Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Religious and Spiritual Celebrations October to January

 My friend Lynn Minja included this in her annual Christmas letter. It is worth repeating and adding to. The list is in no wise complete and if my readers would be so kind as to contribute, I would be grateful. A number of groups, not just First Nations, for example, observe the Winter Solstice. 

From October to mid-January people of different faiths, worldwide, celebrate specific aspects of their spiritual beliefs. In a multi-cultural province, country, and world, it is imperative that we understand the importance of spirituality individually and collectively and that we respect and honour the spiritual beliefs of individuals and the traditions and faith celebrations of all religions.


  • Bahais celebrate the births of Bab and of Baha’á ullá and the Day of the Covenant.
  • Buddhists celebrate Pavarana And Kathina
  • Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali
  • Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret/Simcheat Torah
  • Shia Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet, Mohammed 


  • Buddhists celebrate Lhabab Duchen
  • Christians celebrate All Saints Day and the first Sunday of Advent.
  • Jews celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah
  • Sikhs celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Jayanti)


  • All Faiths celebrate Kwanzaa
  • Buddhists celebrate Rohatsu/Bodhi Day
  • Christians complete celebrating Advent and celebrate the birth of Christ (Christmas Day) 
  • Jews celebrate Shabbat and complete celebrating Hanukkah
  • First Nations celebrate the Winter Solstice


  • Buddhists celebrate the Lunar New Year/ Tet Nguyen Dan
  • Christians celebrate the Feast of Epiphany
  • Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Christ
  • Hindus celebrate Sankranti (actually celebrated every month)

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, we wish you health, happiness, peace and love.

Note: Doug Cuthand's column in the Star Phoenix explains the significance of the Winter Solstice to the First Nations people of Canada

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Country Gospel Duets - a break from Christmas Music

 If you need a break from Christmas Music, give a listen to these country gospel duets. I stumbled across Sarah Roberts and Tyler Williams singing On Heaven's Bright Shore and loved the harmony so much I went looking for others that I did not know.

Tyler Williams was born with cerebral palsy and is blind. He is also an accomplished singer and musician playing piano and also Doc Watson style guitar. You can find him on YouTube.


Kenny and Amanda Smith are a husband and wife team who met at a bluegrass festival in the late 90s and have been performing and recording together for over two decades. Kenny is an accomplished guitar player. A Heart That will Never Break Again and Outside the Gate are two of my favourites.

Joey and Rory Feek were a rising country music couple until her untimely death from cancer at 40 years. They were married in 2002 and performed and recorded from 2008 to 2016. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Lucky's Big Adventure or Home at Last

 The three of us left Zhovti Vody on November 11th and arrived in Regina November 23rd. We moved into a small house with a fenced backyard on November 28th and this is the longest we were in any one place from the 11th on. Lucky had a microchip and all his shots so had a valid EU Pet Passport. He was too big to go as baggage so would have to go to Canada as cargo. 

The small 8 passenger bus from Zhovti Vody to Warsaw took 26 hours. There were frequent stops and I took Lucky out for a quick walk and pee break as often as possible. We bought him one seat but he could not stretch out until about half way when he figured he could lie on the floor. 

In Warsaw a taxi took us to our Hostel that accepted pets. We were on the second floor and rode the elevator. Lucky learned quickly. We dragged him on the first time and after that he went on willingly but was still puzzled by the doors which opened and closed on their own. We were there three days. We took Lucky out to walk a few times each day and he behaved reasonably well. On side streets he barked at people and cars, along busy streets he was quiet. 

Then we took the train from Warsaw to Belin and then to Frankfurt. At the station in Warsaw the steps did not reach to platform so we literally picked up Lucky and threw him onto the train as there was no way he would cross that gap. He was half fare but had to stay on the floor. In Berlin everyone in our car got off so we did too but it was Berlin Obf not Berlin Hbf so we grabbed a taxi and got to the right station in lots of time. On the way we saw the statue of Frederick the Great and the Brandenburg Gate. 

