Friday, November 13, 2009

He will never write another song


Ever since the July 7th memorial to the King of Pop I was pondering this blog entry. Ever since his passing and up to this day one thought doesn’t leave the back of my mind. This IS It and he will never write another song. Today the prime-time stations are not waiting time on his bank accounts, his medical history, his family, his police record and so on. We are left now with his work. Music that transcended genre, lyrics that made people thinks and erased country borders, movement that kept us glued to the TV and made us think that we all can fly.

May people on this earth are gifted, are Aces at what they do, invent things that change our lives and so on. Regardless of what we do, we are all guilty of short-sided views of the world. Most often our perception of it is limited by what we do or where we live. Common practices and prejudices often make it difficult to see the big picture, or imagine a different conclusion to the typical beginning.

Very few people are great in a multitude of areas and are capable of changing the world. And Michel Jackson did Change the World. The changes he made are taken for granted now. We think little about segregation while watching Music Videos or TV shows. We don’t look at all at the Labels on CD albums. Copyrights and royalties are handled by agents and lawyers and basically are expected by the young and new performers. We don’t remember that it wasn’t always so. Every now and that I notice a jacket in a Russian sop-opera, a dance move in a concert, or a melody that will remind me of Michel. I know that the resemblance is not an attempt to steal an idea; it is a result of well accepted norm and fashion that originated from MJ. They don’t even know whose building blocks they just used.

After the experience of This Is It documentary I am left with the feeling that the Mozart of the 20th century is gone and he will never write another song. The rehearsal processes for This Is It illustrated how aware Michael was about every detail of the product he didn’t get to produce. He was part of the audition process from the legions of dancers; he knew the skills of every musician. He noticed every mistake and missed note from every instrument or person. The old videos for Thriller and the Earth Song were filmed anew with the dancers on the tour, to serve as the backdrop for the dancers on stage. The scope was gigantic the effect unparallel. He was as always bigger than life. He had so much more to give and wanted to do so. And I am left with the thought that he will never write another song.

I still remember Usher touching the casket at the memorial service, when the thought first entered my head. He will never write another song, but this man heard the ones that are written. The dancers on the This Is It tour learned from him and will never forget the lesson. There are enough of those who managed to do the same. Those that leaned are the ones who will Change the World again. One song, one patented pare of shoes, one copyright investment, or one supported charity at a time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spoleto 09

Ever since my college days, the Spoleto USA Festival and its little brother Piccolo Spoleto have been a point of reference in my life. For me it is similar to the Super Bowl or the playoffs or something of that nature. Regardless of where I am in my life with regards to employment, relationships, or personal well being, it never fails to stop my mundane routine. In the past I have ushered the events in order to see them. I have interned, volunteered, and I performed in Piccolo events.

During my skillful ventures at seeing as many performances on a comp ticket as possible, I would inevitably meet a former college classmate or a returning performer who has made it in the field. I would talk to them about their life touring the country, playing coffee houses and black box theaters, about their dealings with arts managers and so forth. These people are not rich; they don’t have Oscars or even SAG cards, but nonetheless they are supporting themselves by doing what they love. They do not settle; they did not sell out. They don’t use their acting skills to sell time shares. They don’t run to community orchestra rehearsals to forget about stressful office jobs. They keep the hope alive!

These encounters usually lead me to a withdrawal type of let down the week after the festival. I would recount each instance where I had trouble introducing myself or told a white lie about what I do or who I am. “I am a wannabe writer and I work for the government.” “Nothing changes in Chuck town; it’s all the same; I am doing well.”
My mother’s voice would sound in my head, “He was great, but what’s in it for you? One out of how many? What do the rest do?”

Some time after I would get an “aha” moment, remembering the best lines from plays, buy a recording or look up a composition I have heard live. I get a few chapters out, with renewed determination to make it. Then slowly I loose momentum until the next festival.

This year is a bit different. The recession has changed the main attraction of the Charleston art buffs. The ticket prices have been climbing consistently; but this year that the number of main events is smaller as well. Instead of three operas there is now only one. There are more chamber concerts where a smaller number of musicians is needed and so on. The programs consist of compositions that are faster and easier to learn. The innovative performance of the old, or the first ever performance of the new might not generate an audience, so I am once again in the cast of thousands singing the Mozart Requiem. It is one of my favorite pieces of music, but it is a very safe bet.

