Now is the time to support the people of Ukraine

I have been patiently silent on the situation developing in the Ukraine. Now I believe is the time to give my views. There is a great and global danger and we are all involved. 

Much of my novel, The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove  is set in the Ukraine and is about the rise of Ukrainian nationalism in the 1970’s when they were last under Soviet rule and as I watch the plot unfold I see that history is repeating itself.  I have been to the Ukraine and I have many Ukrainian friends. So let me say first up I have a great respect for the Slavic and Russian people and they are the ones that are suffering the most and that suffering is likely to increase.

Let’s get a bit of historical perspective.  In nineteen sixty-four when Brezhnev (incidentally born in the Ukraine) took over from Khrushchev for an 18 year period of control, second only to that on Stalin.   He implemented the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’.  Basically it meant that he could intervene in any country that was not on the ‘correct’ path of socialism.  So in short, Moscow had Poland, Byelorussia (as it was then known) and Ukraine by the economic balls.  And how did they enforce it?  They did it by shipping Russians into those countries under the pretext of manning the industrial development. Warsaw, Minsk and Kiev were Russian.  Don’t ever believe they aren’t.

So Putin is now re-implementing the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ knowing that in the east of Ukraine there are significant numbers of ‘ethnic’ Russians shipped there by Brezhnev; it is in the east of Ukraine that the heavy industry is based.

But that is getting ahead of the story. The initial cause of the unrest in current Ukraine was twofold. First was the scandalous corruption of the ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. If you live in the west you cannot imagine the scale of the political corruption. If you want an example just search the internet for pictures of the mansion he built for himself and his son (also with his finger in the pie).  Secondly was Yanukovych changing allegiance in December from a trade arrangement with the EC back to Russian support. Not proven but probably for personal gain as well as threats from Russian President, Putin.

maidan

Maidan after the fight

The people of Ukraine had had enough and staged their protest in Kiev’s Independence Square (the Maidan) which finally led to the death of nearly 100 Ukrainians – from across the country.

During this period Alexandra was writing to me daily from Kiev and at the height of the problems these are her words written to me, contemporaneously.

Thursday

You know with all these events in Ukraine I do feel so pessimistic.

Yes I am at work but to tell the truth I do not feel like working at all. Yesterday I was watching the news with my parents and we are shocked about the things going on here. More and more people are killed and the President does not want to reach the peace. He was planning to have a meeting with European politicians but I am not sure if that will help.

People all over Ukraine try to come to Kiev to take part in the riots but they cancel most of the trains from other parts of Ukraine. There is so much police in the streets and they block the streets and high ways.

So as you see the situation in Ukraine is very dangerous and all that is left to us is to hope that things will be solved soon. People say that our President has his hands in blood but as you know he does not care and he will not leave the power for any price.

Do you think the President can reach the agreement with the Ukrainian people?

Do you think there is any chance that this situation will be over soon?

Wednesday

There was another fight yesterday and since then 20 people were killed. The President is not going to stop and I guess he does not really care how many people are killed. This is sort of civil war and I am not sure when that is going to be over. The age of people that were killed is 2-40 years old.

Today morning the President and the leaders of opposition were going to meet but at the last moment the President has cancelled that and his demand is that people left the Maidan and went home.

So do you think that will stop soon?

What do you hear in the news about things that are going on in Ukraine?

The situation in Kiev is getting extreme again and more people were killed. I try not to come to the city and today.  I plan to finish my work earlier. My mother and I decided to spend the whole evening in the kitchen.  And we will cook for father tonight.

Thursday

I feel so sorry for those young people that were killed by their own government. I still cannot believe all those things happened in Ukraine and my parents and I are praying for all these things finish soon and coming back to normal life.

Everybody here is in shock about the bad things going on here and we try to support each other.

Today morning my mother and I were in the city and we came to bring products and medicine to the poor people. I still feel like crying. People are hiding in the churches and in the cathedrals that used to be places for sightseeing.