Our train direct to Frankfurt was canceled so we had to take the milk run which took an hour longer. No problem getting Lucky on this train. When we got to Frankfurt we found a minivan taxi to take us to our Airbnb in Kelkheim, about 45 minutes west of the city in the mountains. A lovely location and I would recommend the bnb Cosy apartment in Kelkheim hosted by Britta Jacobus. Great for hiking in the mountains and very lovely in summer

We could not find a crate big enough for Lucky anywhere but C4C who would be our shipping agent out of Frankfurt had one and delivered it to us at the bnb. We had 6 days to train him to the crate. We tried toys, treats and patience. He would go almost all the way into the crate but not his back legs. Finally we did what always worked with him. Shoved him in and shut the door. No problem. a little later he stole a pillow off the bed and Tanya yelled at him. He went into the crate by himself figuring it was a safe place. We shut the door and left him two  hours, with treats. The next night he was there five hours and the last night all night. 

On the 21st, we left the bnb, took Lucky and the crate to C4C animal cargo building at the Frankfurt airport. The same taxi that took us to the bnb took us to the airport. Tanya had a "certain amount of stress" as they wheeled Lucky away, knowing we would not see him for two and a half days. We grabbed a good hotel room for the night and had a good supper, figuring we'd earned it. We were at the airport early next morning for our Air Canada flight home. We think Lucky flew on the same plane but do not know for sure. A company called Sevenoaks Animal Logistics collected Lucky in Calgary, oversaw the paperwork to get him into Canada, took him for a long walk and put him on Cargo Jet to Regina. 

We got to Regina at 12:30 am Nov 23rd and collected Lucky from Jet Cargo at about 6:00 am. He apparently had a great time the entire trip. He was overjoyed to see us of course. But he was just as overjoyed to see us after we shut him in the kitchen at the bnb while we took his crate and our luggage to the street. My friend Ed picked us up and Lucky and I stayed at his place as we could not take him to our apartment. Tanya stayed at the apartment. We had hired movers but there was still lots to do. The movers came Monday morning at 9 and by 12:30 we were in our little house to stay! 

Lucky came over at about 7 pm and checked and approved everything. So here we are, home at last. Flat broke but safe in Canada. Zhovti Vody has had power outages but no rockets or bombs. We have a young couple staying at our home and our cats have taken to them which makes us happy. 

Lucky's EU Pet Passport
Lucky on the bus to Warsaw

Lucky in our little hostel room in Warsaw

The Kelkheim area is wet and foggy in fall

Lucky at the bnb

The kennel 120 cm by 89 cm by 80 cm

His favourite toys

Going for a midnight walk in Calgary

Lucky got along with Ed's dog Prill sort of

Lucky in his new home

Watching out the back window for anything to bark at

His new bed in his new home

Claiming the armchair

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Getting ready to go

 Tanya had most of the house stuff packed away, leaving out enough for the family who will be renting it. When I got here my concern was organizing Lucky's flight from Frankfurt to Calgary by cargo. I found a pet freight forwarder and I hope they have a crate big enough for him. I Googled the size I need and nothing came up in Canada or USA that was even close.

Lucky weighs 40 kg, measures 110 cm nose to tail head, 80 cm to the tops of his ears standing and 90 cm sitting. front leg to base of chest is 40 cm, and 30 cm across the shoulders. According to the fitting chart, he needs a crate 50 inches long and 40 inches high. I haven't heard back from the pet transfer company yet.

We have rented a small house with a good sized fenced in yard in Regina so Lucky will become a house dog like everyone else's dogs. He will love that. I will take him for walks and maybe to a dog park if he behaves himself. 

We took him to the vets to weigh him. His second only car ride and he behaved well. At home he barks at everything and everyone but in town he wanted to be friends with everyone in the clinic and every small dog. The small dogs felt otherwise.

Tanya goes on Monday to jump the bureaucratic hoops to register the family as our renters. We take so much for granted in Canada as most of these hoops are already looked after and we don't think about them. 

Once that is done there is not much holding us here except a few last minute details, I expect. There is always something.  Some days I wish we had never left and somedays I am glad we did. It will be a hard winter in Ukraine though fortunately the weather has been very mild to date.