I did not plan to volunteer this year, since I am busy learning a skill for a new career yet again. I decided I do not fit the age group for an usher, and my motives there would be a bit obvious. And I plan to pay for one or two events. My post festival depression almost came before the festival, but then I got a phone call from the festival office.

The lead in the opera Louise needed a Russian-English translator, and I was invited to the rehearsal at the beginning of May. There is a misconception that opera divas are bitchy and that they never notice the little people. The singing community is full of jokes about the short and vain tenors, and airhead sopranos. I have studied voice and participated in the opera process enough to see where those stigmas come from, but this experience took it to a new level.

This former lead in the Bolshoi Theatre was not happy with his costume and his minimal skills in English were not enough to get his point across. The costume designer and the managing director had automatically thought that he was pulling rank. When I understood the problem, however, and conveyed the singer’s misgivings, his points did make sense to everyone. Yes, it is true, that the government supported Bolshoi theatre has a warehouse that holds two hundred years worth of costumes. Yes it is true, that the lead performers expect to have an input on what they wear on stage and want to have a flattering costume. Yet, it is also true that they are cast because they come to their role, having already researched, learned and lived it. Sergey Kunaev knew how his character dressed, how he moved, how he viewed the world, and why he ended up where he was. After seeing the costume suggested to him on a smaller character on opening night, I can say with certainty, that he was absolutely right to protest.

My help was needed for two rehearsals after which the director and the lead managed to find common ground. I strongly suspect that even though I was paid in comp tickets for my services, the management did not want to pay me for more than what was absolutely necessary. The second reason was that Sergey Kunaev, playing Julien did not need much direction. And the most important reason is, that music really is an international language.

I had very little chance to actually talk to this headliner, but in the brief encounter we did
Have, I managed to see every “diva” in the new light. Performers are actually the best listeners, and when they are in a conversation about their work they do pay attention to you. They give the impression of being ordinary people with daily problems, like phone charges and connection difficulties, or being cold with a thermostat on 60ยบ. They joke and swear; they have complexes and hopes, and are in the same boat with us in regard to many things.

The stigma of not noticing little people and not remembering names comes form that otherworldly look that most leads have before a performance. It is not that other people are not important and that they are better then us. The absent mindedness comes from the lines, blocking, steps, music notes and costume changes that are running though their heads. If you imagine the to do list of a lead, you would probably be surprised that they are not bumping into furniture, or falling down the stairs along their way.

Years ago, I would have been upset that my glimpse behind the curtain was so brief, or that I didn’t get a chance to wish Sergey good luck. My mother’s question of “What’s in it for you?” would have upset me. Today, I am comfortable with being proud of him, and of many other successful performers I have met, and will meet this Spoleto Season.

Maybe it is because all three of the Skinny White Comics have the subject of unemployment in their routines; maybe it is because I am writing on a daily basis; or maybe it is because I have seen so many problems that artists actually face, but I think there will be no let down this time.

It is no coincidence that the theme of the festival, from the main opera Louise to the plays in the Stelle Di Domani series is the creative process. The life of the Bohemians: the daily struggle to create art while making a living is depicted in many of this year’s Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Events. Recession puts the arts last on people’s priority lists, and yet the seats are filled. I think the reason is that when all else fails we all look for inspiration. I have found ideas for my writing in the first two days of the festival, and I will find more. I believe that it will work the same way for other people. Just as I am working on a new career in which I can work for myself, many people decide to start their own business for the lack of an alternative. And even if the theatre is make believe and the show eventually ends, we all find something in it that we can relate to. I hope that most of us will remember it as something that gives hope as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Lost My Faith In Men

I find myself at a crossroads today, with a nagging feeling that I have been here before. This is not my first time out of a job, and I recall accepting positions and trying things that don’t fit me, just for something to do, out of desperation, or for the novelty of it. Looking at the hot job offers that come to my mailbox every day, that advertise insurance, or sales positions from the comfort of your own home I recall falling for their line.

