Category Archives: Around the world

Cultures around the world

Ukraine Makes the Headlines, Again – by Dr. Fiona Citkin

And Again, for the Wrong Reasons

Proud of the New Ukraine

I periodically become a target of all-around questioning just because originally—25 years ago—I came to the US from Ukraine as a Fulbright Scholar. Of course, this gives me the leverage to deeper understand what’s going on there, and why. But I do not hold a magic ball that predicts what the future holds in a largely unpredictable country – and even more unpredictable America under the current government. So, let me just answer some of these questions and clarify my positioning.

When people get my new book about immigrant women, “How They Made It in America,” many shrug shoulders on the explanation of the reasons for my emigration—and for leaving the high position in academia—rooted in snowballing corruption that I could not stand anymore. Yes, may be many countries have their own bureaucracy and corruption, but Ukraine is something special. And therefore, I am triple proud that in the recent elections 73% of voices went to the new President Volodymyr Zelensky, a Russian speaker from the Eastern region – and a Jew. This ran counter to the typical populist Ukrainian tendencies.

May be, this time around the social-economic situation was so bad that the people overwhelmingly voted for somebody who gave the most hope to uplift Ukraine from the hole the former management put it into. And President Zelensky, however young and inexperienced, makes big strides to fulfil his promises, and—most importantly—pull his country from a deadlock war with Russia. To reach this goal, he needs money, weapons and support of the United States. But will he do a “small favor” to the almighty American President who held this money, although approved by the Congress? I am no judge. Or, the better question is whether he has a choice.

Past Predicts Future

When thinking of Ukraine, consider the following:

  • For over twenty-five years of my life in the United States, whenever I answered “Ukraine” when asked where I came from, I’d hear, “Ah, Russia!” Home to 43 million people, Ukraine was little-known — until bloodshed in Kiev’s Maidan Square and continuing mayhem provoked by Putinesque instigators brought it into headlines. The media, however, often understated the situation, thus hurting American understanding of this strategically important European country.
  • Critically, Ukraine, the second-largest military state in Europe (after Russia), surrendered its nuclear warheads in 1994, after the U.S., UK, and Russia had guaranteed the integrity of its borders. Now, when Ukraine sees the army of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the gates and is torn apart by pro-Russian separatists, Ukrainians feel betrayed by the all former guarantors. And it looks like nobody cares.
  • The late U.S. Sen. John McCain, speaking on Late Night with Seth Meyers, dismissed Russia as a “gas station run by a mafia masquerading as a country.” I never agreed with that. Russia may be a mafia, but with many nuclear warheads! Their warheads can annihilate the world three times over. And by now, maybe four times.
  • And this mafia stops at nothing, as its track record in Chechnya, Georgia and Crimea had proven. It’s not to be downplayed! Unfortunately, many politicians in America and Europe alike appear unaware of Putin’s goal, which was applauded in the Russian Duma: to reconstruct the U.S.S.R., in a smaller but stronger version — including Ukraine. That statement from the past predicts the future.

The Historical Roots of the Conflict

  • Despite their territories changing hands and enjoying only a short-lived independence, 77.8 percent of the population of Ukraine identifies as Ukrainian, whether or not their mother tongue is Ukrainian or Russian (which is often the case in Eastern Ukraine, where I have been born). Language issues notwithstanding, the growth of national consciousness began with the struggle of the independent Ukrainian People’s Republic from 1917 to 1921. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin drowned it in blood, adding the man-made Famine-Genocide of 1932-33, the deportations of the so-called kulaks (rich farmers who opposed collectivization, and one of my granddads fell victim to it), the physical annihilation of the nationally conscious intelligentsia, and general terror to subdue the nation.
  • The people of the Ukraine are fighting a vicious battle against organized crime, corruption and the forces of evil. While we shook the Soviet yoke in 1991, many of the corrupt, communist apparatchiks unfortunately managed to hold onto their positions. The crime and corruption continued but the Ukrainian people have finally had enough and are bravely making their stand.
  • The condescending and dictatorial “big brother” habitually ridiculed Ukrainian nationalism (equating it to narrow-mindedness) and even the traditional love of borsch; everything Ukrainian was regarded as second-tier, inferior to everything Russian. Facing repressions, Ukrainians kept a low profile.
  • But no low profile anymore: Multiple sources inside the country report a sharp rise in Ukrainian national consciousness, and even people who used to be indifferent to the issue favor Ukrainian unity over Russian recolonization. This chronicle makes Putin’s takeover of Ukraine — and the ensuing, never-ending chaos and civil war — problematic.

Ukrainian Americans Provide Insights on Ukrainian Culture

As a believer in culture’s power to condition and predict our success, I think that in order to grow U.S. influence in this strategic geopolitical region, we need to better understand the mindset of its people — because the culture prophecy is as steady as it gets in our ever-changing world. In 2016 there was a sizeable number of 347,759 Ukraine-born Americans. Among celebrities who contributed big time to the US well-being and culture, the first names that spring to mind are from Hollywood: Ukraine-born actresses Mila Kunis and Milla Jovovich – as well as Dustin Hoffman and Steven Spielberg who are proud of their Ukrainian heritage.

