Tag Archives: politics

Presidential election

9 Oct

According to projections, the incumbent, Alexander van der Bellen, has gotten an absolute majority — and that in a field with seven candidates. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks he’s doing a good job.

Lillehammer 1994

2 Apr

Today’s Kurier has an interview with Oksana Baiul, the 1994 Ukrainian gold medalist in women’s figure-skating. (She beat Nancy Kerrigan in the final seconds of her routine, as I remember it, by adding a rotation to a jump.)

Just seeing her name and the photo of her with her pink costume and frizzy 1980s hairstyle reminded me of how, in those days, no one except Ukrainians knew the Ukrainian anthem. The way I remember it, the award ceremony was delayed because they were searching backstage for the music so the anthem could be played. In the interview, Baiul says it was because the organizers couldn’t find a Ukrainian flag.

We are now all familiar with the anthem and the flag. I wish it for different reasons.


A peace tree

27 Mar
In front of a school in the 18th district

As spring comes in full force to Vienna we continue to keep our Ukrainian neighbors in our hearts as the war rages on. Schoolchildren in the 18th district were inspired to express their desire for peace and their solidarity with Ukraine in this way.

With many thanks to my friend Petra for the photo.

Heading into the 4th week

17 Mar

A number of years ago, I started a gratitude practice I call my gratitude session. I sit at my breakfast table and, before I take a bite or sip, I get into a slightly meditative state and ask myself: What am I especially grateful for right now?

Often the answer is simple and quick — the sunshine, the flowers in the park, my central heating, or the food on my table. Sometimes it takes longer and says more, like in 2015 when I had been helping distribute food to largely Syrian refugees at Westbahnhof. Then it was that I have some control over my life.

The last few days the answer has been the same: that I am still here in this city I love, that I can still practice my profession and earn a living, and, today, that I can still meet friends for a drink in the evening.


10 Mar

A few days ago, I heard that the friend’s sister mentioned in my post from February 24 (link below) and her charges, co-workers, two cats and a dog had made it safely to Poland and will be relocated to Germany.

I haven’t seen my Ukrainian neighbor in the last week.

I have once again been amazed at how wonderful the “children” in my life are. When I, at my wits’ end, asked the older of my Viennese nieces what she wanted for her (29th — you see why “children” is in quotation marks) birthday, she asked me to donate to Neighbor in Need, a very reputable Austrian charitable organization that did wonders in the Balkan war.

And so we stumble into the third week of war in the Ukraine.



3 Mar

Every morning I send an e-mail to my mother in the U.S.A. to check in. Sometimes I literally just write “Checking in.” Below is today’s mail.

Boy, it’s been a long week. Still, in terms of acquiring business it hasn’t been bad. Whether things will actually take place given that Austria is already seeing the impact of the war is another question. (The BMW plant — in Steyr, I think — has cut production because they can’t get parts from Ukraine and one Russian bank with offices in Vienna has already gone bankrupt.) C. has also advised stocking up on sunflower products, like oil, because they come almost entirely from Ukraine. 

I saw my Ukrainian neighbor on Alser Straße yesterday. She was on her way to the university. How much she will be able to concentrate is anyone’s guess. She did say her parents had left Kyiv and moved west. With the news this morning that may turn out not to have helped.

For me, the war is pretty much all present. I’m getting on with what needs to be done, but it is always there. You know what this feels like, I know.

Sending very much love 

Ukraine’s First Lady takes a stand

2 Mar

Crying again and then picking myself up again.



24 Feb

This morning I awoke to beautiful sunshine in Vienna and about 3°C — a perfect late winter day. As always, I went out with Maylo without checking my phone. We enjoyed our walk.

Then at breakfast I checked the headlines. The NYT: Russia attacks Ukraine. ORF: Russland greift Ukraine an. Both sites with videos of the shelling. And I realize that Europe is once again at war. I think of a workshop participant on Tuesday who was joining us from Moscow and felt it necessary to emphasize that many Russians do not want war. I think of a neighbor, a student at the University of Vienna, who comes from Ukraine and whose family who is still there. I think of the wonderful members of a Ukrainian choir who passed through Vienna on their way to a church choir festival in Switzerland in the heady, hopeful days of the early 1990s. I think of a U.S. American friend’s sister who has lived in Kyiv for many years working for an organization that takes care of orphans, who has chosen to stay and continue her work. I think of them all and can hardly type this for the tears running down my face.

When I can, I will wipe my tears and will carry on — as my parents did growing up in Germany and England respectively in the Second World War and my grandparents before them in the First World War, and as so many generations have and so many people around the world throughout time. No doubt I will cry again, and wipe my tears again, and carry on again. And in the meantime I will leave sunflowers for my neighbor to let her know that someone in our house has noticed and cares, and I will donate to Caritas for humanitarian aid to the Ukraine, and I will sit and try to maintain my own peace so that I do not contribute to the violence of this world.

I have loved and tried to be guided by this quotation below from Etty Hillesum for years. Now more than ever.

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

If she could write that from the despair of a concentration camp, surely I can begin, at least begin, to do it surrounded by the beauty of a perfect late winter day in Vienna.

A look back

15 Jan

I’m in the process of re-reading my journal from 2021 before putting it away and came across the following entry, from 6 July 2021:

This morning on our walk we ran into the MA 48ler [man who works for the city sanitation department and keeps our neighborhood clean] who loves to talk. We had a really good chat about how inconsistent the government is (“Sagt ‘man kann bei zwei Dingen nicht sparen — Sicherheit und Sauberkeit’ — und dann sparen sie trotzdem”*), how beautiful Vienna is, the oldest houses (apparently somewhere near Mölkerbastei), sustainability and not using coffee capsules, and so on.

This all came back to me as I was doing my gratitude session and I thought how amazing it is that I was allowed to experience that, in this city, in a foreign language I now speak well enough to follow almost all of what he says [he speaks a pretty thick Viennese dialect], safe, healthy, comfortable, on a beautiful not-too-hot July morning. What an amazing life I am allowed to live.

* “They say ‘There are two things one mustn’t try to save money on — safety and cleanliness’ and then they cut the budget for those two things anyway.”

The Mayor

15 Sep

I just saw the mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, on my street. He looked very happy and was, of course, walking around without any security detail. Ah, Vienna!