heard the outer door of the bathroom rattle. Then there was a knock. I started to yell. “Manal?” It was Yusuf. He must have noticed I was missing… I was so happy to hear his voice… Finally, the bathroom door swung open and Yusuf charged in. I could feel my face grow red as I imagined the sight that greeted him. There I was, my head peering over the bathroom stall, thrilled that I had been saved. Well, partially saved.

“What are you doing?” he asked…

“This door is locked too,” I offered feebly.

Yusuf shook his head as he looked at the bathroom stall. By now Mais, Fadi, and other staff arrived to witness the scene.  I avoided Fadi’s eyes, knowing that he would never let me forget this… I was embarrassed to the core. Here I was developing a centre to empower women, and I was already playing a damsel in distress…

From GotGame

The distinction between a humanitarian aid worker, a journalist, a contractor, and a civilian officer in the military were opaque at best among the Iraqi population. Given that the first civilian casualties in Fallujah had turned out to be mercenaries employed by Blackwater Security Consulting, it was no wonder that Iraqis could not differentiate between civilians and soldiers. The Iraqi population was increasingly doubtful of the intentions of international aid workers inside Iraq…

“Yusuf and I have the perfect solution!” Fadi declared… The two of them had decided that the only solution was for them to move in with me in the house in Mansour. Yusuf explained that all attempts to strengthen security could not eliminate the fact that I was a single non-Iraqi woman living alone, the easiest of targets. As they saw it, the equation was simple: if I was willing to risk my life to work inside Iraq, then they were willing to risk their lives by staying by my side 24/7…

I checked to make sure their families were aware of what they were thinking… Women for Women was happy with the arrangement, provided it was clear it was strictly voluntary and being done out of a personal rather than any professional commitment. My parents were not as easy to convince. … Reluctantly, my father agreed it was better than my staying alone. … In any other context, the ideas of a boss living with her staff – a Muslim woman living with male bachelors – would have been scandalous. Yet in the surreal backdrop of Baghdad, it seemed like the natural solution…


From Muslim Men can be Feminists

By the end of summer of 2004, the situation in the streets of Baghdad had deteriorated as much as I ever could imagine. At that point, a hundred international aid workers, contractors, and journalists had been kidnapped, and twenty-three had been killed. And countless Iraqi had died… What I was witnessing was the onset of a major civil war; the nation was being torn apart in its infancy… My dear friend Reema Khalaf endured the trauma of negotiating her teenage son’s ransom and had fled to Dubai the moment he was released. The neighbour across the street… who used to send me freshly baked pastries was not widowed. At every turn the Iraqi families I had become a part of were being ripped apart…

from Iraq War – Timeline in Pictures

With the withdrawal of all international aid workers, the primary target of the insurgency became Iraqi civil society itself… Late one April night in Amman, I received the dreaded phone call all of my Iraqi friends got sooner or later… Our dear friend Salah, who had also been one of my drivers, had vanished… Over the next six months, we were sent on numerous wild goose chases…. All the clues led to a dead end…

It had been two years since Salah’s disappearance. Yusuf described how Nagham was packing all of Salah’s winter clothes and taking out his spring wardrobe.

When he asked what she was doing, Nagham responded, “Everything must be in place when Salah returns.”

To this day, no trace of Salah… have been discovered….It is hard to believe that there are thousands like Salah in Iraq…


Iraqi women struggle to survive as violence claims their men

A few weeks after Salah disappeared, armed gunmen came to Yusuf’s parents home and asked for Yusuf. Fortunately, he was not home. The next day Yusuf’s car windows were broken and his tires were slashed. A death threat was found on the driver’s seat…

Hussein had already been brutally murdered…

Over the past seven years, my most vivid dreams are about my experiences in Iraq. In my dream, I experience Hussein in the same ways I experienced him in life: simple, gentle, and profound… He slaps his hands on his knees, just as he would do when he visited me in my house… His gesture says, “Sitting here is great, but I must be moving on.” Before he leaves he calls out to his three children. Fatima! Ali! Hamza! They come running into the room. I watch as they hug and kiss one another…. In my dream, Hussein and I exchange sincere smiles, albeit smiles of sadness and loss. He turns for one final glance at his children, and hope fills his eyes. Then he is gone…

