Runaway Spoon

Ukraine--What's Past Is Prologue ...

March 4, 2014

One of my favorite authors is Tom Clancy, whose last book before he passed away was Command Authority, a fictional account of a Russian attempt to invade the Crimea in Ukraine.  Of course, characters and circumstances are exaggerated to tell a gripping story.  Nonetheless, Clancy, as in so many of his books, seemed to have a crystal ball.

About three years ago during a visit to Black Sea nations, I participated in a tour of the Crimea region.

The Historic Yalta Conference site (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) The Historic Yalta Conference site

Although I am from Ukrainian heritage, I had no idea before the trip how much influence Russia has in the Crimean Peninsula. Many street signs were both in Russian and Ukrainian. Both languages were spoken.

I asked the guide why Russian signage was not removed when the Soviet Union broke up.  She just smiled enigmatically and shrugged.  We instantly got the idea that it wasn't over.

Crimea has changed hands many times, most recently when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev turned the peninsula over to Ukraine, then a Soviet Socialist Republic.  When the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine, including Crimea, became independent. 

On our stops, we saw examples of war, revolution, and military strength from four eras:

  • In Sevastopol, we saw Russian naval ships docked, under a lease agreement, in the home port of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. We watched a crew on deck getting a morning briefing.
  • In Yalta, we visited the site of the still controversial meeting among Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Often called the Yalta Conference, it was held to discuss Europe’s post-World War II reorganization, the results of which ultimately led to the Iron Curtain.  At that time, Yalta was in Russia.
  • In Odessa, we were fortunate to be on hand for a film festival. We sat on the Potemkin Steps with hundreds of local young people for a screening of Battleship Potemkin, a masterpiece 1925 silent film about a 1905 Russian naval mutiny and resulting street demonstrations that brought on a police massacre, some of it on the very steps where we watched the film.  The mutiny against the Tsars is sometimes described as a harbinger of the Russian Revolution 12 years later.
  • In the countryside outside Sevastopol, we saw the actual Valley of Death into which British troops charged Russian artillery during the Crimean War.  The clash, with its horrendous British casualties, was made famous in The Charge of the Light Brigade, the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem about the 1854 Battle of Balaclava.

As you read and view news about this current global hot spot, keep in mind its long and checkered history. One perspective comes from Alla Rogers, a Georgetown resident who was born in Germany after her parents were taken from Ukraine as forced labor.  Her Alla Rogers Gallery on 31st Street in Georgetown has featured art from Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc countries.  She puts it this way:

“Ukraine has the right to be a sovereign, democratic nation as guaranteed by its own constitution and as ratified in international treaties. Its courageous dead throughout history were willing to pay the ultimate price for this privilege.  May we honor their memory and understand that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.  May we support one another when these aspirations are threatened.”

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Stars of Acclaimed Road Show Stop by il Canale for Sustenance

February 27, 2014

For those of you wondering if that indeed was actor/singer Mandy Patinkin and musical star Patti LuPone dining at a recent Sunday at il Canale in Georgetown. Yes, indeed.

They were in town to perform together at the Kennedy Center in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” 

One recent Sunday, Patinkin dined there.  He liked it so much that next time he brought in his performing co-star, LuPone.

Patinkin has appeared in major roles in TV series such as Criminal Minds, Chicago Hope, Dead Like Me, and plays Saul Berenson in Showtime’s Homeland.

At il Canale, they dined on pasta and salads.

Their road show goes onstage this weekend at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.


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Gray's Re-Election Campaign Heats Up As Boosters Rally Around at First Fundraiser

January 12, 2014

The first major fundraiser for the re-election campaign of Mayor Vincent C. Gray raised more than $50,000 from supporters who traveled from a Saturday afternoon rally in Southeast to Northwest Washington in a steady stream of rain and wind. Some 95 people attended the fundraiser at the home of campaign co-chair Judith Terra, a Gray backer since the 2010 election race.

The Honorable Sharon Pratt (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) The Honorable Sharon Pratt

The campaign aims to raise significant money in the next few weeks at fundraisers and from individual contributions solicited on the Gray campaign website ( or from personal appeals. No cash or money orders are being accepted, Campaign Manager and Treasurer Chuck Thies has emphasized

Other co-chairs announced Saturday are Venable LLP lawyer Jerry A. Moore III, Sonia Gutierrez (president and founder, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School), and John Tinpe (owner of Burma restaurant on 6th Street NW).

