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These Russians Have Lived in Central Europe Since the Dawn of Time (Carpatho-Russians)

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This article originally appeared on: Russian Faith, a new website with news about the Christian renaissance in Russia. See their introductory video at end of article


Lemko (Rusyn) women in national dress. Lemko’s are a Carpatho-Russian tribe from Western Ukraine.


Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.

The Great Doxology (part of a Russian Orthodox Morning Service).

O God, give me the strength to live through this day and help me to survive in this foreign land where they have brought me and my children…O Lord, give my children the wisdom to find their way back to the native land of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers to honour their graves, their churches and their faith.

Kateryna Rusyn

“Not all those who wander are lost”

J.R.R. Tolkien


Once when the American pop-artist Andy Warhol, was asked where he came from, he answered: ‘I come from nowhere’. In one sense he was right, for his real name was Ondrej Varchola, the son of Carpatho-Russian immigrants to Pittsburgh in the US in 1918. It is no good looking on a map – you will not find Carpatho-Russia. It exists, and yet it has never existed, it is ‘nowhere’. No wonder that some have called the Carpatho-Russians ‘the Kurds of Europe’. Who are they and where is Carpatho-Russia?

Perhaps a more common name for Carpatho-Russia is Ruthenia. However, we should use this name ‘Ruthenia’ with care, for, just as Greeks do not call themselves ‘Greek’, so ‘Ruthenians’ do not call themselves ‘Ruthenian’. This Eastern Slav people, who live in and around the Carpathian mountains, speak a language which resembles Ukrainian, and yet which is distinct from it. For well over fifteen hundred years, they have lived in these Carpathians, the original home of all the Slav peoples.

The Carpathian Mountains are truly a place of beauty. Check out this article about a martyred Rusyn Priest for more stunning pictures like that.


 Before the Russian Revolution, most Carpatho-Russians lived scattered across a thousand villages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many in a region known as Galicia, where they were sorely persecuted and Uniatized. After the break-up of that oppressive Empire, the true ‘prison of the peoples’, most Carpatho-Russians found themselves living in Poland and Slovakia.

Since 1945, when Stalin took an eastern slice of Slovakia, most, over 600,000, have lived in what is now the Ukraine. Others still live in north-east Slovakia north of Presov, and in the south-east corner of Poland. However, there are also smaller groups of Carpatho-Russians in Hungary, Serbia and Romania and elsewhere, and also a very large emigration, mainly from 1880-1914, in the USA, especially in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and in other countries of the New World. (One of these Carpatho-Russians, Sgt Michael Strank, was the soldier who raised the stars and stripes at Iwo Jima, thus figuring in one of the most famous photographs of the twentieth century).

Sometimes called ‘rusnaks’, in the Ukraine the Carpatho-Russians are often known as ‘Transcarpathians’, in Poland as ‘Lemki’ and in Slovakia they are called ‘Subcarpathians’. Academics usually term them as ‘Carpatho-Russians’ or ‘Carpatho-Rusyns’. However, they call themselves ‘Rusyn’.

With their emigration, the Carpatho-Russians number well over one million souls, perhaps as many as one and a half million. By folklore and custom the Carpatho-Russians resemble very much the Slovaks, Ukrainians and Poles, with influences from the Austrians and the Hungarians. However, by religion, and this is what defines the Carpatho-Russians, they are all Orthodox-rite.

Palanok Castle, Ukrainian Transcarpathia


Less than one third are actually Orthodox, and over two thirds, since the forced ‘Unia’ of the end of the sixteenth century, are nominal Greek-Catholics or Uniats. No Carpatho-Russian worthy of the name, is a Latin Catholic or Protestant. Moreover, if you talk to such ordinary Greek-Catholics, most of them will tell you, and they believe it, that they are in fact ‘Pravoslavny’ – Orthodox – such is the deception and trickery played on the simple by the clerics of the Vatican.

Converted to Orthodoxy by Sts Cyril and Methodius, traditionally in the year 863, for centuries the Carpatho-Russian people survived as Orthodox, outside the protection of any Orthodox State, and many still do so today.

Under their beloved Patron, St Nicholas the Wonderworker, they have survived innumerable persecutions and massacres, particularly from Catholic Poles, Hungarians and Austrians (at their notorious Thalerhof concentration camp), then Czechs, Fascist Germans and Slovaks, then Communist Poles and Ukrainians and now Slovak Uniats.