Iraqi woman crying when talking about her killed husband



The politics of chess

ChessboardFrom The Human Cost: “Your Life And The Lives of Those You Love Are Just Pawns On Their Chessboard”

“It’s a funny game, chess. Like a Mandelbrot set, there’s more to it than meets the eye – the more you look at a chess as a game, the more it really gets into your soul…

The World.
The world is, essentially, black and white. Right and wrong. Truth or lie. Do or die. For the pieces that reside in the world of chess experience this stark dichotomy on a daily basis. Their world, such as it is, allows for only restricted movement. They have no real freedoms at all…

The Pieces.
Each of the players in life’s little game has their role, as in real life. From the menial, toilet-bowl washers through to the “do nothing but sit around and look magnificent” top tier of life, all facets of class system are there. As in life, the pieces are more or less defined by what they do. “You’re a doctor? Awesome… settle a bet – is this a boil or a mozzie bite?” – likewise each piece on a chess board is effectively hamstrung, their career chosen at birth and with little chance of respite from the gruelling daily grind…

The Pawn.
It’s a damning indictment on the state of the world when you consider this fact: The most populous piece on the board is also the weakest. Like the serfs and peons of eras gone by, the fact that there are 16 of the so-called ‘little people’ on the world at the beginning of any match should supply some glimmer of hope – the most precious gift in the world – to the pawns. But they are not the sum of their parts. Repressed and homogenous, they simply exist to do the dirty work, and to die quietly with as much dignity as they can muster….

The Rook.
Ahhh… the safety and security of bricks and mortar are the lesson to be learned here. How solid and dependable are the rooks? They occupy and guard the outer edges of the world, keeping the other players safe from invading paws of curious kittens and insurgencies of spilt beverages. But how high is the price of such security?

I’ll tell you – it’s a terrible toll. Severely restricted movement, and a mindset programmed to think in unbending lines…

The Knight.
By immediate comparison comes the Knight, a piece with a wonderfully British outlook atop the chequered arena. It’s movements appear eratic, but are – in fact – carefully thought out in advance, taking into account the dual notions of sense of purpose and unpredictability. They like to give the impression that they might, if pushed, be a rogue state. Their wild nature is characterised by the brumby-like physical representation, which in itself speaks volumes.

But… and there’s always a but… on their own, they are all but useless. Any successful hostile action requires the recipient of violence to be backed, literally, into a corner with all avenues of escape cut off.

And then in rides the cavalry, to take the glory and claim the victory as their own. It’s typical, if you ask me… the horsey set always likes to think of itself as punching well above its social weight. When they’re not prancing about the board of life, you’ll find the Knights playing polo and drinking champagne…

The Bishop.
Imagine a life where you are confined in your thinking to a single shade. Black or white, once you are placed in your initial position, that’s it – you may not ever occupy a square of the other shade. You must only believe in the one thing, forever more, until you are killed or the war is won.

It’s a damning indictment upon life off-board – where religious views are expounded upon at length, but rarely scrutinised and never challenged. As with any belief that is set in stone, it invariably ends in tears – it’s okay to have convictions and a strong set of moral values, but without wriggle room, it’s easy to end up trapped. If you cannot see the other side of an argument, you are doomed to lose.

The other telling point about the Bishops is that they do not move in a straight line – not in the classical sense. They’re sneaky, often arriving unexpectedly from the far side of the world to wreak violence and brutality upon those least expecting it. All of this from a man of the cloth? It’s wrong… but it’s the way of the world….

The Queen.
The Queen is the most honestly representative piece on the board, in terms of power, gender politics and potential capabilities. As a female, the Queen is the sole representative of women. As in the real world, women are horrendously under-represented in the upper echelons of power. This is, of course, coupled with the obvious glass ceiling – the Queen can never become the King, as the King never dies. Add to that the constant threat that one of the pawns may indeed reach the far rank of the board, and suddenly the Queen has another contender for the favours of the King. It’s horrible… and an eerily accurate reflection of the real world…

The King.