There is a very big risk there will be a Civil war in Ukraine if people separate into two parts. That will be a disaster. In total 78 people were killed for the last 2 days, can you believe this?

Do you think that Ukrainian president will resign soon and that he will stop killing his own folk?

Well Yanukovych did run away and he wasn’t over thrown and the legitimate parliament of Ukraine elected a new Government. That does seem to me be legitimate.

But the Russian’s were influential in the unrest. There are strong rumours, again unsubstantiated, that the snipers that killed so many were in fact Russian military. Putin was already inciting unrest as he saw his opportunity which presumably is to rebuild the Russian Empire and influence lost when Yeltsin took over.

And that is the policy he has followed in the Crimea. Inciting unrest, claiming he is supporting ethnic Russians and annexing part of a country.

Although it is likely and almost probable that if there had been a properly managed referendum, with the option of a no vote, then Crimea might still have voted for greater independence from the centre; but that is not the point.  The actions Putin has taken have ensured that we will never know but worse it has increased the tensions in all the eastern cities.  With troops still massed on Ukraine’s eastern borders there is no guarantee that we have seen the end of the incursions.

So why is this so important and why are the western politicians right in their response?

A world war was started when Hitler invaded Poland and this is potentially is every bit as serious although thankfully the west has so far ruled out any military response in favour of economic actions. We can make many arguments for and against the effectiveness of democracy but one seemingly universally accepted precept is that each citizen has the right to determine their own future – and that is the right Putin is removing from the people of the Ukraine.

That is what we should be working towards.

If Putin was a real world leader he would be working with the EC and the USA to help Ukraine build a real and prosperous society with trade links to both sides.

But we have to be careful with what we hear; it isn’t only Moscow that are experts in misinformation. So while the west is being sanctimonious with its response we should also point out that there are very large oil shale fields in the east of the Ukraine capable of meeting many of Europe’s long term needs. Maybe both sides are taking a longer energy economic perspective?

Similarly not everything in the Ukraine is perfect. There are ultra-right wing nationalist groups but they are a minority and they have been at the forefront of much of the unrest.  But they are a very small minority and there are of course similar groups in most western democracies including the UK, France and the USA.

But we deal with them through a democratic process that drowns out their voice and gives them little support; but we don’t have agitators in our midst building them up and giving them cause. At the moment this looks like the start of a new cold war. There is still plenty of room for manoeuvre and compromises but will either side take advantage of the time that is left.

The very large majority of people in Ukraine, Belarus (still headed by a dictator of the old Russian style) and even Russia are fine people struggling for a good life.  They are being let down by the political classes.

sofia

Ukrainian support is evident in Sofia

We need to be concerned and we need to support the people of the Ukraine. We need to support western governments with their economic sanctions. Russia may retaliate with oil price rises but they also need the revenue. It is difficult to guess which way that will pan out. But we can not just sit back and watch disinterestedly.

My once very best friend, Sviatlana is from Belarus and my current love, Alexandra is Ukrainian. I like Slavic people a great deal. I commemorate each year the enormous sacrifices they made during the Second World War when their casualties were almost 20 times that of the Allies.  I have great respect for them.

We should all show solidarity with their cause. Now is not the time to let them down.

FINALIST – Amazon Breakthrough Novel of 2014

MMGC ebook Front Cover Only

The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove, my first novel, has been shortlisted into the final 300 of the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel of 2014′ in the general fiction category.

The competition runs through the year and lets see how far it gets!!

If you are trying to get a perspective on the current events in the Ukraine this is the book you need to read.  ‘The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove’ tells the story of the struggle of Ukrainian nationalists in the 1970′s against Soviet hegemony. We never seem to learn the lessons of the past.

“This is a gripping novel of intrigue, power and complex relationships, showing the havoc caused when the State and the powerful manipulate innocent young lives to achieve their own goals—even when it comes to acts against humanity.”

“This poignant story tackles important issues about destiny, complicity and personal identity and responsibility.”

“When fate deals you a hand better than you could possibly imagine, should you trust it unquestioningly? If you do, will fate then find a way to claim back the fortunes it has bestowed on you?”