I was desperate and depressed after my second unsuccessful career change and I have answered an add for a Talent Scout thinking it has something to do with Arts Management, which was my college major. People from all walks of life were welcomed into a training program with no filtering system, and we soon discovered that realistic people quit. Our job was to come up to random strangers on the street and sell them an idea of being a model. For a time I deceived even myself into thinking that I am a salesman of dreams. We all learned the stats- the measurements of male and female models, the possible jobs they may have with particular features and so on. At first it was fun to man the casting calls and to take people’s photos, and giving out business cards in the mall. Then I learned how it all works!

We were paid five bucks for every person that came to the presentation, and twenty for everyone who signed up for the services. The trouble is services casted $700 and most models – teens and young adults didn’t have that kind of money. So, the first problem we all faced was that Charleston SC, is not New York, NY. In two weeks the possible places for scouting were all covered by the legions of trainees that this new branch employed. And then I discovered the problem number two. Imputing the clients into the database of models, that was supposed to lunch their career I was struck by the shear number of suckers. I saw that even here there was no filtering system. The database was supposedly open for casting directors looking for extras, modeling agencies looking for clients to represent, and marketers looking for best person to sell their product. The line was that they all played for the exclusivity of the service. However, after stumbling upon a few genuine working models, and hearing about how their agents work, or about how they were ripped off by a similar scammers I saw that the service is a myth. One girl in a million actually gets picked, and legions of mothers who love their kids pay for an unreachable dream.

Today, when people ask me if I saw the last episode of “American Idol” I answer that as a musician I find it demeaning, that I never saw a single episode, and that I hope I never lie to anyone about their talent or lack thereof to anyone. What I don’t tell people that that experience taught me that, I now see crooks and scammers almost everywhere, and I lost my faith in men.

Eventually, after that experience I found work in the business world. As an administrator in a small business I shopped around for health insurance for myself and for my employer. Imagine my surprise, when I found a few similar rules that applied to insurance salesmen with the same ease they did in the “dream selling” industry. The insurance salesmen were attractive, easygoing people who can talk a mile a minute. They flashed colorful brochures, and applied subliminal pressure. When I compared the packages of services, after the salesman is gone, I discovered that the premiums and the co pays were almost equal to the price of the procedure without any insurance. Not only that, I found out that I am uninsurable because of my preexisting condition. I have called the salesmen back, just to see what happens, and I watched him sweat. He called his superiors, explaining that even though I have Cerebral Palsy in my record I am in fact walking, talking, working individual with no visible symptoms. At the end the discounted sweet deal presented on paper ended up to be totally not worth my while, and the salesmen left without a commission.


I felt sorry for the guy, thinking about how long it would take for him to quit, yet for some reason I went to an interview with his company when I was looking for work again. Part of me wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, since my medical history is unique, and I wanted to regain my faith in men.

At the interview I saw a room similar to the one the “dream sellers” used for their presentations, and it contained nine other suckers. The PowerPoint presentation on the company was vague and confusing enough to sell the idea. But I saw that the job required either to drive around town to small businesses, competing with other agents, or calling leads that the company recycles. That was another lesson I leaned with the “dream sellers” – some people are approached by three or four trainees, till the leads get violent with you on the phone. The base and commission structure was also similar to the one I describe before.

In the one on one interview with the branch owner I called her bluff, recalled my personal experience with the services of her company. She turned crimson red, said that she will use my case as a teaching example for her trainees, and told me that if the job doesn’t suite me I can leave.

Today I notice these companies from their adds, sometimes without reading the entire thing. Home insurance, flood insurance, health insurance, life insurance, communication services, shares and annuities, club memberships, stocks and bonds. So many American inventions sell things that don’t represent a product or a service. Or at best they sell a service or a product at such a mark up that you can send a kid to college on the difference. And every time I see an ad like that on hot jobs, or in my physical mail box I see crooks and scammers almost everywhere, and I loose my faith in men.

Knowing all that, you would think that I wont’ buy in another scam, but I am ashamed to admit I did. When life as you know crumbles around you, you are pruned to look for escape and to buy into an impossible dream. I was in the middle of a divorce, my physical appearance was a it’s most hideous, my self-esteem was at it’s lowest, and I was out of a job. I have received a call from a “salesmen” telling me that I won two million dollars. All I had to do to claim my reward was pay taxes on my winnings. In a stressful situation, or when you are emotionally spent your defenses go down. After two days of calls from 1-888 numbers I have sent a money order of $5,000 to an account, which I was later informed by the police, was an untreatable Swiss Bank. Naturally my reward never came, and the 1-888 restricted numbers went dead as soon as I sent the money. The investigator of white collar crimes, and identity fraud later told me, that the phone numbers were pre-paid cell phones originating in Canada, and that there is no way to get my money back.

Upon this shameful experience I have changed my bank accounts, closed all credit cards, and compiled this debt of shame on top of the one I had as a dowry from my ex. And once again I saw crooks and scammers almost everywhere, and I lost my faith in men.

Time goes on, and I have bounced back to life. My readers know of my quest to find balance in my life, and of my desire to develop my creative gifts. My return to the dating world was not as easy and fast as that to productivity and this is why. Even though my ex husband was introduced to me in a chat room, I did write it off as a coincidence, and returned to the internet. I have created personal profiles on a few sites and eventually started talking.

First thing that struck me was the sheer number of profiles on personal sites. I have heard the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby while reading many of them. The sad part is that among those that are looking for someone to share their life with there are crooks and scammers of extraordinary skill, preying on “all the lonely people.”
The man behind the profile that taught me wrote that he is an engineer, building a school in Nigeria; he posted an attractive picture, and talked of a family members al over Europe; he showered me with compliments, and come on lines and so on. When he decided that I am softened up enough he went for the kill. “Nigeria is uncivilized, it has no banking system, I am short on cash, but I have plenty of money in Europe. Could you help me out and cash a money order in your bank, if I leave you $500 for yourself?” In the beginning the guy introduced himself as Bob, but the money was supposed to be sent to Baqer-Abdul-Aziz or something along those lines.

Meanwhile another instant messenger window pops up from nowhere, and the owner of it writes, that he is a CIA operative trying to catch Nigerian scammers, who convince American women to cash counterfeit money orders. Knowing what I already did about scammers, I decided to play along. I agreed to “Bob’s” terms, and let the agent monitor my conversations. When the money orders came in the mail, I took them to the post office. I asked the clerk to tell me if they are real or not, and was astounded to compare the difference between the genuine article and the ones I brought.

With all of my previous experience, It probably took another week of compliments for me to let my guard down. If it wasn’t for the agent; who eventually wanted to much of undercover work from me for my taste, and was blocked together with the scammer; I may have cashed those fake notes at a bank, only to end up with a loss of untraceable funds. But, I told the guy his money orders were fake and blocked him. Even though the warning about Nigerian scammers was issued on news channels, I have spotted three of them a few months later, but this time I called their bluff much earlier. They all speak English with a similar accent and make uniquely African grammatical errors. They pick specific professions as a front. They even use the same come on lines and compliments. And most importantly they pick women that didn’t have much luck with men. That last detail still makes me wonder what is written on my forehead. And it also explains why I see crooks and scammers almost everywhere, and I lost my faith in men.

The sad part about this is, that ten years ago I was famous for my intuition, my insight into people’s souls and my ability to get them to open up to me. Today I doubt everything. I leaned to suspect everyone and rely only on myself. The draw back of this new skill is, however that I am becoming mean. Since I have no faith in men, I have lost my diplomatic skills with them and I have managed to hurt a few unintentionally. For some people this may be normal, but for someone who writes fairy-tales, it is detrimental to stop believing in their possibility enough to turn into an evil witch.

I am a student of human nature, I like getting people to talk to me, yet I seem to have a wall around me now. Recently I have stumbled on another crook, and a wall has helped me avoid a bad situation. Before this recent incident, however, I wasn’t even aware that I see crooks and scammers almost everywhere, and I lost my faith in men. I didn’t see that I don’t’ give to charity, because I am convinced that those that needed most will never get it. After working for the government I also know that middle man takes most of what you donate. I wasn’t aware how head it is for me now to suspend my disbelief. I didn’t know how often I show my lack of faith in men. And I didn’t know that I am once again out of balance. I am out of balance, for there has to be a line, between buying into scams, and snapping at random strangers, and I seem to have lost it.

