Poet, Journalist, Translator

Stephen Komarnyckyj


Welcome to my blog


I write about poetry, Ukraine and money laundering- why the hell not?

By Steve Komarnyckyj, Jul 2 2014 03:01PM

I recently played a recording of one of my poems, A Song of Exile, through transcription software. The text which emerged bore no relation to the original, perhaps because the software could not interpret my hybrid Yorkshire Ukrainian accent. There were fragments of the source spliced with random words, the syntax wrenched out of shape. It was a kind of anti poem, defying meaning and yet evocative of the swirl of perception and thought of raw experience. I split the text into two pieces which have been published in 3am magazine here . The work hovers on the brink of cohesion and continuously upsets the reader's expectations while being able to support many different kinds of meaninglessness. Or to put it more simply it's utter bollocks (?)

By Steve Komarnyckyj, May 26 2014 03:42PM

I am writing to the owner of the Ecologist website because, sadly, it has become a conduit for Ukrainophobic propaganda. Any comments gratefully received-

Dear Mr Kumar

I am writing to you in connection with the editorial line taken by the Ecologist website on the Ukrainian crisis. It gives me no pleasure to be raising this matter with you and I am sick at heart to think that people I admire could be hostile to Ukraine. I share the magazine's concerns and respect the work that you have done for peace and for the environment. However, the coverage of Ukraine's uprising against a tyrant who sought to steal the right to vote from Ukrainians has been deeply flawed. In any democratic society there must be scope for different points of view to be represented. However your magazine has become the conduit for disinformation produced by Russia's special services and a platform for a Holocaust denier.

Let me begin with the piece produced by Israel Shamir which is duplicated on your site dated 21 May 2014.


Shamir, although originally Jewish, has converted to Orthodoxy and is a notorious figure with links to neo nazi movements across Europe. While I appreciate that there is scope for different points of view his characterisation of Putin of course omits several key facts regarding the man's views. However, in general, I would question whether an environmental site should provide a platform for a character with at least six aliases, multiple identities and a track record of hate speech.

The piece presenting Graham W Philips as a journalist detained by an overweaning government is equally problematic. Phillips originally went to Kyiv as an English teacher and then became a sex blogger. He was at some stage picked up by Russia Today a channel whose reputation is only slightly less whiffy than a Normandy camembert on a hot day. His reports were characterised by extreme carelessness and what appears to be falsification. On one occasion he triggered a proximity flare near a Ukrainian outpost and claimed that the sound it made was a shot that the Ukrainian army had fired at him:


He despises Ukraine's indigenous culture, hates the Ukrainian state, and wants to see it destroyed. He was travelling around a war zone openly supporting terrorists spreading disinformation and observing military positions. He had was holding an automatic rifle according to one account. They had no choice but to arrest him.

The piece by Diane Johnstone presents the specious argument that the minority right wing element in the coalition that formed in Ukraine's Parliament is a Nazi takeover.


Nazis are not Jewish. They do not hold elections. The extreme right only secured 2% in Ukraine's presidential election on 26 May. The account of the Odesa massacre is wildly inaccurate. In fact some individuals who we might describe as pro Russian attacked a peaceful march with firearms killing one of them to provoke a riot. The aim was to generate a violent incident and lamentably they succeeded. However after the fire had started- and it is not clear how it started- the crowd actually tried to rescue the people in the building. The government is multi ethnic and the factitious suggestion that they want to inspire Ukrainians to massacre ethnic minorities is stupid in the extreme.


The defense of Putin who is the architect of all this mayhem is laughably naive because we actually know the kind of plans that Russia is formulating. Dugin a key strategist in Putin's establishment, is a Fascist who admires the SS and advocates destroying Ukraine.


The piece could only have been written by someone who was both profoundly anti Western and either misrepresenting or unaware of the political climate in Russia. What does it have to do with the environment? Dugin is one of the Fascistss coordinating the separatists many of whom are Nazis:



The article by Mike Whitney also purveys the false narrative that Ukraine is now ruled by Nazis. This posture was always ludicrous and is even more so now that the right has been marginalised at the ballot box. Again the article is written as if a law abiding president had been destabilised. In fact Yanukvych stole over $70bn and corrupted and impoverished society


Incidentally Ukraine was the deadliest place on earth from 1933 to 1945 losing more at the hands of Hitler and Stalin than any other European nation. Whitney's stigmatisation of Ukrainians is therefore utterly repugnant.

I understand the need for an opposition to the hegemony of big business and of any political block. However an autocrat who represents his own corporate interests and plays with virulent nationalism cannot fulfill that role The people of Ukraine have affirmed the sovereignty of the people over the politicians. The revolution was one step on a long path to a world where the hegemony of the oligarchs of East and West will be broken. The left has to reinvent itself and to see that acting as the propaganda megaphone of a regime like Putin's will only result in its further marginalisation and estrangement. Ukraine offers a chance to rethink, to renew. It is not a barrier to Russia but a hand stretched out to the Russian people, and a reminder that the only force capable of challenging the oligarchy is the people.

