National Geographic : 2011 Apr
• It waves from agpoles and drapes the parade stand on patriotic holidays. It nds sanctuary in war monuments and is posted on signs: Lenin Square, Heroes of Stalingrad Street, Cinema Moscow. It even simmers in a pot of borscht. Take Galina Onischenko's version of the east- ern European staple. " is is Russian borscht," she said, setting down a porcelain bowl of "green" or summer borscht with its dill- ecked mosaic of beets, carrots, and potatoes. "No lard with garlic like they put in Ukrainian borscht." Galina, a 70-year-old grandmother with a cu- mulous cloud of white hair and stern, corn ower blue eyes, had returned to her h- oor walk- up from marching down Lenin Street waving a Soviet Navy ag in support of her beloved Black Sea Fleet. "Sevastopol is a Russian city, and we will never put up with the fact that Ukraine is in charge," she said. ough Galina would protest, borscht, ac- cording to Russian food historian V. V. Pokhleb- kin, is originally Ukrainian. Though Galina protests, Sevastopol, a city in Crimea, is Ukrai- nian too. is a diamond suspend- ed from the south coast of Ukraine by the thin chain of the Perekop Isthmus, embraced by the Black Sea, on the same latitude as the south of France. Warm, lovely, lush, with a voluptuously curved coast of sparkling cli s, it was a jewel of the Russian Empire, the retreat of Romanov tsars, and the playground of Politburo fat cats. O cially known as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, it has its own parliament and capital, Simferopol, but takes its orders from Kiev. Physically, politically, Crimea is Ukraine; mentally and emotionally, it identi es with Rus- sia and provides, a journalist wrote, "a unique opportunity for Ukrainians to feel like strangers on their own territory." Crimea speaks to the persistence of memory---how the past lingers and subverts. Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the So- viet Union, signed Crimea over to Ukraine as a gesture of goodwill. Galina was 14 at the time. "Illegal," she said, when asked about the hand- over. " ere was no referendum. No announce- ment. It just happened." What was Khrushchev thinking? "He wasn't," she snapped. "Khrushchev had roaches in his head." Crimea was a lovely present, but the box was empty. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union anyway. "My parents discussed the transfer, but we weren't concerned," Galina said. Moscow was still in charge. No one could have ever imag- ined the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, when Crimea would be pulled out of the orbit of Rus- sian rule along with an independent Ukraine. Do you miss the Soviet Union? I asked Ga- lina, as she reminisced about the stability of life BY CATHY NEWMAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY GERD LUDWIG THE PASTis never past in Sevastopol.