Catholic Uniates stole many Orthodox Churches and converted them into Catholic churches similar to this one in Lvov.


Over one hundred years ago, starvation and persecution led many of them, nearly half a million, to emigrate to the USA. Here many of the Greek Catholics among them, persecuted by Latin Catholic bishops, reverted to Orthodoxy. They came to form the backbone of what has now become the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Other Orthodox, formed the fifty parishes, now under Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese (at present in the Patriarchate of Constantinople).

Some others belong to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), like the [then] present head of ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus [now diseased]. Indeed, before the Second World War, the Carpatho-Russians were much helped by the ROCOR monastery in Ladomirova in Carpatho-Russia, which published a journal, ‘Orthodox Carpatho-Russia’. After that war the printing press and monastery moved to Jordanville in the USA and the title of the journal changed to the present ‘Orthodox Russia’.

Ladomirova Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev


In their homelands, Greek Catholic Carpatho-Russians, persecuted by the Communists, are now reviving. Unfortunately, fanatical Ukrainian nationalist sentiment, originally an anti-Russian tool invented by Austrians and Hungarians, has lately been much exacerbated among them by the Vatican. In the last fifteen years, these Uniats have been taking revenge for Communist persecution on the Orthodox, causing considerable problems through their aggression and stealing most of the old wooden Orthodox churches in Slovakia from the Orthodox.

As regards the Orthodox who remain in the homeland, they belong to the Orthodox Churches of the Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland. In the Ukraine there are some tensions between Ukrainians and the Carpatho-Russians. They mainly live around Uzhgorod, near the border with Slovakia, to which State this region belonged until 1945. Indeed, Uzhgorod is the real capital of Carpatho-Russia.

As regards the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, it is in fact divided into three ethnic dioceses, one for Czechs, one for Slovaks, and a reinvigorated one, the real Metropolitan centre of this Local Church, in Presov, for the Carpatho-Russians, the Rusyny of ‘Presov Rus’ (Priashevskaya Rus’).

The Polish Orthodox Church is in fact largely composed of Ukrainians and to a lesser extent Belorussians, with very few Poles, but it also includes Carpatho-Russians, Lemki, faithful like most Orthodox Rusyns in the homeland, to the Orthodox calendar.

In the Diocese of the Polish Church bordering Slovakia, under Bishop Adam, there is a particular revival, which has come about partly since the canonization in 1994 of the Priest-Martyr Maxim, slain by the Latins in 1914. In 2003, another confessor, St Alexis (Kabaliuk) (1875-1947), ‘The Apostle of Carpatho-Russia’, whose relics were found intact in 1999, was canonized in the western Ukraine – Carpatho-Russia. He not only resisted the Austro-Hungarian persecutors, but later also the corruptions of the modernist innovations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and found protection for his people in the Russian and Serbian Churches.

We now give the Life of the Holy Martyr Maxim, which explains something of the background to the sufferings of the Carpatho-Russian people.

Check out this great article about Father Maxim to learn more about his amazing life and brutal martyrdom by the hands of Austrian Catholics.

Orthodoxy in Carpatho-Russia has deep roots and the infamous ‘Unia’, or union with Rome, did not begin with the common people. In fact it was imposed by the machinations of the urban merchant class and a small minority of the clergy who desired the same feudal rights as their Catholic counterparts. Thus, these two classes of people betrayed their Orthodox princes and the faithful. The two religions struggled and even after the ‘victory’ of the Unia, Orthodoxy was not forgotten.

To counterbalance Catholic influence and to further deceive the people, the Uniats carefully preserved the purity of the Eastern Orthodox ritual, considering that a policy of slow and gradual Latinization would be far more successful in the long run than one of outright imposition of the Roman ritual. Yet the cultural inclination of the Carpatho-Russian people towards the Russian mainstream, which expressed itself in undisguised sympathy for Orthodoxy, could not be silenced. In the eyes of most prominent Carpatho-Russians, the Unia was but the instrument and means employed to sunder the one Russian family and they directed their gaze towards Orthodoxy as the ancient and original faith of their people when Holy Rus had been one.

