Category Archives: Ukraine

Pray for Ukraine

It’s heartbreaking to hear the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. My family and I left the country in 1995 to give a new life a try in the US but my heart has always been with my motherland, my homeland. I’ve written about the pull I have for my birth country a number of times on this blog, often relating it to my automotive experiences but this post has nothing to do with cars or racing.

It’s incredibly sad to see what’s happening in the news and not being able to do anything about it.

What can be done?

The only thing I can think of is to share news of what is happening for the world to see, and be aware of the situation. But does the world really give a fuck about what is happening there? Probably not. America is preoccupied with the Middle East. Asia is preoccupied with China. Europe is preoccupied with Europe. Nobody really cares. Even Russia couldn’t give a shit about what is happening on the ground in Ukraine because it has little effect on their daily life, sanctions and all aside.

But it’s clear that Russia is invading Ukraine, and putting aside all the comments of brotherly peoples, the Russians are murdering innocent Ukrainian civilians and that’s not OK in this day and age.

VICE NEWS has an excellent coverage of things on the ground in their appropriately named “Russian Roulette” series of short films: Even Jalopnik buds in on the subject from time to time describing different incidents from the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 plane, flight MH17 to the recent chemical plant bombing that resembled a nuke. And almost always those posts are met with criticism that they should stick to stories about cars.

But people must be made aware.

Growing up in the Soviet Union, Ukraine and more recently the US, I was always cynical in thinking that if Ukraine was to be attacked the most likely culprit would be Russia. It doesn’t make me feel any better about myself knowing that this scenario came true in recent years. But it was always coming. I remember going to the Black Sea with my parents as a child, to the Russian speaking part of the Soviet Union and later Ukraine. And us – Ukrainian speakers were never treated the same as the Russians, never equals. Brotherly people and all, the Russians (and not necessarily Russians from Russia, but Russian speakers) would look down on Ukrainian speakers as second class citizens. Whether it was across the board or not, I don’t know. I was little. But I do have this distinct memory growing up.

The situation wasn’t much different in the US when we moved to New Jersey. There were plenty of Russian-speakers in my high school. And it amazed me how many of them turned out to be from Ukraine. When I arrived I remember correcting everyone that would label me as Russian, that I was a Ukrainian. People didn’t seem to care about the difference often mistaking that both are the same, mistaking Russian for Slavic. I have no problem being called a Slav, part of my name has “slav” in it. But I did not like to be called Russian by people who should have known better but are too ignorant (our educators). Sure there are similarities between Ukrainian and Russian, just as there are between Ukrainian and Polish, in the same way that many Latinos see a similarity between Spanish and Italian. But we’re not the same. And while people often referred to history that Soviet Union = Russia, that doesn’t excuse it. There was a period of Russification of the Ukrainians, that’s true. But if you look further back in history, the people that would form Ukraine as a region gave birth to what became Russia.

I hope this conflict doesn’t drag out for the next decade or longer. I don’t know what the solution to the conflict could be especially with the clear proxy war that Putin is playing, but I hope he is stopped.

The ordinary people can do little but they can stand up to the aggression and see through the propaganda. Today Ukraine is under attack, tomorrow it could be the rest of Europe.


Please Pray for Ukraine!

Ukrainian Marshal License?

2015 will be a great year! I have confidence that the events I volunteer will have a positive impact on my Motorsport career. And while I still have about two months to decide whether to keep my American license, there is one possibility I have not considered. How about getting a Ukrainian license?

Now, while I know little about how the Ukrainian ASN works: FAU, I have seen at least some aspect of their success live in France at the 24h of Le Mans 2013 where Team Ukraine won Ferrari Challenge in a Ferrari 458 and on TV at Silverstone in 2014 when Team Ukraine won it’s class in the European Le Mans Series with a Ferrari 458 GTE(?). But those were still the days of Yanukovych Jr. spending his hard earned money on his Motorsport hobby (yes, read that with sarcasm) much like Scott Tucker in the US driving Level 5 racing to incredible heights. (for reference read this article, and this one).

Motorsport in Ukraine is growing from the grassroots level to international success. And having been born and raised there I pull for my fellow countrymen and women. Maybe I should represent the country when I volunteer globally? The question is how do I get one of their Motorsport licenses? I ask the question here not because I expect lots of e-mail replies with instructions, but more for myself to research the subject further as I’m more likely to do it when I write my goals down rather than trying to fetch them from memory.

It’s also an opportunity for me to share a little background on how I got hooked on cars as a kid… and how those cars may seem exotic to others reading this post. (I say that because while living in Singapore I discovered many things that seemed very exotic to me, while the local people I met were fascinated by how exotic Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe was to them, with all the post Soviet era machinery still in everyday use).

And so this is the vehicle my father taught me to drive with:


Yes… it’s a truck. My dad was a truck driver in the Soviet times and this ZIL 130 was his workhorse (so to speak). My grandfather was a driver also, but he literally had work horses pulling his cart. I have very fond memories learning to drive this thing because I was at an age when I couldn’t reach the pedals and sit on the seat at the same time, so I was almost standing up, resting my butt against the seat and stepping on the clutch with all my might, while peering through the steering wheel, not over it. Sometimes it took both hands to shift the gear lever because it was pretty tight.

zil-130 front

I used to spend my summers and winters on the farm with grandma in the village, and whenever dad would come home for lunch I would climb up into the truck bed and hide there hoping he would take me to work with him. Most days he didn’t. And the days he did were some of the best memories I have growing up in Ukraine, even though the map said Soviet Union over our geographical location.

zil-130 rear

The first car I actually learned to drive on was this fine specimen:


It was an import into the Soviet Union from Poland. Or rather a GAZ-21 made for export to Western Europe. My parents spend all the money they had to bring this ’60’s homage to American automotive masterpieces like the Chevy Bel Air (the Soviets basically copied the design and used it for generations, though changes were made not like the carbon copies of Fiat 124 in the form of the Lada)

gaz-21 front

Unlike his work truck, his Volga was like his personal truck because it was so big and spacious he hauled all sorts of things with it to the bazaar. From home grown produce, meat & dairy products to building supplies. We even used it as a campsite during my cousin’s wedding, because the seats reclined flat, all the kids in the wedding party slept on the comfortable sofabed it created because there was no more room in the house. The coolest thing about the car was it’s speedometer with a baby blue lens facing the window that illuminated the instrument cluster.

This was the first car I drove with the shifter on the column. And while I had many cars since with a column shifter – this was a manual, and changing gears was akin to conducting an orchestra trying to find the gear. It was a hell of a car that is still chained to the garage floor we left it in if it wasn’t stolen over the past twenty years. Who knows?

gaz-21 rear

So having a Ukrainian license would have a great sentimental value to me. I’m not at all nostalgic about the Soviet rule nor approve of the current Russian aggression against the Ukraine, but Motorsport is one place we all come together with a common love and appreciation without the social baggage of our backgrounds. Maybe a Ukrainian license would best represent me. Maybe it wont?


The images used in this post were found on And though 3D renderings, they are the actual colors from my childhood. The designs can be found here:

GAZ-21 Volga:


FAU web site:

FAU facebook: