Mykola (Nikolai) Berdyaev
The philosopher, born Nikolai Oleksandrovich Berdyaev in our very own Kyiv back in 1874, was a precocious child. By 14 he had already read many of the great philosophers and in 1894, entered Kyiv’s university. It was a revolutionary time with the winds of change in the air. Berdyaev got caught up in this, becoming a Marxist and being expelled from his University after his arrest in a demonstration. His continued involvement in such activities later saw him sentenced to three years of internal exile.
In 1904, Berdyaev married Lydia Trusheff. The couple moved to Saint Petersburg, at the time the capital and a hotbed of revolutionaries and intelligentsia. He gradually moved away from Marxist fervour into philosophy and spirituality, but retained his ability to kick up a fuss, and was saved from a lifetime in Siberia by World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution.
Berdyaev was never able to accept the Bolshevik regime due to its authoritarianism, and the domination of state over individual freedom. Leaving Ukraine may have been his choice, but leaving Russia was not, as in September 1922 he unwillingly found himself on the so-called “philosophers’ ship”. This was a group of 160 intellectuals objectionable to the Bolshevik regime, who were thus sent out of the country.
At first they went to Berlin. But, finding the Weimar Republic Germany similarly oppressive, he and his wife headed to Paris in 1923. There he lived out his days absorbed in intellectual pursuit – founding an Academy, teaching, lecturing and writing. The erudite culture in Paris at the time stimulated him, there he wrote 15 books including those considered his greatest works. He died happily writing away at his desk in 1948.
Hit – intellectually fulfilled, happily married, highly respected. Way to go Nikolai!
Legendary psychiatrist and author of several notable books, including The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich may be classed as Austrian-American but he was born in Dobrzanica, modern-day Ukraine.
Reich was living in Germany when Hitler came to power in January 1933. Immediately, his work began to come under attack by their propaganda machine. He fled for Vienna, then Scandinavia before crossing the Atlantic to the United States in 1939. There he made his name, but also started going a bit wacky. He hit on the idea of something called ‘orgone’ as the primordial energy of life itself. This was a development of Freud’s libidinal energy ideas, with Reich determining that this ‘orgone’ was everywhere and could even affect weather formation.
Convinced of this, he set to work on a device called an ‘orgone accumulator’ to harvest it from the environment. Patients would sit inside the device, constructed as it was of metallic materials to radiate the energy towards the centre of the box, absorbing the energy through their skin and lungs. Supposedly there was a healthy effect on blood and body tissue, by the flow of life-energy being improved and energy-blocks lifted. Unconvinced, US authorities banned the sale of the machines. When Reich continued nonetheless, he was sentenced to stand trial. Representing himself, he was sentenced to two years in prison while his books and publications were burned. He died in jail of heart failure just over a year later, the day before he was due to apply for parole.
(Marginal) Hit – he made his name and inspired a Kate Bush video (Cloudbusting). But, he did die in the clink.
Mykola (Nikolai) Kolomeitsev
Nikolai Nikolaevich Kolomeitsev was a Ukrainian Russian naval officer and Arctic explorer. Born near Kherson in 1867, he graduated as an officer of the Imperial Russian Navy in 1887. Promoted to lieutenant a few years later, he was assigned to the Russian Pacific Fleet. Working his way up the ranks, in 1900 he was named commander of the Polar Expedition ship Zarya on the Russian Polar Expedition.
A supporter of Imperial Russia, he clashed with his Bolshevik-inspired men on the trip, and it ended rather unhappily with his being sent off on a long sledging expedition. However, in 1902, he was back in the saddle at the command of one of the world’s first true icebreakers, Yermak, and during the Russo-Japanese war, captained torpedo boat destroyer Buinyi.
He became a hero in that conflict, rescuing a wounded admiral from his burning ship, as well as all the crew he was able to. However, his boat was later sunk and Kolomeitsiv himself captured by the Japanese. After the end of the war and his release, he married and worked his way up the naval ranks, promoted to rear admiral in 1913. He was involved in the first years of World War I before his retirement from active duty in 1917, with the rank of vice admiral.
It wasn’t to be a happy retirement though, as his loyalty to Imperial Russia came back to bite with revolutionary fervour in the air. Arrested and imprisoned by the Bolshevik government in 1917, he escaped and fled in 1918. Initially settling in Finland, he then went into exile in France, where he served as Vice-Chairman of the UNI0N Knights of St George. His life ended rather abruptly and unhappily in 1944 when he was run over and killed by a United States Army truck.
Miss – ok, fair enough. He didn’t have much choice and his best days were already behind him by the time he left. But still, killed in a road traffic accident by a US Army truck, no way for a great man to go!
