Evalina Asanova, granddaughter of a Crimean Tatar master of filigree jewelry created some video and sat for an interview with me this summer in field work I did supported by the Turkish Cultural Foundation. Here’s a sneak peak at what I am working on for spring 2012.
Eskender is an amazing young person I met this summer while working in Crimea. He is recently married and works making headstones for the cemetery. That isn’t the craft he learned in school, though.
This video doesn’t include any of the excellent interview he gave me, it does show a tremendously talented you man.
The Guardian has a piece written by a disabled person in Africa about the challenges living there.
It’s especially timely after what I witnessed last Saturday. I had traveled to Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine with a friend and we were waiting on a bus back to Bakhchisaray where I am staying. While we waited, we witnessed an altercation between a woman and a bus driver. The woman was traveling with a disabled companion. Their argument was over whether the children’s bicycle her companion used in lieu of a wheelchair required an extra fee.
The bus driver said that it was clearly a bicycle and she needed to pay. The woman said it was her companion’s mobility device and should be counted as such. The bus driver was a bit of an asshole, to be sure, but the woman refused to let someone else pay the surcharge when an onlooker offered. Eventually the woman brought her companion out of the bus in an attempt to prove that she was disabled.
The woman was seized into a sitting position making it clear how the bicycle was used, but it didn’t sway the bus driver. Eventually someone from the bus station came and sided with the bus driver. As we left, the disabled woman was pleading with them to stop their argument, as it had become quite heated.
It highlights a couple of problems. First, wheelchairs are expensive and a bit of a luxury item in Ukraine. People who are disabled often rely on crutches that are too short or improvisational mobility devices a la this bicycle. The ingenuity behind using the bicycle should be commended. While her friend didn’t appear capable of peddling it, it did allow her to move about with limited freedom. Still, the wheelchair price problem should be addressed. The second thing is that given that people must improvise for their friends and family that are disabled, there should be considerations made to them when traveling. Maybe on another day, the driver wouldn’t have put up so much of a fight. Maybe the woman went too far in arguing. Really those are symptoms, not the problem. The problem is that this woman likely had the same argument many times on her trip to Yalta and now was repeating them all on the way back.
In the end there is no simple solution. The discrepancy between the ideal and reality is too great to be addressed without the involvement of local, regional and national governmental agencies. Still, the disabled should be allowed to travel, even if they have nontraditional substitutes for wheelchairs.
I just wrapped up a visit with Dr. Yevhen Fedchenko’s journalism Master’s students at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Only they know for certain, but I think it went well. I talked about Communication for Development and the ideas behind it, gave some examples of CommDev successes and failures, talked briefly about challenges facing the discipline and talked a great deal about my Master’s project on Crimean Tatar youth and their relationship with their traditional culture.
The students asked a lot of great questions. Many of them hit right at the root of what it means for this to be a CommDev project like “What will you do if you can’t use the footage the participants shoot?”, “How do you get ethnic Russians to watch the film when its finished?” and “What if things come out just showing what an exotic culture the Crimean Tatars have?” These are tougher questions than I got in the proposal defense!
I had answers for all of them, but I could tell these answers didn’t really make the students feel much better. A lot of it just comes down to the project being from a Communication for Development perspective instead of a traditional documentary. I have to give up direct control to empower these young people to tell their story. That *is* a huge risk, and these students recognized that and perhaps think I am a bit crazy to take this chance.
The notion of conflict came up again, as it did in the lead-up to my project defense. I still hold that this project must stay away from hot issues like Crimean Tatar land claims. There is no way for me to address these things in a way that targets my main focus: reducing discrimination/racism.
I was invited back to screen the documentary, so hopefully that means I did alright in addressing the student’s questions and presenting CommDev.
Overall, it was a great experience. My thanks to Dr. Fedchenko and his students for the opportunity and Dr. Don Flournoy at Ohio University for making it possible!