The World Changes Again

by admin on February 27, 2022

February, 2020. A previously little-known virus escapes from China, and within a few weeks it is everywhere. Even for those who were not infected by the coronavirus, it completely changed our view of what was possible. Most of us had never been through a worldwide pandemic that killed millions of people. Now we have, and life will never be the same.

February, 2022. Russia invades Ukraine. Russian president Vladimir Putin rewrites 1000 years of history with a lame speech intended to justify a war of aggression. Even for those of us who live far away, it has once again completely changed our view of what was possible. At least in Europe, it seemed as if we had outgrown our need to settle disputes by killing thousands of people. But now, again, it seems as if we were mistaken.

It’s hard for me to say anything that hasn’t been said already, but let me start with the obvious. I support FIDE’s decision to yank the Chess Olympiad out of Moscow, where it was scheduled to take place this summer. Also, I appreciate the article on that updated us on the safety of several Ukrainian grandmasters: Oleksandr Sulypa, Kirill Shevchenko, Alexander Moiseenko, Pavel Eljanov, and former women’s world champion Anna Muzychuk. Reading this article is a good way to understand in human terms what is happening at the moment in Ukraine. I hope that Chess24 will continue to keep us informed.

My personal knowledge of Ukraine is not extensive, but I have been to Kyiv twice. The first time was in 1978, when I spent two or three days there as part of my semester abroad in the Soviet Union. The second was in 1980, under somewhat unusual circumstances. I had come to the Soviet Union with a tour group of college students, for a monthlong tour of the country starting with St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and ending with Kyiv.

But I had a secret agenda of my own. In St. Petersburg, I got engaged with my girlfriend, whom I was seeing for the first time since my semester abroad, after keeping in touch with her by mail for the previous year and a half. After a week I had to rejoin my tour group, but we made plans to meet again on my way out of the country in Kyiv. Over the next three hectic weeks, she even managed to persuade her mother to come to Kyiv with her and meet me.

So you’ll pardon me if my attention was not focused on sight-seeing during those two days in Kyiv. My whole life was up in the air, and everything depended on making a good impression on her mother. Besides that, I was thinking about my fiancee and our last two days together before several months apart. (If memory serves me correctly, we had set up a wedding date but my tourist visa would not let me stay in the USSR until then, so I would have to go home and set up another trip to actually get married.)

My memories of Kyiv are very hazy. It was spring, it was beautiful, and I was in love. That’s pretty much all I remember. We went to the Vladimirski Cathedral, named in honor of Vladimir the Great, who a thousand years earlier (literally, in 980) had founded Kievan Rus’, the progenitor state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. But the cathedral was closed, and we could only look in from the outside.

I didn’t stay in love for very long. We got married, and she got her exit visa and emigrated to the U.S., but by then she had changed… or we had changed… or we found out that we had never known each other in the first place. That’s another long story.

I wish I could tie this post up with a nice bow, but I really can’t. I don’t know what my message is. I just hope that spring comes to Kyiv again.

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Vladimirski Cathedral in the spring, and the entrance that was closed in 1980.

Photo attribution: Roman Naumov, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry L. Smith February 27, 2022 at 4:16 pm


Thanks for this post. Life rarely wraps itself up in a nice bow, so it can be forgiven that occasionally the same thing happens in blog posts.

Here was my take from a few days ago, before it was decided to move the Chess Olympiad out of Moscow:



Roman Parparov February 27, 2022 at 6:11 pm

Karyakin and Shipov are the two biggest chess names coming in support of Putin. Shipov is a well-known fundamentalist (although he is more of a monarchist, advocating for resurrection of Russian Empire). Karyakin is Putin’s lapdog, betraying his motherland for the second time now.


Roman Parparov February 27, 2022 at 6:09 pm

Regarding your disappointing marriage, there was a saying in the Soviet Union:
“A Jewish spouse isn’t a luxury, it’s a means of transportation” (paraphrasing the famous Ostap Bender statement from the Little Golden Calf).
The meaning was that the Jews were allowed to emigrate out of the USSR, the only exclusive ethnicity to have that status.


admin February 28, 2022 at 8:45 am

Gotta love the Soviet sense of humor!

Part of me agrees with you that I was never anything more to her than a plane ticket and a green card. Part of me (a larger part) thinks that it was a little bit more complicated than that, and she really did love me in the beginning.

I’ll never know the truth, and after forty years it really doesn’t matter. If she was happy here in America, then I suppose it was all worth it. What really matters is that she set me free, and five years later I met a woman named Kay who loved me, and healed me, and was willing to marry me even if I was not the perfect catch.


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