Bloated, corpulent and lazy, the King is a figurehead – a lumbering dinosaur whose only relevance to the world at large is to simply be. Without him, all is lost – but his presence serves only to provide purpose to the lives of others, who must live and die to protect him.

On many levels, I’m sure the other pieces have grown to hate the King. The King is little more than a chubby dictator – his whims to be observed, his life sacrosanct…

In conclusion.
It’s obvious to even the most casual observer that chess is indeed a game – one that has its roots in the violence of conquest and its complexities founded in the notion of human interaction. But at the end of the day it is – just like the life and universe it mirrors – just a game. It’s unbalanced and bigoted, often violent and strangely bleak… and that’s the way we seem to like it. “

From The Politics of Chess by Gregor Stronach


Pictures of War and Peace

PosterSeymour Chwast coins a timeless truism in 1964
from Pictures of War and Peace

Designer, author and historian Steven Heller has published a remarkable collection of war-related posters and drawings. The interpretation varies with the times but the theme remains constant. Take a look at these fascinating and powerful images. Pictures of War and Peace – Print Magazine. Thanks to Josh Freeman for sharing this thought-provoking collection in the blogosphere.


A prayer for Ukraine


My grandma was Ukrainian. My granddad was Russian. They lived happily in Ukraine all their life and are now both resting in peace next to each other…

What is happening in Ukraine now is not as simple as a pro-Western faction of residents protesting a unilateral decision to pull away from deeper EU integration made by a democratically elected government. There’s much more to the story.

While a few experts are trying to put the story straight in Ukraine from the geopolitical perspective, propaganda machines is busily working on all sides, manipulating public perception. Similar to the media coverage of the conflict in Afghanistan in 1984-1986 , the story gets twisted by the media machines in support of a certain agenda.


From When the Media Chooses the Side

As Neil Clark points out in his article Ukraine & EU: Why some protestors are more equal than others, “leading western media outlets have not only have deemed the protests to be a major story, but their reporting makes it quite clear whose side they are on….It’s revealing to compare the highly sympathetic, high profile western coverage of the Ukrainian protests with the way other protests have been covered in recent years… Generally speaking, we can say that if the protests are against a government the western elites don’t like or it’s a cause they support… then they will receive extensive coverage. Not only that, but the protest will be reported in a very positive way, even if violence is used by the protesters… “, while if similar violence is used by protesters in Western countries they will be “condemned as ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals’”.

From Getting the Story Straight in Ukraine

Russian media on the other hand is focusing all attention on the most controversial element of the anti-government alliance in Ukraine – Svoboda, an extreme right-wing political party that has representation in Ukrainian parliament and is widely known for its neo-Nazi views. Its leaders are included on the top ten list of most active anti-Semites of the world for their calls to fight with “goat-likes [Russians] and kikes [Jewish].”


The history of the radical nationalist movement in Ukraine is very long.  The radical nationalist organization under the leadership of Stepan Bandera actively cooperated with Hitler’s troops during the war, fighting against Jews, Russians and Poles.

Sergey Kirichuk, a member of the group Borotba, which publishes and anti-fascist magazine in Ukraine, told Channel 4 News that these neo-Nazis are the most violent elements on the streets. “They are the ones throwing molotovs and trying to kill policemen… Svoboda are leading ideologically now. Fascism is like a fashion now, with more and more people getting involved.”

What about people? Ordinary people like my uncles, aunties, cousins, nieces and nephews? They can only hope that their beautiful country won’t turn into a Hell on Earth. 😦

Let’s pray for the safety and well-being of all hard-working peaceful people in Ukraine – for dear Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Poles and all the other people living in that beautiful land. Pray with us too, dear grandma and granddad, from your resting place to keep peace.

From Please Pray for Ukraine

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Heroism and Compassion: John Rabe


Heroes in real life rarely look like the all-mighty supermen or superwomen from books and movies. They might speak different languages, live in different parts of the world, wear different clothes, belong to different generations.  What is common between all heroes is their belief, that with their microscopic efforts and stubborn persistence they can make this world a better place; their devotion to something bigger than them.