It is available to be purchased on Amazon as both a paper back and eBook.

Ukraine and its problems; an historical perspective

The current unrest in Kiev has an historical perspective.

Here is an extract from my novel The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove

‘It starts in the ninth century when two Byzantine brothers from Thessaloniki started a Christian campaign in the Slavic countries. There had been so many changes and the Ukrainians in particular had been subjected to so many different rulers that they always strove for an independence of sorts. It is strong in their character; it is part of their make-up. Their culture has always been at risk.

In December 1845, a certain Mykola Kostomarov founded a secret society with some Christian principles of freedom at its core to free the Slavic countries. So, going back in history, it was right, he thought, that their group should be called after those two monks who nine centuries earlier had similar objectives. So they called themselves the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius, or in Ukrainian Kirillo-Mefodievskogo brat stvo.

Unfortunately, the authorities of the day weren’t overly impressed and most of the members – around a hundred of them probably – were arrested a couple of years after its formation. But while they were together, they talked of a federation of free Slavic people, although not so free as we might today, because they saw Kiev as the centre of all Slavic nations and not just Ukraine. Well, it’s all gone and it is really just a passing footnote in history. Except that we believe there are a number of intellectuals on the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Polish axis that feel the same today as the Brotherhood did over a century ago.”

 

I hope that soon peace returns to Ukraine and they have a true democratic opportunity to express their views. We wish them peace and a free future.

 

The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove: Press Release

Brovary are happy to announce the publication of Gerry Cryer’s novel The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove.  Available in Paperback (£8.99) at bookshops and Amazon it is also available as an eBook (£2.99) or from sales@gerrycryer.com

Vis_1981lowsqOne day three years ago, Gerry Cryer, 62, then a successful international businessman woke, decided enough was enough and without preparation, plan or money stepped away totally from a commercial world to become a novelist.  From a luxury life in Dubai to novelist living in a single room in Surrey he has powerful and entertaining stories to tell.  The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove, his first novel is now published.  His next novel, Blah Blah, will be published in March.

“This is a gripping novel of intrigue, power and complex relationships, showing the havoc caused when the State and the powerful manipulate innocent young lives to achieve their own goals—even when it comes to acts against humanity.”

“This poignant story tackles important issues about destiny, complicity and personal identity and responsibility.”

“When fate deals you a hand better than you could possibly imagine, should you trust it unquestioningly? If you do, will fate then find a way to claim back the fortunes it has bestowed on you?” 


Was the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl a deliberate act of sabotage sponsored by the UK? 
Just how complicit were the British in the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl?

MMGC ebook Front Cover Only

How would you react when you are told that your whole life has been manipulated and orchestrated by another and you have been instrumental in promoting and sponsoring Ukrainian nationalists to sabotage Chernobyl? Once Professor Aleksandra Ponomarenko had been George Cove’s tutor at Oxford but today, twenty years since they last met, she is telling him a life story – his own.

How to buyHe knew already that one of the greatest human tragedies of the twentieth century, the nuclear incident at Chernobyl in 1986, was deliberate sabotage, but Aleksandra reveals that not only was his role pivotal in the catastrophe, but everything else that mattered in his life – his education, his job, where he lived, how he lived, who he fell in love with, and who he lost – was orchestrated by the unseen hand of Bill Familiant.

A Broken Hip and A Broken Heart, Women’s Equality and Driver-less Cars

The power of human recovery is perverse.

broken hip 2On Boxing Day, my sure-footed, eighty-five year old Mum tripped while out walking.  She sat on the side of the road for a time, a friend brought us home in his car, gingerly she walked into the house and sat on the sofa getting over the shock.  We (my sister and I) thought she had badly bruised her hip.  It still ached after two hours so we went to A&E in Guildford to get an X-ray.

The first doctor we saw also thought it was a bad bruise; but then the X-ray showed differently.  It was a broken hip, immediate admission to the hospital and surgery the next day.  That was eleven days ago.