This inclination, which was distinctively Russian, was a crucial element in the Carpatho-Russian reaction against ‘Ukrainianism’, artfully contrived by the Germans and Austrians as a weapon against the pan-Slav movement that threatened their domination of the area. Even among the Carpatho-Russian Uniat clergy, who perpetuated the idea of the union, there were sympathies towards Orthodoxy. These sympathies were so intense that the very concept of ‘Catholic’ was considered a sort of heresy. Indeed, their concept of the union was reduced to a purely jurisdictional recognition of the primacy of the Pope of Rome.

Orthodox sympathies were characteristic of the people of Carpatho-Russia. Alarmed by the growth of these sympathies and concluding that this growth was being directed toward rapprochement with Russia, from about 1900 on, the Austro-Hungarian authorities began to persecute. Unprecedented repression was imposed on Russophile clergy, both Uniat and Orthodox. The area teamed with informers. Not only the gendarmes, village clerks and sheriffs, but also teachers and some clergy denounced their neighbors. It reached the point where, in some areas of Carpatho-Russia, the entire educated class – priests, lawyers, judges, teachers, high school and university students, as well as peasants – were subjected to mass arrests. The prisons overflowed with those accused of treason. One in five Carpatho-Russians was imprisoned.

Lvov, Ukraine, one of the places where Father Maxim was imprisoned.


In accordance with a directive issued from Vienna, the Uniat Metropolitan of Lvov, threatened by the growth of Orthodoxy, quickly shifted his policy to one of isolation from all that was Orthodox. A Ukrainian Uniat ritual was concocted, which differed significantly from Orthodox ritual. The names of saints especially revered in Russia were deleted from the calendar. The veneration of wonderworking icons of the Mother of God which had appeared in Russia (e.g. the Iveron, Kazan and Pochaev icons) were proscribed. The word ‘Orthodox’ was replaced in the divine services with ‘Catholic’. Candidates suspected of harbouring Russophile sympathies were refused admittance to Uniat seminaries, acceptance being limited exclusively to those admittedly Ukrainian in outlook, who were prepared to submit a written oath of hatred for Russia.

Throughout the Carpathian region a tremendous upheaval shook the parishes. Uniat priests of Russian persuasion were driven from their posts, their families were cast out into the streets, and few were the courageous souls who dared to defy the authorities by sheltering the homeless. The parishes were then turned over to newly-ordained priests who had received their education at the hands of the Jesuits of the Basilian College. The imposition of the new Ukrainian Uniat ritual was entrusted to the Jesuit-educated monks of the ‘Order of St. Basil the Great’. But if life had become difficult for the Uniat Russophile clergy, it was far worse for the few Orthodox priests and their families in Carpatho-Russia and Galicia. Let us examine the case of one such priest, Fr. Maxim Sandovich, of blessed memory.

Fr. Maxim was born in Galicia, the son of Timothy and Christina Sandovich of the village of Zdyna.

His father was a prosperous farmer, who also served as choir director in the local parish church. Having completed four years of study at the high school in Novy Sanch, Maxim stole across the border into Russia and became a novice at the great Pochaev Lavra in Volynia.

A view of Pochaev Lavra towards Dormition Cathedral.


Subsequently he attended the Orthodox seminary at Zhitomir, and after marrying a young Orthodox woman named Pelagia, was ordained in 1911 to the holy priesthood and returned to his homeland. His pastoral and missionary service was not to last for long, for the militia were ever vigilant; he was denounced by a Ukrainian teacher, a certain Leos, and the Austrian gendarmes carried him off in chains to a prison in Lvov in 1912. He was to languish in prison without trial or inquest for two years, enduring indescribably horrible conditions and abuse. Finally, on the very eve of World War I he was released for lack of evidence.

Fr. Maxim returned again to his home in the village of Hrab, but was not fated to remain there long. The first shots fired in the new war were the heralds of a new repression of Carpatho-Russians. On 4 August 1914, the militia arrested the young priest, his father, mother, brother and wife and after much abuse dragged them off in shackles to the district prison in Horlitsk. The road was rough and the prisoners were forced to travel on foot, prodded on by the bayonets of the gendarmes. Words cannot convey the suffering of the innocent Sandovich family.

Gorlice (Horlitsk) then and now.

