Monday, June 11, 2012

A tale of Two Laptops Or Is Ukraine Ready for Euro 2012

A tale of two Laptops or Is Ukraine Ready for Euro 2012

Part 1 of 3: L’viv Incompetance
By George Green
George Green has been working in journalismfor more than 2 decades covering technology, finance, and international issues, he has worked for notable publications including MacLiving Magazine, MacCentral/MacWorld, Pravda, and have been published by the Glens Falls Chronicle, and a host of smaller publications..
This is one of those times. George has found himself broke and ill, suffering from diabetes and other ailments. Before reading his article, I would like to ask my dear readers to consider helping him out, to any sum you can. Even a few dollars will assist. Below are two methods of transferring cash safely.

card number is 5308170002729746

George Green

Working as a journalist at times means being thin on cash. May 30 2011 I found myself in just such a situation. After at 10 hour stint writing on

My MacBook Pro

Details of which:

Serial number: RM8219H2YJX
Model Number:A1260
Sales Number(s):MB133LL/A

I had to hang out on a park bench waiting for SOMETHING to open. Unlike most countries I’ve visited, McDonalds (neither of them), in L’viv, does not feature a 24/hour lobby. Too late, I found out that while I couldn’t afford a hostel I COULD have afforded a 24 hour Internet café. So I headed to a well-lit park bench, near the popular opera house on Ulita Svaboda. I was approached about 50 minutes later by cops telling me I couldn’t sit there any longer, but they’d help.

They took me to a police station and gave me mineral water and crackers and left. I figured they’d return. Trying my best to stay awake, I conked out at around 1am, and was woken up about an hour latter and told to leave. I gathered my things, including my MacBook Pro and decided to try sitting in the park again, this time in a well lit area NEAR the police and NEAR McDonalds which would open in 5 hours. About an hour latter, I was really sleepy but not asleep, when I was approached by two guys claiming to represent some embassy. (I wouldn’t be surprised to find drunk or worse offspring of ambassadors but figured them for narcos and immediate grabbed hold of my stuff. They were approached by a group of 3 people dressed as typical Ukrainian wannabe gangsters; one all In Adidas, one all in Yankees sweats that were probably Chinese knock offs. The insisted they were police and wanted to see my documents. Knowing I was dealing with narcomen now, I was already on the way to the cops. They began searching my bags, and I noticed my laptop was gone (no doubt the work of the first group that had just run off).

I ran to the police station and rang the doorbell. After 15 minutes they let me in. I told them to hurry and nab the crooks; which they didn’t do. They did manage to let me sleep on the floor of an interrogation room, and gave me directions to a Catholic monastery (after I specifically asked for an Orthodox one) in the morning.

A friend of mine works with telekanel ZIK and so, days latter, we staged a call of a stolen cell phone near the same station. The police arrived, we walked in and the ZIK journalist recorded their ambivalent reaction while her camera man filmed from nearby. After she revealed her journalistic credentials, they called the police chief, as there wasn’t even a report about my stolen MacBook Pro. The chief insisted one be filed, and I was filmed signing it. Despite numerous attempts to call for information, and giving them the Serial and Model Number and Proof of Ownership it was not found. We stopped calling after a few weeks; clearly L’viv wasn’t ready to handle foreign tourist at the time. One year before Euro2012.

Part 2 of 3: Kiev Deception

Fast Forward one year latter TO THE DAY

I had to travel to Kiev to attain a document from the American Embassy stating they don’t have a ‘Certificate of Non-Impediment to Marriage’ and they feel I’m free to marry. This cost 50$ plus travel fees so I was on a shoe string budget. My girlfriend, who is very religious, suggested Pokrovsky Monastary, where I could stay for free.

I arrived around 9:40 PM, but it was hard to navigate the territory. An arch nearby LOOKS like it leads there but does not. A service path leads from one of their churches to the monastery and the main Church. I walked up to the main Church pushing 10:10 PM and past a series of the usual cars priest use here (black Mercedes with silver trim which actually aren’t the status symbol here they are in America.). I asked the driver getting out of one about staying for free and he said this was impossible but he would show me somewhere else. Assuming he was affiliated with the Church as he was with a parade of identical cars, I believed him and sat down, in his car. Weird part one; he stopped to ask a friend something about 15 minutes later, Weird part two; I nodded off (around 11:15-11:30) and he said he had an emergency 4 people to drive and would return in 30 minutes. He dumped me with my noticeably lighter computer case promising to return soon.


Details of which:
Model: P50IJ
Bearing Symbol
Sticker on Laptop

He was gone before I had time to think to record his plate numbers. After hours at the police filing reports, I was told I’d get a call if they found it. I haven’t gotten a call since. I returned to the monastery (he managed to get 400 hryvna in my computer case but not 30 in my jeans) to see if they could help or had security cameras that might have had the car number. They gave me 20 hryvna (7 bucks) and noted they do not have cameras and said there was nothing they could do.

Basically they didn’t have a huge problem with thieves masked as church workers stealing from people. Worse than that, the police translators with diplomas, to whom I spoke, on both occasions, spoke so little English I had to communicate in Russian.

You can read elsewhere about the US Embassy Department of American Citizen Services telling me that the only help they could  really offer was to deport me and no they didn’t have 20 cents for the Metro.

Part 3 of 3: Is Ukraine Ready for Euro 2012?

As we’ve seen foreigners are pretty well on their own in Ukraine. Police interpreters are as incompetent as the cops are lazy. The road work, even while it’s being completed rapidly is not done. Ukraine simply lacks the infrastructure to support crowds of rowdy football fans parading their streets. Signage is only half complete and much of it wrong at L’viv’s main rail station. If police can do nothing for mundane crime, what will they do with a massive influx of rowdy hooligans?

I won’t say they haven’t tried, the stadium looks nice, even small towns have some new roads and side walks but that won’t help support the infrastructure needed for Euro2012. On top of that there is zero use for the L’viv stadium after the game! The local team, Karpat, enjoys a small following no where NEAR large enough to support its use.

By comparison things seem on track both politically and infrastructure wise for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Why did Ukraine drop the ball? Two teams have already lost Euro 2012: Ukrainians, and foreigners. The promised infrastructure improvements cannot possibly be done on time, foreigners will suffer misleading signs, and a huge lack of foreign language support options.

Who has won? Common criminals. Regardless of which team takes the field and wins; foreign face common criminals with zero protection from police who could care less if they could understand them to begin with. All this leaves a sad situation for Ukraine but a huge chance for Putin to prove himself with Sochi 2014. The Olympics aren’t a football match but maybe the really winner will be Russia.

1 comment:

kharaku said...