My Mum is now home with us, walking, albeit slowly, with a frame, climbing stairs to bed.  Tonight we all went out, if only for a short time for a drink and to meet friends.  She hopes and expects that in a couple of weeks she will be at her own home again.  There is nothing that makes me doubt otherwise.

My mother has never been frail but still the body recovers quickly from breaks, bangs and bruises.  The pain disappears naturally and if it doesn’t there are drugs to numb the nerve ends and inhibit all those signals to the brain.broken heart

But a heart broken in love never seems to heal fully.  There is no physical damage, no broken or frayed nerve ends yet the brain manages to generate pain forever.  However long ago it happened there are always triggers that set you back.

The brain doesn’t seem to care if you have fallen in love again for there are always scars that can never be healed.  It’s a universal truth.  How often have you heard otherwise balanced friends tell you that they are scared of dating because of the fear that they might be starting a process that ends with them falling in love.  They want the love but the pain of being hurt again is too much to bear.

The power of human recovery is perverse.

India has god reason to look at itself – but so do we

indian rape 2Last week a 23 year girl was raped in Delhi and she later died.

Let’s be clear.  This is a crime that could have happened anywhere but it happens more often in India.  The issue has reverberated across the world not because a rape took place but because it highlighted the position of women in Indian indian rapesociety and the class hierarchies that still exist.

A BBC report highlighted one of the attitudes towards women.  “Every year, thousands of girls are aborted because of a traditional preference for sons – medical staff are bribed into revealing the sex of the child.  It is leading to an increasingly skewed ratio of women to men. And some of the worst figures are in rich South Delhi”

The now arrested gang leader said that she ‘stood up to him.’  That is why she was raped.  It was an embedded attitude of male superiority.  It was an attitude based on hundreds of years of culture and tradition.

Of course I condemn the crime totally and hope the perpetrators are dealt with properly and harshly.  Of course I want to see these attitudes change and modified.

Mind_the_gap1But this is not just an Indian issue.  I have many female friends in the Ukraine and in our exchange of letters this quote is one of many I hear, “To my mind, Ukrainian men don’t value our women and they are very inattentive to them.”  This was among the milder comments I read.  Many are a lot harsher about the state of women in their country.  In this instance Ukraine is not an outlier but an example of attitudes that are common in the old Eastern Block.

So before we self-congratulate ourselves too much on the issue of women’s rights in the rich West we should take stock of where we are and where we have come from.  To get to where we are today it is has taken nearly a hundred years from the suffragette in England and fifty years from the start of the global feminist movement .  But still we are long way from equality based on respect instead of law.

Certainly we should campaign against this crime in India but remember to some degree or other it is still a global issue.

Driver-less cars

As a footnote I saw a technology prediction for 2013 that astounded me and reminded me how far technology has moved and so quickly.  We find it hard to remember that it is less than twenty-five years since the first PC.  I driverless carstarted work when there were type writers and no photocopiers.

In 2013, so the prediction goes there will be a driver-less taxi service operating in Las Vegas.  Volvo has tested a driver-less convoy on a motorway (I think in Spain) and Google already have permission from the State of Nevada to operate the driver-less taxis.  I know no more details but I can’t wait to try it out.

some Christmas thoughts on being happy

Danielle is Romanian.  She moved from  Bucharest to the USA to marry George, a Russian émigré to the USA.  I was chatting to her last week about her goals in life, a task set by her school in Boston, where she is now studying.  She is twenty-six and, sadly, so early in her life, questioning what she has achieved.  She has taken a law degree in Bucharest; moved to America and married.  What more could she have hoped for or expected by twenty-six?

But the American culture which she is now embracing is driving her to become even more goal focused.  It is asking her to set targets and strive to achieve.  They imply that setting and achieving personal goals is the key to a successful life.

When she was younger in Bucharest and in her teenage years I am sure she never had the goal of leaving her family and friends to move to America.  She has told me as much.  Her objective was, like many of us, to be in love and be happy.  Had her fiancée been French then she would now have been in France, had he been English she would have been struggling to absorb British culture and humour.