Two days passed in prison and Sunday 6 August dawned. Having risen from his bunk before the light of day Fr. Maxim read his morning prayers and three akathists. Then he stood motionless, lost in thought, gazing out the little window of his cell, trying to catch a glimpse of his wife or one of his relatives. They had all been imprisoned in different cells and were denied permission to see each other. The silence of the grave lay on the gloomy building, but beyond the walls the noise of a crowd could be heard.

What could this mean? Could they have brought in some new ‘spies’? Perhaps they had caught some new deserters the terrors of war for many are hard to bear. Suddenly a loud thud on the prison’s black gates broke the priest’s reverie. It was not yet six o’clock. A moustachioed German captain from Linz, Dietrich, a man with a reputation for cruelty and sadism, entered the prison compound with two soldiers and four gendarmes. They were followed close behind by the prison wardens, various civil servants, officers and a small group of curious ladies. This entourage was headed by Pan Mitshka, the head man of the Horlitsky District. The order was given for the warden to bring Fr. Maxim forth from his cell.

Horlitsky District


Silence fell. Two soldiers led the twenty-eight year-old Orthodox priest from the prison and suddenly he realized where they were taking him. ‘Be so good as not to hold me. I will go peacefully wherever you wish’, he said humbly, and with the dignity that becomes a true shepherd of souls he walked to the sight of his final torments. The murmuring of the crowd and the venomous glances they threw the ‘traitor’ affected his courageous bearing not in the least. He walked as befits a follower of Christ, calmly, with measured gait, to the fateful wall.

Again silence reigned. An execution was to be carried out in the name of the ‘apostolic’ Emperor – the execution of a Russian priest on Russian land! Captain Dietrich, the hero of the day, ripped the cross from Fr. Maxim’s chest, cast it to the ground at the priest’s feet and trampled it under foot; he then tied the prisoner’s hands behind his back and bound his eyes with a black kerchief. ‘You do these things needlessly. I have no intention of running away’. The captain laughed diabolically and with a piece of white chalk drew a line across the priest’s chest on his black cassock as a target for the riflemen. Then he arranged the executioners – two gendarmes on each side. The two soldiers, heavily armed, stood only three paces from the defenceless man.

An even more profound stillness descended upon the scene. Mitshka took a blue paper from his briefcase and read the death sentence. A short command was uttered by the captain; the sabre was raised; when it was lowered the rifles sounded. The shots echoed through the back corridors of the prison, and again the silence of the cemetery filled the prison courtyard.

Through this silence the voice of Fr. Maxim was heard distinctly: ‘Long live the Russian people!’ he cried, leaning his head against the prison wall. ‘Long live the Holy Orthodox Faith!’ he continued, his voice becoming weaker. ‘Long live Slavdom!’ he finished, barely audible. These were his final words. Wracked with the throws of death, his powerful frame slid down the wall to the flagstones of the courtyard.

One of the gendarmes approached and ended the priest’s sufferings with three shots from his revolver; the priests brains splattered against the prison wall. His aged father and mother both watched the heroic death of their son in silence, but Pelagia, his wife, wept inconsolably in her cell; and when the shots that brought an end to her young husband’s life rang out, she fell senseless to the ground. Thus died Fr. Maxim Sandovich, a martyr for Orthodoxy.

The Tomb of Father Maxim


The Prayer of Kateryna

The persecution of the Carpatho-Russians did not stop after the First World War. 1945 brought great suffering, firstly to those deported to the Ukraine. For other Carpatho-Russians in south-east Poland, the Lemki, in 1947 there also came deportation, mainly far to the north-west, to Silesia, to the former homes of deported Germans. This ‘Vistula action’ of deportation by the Poles was meant to denationalize the Carpatho-Russians. Here follows the prayer of one deportee, Kateryna Rusyn, taken away from Poland to the Ukraine:

O God, give me the strength to live through this day and help me to survive in this foreign land where they have brought me and my children.

O Lord, I pray and beseech Thee, let me not perish, nor my family, nor my people, who were late to sow the holy grain; for the corn will ripen in the summer and they know not when or how it will be gathered.

Beskyd Mountains


O All-Highest Lord, let us not forget – neither today, nor tomorrow, nor ever – and help us to keep alive in our memory all the beauty of our land, of the mountains, and of the rich, healing and pure waters in our rivers: the Bystry, the Poprad, and the Syan; and let us also remember the fair and lovely country of the high pastures, and the woodland paths through the hills; let us not forget the places of plenty in the forest where the mushrooms grow, and the fragrant strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, and the woodland clearings where the cattle graze.