Gray’s campaign heated up with the back-to- back activities. The fundraiser was organized in only a few days.

The two-hour evening event at Terra’s home off 16th Street followed hours after the first official rally for Gray, held at THEARC complex, east of the Anacostia, concluded.

Brett Greene (left), Terra & James W. Hill (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Brett Greene (left), Terra & James W. Hill

At the fundraiser, Gray recalled that in 2010, Terra and two of her friends (including Virginia E. Hayes Williams) invited him to dinner at a Georgetown restaurant (il Canale) to try to talk him into running against incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.  “After two and a half hours, I had no choice but to agree so I could get outta there.”

Then, he said, a few weeks ago (at a DC-Rome sister city event at Mayor’s ceremonial office) he again met the “guy who owns the restaurant and the memory of that long, long dinner came back.  I swear I had an anxiety attack,” he laughed.

MaryAnn Miller & Chuck Thies (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) MaryAnn Miller & Chuck Thies

Looking ahead to a victory in the Democratic primary on April 1, Gray said if anybody wants to challenge him in the general election (such as independent City Councilman David Catania is considering):  “Bring it on.”

Fundraiser co-hosts included Linda W. Cropp, MaryAnn Miller, Ambassador Tom McDonald, John W. Hill, Lane Hudson, Arlene C. Reba, David Carmen, Susan Vener Linsky, Aviva Kempner, Josh Kern, Lavinia Wohlfarth, Gretchen Wharton, Jan DuPlain, Sharon Pratt, Brian Lederer and Michele V. Hagans.

Cora Masters Barry (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Cora Masters Barry

Among others at the fundraiser were Cora Masters Barry, Gerald Lang, business lobbyist Brett Greene, Dupont Circle activists Bob and Susan Meehan, and lawyer and chair of a Ward 1 ANC China Terrell.

The fundraising invitation’s suggested contribution was $250 with a limitation of $2,000 per person.  The day marked the first time that supporters could pick up one of the thousand Gray yard signs.

Brian (Photo by: Peter Brooks) Brian"Ski" Markowski (left), David Gilmer & Aubrey Dubra at fundraiser

The earlier rally featured the slogan “Yes, We Will” echoed many times from the audience as Gray ticked off future things he wants to accomplish for the city and its residents in the next five years.   About 600 people, culturally diverse, packed the theater and cheered for him on the outside.

Gray kicked off the rally with an apology.  “Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my (2010) campaign caused,” he said.  “I ask for your forgiveness.” 

With that, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“It is time to turn the page.” he continued. “ I know that some journalists and our opponents want you to focus on the past.  I know that some reporters prefer a circus to a thoughtful discussion of issues.  I know that they care about ratings and selling newspapers.

Lisa Farrell, a Gray supporter at fundraiser (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Lisa Farrell, a Gray supporter at fundraiser

“I care about you,” Gray said, to still another ovation.

“Although I cannot apologize for the misdeeds of others, the 2010 campaign was my campaign, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment it has caused. I have worked hard to earn your respect and honor you these past three years.  I have put my shoulder to the stone and used the strength that you gave me.  Every day I come to work committed to doing the job you elected me to do.”

Brett Greene (left), Chuck Thies & Judith Terra (Photo by: Peter Brooks) Brett Greene (left), Chuck Thies & Judith Terra

Soon after the mea culpa, Gray ticked off a list of goals, such as creating modern schools, providing more educational opportunities for the young, developing more private sector employment, and among other objectives, expanding affordable housing.

“And we will honor our senior citizens, the backbone of this city, by guaranteeing that their golden years are not filled with worry, but instead filled with pride.”

“I look around this room and I see folks from every part of our city.  I see enormous talent and tireless dedication.  I see white, I see black, I see brown.  And every color in-between.  I see straight. I see gay and I see transgender.  I see rich and I see poor. But above all, I see what makes us the greatest city in the greatest country on earth.  I see a community.”

Vince Gray at SE Rally (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Vince Gray at SE Rally


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