While I prefer to think of a fulfilling life and not a successful life I will, for the moment, bow to the American perspective.  To be successful in life requires a real understanding of what is important in your life and this is different for everyone.  However, whatever the culture, there is a common core.  As the proverb says I want to be healthy, wealthy and wise.  But that is far too general and even at this simplistic level needs consideration.

Healthy and wise, of course, but we all need to consider if to be wealthy is really a goal we all want to aim for.

work lifeA girl friend of mine has two men in her life.  She likes them both.  One offers her a life of much money and the other enriches her heart with a deep love.  Both have asked her to marry them.   She was torn between them.  She accepted the offer of the man who she loved more deeply.  I talked with her and she said that in the end it was love that was more important but that love was of no use because without security loves would fail.  She had security, she had love but she didn’t have monetary wealth.  Wealth and security without love was meaningless.  For her it was perfect.  Who else would trade a life of love for wealth?

Healthy, wealthy and wise are simple objectives; in fact they are more of hopes.  But are they consistent with the culture of goal setting?

Of course it is in the tradition of many modern philosophies, and in that I include capitalism to assume that the purpose of life is only really achieved by setting and achieving targets and goals and success is like climbing the steps of a ladder.  Achieve one task then achieve another, meet a goal reach the top step and move on to the next target.  The theory is that it is this attitude that creates the competitive spirit that fuels innovation and economic development; and that leads to a successful life.

The converse of this however is the pain that arises when the goals are not achieved.  If we fail to achieve our goals then the biblical prophecy of Mathew comes true and “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  We see this is in the increase use of analysts and therapists.  We are unable to cope with failure because, I suspect, we were not meant to be so focused on short-term targets.

Sitting alongside the day-to-day effort for success  is the horrible phrase work life balance.  Our over emphasis on goals has driven people to forget the fundamentals of their family and happiness.  I do not understand the work life balance as for me work is part of my life and it is important to see work as part of my whole being.   I do not live to work but I work to live the fullest and most satisfying life I can.

Whether we talk of goals or hopes and aspirations failing to achieve is not necessary failure. While laziness is often a serious problem I like to think that other interests have taken over.  Each day we discover new opportunities as the world around us changes.  We need to stay flexible and open-minded to what we face.  We need to be malleable and open to new opportunities.  Normally we have only one chance to say yes and these need to be taken.  It is necessary to think yes first and then no.

And so as I think about my life what I think about most is always putting myself in a position to live a life which four main objectives.  When I finally reach the time in my life when I reflect on what it has been (I don’t like to think I am there yet) I want to be able to say:

  1. To the very end I have been healthy;
  2. I have felt secure;
  3. I have been loved and I loved with passion; and
  4. I have listened, learnt, understood and become wise.

And if I manage to achieve all these then I might just be able to say I have been happy, smiled, laughed and lived a life full of joy and purpose and for you reader, if you can use his words to guide your decisions, retain flexibility and remember your real long-term objective is to be happy and loved, I hope like Danielle you will have a long and fruitful life.

Tread each step of the ladder surely with the excitement of not knowing what the view will be when you reach the top.  Life is all about small steps turning into large strides.

A very merry Christmas to everyone and may all your hopes for 2013 come to pass.

Gerry

have you heard something about stalin? a christmas warning

I have a wonderfully dear friend, Inessa, in Moscow and she is one of the most accomplished people I have met; single mother, finance director of a large international economics organisation, multilingual, professional concert pianist, latin dancer and once Soviet show jumping champion. So normally when she surprises me it is about how she finds the time to do anything new, which includes writing a letter to me.

But this week she managed to shock me in a new way.

StalinPortraitIn her last letter, in reply to mine offering my books as good reading for an upcoming business trip, Inessa politely declined with the words …. I have just started to read a book about life of Iosif Stalin. Have you heard something about him?