I urge you to amend your editorial policy and as a first step

- to remove the article by Holocaust denier Shamir and acknowledge its publication was a mistake

- as regards Ukraine to publish articles from Ukrainian sources articulating an alternative to the Putinesque propaganda which you have published to date.

- an apology for taking a biassed, Ukrainophobic, editorial line

I am frankly sick of the xenophobia that man on the left see fit to express towards Ukraine. Engels said socialism was the anti semitism of fools. Ukrainophobia is form of ethnic stigmatisation that some of the left deem acceptable. It has no place on your site.

By Steve Komarnyckyj, May 22 2014 04:16PM

If you walk on the soft grass between the ruins of the abbey at Whitby you are treading the same ground where Caedmon the first English poet walked. He became a poet by accident when he left a gathering of monks who were about to sing and play harp. Caedmon was a lay brother who tended to the cattle and knew no songs. However, that night he was taught to sing in a dream and wrote the nine lines of Caedmon’s hymn, the first English poem. He could not have imagined as he soused water into a stone trough, or pastured the cattle, how his words would echo in so many other poems. However his poem was also the first hymn in English and whether or not we believe in God it is a part of every English speaker. English no longer belongs to the English it has become a language wherein many nations find part of their voice. I voted today in the United Kingdom and found so many parties on the ballot paper who wanted Britain to turn its back on Europe and on the world. However the language that Caedmon spoke would have been understood by the fishermen of the Frisian Islands. England has lost an Empire but gave the world a language which is becoming the space where so many peoples talk with one another in the global conversation. England cannot turn its back on Europe because it is Europe. Europe is also a continent not only of the mind, of the fields and rivers but also of the heart. However absurd it may seem in London, for people in Kyiv Europe is freedom, social justice. It was this idea which drove young people to advance towards automatic rifle fire with wooden shields and sticks. The parties of the right are in the ascendance trying to tear that dream apart. But as Geoffrey Hill said “there is no bloodless myth will hold” and it may be that Europe, the Europe of the heart was born in the lives sacrificed on the blood stained streets of Kyiv. Nothing that comes afterwards will be worth the loss of one of their lives. We remain in their debt.

By Steve Komarnyckyj, May 20 2014 03:56PM

Michael Herr once said the only corpse he could not bear to look at, would be the one he never had to see. I was reflecting on my father's death today, how he slipped away quietly, before we could organise another care home for him. He was laid on the bed in his room when I saw him, still warm. I say "he" of course, but all that he was had gone. Perhaps the only consolation for any of us is our shared experience both of bereavement and of renewal. I am proud to have a poem on the subject of loss in Tanya Chernov's anthology The Burden of Light. I dreamt of my father after his death. He was listening to rock music, which he hated, on an Ipad and nodding his head in a frenzy of enjoyment. I hope that I was ofered a genuine glimpse of the life to come and that it really is a blast.

By Steve Komarnyckyj, May 2 2014 09:10AM

Dear All,

The Lithuanian Embassy is delighted to invite you to an evening with the writer Jaroslavas Melnikas, a Ukrainian resident in Lithuania who writes in both Lithuanian and Ukrainian, as well as French. In conversation with the translator Romas Kinka the author will talk about his work, writing in different languages, identity and the relationship he has with his native Ukraine. You will also have the opportunity to hear several extracts of his work translated from Lithuanian and Ukrainian into English. The British Ukrainian poet and translator Steve Komarnyckyj will be talking on the Ukrainian aspect of the author's work and reading one of his own translations.

The event will be held in English.

Thursday 15 May 2014, 7pm-9pm.

Door open: 6.30pm

Lithuanian Embassy in the UK

Lithuania house

2 Bessborough Gardens

London SW2 JE

FREE, RSVP essential: [email protected]


Melnikas (b. 1959 in Lviv) carries the heritage of several cultural backgrounds – Ukrainian and Lithuanian, but also admits that French culture is very close to him. Melnikas moved to Lithuania over two decades ago. He lives with his family in Vilnius and calls himself a Lithuanian writer of Ukrainian descent.

Despite the fact that he moved to Lithuania as an adult Melnikas learned Lithuanian well enough to write complex works, albeit ones with a wide appeal. Melnikas has written six books of fiction and a collection of philosophical essays in Lithuanian, as well as several books of poetry and prose in Ukrainian and a novel in French. While living in France he had a regular women's advice column in ELLE. He is also the author of an encyclopaedia for women and two earlier collections of popular psychology articles.

In his highly original fiction, Melnikas creates a mysterious atmosphere, often verging on the absurd. In 2013 his novel Далекий простір (The Distant Space) became the winner of BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year. The book was published in Lithuanian under the title Tolima erdvė in 2008.

For more about the writer go to: http://www.booksfromlithuania.lt/en/node/10462.

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