The Uke Line

From 1957-61, the Boston Bruins advertised one its best offensive line as the “Uke Line”.    Bronco Horvath, Johnny Bucyk, and Vic Stasiuk,  all of Ukrainian ancestry, thrilled Boston fans despite the recognition that most New Englanders had never heard of the Ukraine or visited this land.  The Uke line was known for its hard word and by extension, Ukrainians were assumed to be the same.

The last few weeks, especially the last few days, most Americans know exactly where Ukraine lies and what an immense mess part of their country is in.

I visited Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine about 10 years ago.  It is a famous and important old city.   Kiev displays the post WWII Soviet influences along side churches and buildings dating back to the middle ages.  The Soviet era subway is magnificent with marble tiled stations an seemingly never ending elevators which take passengers down or up incredible distances.  Approaching each subway entrance, peasant ladies who travel each day from the country side line up selling cigarettes and vegetables.  There were fewer tourists compared to other European cities (like Prague) but there was plenty of subway traffic.

I visited a WWII War Museum and was surprised to see and read about WWII as never before.  WWII was proudly remembered from the eyes of Ukrainians where Germans were the aggressors (no surprise) and the combination of Russia and Ukraine were the heros.

The official language was Russian although in Kiev, ordinary commerce was conducted in Ukrainian.  Kiev residents looked to the West while their countrymen living to the East spoke Russian and aligned with the former Soviet way of doing things.

Fast forward and Kiev is the focus of a potential civil war.  For the past three days there have been an open street demonstration, government police against protestors.  Rubber bullets, tear gas, and water canon spray against rocks, and Molotov Cocktails.  Why?

The News media reports the protests are the result of the Russia leaning Government spurning stronger ties with the European Union in favor of Russia.  If true, it plays back to the ageless forces attracting Ukrainians to either the East or the West.  One might say the current disturbances are the casualty of geography.

Hmmm. I wonder.

I wonder whether the slippery hand of the CIA is in the background?  I assume the Russian equivalent for sure is active.  I would be shocked if Russia did not see a neutral or at best a friendly Ukraine as in their national interest.  I wonder whether Kiev is just another chess piece on the global table?

There have been charges that the current Ukrainian Government is corrupt.  Hmmm, tell me something I don’t know (or would naturally guess).  And if we are to focus on corruption in the current Government, then tell me why a new Government would be less corrupt?

It is far wiser to begin with the assumption that all governments (including the US) are corrupt.  The more important issue is “how corrupt” and “does the population get a good deal” from a specific corrupt government.  What seems at play in Kiev is a statement that the current Government is taking too much and giving back too little.  This may be factually true or just an impression.  What is true is that Ukrainian President Yanukovich has done an inadequate job satisfying enough Ukrainians to keep the peace.

The Uke Line worked hard, kept their heads down, and tried to win games within the rules.  Wouldn’t that be better than street battles?


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