This is an SOS dear reader. I am opened for surjection’s from those who can help me not to see scammers and crooks everywhere and to find my faith in men. I am still talking to people, still working as heard as I can at remembering myself as a child. I am still optimistic about the way out of this, but would like to know, if someone else is in the same boat.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Day

Since my last entry I had many time consuming events in my life. I have performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Hosted a New Year’s Ball with the Summerville Community Orchestra, and spent almost a month sick with the flue.

Still spending eight hours a day at work, I have made very small steps in my children’s book. There was very little writing involved and a lot of research. The more I found out the more I realized that I need to find out more. So now I am deep into the study of Jewish Fairy Tales. It is an extensive and fascinating legacy and I am fascinated by it.

Today I find myself a statistic, among the legions of unemployed people laid off, but unlike many I am actually glad. I am glad not to wake up at 5:.30 am; glad not to waist my brain power on mindless repetitive tasks; glad not to be limited in the use of internet; glad not to be timed and measured against the standards that make very little sense and so on. I have worked in government administration, but my work had so many aspects of an assembly line, that I think many of the factory workers currently laid off, will understand me.

Some very good friends have ended up victims to Reduction in Force together with me. I am sure they are all wondering what it was they were picked for. The list of candidates makes very little sense other, then counting out to ten standing in a line. Young and old; black and white; experienced and new; excellent and mediocre – workers of all shapes and sizes were pulled with only one intent. – Save the most money. The formula has nothing to do with who you are.

The following poem was written to one very special individual, but I think it applies to all of us today:


Children of the lesser God
Hear the hearts of those near.
Blind musicians have insight
Into souls of those they hear.

Dancers with a missing limb
Choreograph for us true passion,
And fill life’s cup to the brim
Those, whose luck is poorly rationed.

Don’t look at this sat back
As the fate of those less able,
Look at it, as call to act
For special few at the best table.


So, for those who are still working and those that lost their jobs, I advise to look at this situation as the new opportunity. Personally, I hope to spend my day divided between my research in children’s and Jewish Literature and the learning of a new skill needed for my future employment. I hope to make it possible for me to earn money from home, so that I can work on my writing as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

National Disability Employment Awareness Month


When I get to know people I often disclose that I have Cerebral Palsy for shock value. Two possible reactions usually follow. One is masked or open confusion from people who don’t know what CP is. The other is disbelief from those that do. I have no obvious signs of CP. I move around the office, carry boxes, run on an elliptical, jump rope, and even used to ride a bike as a kid. Unless you get into a flexibility and balance contest with me, the only things you may notice are two small scars on my calves.

Why do I shock people with such a personal detail about myself? Sometimes I do it to assess how accepting they are, sometimes I do it to see how aware they are, and sometimes I do it to get people to open up about themselves.

As a child they called me a walking miracle, and I naively and pompously thought that I could be an inspiration and a leader to children like me- children with disabilities. What I have found many a times was envy from parents who’s children were not as lucky as I. I also noticed that children or adults with disabilities do not want to be noticed. The drive to compensate for their limitations and to achieve “normal” or productive lives is not something many people with limitations have.

When I came to America at the age of sixteen I have encountered the “let’s make them comfortable” approach with which the physically disabled are treated. As long as a person is given a wheel chair and medicine he is considered assisted. As long as Law Suits are won and financial aid is given, we can count ourselves humane and accepting. Very little is done to really integrate people with disabilities and other limitations into society. Very little is done to inspire them and put a spot light on their heroes.

Regardless of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and any other laws put in place since then, small businesses have no real incentives to hire those whose disabilities are obvious to the general public. Recreational events and organizations that promote inclusion for adults with disabilities could be counted on one hand.