Inessa knows me quite well but her thought that I may not know something about Stalin was, to put it bluntly, initially an outrageous suggestion. If I had to compile a list of the top ten major political shapers of the twentieth century Stalin would be in there. Of course I knew something about Stalin. No, that can’t be what Inessa meant and so I started to look for other meanings

I dismissed imprecision in her language. Inessa is fluent in English and other languages.

I thought of other interpretations and I remembered a conversation I had three or four years ago. One of my best friends (I should add once one of my best friends – but that is another story to be told much later) Sviatlana a Belarusian and I talked about a UK government report into a plane crash in the UK.

Sviatlana was adamant the report, which managed to vaguely blame no one, was a cover up. ‘Of course,’ she would say, ‘the government wouldn’t let the truth be told. They will do just enough to avoid comment.’ For my part I would retort, ‘Of course it is all the truth. We have a Press who wouldn’t allow it to be anything but the total truth. If that is what the report said happened then, to the best of the knowledge of the scientists that is what happened.’

And so we would debate many issues each believing in our truths based solely on our backgrounds and core beliefs; we were both right and both wrong.

Our backgrounds and education give us very different prejudices and triggers which we don’t always recognise. We disparage and pigeon-hole the people of different nations as a whole. We will treat every Frenchman we meet as if he was the same as every other Frenchman. I know this to be patently silly but it is human nature. I checked the internet and it didn’t take long on Wiki to get these, among all the many stereotypes:

  • Romanians are all thieving gypsies
  • Arab men are womanisers and Arab women are totally oppressed
  • Australians like to party, surf all day and drink all night
  • British drink warm beer, eat lousy food, have the bulldog spirit but with bad teeth and hygiene, and finally
  • Americans are arrogant, assertive, materialistic and ambitious. They have a US-centred world view, don’t have passports, are egoistical, fast food eaters, war mongers and believe always that God is with them.

Maybe in here was the crux of Inness’s words. Maybe the disconnect was in background and education.

English: From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Fr...

Inessa was educated in Russia when it was still a communist state and I presume that Stalin was not core syllabus.

I have written many times of my admiration for the Slavic people in the Second World War and I am continually astonished that their role and sacrifices, which far outweigh that of the ‘West’ is not more fully recognised and commemorated. But I know why we overlook their enormous sacrifice; Joseph Stalin.

In the West we were brought up with the consequences of Stalin and the terrible legacy he bestowed on the Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик or the USSR. I knew of the Great Purge, the murders, killings and Гла́вное управле́ние исправи́тельно-трудовы́х лагере́й и коло́ний or Gulags. In the West, Stalin was labelled as demon or devil.

We heard in our school history lessons of the Yalta conference when Britain, America and the USSR met to carve up Europe and we were fed Churchill’s words:  ‘No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have and I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it. But now the past, with its crimes, its follies, and its tragedies, flashes away ….. I have to declare the decision of His Majesty’s Government that any man or state who fights on against Nazidom will have our aid. The Russian danger is therefore our danger, the cause of any Russian fighting for his hearth and home is the cause of free men and free people in every quarter of the globe,’  and we followed Churchill and Roosevelt later being duped as Stalin continued on his expansionist plans.

gulag

But what was Inessa taught about these years of tyranny? The many times attributed ‘history is written by the victors’ is appropriate. Stalin was the victor and he wrote and educated his people in his history. Maybe even in her education Stalin himself has been purged, until now, from Russian history and she is now, for the first time, discovering her political roots.

As we try and get greater understanding and tolerance around the world, here is the rub.

And as we head into the Christmas season, the season of goodwill to all men, I urge you all to listen to the words of warring parties from around the world and recognise that everything may not be quite so clear cut as you first thought. Words of peace can be wrapped up in national traits and typecasting. You will need all your cultural sensitivity to understand the real aims and objectives.

And for Inessa’s question I have also reached a conclusion. My initial disbelief has diminished. As I researched the internet I learnt I know very little of the life of Joseph Stalin. What I did know was all wrapped up in cold war propaganda. However, Inessa, you will never convince me that he was a kind and gentle man. But the truth is I have heard something of him but, as ever, not as much as you will when you have finished reading your book.