We have a suitcase half packed and Tigritsa and Bonya both think it is perfect for sleeping on. First come claims it and the other sleeps on the floor beside it hoping to steal the spot. The family that will stay here will look after the cats as we cannot take them with us.

So they remember our cats' names

Lucky relative to a volleyball

Grayden is three months old

Looking forward to seeing Baby Yoda, I am

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Murphy's Horseshoes

 Murphy's Law states simply that if anything can go wrong it will. Anyone with life experience knows that Murphy was an optimist. Further adventures enroute to home demonstrate this truth.

Did not sleep the night before nor that night, Up at 2 am, at the Regina airport by 3 am. No problems getting my boarding pass and a seat in an exit row. Arrived in Toronto where I had an enjoyable 7 hour wait for KLM to Amsterdam. More on that later. 

Toronto to Amsterdam was 7 hours. Felt like forever. Longest flight I've ever been on was Beijing Vancouver 11 hours. I'm getting old. No internet so actually finished two books. Arrived Amsterdam for a 4 hour layover to fly to Warsaw. Went through passport control to enter EU and found my gate C15. Sat to wait. Got a text that the gate was changed to C5. Went to new gate to wait.  15 minutes later I was paged to the desk. Reached for my passport and boarding pass as that is what they usually want and found them gone. No panic as I knew where they would be, on the bench at C15. Except someone had found them and turned them in to the desk at C5. Horseshoes, I tell you.

Arrived Warsaw at 11am, and my checked suitcase was missing. Failed to make the transfer in Toronto. I hate that airport. They only had 7 hours and still screwed it up. Took 15 minutes to register at lost baggage. They have it down to a fine art. Masha's highschool friend David met me at the airport. My bus to L'viv left at 7 pm. I was so tired I was incoherent. 

David found a hostel in Old Warsaw called Oki Doki. Crashed for a few hours as I could finally sleep. Caught the bus and had good wi-fi to the Polish border. Tanya spent 10 hours waiting to cross the border in August so she told me to message her when we were through the border and she would buy my train ticket from L'viv to P'yatikhatki based on my arrival in L'viv. Took 45 minutes to cross both Polish and Ukrainian border. Part horseshoes and part Murphy's Law as there was no wi-fi in Ukraine so I could not contact Tanya. 

The bus stopped at the L'viv train station and I had wi-fi again. Apparently Sasktel does not connect to European mobile networks so using my data pack under roaming conditions does not work. Murphy again. I messaged Tanya and she sent me a train ticket within minutes. This country is in a war for its very survival and everything works like normal in many places. Certainly not at the front or in the occupied communities. With Russia targeting electrical production and distribution infrastructure, systems will not work like normal in many places now I expect. 

I had 6 hours to wait for my train so signed into the lounge where it was comfortable. "Where are you from?" "Canada". "(thumbs up) Trudeau!!". No wi-fi on the train so slept 18 hours. Arrived home at 6:30 am Monday 26. Showered, ate, slept. Lost a day somewhere as Friday came and I thought it was Thursday.

Got an email Tuesday saying my suitcase was in Warsaw via Paris. David will pick it up when he gets back to Warsaw on 31st. He will hold it until we get there with Lucky. 

It was good to see Tanya after three months of being alone, and Lucky was very glad to see me after 8 months. He gives hugs but no kisses. He hates kisses. If I hold his head and kiss his nose, he will give a little flick of his tongue in response. We took him for a walk yesterday and will again today.

Lucky was excited to see me but no kisses. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Horseshoes,...Hand Grenades, and Slow Dancing

 If horseshoes bring good luck, then I would seem to have several. I know where they are, because I walk funny.

I was supposed to fly to Warsaw Oct 20th. My flight left at 05:15. For some unknown reason I read that at pm not am, though I know better. It just stuck in my head that the flight left at 5 pm. I went to the airport and learned I was 12 hours late. Called KLM in a panic and a female voice told me that the next available flight was Oct 22 and it would cost $3400 CAD. Went home and called KLM again. Male voice told me that in fact the Oct 20th am flight had been cancelled and rebooked me on the Oct 22nd flight at no charge. I sent him cyber hugs. Horseshoe number 1.

Called Tanya who was less than pleased but thank God it wasn't my fault. She contacted the young man in Warsaw who was to meet me and rebooked him for Sunday. Called the bus line in Warsaw and explained the problem. They said use the old ticket since it was not my fault. The train ticket from L'viv to home only refunded 30%. Standard procedure.

Two weeks ago we had our apartment block sprayed for cockroaches. We had to empty all cupboards, closets etc. and pile it in the middle of the room so they could spray the baseboards and where ever else. They were to come back today and do a second round. Our building manager's understanding from them was that the only needed the bottom of the cupboards, closets and and baseboards clear. And I thought they would come again at 10 am as last time. 

I was getting ready to leave by 10 when they knocked on the door at 9 am. No one was ready because they had NOT told the building manager it was the same deal as last time...all cupboards and closets empty etc. They are going to come back next Friday. So I spent the day emptying everything out of cupboards and closets again. If I had caught my plane or even if I had left before 9 to come back late in the afternoon, I would not have had time to do this. Horseshoe number 2.

I hope the horseshoes hold out and the flight tomorrow is not cancelled. Toronto is noted for that. 

Monday, October 10, 2022

Revenge and several other things

 A well timed explosion (rocket? NOT a truck bomb) on Putin's birthday knocked out a section of the Kursk vehicle traffic bridge and set fire to a train of highly flammable tank cars damaging a section of track and essentially stopping rail traffic. Vehicular traffic is down to one lane. Supplies to the southern and western fronts are limited to rail and highway from Russia across Zaporizhzhia to Kherson and Crimea. All within range of AFU artillery and HIMAR rockets. 

Revenge was not long in coming. All day on the 10th, dozens high power cruise missiles, rockets and bombs were deployed against civilian targets in every major city in Ukraine with devastating results. Kyiv was attacked for the first time in months. Reports of numbers of dead and wounder are still coming in as I write. 

Locations of Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities

In 10 days I will be headed to Ukraine to bring Tanya and Lucky back to Canada. Once I get to Warsaw, the question remains how to get home. I would normally have taken the train from Warsaw to Kyiv but I expect the main railway station in Kyiv will soon come under missile attack. The alternative is bus which is a two day trip most likely. Wish me luck. I will be happy to see both my wife and Lucky again. Tigritsa will be glad to see me as every time she hears my voice on WhatsApp talking to Tanya she comes looking for me, meowing, but cannot figure out the phone.

My good boy

In the meantime I am on my way to visit my grandson. He is two months and a week old and has had his two month vaccination. He is 14 lbs and 24 inches long, starting to make sounds in response to being spoken to. Likes Country music. And loves his brother and sister. 

My best good boy Grayden

Mutual admiration society

I'll be home next Sunday and will see your comments then as I can't approve them on my phone app. My apologies for not following my go-to blog posts as it has been a bit wild with the goings on in Ukraine. Our apartment block was sprayed for cockroaches on Friday so I spent days emptying all cupboards and closets and moving everything away from walls. Saturday and yesterday was spent putting most everything back. They will come again in two weeks but only do bottom cupboards and baseboards. My nephew in California was getting his house sprayed for cockroaches the same day. 

I will take my computer with me when I go to Ukraine as I cannot do everything on my phone. 
What a world we live in. Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Dogs of War

The savagery of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians is heart wrenching and that is not a strong enough word. Their military is being beaten back rapidly or continuously blocked in the one area they continue to attack. So they take revenge on the civilian population in the occupied communities, by shelling villages all along the front or by rocket and bomb attacks on cities. 

You may have seen pictures on the news of atrocities committed in Bucha which was occupied just a short time early in the war, or from Izium which was liberated not long ago and now there will be more from Lyman which was liberated yesterday. And every other liberated community. Torture rooms in every one of them.

Or pictures of a little girl pushing her doll carriage and another 30 minutes later of her broken body lying dead after a rocket attack on a medical centre in western Ukraine. Or of a little boy putting a can of beans on his grandmother's grave after she starved to death. Or of parents mourning their dead children or children mourning their dead parents from artillery, bomb and rocket attacks. 

Tanya says she can hear the overhead activity every night as Krivii Rih comes under constant attack. And Dnipro City day or night. No one knows when or where the next rocket will hit. There are more dead and wounded every day. 

All of that I have been able to take, grief without tears. But I broke down and wept for the dogs who have lost their loved ones and mourn for them, not understanding why their people have been taken from them. The dog in Izium who found his master's grave and lay on it crying. The dog whose master was killed in a bomb attack and lay with his head on the man's feet not knowing what to do. But mostly the old dog, blinded and deafened by the bomb attack which killed his entire family, grandmother, mother and two children, who sat on the rubble and cried all night. They brought the war close to me as nothing else could.

I can fill the blog with pictures of death and devastation. War is a terrible thing. As Hawkeye said in M.A.S.H, "War is not hell, hell is hell, war is war". People in hell deserve to be there. People who suffer in war are by and large innocent.

A convoy of 6 cars riddled with bullet holes and burned to a crisp.
25 to 30 killed, half of them children

Crater from a rocket attack in Dnipro City. Just missed the bus depot

Weeping over the dead

People huddled in bomb shelters, sometimes for months

So what is the end game? For Ukraine, at a minimum it is driving every Russian out of Ukrainian territory followed by the removal of Putin and ideally the demilitarization and denazification of Russia. Russia must lose the same way Germany lost and be forced to face their past which they have never done. Otherwise a stab in the back mentality will arise and we know how that ends. Russia will continue to attack Ukraine with bombs and rockets from inside the Russian border and will eventually launch a full scale war against Ukraine in 10 years.

What is Biden's end game? Simple replacement of Putin appears to be Biden's objective not based on what he says but what he does. After the first Iraqi war, USA wanted a replacement for Hussain and encouraged a revolt BUT they only wanted him replaced internally with an easier to manage dictator from the Baath Party. When the Shia and Kurds rose up, they were abandoned and suffered greatly for it. America had no end game whatsoever after the second Iraqi war and the world is going to pay for that for a long time yet. 

Russia was and remains an empire with all power concentrated in Muscovy which includes St Petersburg. All other parts are treated as colonies with their wealth flowing to Moscow. When Putin is removed, one possibility is a struggle for power between the elites of the military, the FSB/GRU, the oligarchy, and the siloviki. That will end, either in making Russia a true federation or more likely with each territory becoming independent and then forming their own links with each other. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Putin Declares Mobilization and Referenda

 First some good news. 215 Ukrainian prisoners were exchanged for Putin's man in Ukraine, Victor Medvedchuk, and 54 other Russian prisoners. Among the Ukrainians released are 108 survivors of Azovstal in the battle for Matiupol. Some of them are also survivors of the murder of 53 Azovstal prisoners and the wounding of over 100 others in the Olenivka Prison Camp when the Russian mercenry Wagner Group either planted or fired an incendiary bomb into the dormatory. The swap was arranged by Saudi Arabia and facilitated by Turkey.

Paramedic Kateryna “Ptashka” Polishchuk

Marine Mykhailo Dianov 

Five commanders from Avolstal will spend the rest of the war in Turkey

Two days ago, Putin made a speech on national TV announcing a "Partial Mobilization" and agreeing that refernda would be held in the occupied Oblasts about becoming part of the Russian Federation. A referendum would be held in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia from Septembere 23rd to September 27th. How they will be held is irrelevent, though "on-line" has been sugggested, as the results are already tabulated and will be in the North Korean area of 97% one suspects. The Oblasts will immediately be declared part of Russian Federation. And concluded by threatening nuclear response for the Nine hundred and thirty eleventh time and said he is not bluffing. 

NOTE: Update 27/09/2022: Voting was conducted door to door with armed soldiers ensuring people voted yes. Some had to vote more than once for absent family members. 