At the end of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, there was a ten minute special on Para – Olympics. I was looking forward to finding out about my type of heroes, only to be disappointed by a two sentence mention of the opening, during the Nightly News. Olympic medals in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball or goalball are in no way less deserved then those in conventional teem sports, yet we didn’t see that on ESPN. The record in swimming among those missing a limb deserves no less recognition then medals won by Michael Felps, yet nobody cares that an American 18 year old named Roy Perkins won Men's 100m Freestyle in S5 category in Para-Olympic Games of 2008.
To me, running or cycling on prosthetics, or finding a ball by the sound it makes on the game floor is more remarkable, but I know that those heroes are the heroes of the few. They are heroes to those with disabilities and their families.

Most people don’t know the difference between the Special Olympics and the Para- Olympics. Those that do, may donate to a few organizations to show support, but will most likely find Para-Olympic sports difficult to stomach. That kind of entertainment forces us to notice mistakes of nature and mistakes of men in equal measure. It reminds us of our immortality, vulnerability and uniqueness. It may even force us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who face adversity.

In my childhood I was frequently exposed to children with physical and mental challenges. I have always found them to be equals members of some nameless team. Yet, during this month, working on the National Employees with Disabilities Awareness Committee, I have realized how much I have forgotten. By a lucky coincidence I have scheduled a procedure, which now prevents me from using a foot for six weeks. So, this month I am finding out first hand, what it is like to compensate for a part of your body that doesn’t function, what it is like to need wheelchair access, and what it is like to ask for help to do things that usually don’t deserve a second thought.

This experience reminded me that disabled people are usually very resourceful and often genius, when it comes to alternative ways to do things. It resurrected in my memory many a home made wheelchairs, ramps and support mechanisms that parents have made in the absence of something better. I have recalled how easily those devices became props for comedy routines, musical instruments, and athletic equipment, when those using them were among friends.

Being reminded of this enormous capacity to succeed, makes it even more difficult for me to comprehend why people with disabilities are still a minority that is “in the closet “the most. We are a minority that hides from the spotlight, and hides our uniqueness the most. We are the minority that will ask for help last, for the fear of exclusion on the basis of our limited abilities. And with the growing number of war and natural disaster related injuries we are a minority in denial.

My time in the work place while using a scooter to compensate for my foot, had partially answered my question. Many people were ready and eager to help me, while they could see my assisting device. Most, however, had no recollection of my limitations while my device was hidden under a table, and I looked like every other desk job employee. As the result I had to ask for help, in so reminding people of my condition.

As someone who will regain my mobility in a few weeks, I can brush off this experience as an inconvenience. I do, however understand a lot better now, that it is much easier to remain in the circle of those who remember your strengths and weaknesses at all times, and will not feel uneasy about them. It is also a lot safer to keep your chronic conditions confidential, then to make them a slogan for worthy causes.
And finally it is a lot easier to look the other way, then to see the possibilities in those with disabilities.

So, I volunteered for this committee to disclose once again, that I have Cerebral Palsy, and to prove to my self more then to anyone else, that I was right in picking Itzhak Perlman for inspiration, and Josh Blue for Last Comic Standing. And just maybe I will live to see the day when my kind of heroes will be the heroes of the majority. I know I can do something everyday to bring that day closer, and so can everyone else.

Friday, September 26, 2008

08.08.08

NTV America:
“Genocide in Ossetia” !
RTV International:
“Ethnic Cleansing in Abkhazia”!
BBC, CNN:
“Change of Regime”!
Rambler.ru, MSN;
“Sabotage of Beijing”!

Day and night in a trance
I flip channels and think:
Cynics Stop! The last chance
Slips away in a blink.
Sukhumians by nationality,
We live all over the globe,
Looking at this amorality
From the far with no hope.

In exchange for oil, or flattery
Who “gave matches to a boy”?
Out of habit or stupidity
What do “Kremlin’s puppets” ploy?
My Abkhazian in laws -
Fortune-tell on coffee grains,
But, in my cup I see no
Caucasian friendship of the past.

For the hills without gun fire
I drink with my Georgian Friend.
Hvanchkara- the famous wine
Of our old and fair land.
In my Synagogue on Friday
For “Mourner’s Kaddish” I stood up
For Kolia, Dima, Slava, Sergey,
Badri, Shalva, Gogi, and Zurab.