On my blog I like collecting stories of compassions featuring real heroes. My collection includes a few stories from the World War 2, such as:

However heroism and compassion are not confined to wars, as demonstrated by numerous examples from all over the world, including the following:

Over the Christmas holidays I was reading diaries of John Rabe (November 23, 1882 – January 5, 1950) – a German businessman who is best known for his efforts to stop the atrocities of the Japanese army during the Nanking Occupation and his work to protect and help the Chinese civilians during the event. Truly amazing man whose brave actions touched my heart.

220px-JohnRabeFrom Wikipedia

According to Erwin Wickert, the editor of John Rabe’s diaries, “John Rabe was a simple man who wanted to be no more than an honest Hamburg businessman. He was always ready to help, was well-liked, showed good common sense, and maintained a sense of humor even in difficult situations, especially then… He earned people’s highest admiration for the way that his love of his neighbor, of his Chinese fellow men in their plight, grew and ourgrew itself, for the way he not only rescued them as a Good Samaritan, but also displayed political savvy, a talent for organisation and diplomacy, and unflagging stamina in their cause. Working closely with American friends and often at the risk of his life, he built a Safety Zone in Nanking that prevented a massacre and offered relative security to 250,000 Chinese during the Japanese occupation… He was highly praised by his friends, revered as a saint by the Chinese, respected by the Japanese, whose acts of misconduct he constantly resisted. And yet he remained the same modest man he had been before, who nevertheless could lose all his gentle humility when he saw wrong being committed.”

It is impossible to fully comprehend the significance of Rabe’s heroic actions without knowing all the atrocities committed by Japanese during Nanking Massacre, that killed hundreds of thousands of people. An accurate estimation of the death toll in the massacre has not been achieved because most of the Japanese military records on the killings were deliberately destroyed or kept secret shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945. That makes Rabe’s diaries particularly important.

In his diaries Rabe documented Japanese atrocities committed during the assault upon and occupation of the city. Nanking was a true hell on earth at that time. Below are just a few examples of what John Rabe saw with his own eyes in Nanking over those weeks:

“The Japanese March in: the atrocities begin… We saw how the Japanese had tied up some thousand Chinese out in an open field… They were forced to kneel and were then shot in the back of the head.”

“Dr. Wilson used the opportunity to show me a few of his patients [at Kulou Hospital]… Among them, a civilian with his eyes burned out and his head totally burned, who had gasoline poured over him by Japanese soldiers. The body of a little boy, may be seven years old, had four bayonet wounds in it, one in the belly about as long as your finger… I have had to look at so many corpses over the last few weeks that I can keep my nerves in check even when viewing these horrible cases… I wanted to see these atrocities with my own eyes, so that I can speak as an eyewitness later. A man cannot be silent about this kind of cruelty!”

ChildChild killed in the massacre

“As we learned from on of the survivors, they were taken to a vacant house, robbed of all valuables and clothes, and when completely naked, tied up together in groups of five. Then the Japanese built a large bonfire in the courtyard, led the groups out one by one, bayoneted the men and tossed them still alive on the fire…”

“At the American Mission Hospital women are constantly being admitted… who have suffered grave bodily harm from rape committed by packs of men, with the subsequent infliction of bayonet and other wounds. One women had her throat slit half-open… Many abused girls still in their childhood have likewise been admitted to the hospital… On 12 January, my English colleague, Consul Prideaux-Brune… visited the house of Mr. Parsons of the British-American Tobacco Company and discovered there the body of a Chinese woman into whose vagina an entire golf club had been forced.”

NankingRape victims. Nanking.

“While we were aboard the British gunboat Bee… the Japanese rear-admiral Kondo declared to Holt, the British admiral, that on a large island downstream from Nanking there were still 30,000 Chinese soldiers who would have to be removed. This removal or “mopping up”, as it was called in Japanese communiques, consists of murdering what are now defenseless enemies and is contrary to fundamental principles of humane warfare. Besides mass executions by machine gun fire, other more individual methods of killing were employed as well, such as pouring gasoline over a victim and setting him afire…”

Nanking_bodies_1937Massacre victims

Humane warfare? Is there such a thing?
What can be humane in a warfare?