Programming note: On Tuesday I'll be back with my old EIB comrade Bo Snerdley on 77 WABC in New York at 4pm Eastern. That's immediately after The Mark Steyn Show live on GB News, at 8pm GMT/3pm North American Eastern.
Meanwhile, welcome to Part Two of A Journey through the Bucovina by Sacheverell Sitwell, our latest audio adventure in Tales for Our Time and an account of one man's travels around what was then Cernăuți in Roumania, was previously Czernovitz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and what is now Chernivtsi in Ukraine. The town is at the heart of Europe, and thus at the point where mighty empires of north, south, east and west meet and challenge each other. As I remarked on Monday's Steyn Show, the Habsburgs and Romanovs, the Turks and Mongols, and the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth have all had a piece of this turf over the years - Putin's resurgent Russia and Biden's "business interests" are merely the latest. CrossBorderGal, who has a soubriquet made for this neck of the woods, writes:
What a fascinating and timely 'tale' in an historically rich part of the world with a complicated palette of ethnic, linguistic and sovereign 'colours.' It helps put the current conflict there in perspective.
(Full disclosure, though: member Bernard and I looked at each other at the end of part one and said, almost in unison: geez... we hope there won't be a quiz!)
Actually, there might well be, CBG.
Jerome Skelly, a Steyn Clubber from Indiana, has an advantage over Miss CrossBorder, being one of several Bucovinan members of the Club:
Very interesting story to me personally, as my maternal grandfather was a native of Czernowitz (born 1894 while it was in Austrian hands) and an ethnic Romanian. When he was around 17 years old (approx 1911) his father sent him by himself to Montreal. A few years later he migrated to Detroit to make cars.
My grandmother, who was from the Black Sea port/resort city of Constanta, would tease him by calling herself a 'Romanian Romanian', since her husband's town was taken over by the Russians. 'Ukraine' was not in her vocabulary.
The word 'Bucovina' refers to beech trees which are native to that area.
Indeed. There is a passing reference to that in tonight's instalment, Jerome.
Lynn Foster, a First Day Founding Member of the Steyn Club and my fellow Ontarian, writes:
Very interesting first chapter of this journey..almost wish I had a map to follow the morphing of this part of Europe/Russia..a ton of countries, principalities and human migrations...
Most interesting was to learn of the midget creating area...!!!... What's up with that...?
Well, in a remote part of the world, it helps to have a speciality, Lynn. As for a map, that we can do. Here's how the Bucovina looked five years after Sacheverell Sitwell's visit. In the course of that half-decade, war had broken out, the Soviets had taken it, and then the Roumanian Fascists took it back:
In yesterday's episode, our guide travelled to Cernăuți, and thence to the Russo-Roumanian border on the Dniester: Hotin is now (in Ukrainian) Khotyn. Today he heads south to see the great painted church at Sucevița, about forty miles from Cernăuți, but it's still in Romania so the journey probably takes longer than in Sitwell's day because of the tide of refugees at the frontier. On the other hand, it hasn't been reduced to rubble by Putin's artillery.
In tonight's episode the author provides a glimpse of why that Russian convoy is making such slow progress:
Bad local trains and roads which are, it is probable, the worst in Europe, have extended this small province into the scale of a kingdom... From Cernăuți, not less than four hours have to be spent upon the road. Not only does the dust lie straight ahead and all the way behind but, also, it hangs like a mist upon the fields on either side. It is still as mists that rise in the evening out of the marshlands. Another motor coming past raises a tornado; a farm cart is like a slowly moving cloud drifting towards you out of the haze; even a man or woman walking leaves a disturbance that takes a long time to subside. If you are unfortunate enough for another motor car to overtake you, and it is the object of every driver upon these roads to harass his competitors into this submission, then it becomes necessary to stop altogether for a quarter of an hour and wait for the swirling eddies to settle down again into their impressive fog.
Mr Sitwell came to the Bucovina to see its famous painted churches, only to find (in yesterday's episode) geopolitics and demographics intervening. In this passage, he does indeed reach a famous church, but I've included it because, as much as the Bucovina passed between different political conglomerates, it also stands at the meeting of western Catholicism, eastern Orthodox Christianity, southern Islam and even northern paganism. Later, we'll hear a little about the hostility between the Orthodox and Catholic churches and their impact on the Bucovina. But, if you're wondering why I include an Englishman's reflections on the church, it's because, in the absence of faith and after a century of Fascism and Communism, Eastern Europe (and Ukraine in particular) now has some of the bleakest demographic prospects on the planet.
~If you seek something a little more fictionally imaginative with your timeliness, do check out our brace of Orwellian adaptations - Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four - or even a contemporary inversion of a classic, retooled for our wretched times, by yours truly. Whatever your taste, we have plenty of other yarns in all genres over on our Tales for Our Time home page.
Tales for Our Time started as an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more about it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proved very popular, and and we now have quite an archive. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo side of things, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
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