For the Russian version of this poem, please visit http://sukhumchaika.8m.net/index_files/Georgia.htm

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Abkhazia - Country of the Soul


Without taking any side in the on going political conflict in the city of Sukhumi, in the province of Abkhazia which is part of the Republic of Georgia I can now say that I am from, and people react with a sad grimace of understanding. It is almost comical, that the question I am asked by most is “Do you still have family over there?” No I don’t have family there, but I have many friends. That usually warrants a sigh of relief, like that makes it ok, or the problem is less important. “Well the good thing is, you are here and safe” is the next typical conclusion that sometimes makes me want to scream. I am not in a war zone, and there is no chance of me being deployed to one, but I am not safe. I can be robbed or killed in a car wreck, or become a victim to a crime as much as the next guy.

The latest developments gave some refugees from the former Soviet Union, an excuse to trash countries of their birth and political leaders with unsubstantiated, far fetched and conflicting claims. This is not surprising after all in a situation rightfully labeled an “information war.” I spend a lot more time watching the news and reading political articles then usual. I am used to reading between the lines, and dissuading propaganda, and yet I am unable to find the impartial view an accurate account of what happened the week of the Olympics. Yet, without a proper investigation, and evaluation of the facts, not only those familiar with the situation, but people from average Jo’s to Country leaders take sides, and make statements, that have long lasting effects on human lives.

To many in America and Western Europe the conflict in Georgia is a sudden annoyance that introduced the Caucuses to the world. To me it is a “frozen conflict” that started centuries before I was born, and that forced my family to leave my homeland 17 years ago. The so called “brake away regions” have been de facto countries since 1992 and have survived this previously undeclared war for the duration of their existence. The international community and its closest neighbors have stayed silent and almost uninvolved, in the hope of new leaders capable to resolve the issues within. Those leaders have not emerged, and the one’s that did, can not possibly be called “the hope of a young democracy” as they have been portrayed. In the past decade I have read numerous articles, and seen TV reports of the independent RTVI (Russian TV international) about the corruption in Georgia, about the exiled, assassinated, and otherwise removed political opponents, about Nationalistic and elitist statements made by the Georgian leadership. Those reports do not get Air-Time on the American News Canals. From watching the news in two languages from the variety of sources I can see Three different masks worn by president Saakashvili- one for Georgians, one for Americans and one for Russians. Meanwhile the people of Georgia are paid in humanitarian aid and smuggled in Turkish good for their participation in political process. I will never forget a conversation on the Sukhumi buss in 1991, where students confessed to receiving money for new winter boots for a “hunger strike” in support of Zviad Gamsachurdia- Georgia’s first president. The claim to fame of that political leader was the slogan “Georgia for Georgian” which was instrumental in fostering hatred that led to the events in question. Only time will tell what is the true face of the “Emerging Democracy”.

Today most people in the region and many refugees to Russia, Europe and US will fall in the same boat. They remember wonderful times, when people of many nationalities lived, as a family. They will state that people’s lives are exchangeable in the political games of power, territory and resources. They will tell stories of how the other side- in this case Georgians, Abkhazians, performed acts of cruelty and violence against the members of their family. Give and account of lost houses and priceless possessions, accompanied by the personal stories of exotics from the war zone. Let me point out that Russia has managed to stay neutral until the Air strike on Tschenvali, Osssetia. Russia’s official involvement was limited to a small contingency of peace keepers, and to giving Russian Citizenship to those who could prove ethnically Russian origin.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia have asked to be separated from Georgia reputedly, both during Soviet era and after it’s collapse. Numerous referendums have shown that the citizens of those countries are tired of genocide and ethnic discrimination. Georgia’s declares those referendums invalid and calls for all refugees to return to the conflict territories. If that was possible for the Ossetian Georgians to do so, they would be coming back to destroyed property, and haltered from Ossetians. The Georgian villages destroyed were not only homes to civilian population, but also a safe haven to military snipers shooting at Russian peace keeping outposts. As for the immigrants of twenty or more nationalities from Abkhazia - most of them are quite comfortable at the moment in their lives in Russia, Germany or the US, and will not take action with anything more then passionate but, empty words.