Of course he is bluffing as he is holding a busted flush, ten high. No one will take seriously the results of the referenda. He may be insane enough to use nucs but his immediate coterie of underlings is not. And if I understood it right, Joe Biden said if they do use nucs, USA will establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine and send the entire Russian Black Sea fleet to join the Moskva, all in 24 hours. Now, Joe is not bluffing.

Putin's main purpose was declaring a "partial mobilization" of 300,000 former reservists. He lied of course. It is a full mobilization, as anyone between 18 and 65 can and will be "drafted". All contract soldiers are now permanent. Plane tickets out of the country went to $11,000 and cars are lined up at every border out of the country that will allow them in.  Belarus and Kazakhstsn are not cooperating, Germany thinks they should be allowed into the EU.

People are very angry and have taken to the streets although not in numbers large enough to make a difference. Protesters are hauled away and immediately drafted. No one comes to their rescue. Of course the main hardship will fall on the ethnic groups who have already suffered the highest percapita losses. In Buriatia, students are grabbed froim the schools, people are pulled from their beds, villages are emptied of all males of fighting age, given half an hour to pack and report.

They are supposed to get two weeks training before being sent to the front but there are no training centres large enough to handle the numbers. They will have no uniforms unless they bring their own. They will have no or very old equipment  and certainly no heavy arms. They are being sent to the front to die. If they refuse to fight, they will be shot. If they retreat or try to surrender they will be shot. Their only hope is to shoot their officers and surrender. 

This is Putin's version of a Stalanist ethnic purge. He will throw masses of soldiers at the Ukrainian lines. The more that get killed the better. He can't deport them as Stalin did, nor can send them to the Gulag. There are too many. So if they die, so much the better. And get rid of the trouble makers too. He could draft as many as a million. As is the Russian pattern, he is taking out his losses on his own people.

Putin likes to think he is Peter the Great or Stalin. He is far more like Nicholas II in 1914 and his army suffers from the same shortcomings. Both looked good only on paper. 

The Army of Nicholas II was clumsy and inefficient precisely because the tsarist regime itself was clumsy and inefficient. Its façade may have been magnificent, glittering—but a glance behind the curtain disclosed indolence, incompetence, indifference, corruption and decay. Given tsarist Russia’s natural advantages, it ought to have been a great power to rival the United States. But thanks to its structural deficiencies it was the weakest, most fragile of the great powers. The poor performance of the Russian Army in 1914-17 faithfully reflected the defects of the regime it served.

V. Putin may aspire to emulate Peter the Great and Stalin, but his regime most resembles that presided over by the last tsar. In such a state the despot’s formal monopoly on power is absolute but his actual power is much less, its exercise being dependent on the loyalty and competence of underlings. But since despotism puts a premium on loyalty, competence is relegated to second place.

This is a comparison of the armies of Putin in Ukraine and the armies of Ncholas II at Tanneberg in 1914. Well worth a read. 

In 1917 the Russian soldiers shot their officers, threw down their arms and went home. This led to the takeover or Russia by the Bolsheviks and a five year civil war that killed millions.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Well, Dog my Cats

 If you want pictures of the atrocities committed in Izyum and other liberated communities you can Google them. Be warned that they may make you nauseous. Today I will post pictures of our dog and cats. I miss them and am lonesome for home.


You want it, come and take it

He has been digging a bomb shelter

Enjoying the A/C on a hot day

He loves his squeaky chicken

Watching Tanya in the kitchen

Checking the neighbourhood

His favourite ball

Supper time

Kick it if you can get it

Bonya, Tigritsa, and Vovo

Bonya is the biggest of the siblings and the most gentle

He likes sleeping in the back porch in the day time

Tigritsa is the undisputed queen of the house

Feed me treats

Sharing sour cream with Tanya

A bag is as good as a box

Sleeping on the blanket box

Any place works for sleeping

Vovo is a hard one to get  picture 

Waiting for their morning tuna

Bonya finished first

Tigritsa and Vovo take their time

On cold nights they sleep with Tanya
Neighbours grey cat comes for food too

Sleeping in the morning sun

This just arrived. Tigritsa is helping Tanya