Pavel Ivanovych Lazarenko
Well, this chancer (and former Ukrainian Prime Minister) is currently spending his days domiciled in a US penitentiary. Doubtless enjoying much better conditions than he would do were he to return to Ukraine, where he would be instantly imprisoned. So, he’s behind bars but still on the run. That’s on the run with the $200,000,000 he stole from his countrymen. Oh, and he may well have had one of his enemies assassinated while he was in power. Nice guy.
Hit – for him, although in prison for six years, he is still in decent health
and could be released soon. A Ukrainian prison may not have been so forgiving.
What’s On also caught up with Mariupol born Soviet UNI0N legend Serhiy Baltacha. He, of near 300 appearances for Dynamo Kyiv and 50 for the Soviet UNI0N national team, took time out from his busy schedule to give us his views on the whole matter of exile-dom .
English League Attraction
In this day and age of footballers of every nationality moving freely across the world all the time, it’s easy to forget what a big deal it was when Serhiy Pavlovich Baltacha moved to Ipswich Town in 1988. At the age of 30, Serhiy was reaching the end of his career as a professional footballer, and what a career it had been. He’d scored in the World Cup back in 1982, won the Champions League with Dynamo Kyiv in 1986, the Soviet Top League and the Soviet Cup four times and, well, you get the idea. He was a big deal. He came on as a substitute for the Soviet team in the final of Euro 1988 as they lost to the Dutch (both goals having been scored before Baltacha came on).
This had alerted clubs across the world to Soviet talent, one of them was Ipswich Town, a once great club on the way down having been recently relegated from England’s top division. The Soviet football federation drew up a list of available players. Serhiy’s name was on it, and off he went to Ipswich. His time there, however, didn’t really go to plan. He had difficulties with the language, struggled with injuries and made fewer than 30 league appearances before a mutual agreement not to renew his contract.
It looked like Serhiy’s big UK experiment may have ended in a slightly tail-between-legs return to Ukraine. But the player Serhiy had one final flourish in him, moving to St Johnstone in Perth, Scotland. Here, he played some of his finest football, and in 90 league appearances for them, is still considered a legend by fans.
I asked him how he felt it had worked out, his leaving Ukraine: “It was never my decision to leave Ukraine, the Soviet sport committee came to my representatives, said there had been an offer from Ipswich Town. At the time I had been with Dynamo Kyiv for 12 years and decided to accept the offer of a new opportunity, a new life.” And how was it? “There was a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation on me being the first Russian international to play in the English league. All my life I had been attracted to the English league, the great sides like Liverpool and Manchester United. There were some good players at Ipswich Town at that time, but they didn’t play the kind of football I had dreamed of. The move never really worked out as I had imagined. But at least I got to spend more time with my family. As a Soviet footballer, I was lucky to have a few hours a week with my children due to the packed timetable. At Ipswich I had more. After Ipswich, St Johnstone came in with an offer, and with them I was able to play the kind of football I had aspired to. My time there was fantastic, the club, the fans. My English was also good by that time and I settled happily in Perth, raising my family there and enjoying life.”
People are People
As for Serhiy’s children, his son, Serhiy junior, went on to represent Scotland at Under-21 level and his daughter, Elena, is the current British number 1 tennis player, having been so for many years. Having read that Serhiy considers himself Russian, I broach the subject of nationality. “I’m a citizen of the Soviet UNI0N, but I love Ukraine. As for now, I’ve been in the United Kingdom for over 23 years, it’s my home. But I still go back to Ukraine regularly. It’s a beautiful country with good, kind people. I want to see it become more like European countries. But, I don’t think it has to lose ties with Russia, we are similar people, it’s in our blood.”
As for the politicians here, “I never trusted politicians, I never get involved in that. Each time I’m back in Ukraine I ask my friends, ‘how is life for you, is it better? What has changed? What is the mood?’ I think things are getting better, but that’s because of the people, not the politicians. I always love returning to the warmth and kindness of my fellow Ukrainians and have never forgotten I am one of them. When I first moved to the UK, I thought all Englishmen wore top hats and umbrellas and that those in the West were against us from the Soviet UNI0N. But I found that wasn’t true. I never felt any hostility to me as a Soviet citizen and I came to realise that people are people, just as in Ukraine.”
Actually, in older visits here, Serhiy used to be presented with a loaf of bread, a Russian gift symbolising peace and friendship. He’s certainly an absolutely lovely guy, our interview ends with his good wishes for myself, my family, my colleagues at What’s On and all those in Ukraine. I leave him to what sounds like an engaging game of youth football in the background. Having enjoyed a successful twilight to his career in Scotland, he can now be found teaching PE at a London school.
Hit – sticky start but he dug in and turned it around!