Let’s look at two other successful Ukrainian-Americans for insights into the Ukrainian character, culture, and contributions.

Oksana Baiul: Queen of the Ice

  • Oksana Baiul, a retired Ukrainian figure skater, emigrated from Ukraine to America after becoming the 1993 World Championship Gold Medalist and the 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist in Ladies Figure Skating. Orphaned early, Oksana lived in Odessa with the wife of her coach, demonstrating talent and true grit on her way to becoming the queen of the ice. Her relaunched career in America went well; for example, she collaborated with renowned ballet dancer Saule Rachmedova to bring together the Ice Theatre of New York and had many public appearances, including on MTV’s Total Request Live.
  • A passionate person, Oksana never forgot her roots: She supports the Tikva Children’s Home, which aids the Jewish children of Odessa.
  • Oksana has been living in the U.S. for years, but her national consciousness is strong and prompts her to voice her support for the good of her former compatriots. She feels their pain at the Maidan events and beyond.

Helen Schneider, Ph.D.: Happy Health Economist

  • Helen came to the U.S. to study economics, knowing that America had given the world most of its Nobel Prize-winning economists. She proved to be flexible, moving from Kent, Ohio, to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, then to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, then to the University of California, Berkeley, for her post-doctorate, then to the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico, and finally to the University of Texas in Austin.
  • Helen embraced the diversity of America’s regional cultures, thus becoming an all-American girl. Her integration into each place was heartfelt: her family still remembers how her immersion in Southern culture expressed itself as “Yankees are no good! Well, some may be…” Today Helen is an all-inclusive Texan — because everything is bigger and better in Texas 😊. She’s passionate about teaching health economics and econometrics, the tough subjects, plus some of her articles made headlines in top professional journals and brought her awards. Her cultural sensitivity helps in teaching a diverse student population at UT, and she’s happy to do what she loves.
  • Helen stays in touch with her old friends in Ukraine and Russia and remains poised and graceful, never taking sides when Russia-vs.-Ukraine opinions become polarized or even hostile, but she believes Ukraine deserves to be independent, not subservient to Russia, because of the specific culture.

Democracy Is Difficult to Dose or Dispense from the Outside

The flexibility, survivability, talent, passion, and national consciousness of these and many other Ukrainian Americans reflect the history-and-culture prophecies of their country of origin. Today’s Ukraine, a struggling nation, made the headlines again, and not in a favorable context. But America should not jump the gun and withdraw support; Americans can extend support differently, while never underestimating Putin’s track record and Russia’s warheads.

Besides, in any country, democracy and a sense of fairness are difficult to judge, dose or dispense from the outside, especially when one knows as little of the country’s history and culture as our typical politicians seem to. Let’s make a better effort—and we’ll continue to have Ukraine as a strategic partner in a geopolitical European region!

First published at

Culture Shock in Generation Y – by A. K. Ward-Bartlett


Five days ago, I was on the other side of the globe. Exhausted from twelve weeks of attempting to keep up with this fast-paced Mecca of the international business world, I was still not ready to extract myself from the extrovert’s haven that is Shanghai. This is the land of business cards and alcohol, where the networking maniacs of the West flock to jump into the Eastern financial “boom”, assuming that the “bust” is nowhere in sight. For one brief summer, I was a part of this cultural mish-mash, ecstatic to surround myself with the expats, entrepreneurs, and “students of life” that are so enthusiastic to be exposed to the challenges of living in such a foreign, yet increasingly Westernized, environment. Being a student of psychology, the best way for me to summarize my experience in China is to describe the mental processes I used to adapt. Looking back on my little adventure, I can easily identify the points at which I hit the various stages of Culture Shock, and it is through this cycle that I feel others can catch a better glimpse of my path of growth.

Continue reading Culture Shock in Generation Y – by A. K. Ward-Bartlett

From Xenophobe to Xenophile: Part 1 – by Mary Angela Moore

China from Mary “Angela” Moore’s Lenses

( Part 1 of 3 Series)

Mary Angela Moore “The lenses of mass media as the sole window to the outside world is detrimental to the way we perceive our fellow Earthlings. Somehow, It can burn bridges than build them.”
“大眾媒體的鏡頭作為通往外界的唯一窗口,對我們認識地球人的方式是不利的。 不知何故,它可以燃燒橋樑而不是建造它們。“

Continue reading From Xenophobe to Xenophile: Part 1 – by Mary Angela Moore

A World Apart: Coffee Shops in Afghanistan and Georgia – by Terry Howard

The Simple Cafe in Kabul

In a recent article in The New York Times, Hadis Lessani, a high school student living in Kabul, Afghanistan said this about finding a place free from harassment because of her makeup, Western clothing and chatting publicly with young men: “This cafe is the only place where I can relax and feel free.”

You see, trendy cafes like The Simple Cafe have sprung up across Kabul in the past few years as sanctuaries for women in an Islamic culture that still dictates how they should dress and interact with men. These restrictions endured years after tradition banned girls’ education, confined women to their homes and forced them to wear burqas in public.