The more I listen to ignorant, unrealistic, nationalistic, and pompoms statements from all sides, the less faith I have in the speedy resolution of the problem. And regardless of my less then flattering opinion about the Russian leaders and their policies, the more faith I have in their decision to intervene. As a witness to the war of 91-93 I have reason to believe, that many more lives would have been lost otherwise. And as unpopular as that may sound, principals become secondary, when lives can be spared. This is especially true, when principals were already ill used to justify an attack on a sleeping city of civilians.

When the dust really settles the international community will discover the full complexity of the problem at hand and the need to define the rather vague international law that makes it possible for both sides to be essentially right in their actions. The line between the “Sovereignty of a Nation” and the right of a nation to fight for it’s independence though democratic and internationally accepted ways is very thin. It is also impossible to find a nation that has no vested interest in one or the other outcome of the current conflict. The worse thing to do in this situation is to point figures. The fact that finger pointing occurred, and the informational war is still going on, has escalated the problem even further. J.K.R.’s Harry Potter comes to mind, specifically the scene in the Ministry of Magic came at an impasse. If the Ministry (the government of the wizard world) has the control over the Dementors,( soul-sucking fiends who guard the wizard prison) what were they doing attacking an underage wizard? If the Ministry didn’t sanction the attack, then it doesn’t have control over the Dementors.

Prime Minister Putin has stated that US is arming Georgian Troops, and accused the Republican Party of its involvement in the conflict. I find it heard to believe that the current presidential race is directly involved, yet I have seen the CNN footage and a number of reports on Russian News canals zeroing in on the American made military ammunition of Georgian troupes.

For those that don’t believe that Georgia’s leaders are playing and “informational warfare” let me give you a small personal account. For about a week I have lost communication with a number of former classmates, and acquaintances that happened to be Georgian. Most of the Russian Language web sites generated in Georgia are still down. You can follow the links from the "my past" section of my web page to make sure of that fact. Starting from 1990 I was noticing a shift not only in the political and religious convictions, but in personalities of our former Georgian neighbors and friends... Today, some of the people we have known for years seem like they are "under the imperious curse." For those of you who are not a J.K.R, fan- let me say, that they repeat and defend the Nationalistic and quite backward government line, as if in a trance.

I have asked a number of Georgian acquaintances, and strangers on the “odnoklassniki.ru” blog to send me some information, corroborating their position. I was repeatedly given articles written in a tabloid language of yellow press. Statements of the media were often very offensive and bias. Those articles gave a number of true facts which were manipulated and supported by events that are most likely fiction. Sometimes those statements were generated by Russian Opposition, which in the eyes of some should give them more credibility. Yet when I ask them about the Georgian Opposition, and some of the more rational statements from those in the Georgian Parliament, who call for the investigation of the first hours of this war, I ether get silence, or a feeble attempt at discrediting them.

So, I am left with many questions. Who needed this conflict? Why would new Russian President 100 days in office, who had an agenda of proving himself more liberal then his predecessor start a war, while the world’s attention is elsewhere? Why would a country be held to a different set of standards then the rest, only on the basis of its size? Every country in the former Soviet block had the same eighteen years to reestablish itself. So, why would a country be held to a different set of standards then the rest, only on the basis of its size? European Nations decided to unite into a union to promote economy and travel; their efforts are met with applause and encouragement. Why is it then, that when Russia makes effort to do the same with its neighbors, and former countermen her efforts to reestablish the ties that existed for centuries before are views as the effort to “reestablish an empire?”

As much as I tried to remain a poet and a writer of children’s literature and fiction without getting involved with political process, I find myself personally drawn in. Even though am forever grateful for the opportunities that America has granted me, today I stand with Abkhazia and Ossetia as independent countries. I hope that in due course the international community will see that recognition of those countries is the only solution that can spare the lives of those that had nowhere to run. As many other political refugees I hope that the forced attention to this problem will bring about a resolution of this conflict and will allow us all to return home. Despite of it all I believe that the former classmates of about twenty nationalities will be able to return to the “Country of the Soul” as Abkhazian’s call my home, if not for good, then at least for a summer vocation.