Continue reading A World Apart: Coffee Shops in Afghanistan and Georgia – by Terry Howard

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – by Deborah Levine

Reprinted honor of Madeleine Albright turning 82-years old

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is a petite woman who can fill large university auditorium with her presence. These days, Dr. Albright teaches, lectures and writes. She frequently speaks to university audiences land enjoys telling young people that they can be anything they want to be with hard work. Her audiences listen enthusiastically and a recent crowd at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was no exception. A packed house and 2 overflow rooms with video feeds were arranged for the presentation by our 64th Secretary of State. She was the highest ranking woman in government from 1997-2001 and the first female Secretary of State.

Continue reading Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – by Deborah Levine

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon – by OTIA BINIKISEH N. Eric

A reality of Cameroon, the country fondly referred to as “Africa in miniature”, “the land of milk and honey”, the most peaceful country.

Camaroon English Speakers

Former Southern Cameroon (Northwest & Southwest regions of Cameroon) is considered a minority group in Cameroon. Approximately 20% of the population (5 Million) of Cameroon are from and reside in these two English-speaking regions. This minority population has been marginalized both in public institutions and state positions. The feeling of marginalization started developing and growing among the anglophone population, when the 1961 Federal Constitution was changed by President Ahidjo in 1972; changing the status of Cameroon from the Federal Republic, to the United Republic of Cameroon. The  sentiment started to develop among the anglophone population that the francophone population was better represented politically, economically and socially. This fueled claims of self-determination within the Anglophone population. (ICG 02/08/2017).

This feeling of marginalization has been justified over the past years, where official documents are mostly released only in French.  There was infiltration of English common law system practiced in the English speaking parts of Cameroon and infiltration of the Anglo-Saxon system of education practiced in the English speaking regions of Cameroon with the French system of education. Worst of all, French speaking teachers who can barely say “good morning” in English, were sent to teach major subjects in Anglo-Saxon schools in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. This has made the Anglophone population feel that their culture and identity is being assimilated and wiped out.

Continue reading The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon – by OTIA BINIKISEH N. Eric

Bermuda Jews Part 1: Returning for Passover – by Deborah Levine

(The Bermuda Jews History Series was originally published in The Bermudian Magazine)

In the 1990s, I made my first trip to Bermuda in fifteen years. My family, once the mainstay of Bermuda Jews, were long gone from the island. The first whiff of salty sea air hasn’t changed but the airport is a jumble of construction. A short jog across the tarmac should end in a hushed wait for the appearance of a customs agent, sitting patiently on the dark wood furniture of the terminal’s old-fashioned waiting room. Today, official greeters wave us through a temporary cordoned maze to a terminal with a second story, a food court, and customs agents encased in glass booths. An electronically-enhanced steel band strikes an earnest rendition of “Island in the Sun” where a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth once hung.

Continue reading Bermuda Jews Part 1: Returning for Passover – by Deborah Levine

Asians Celebrate the New Year – by Dr. Julia Wai-Yin So

The first day of the year in the lunar calendar is to many Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese who live outside their home countries, the most important festival of the new year that they celebrate.  Other Asian ethnic groups may join the festivity in their neighborhoods even though they observe their owe New Year days.  For example, the Thais honor their Songkran (Water Festival) in April or the Gujaratis celebrate theirs the day before the Asian Indian Diwali (the Festival of Lights) in late October or early November.  As for the Japanese and Filipinos, they choose to observe the Gregorian New Year.  With this festive day around the corner, let’s look at some of the New Year traditions of Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese.

Continue reading Asians Celebrate the New Year – by Dr. Julia Wai-Yin So

Global Goodwill Ambassadors – by Richard DiPilla

A civilized world, living in peace can only be attained through an understanding and acceptance of a diversified world. With this in mind, I founded an initiative using the LinkedIn social media forum called Global Goodwill Ambassadors.

The initiative has a simple mission. To recognize people from every nation, race, color, and socio-economic caste; who do goodwill toward others. The only thing Global Goodwill Ambassadors, looks at is the volunteering, charitable, or humanitarian works of any individual. We exercise no bias. We also have only one commodity, that of Goodwill. We are not commercialize in any way. We are apolitical and free of hatred.

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The Year of the Dog for Globalization – by Kyle Hegarty

The Year of the Dog begins this week which means, among other things, this is the season when western companies fall over themselves by slapping zodiac animals on their products in hopes of appealing to Chinese consumers. Gucci dog purse, anyone? At the same time, digital payments in China continue to accelerate. Last year, the Chinese New Year tradition of ‘hong bao’ – where cash-filled red envelopes are given as gifts – saw 46 billion electronic transfers. Yes, billion.

China’s transformation continues to play out in astounding ways both internally and globally. The country’s growing relevance on the world stage should not be underestimated. Globalization has never been so confusing as it is today thanks to the Middle Kingdom.
The mere mention of China triggers consumer brand executives to salivate over the growing army of shoppers and their wallets. Conversely. the same word causes western technology executives to back away with their tail between their legs.

Continue reading The Year of the Dog for Globalization – by Kyle Hegarty