O God, let us not forget our customs, the lilt of our mother tongue, our stories and our songs, our dances and our evenings together on holy days and workdays.

O Lord, give my children the wisdom to find their way back to the native land of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers to honour their graves, their churches and their faith.

O God, grant unto my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, reason, courage, knowledge, piety, and also give them the most important of all human virtues – Faith, Hope and Love.

O Lord, bestow upon me and my children the knowledge to tell the difference between good and evil, happiness and unhappiness, and give me the wisdom to value goodness and be grateful for good!

Grant me to know how to influence an enemy, give me the generosity to help the poor, and also give me the understanding to convince the wrongdoer of the evil of his ways, and to teach those who do not know. Amen.

Transcarpathian Ukraine


We have heard the voices of Orthodox Carpatho-Russia, calling to us from their highland homes. This little corner of Holy Rus’ has survived through a thousand years of oppression and persecution, outside the protection of the Russian State. It can be said that all who confess Russian Orthodoxy, whatever our nationality and whatever language we use, belong to Carpatho-Russia. For, whatever our nationality, we all live ‘beyond the Carpathians’, and though we do not belong to the Russian State, in our Faith we all belong to Rus’, to Holy Russia, a land much greater than any mere State.

Scattered across the face of the earth, we live surrounded by Non-Orthodox, and suffer, like the Hebrews who of old wept in exile by the waters of Babylon. In suffering for Holy Orthodoxy, we too, like the faithful Orthodox Rusyns, belong to Holy Rus’.

And in picking up such fragments of Holy Orthodoxy all over today’s Non-Orthodox and anti-Orthodox Europe, in putting them together like the pieces of a giant jigsaw, we rediscover not only ourselves, but also the whole picture of a once Orthodox Europe, and there discover the Image of Christ, Who has been here all the time.


Holy Hieromartyr Maxim and Holy Father Alexis pray to God for Orthodox Carpatho-Russia, 
and for all us Orthodox beyond the Carpathians!


A video introducing the Russian Faith website:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQAwrhS15QI

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Sonny Barger, founder of Hells Angels, dies at 83 | USA

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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.
Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.Janet Fries (Getty Images)

Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, died on Thursday in California at the age of 83. Barger was the face of the biker gang that became one of the main counterculture movements in the United States in the 1960s. Barger’s family confirmed his death in a message on Facebook. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the message stated.

Sonny Barger – whose real name was Ralph Hubert Barger – was born in northern California, and taught himself to ride a motorcycle when he was 11 years old. It was an American-made Cushman scooter. From that moment on, he tried to only assemble motorbikes with parts made in the US, a task that became increasingly difficult as the world became more open to international trade.

In 1957, he founded the Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California. This chapter was founded nine years after the first one opened in Fontana, in the same state. Barger was the national president of the Hells Angels, a group that became notorious for its links to violent and organized crime. Barger was arrested more than 20 times and spent 13 years of his life in prison for different crimes. In November 1992, for example, he was released from federal prison after spending four years behind bars for organizing to kill members of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. When his parole came to an end in 1994, 700 bikers came out to celebrate the news.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

But the darkest chapter of the Hells Angels took place on December 6, 1969. That night, the biker members were hired as security guards at the Altamont Free Concert in California, where the Rolling Stones performed. Representatives of the band reportedly offered the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer in exchange for providing security. Members of the biker gang had worked without incident as security at concerts for bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But at the Altamont Free Concert, which brought together 300,000 people, the situation became violent. During the Rolling Stones’ performance, fights broke out in the audience. Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old concertgoer, was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels after approaching the stage. The incident was caught on camera and became a central scene in the Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter, in which Barger admitted the bikers did not have the training to do security work. A few days after the concert, in a call to a local radio station, he said: “I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin.’”

The incident stained the image of the Hells Angels and Barger – who had the name Hell’s Angels Oakland tattooed on his right shoulder – struggled for several years to change the gang’s violent reputation. “Catholics probably commit more crimes than we ever thought of,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994 after being released from prison on parole. “Probably politicians commit more crimes.”

Writer Hunter S. Thompson compared the biker gang to the student protesters of the 1960s, who paved the way for civil rights in America. “The difference between the student radicals and the Hells Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo,” he wrote in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

The Hells Angels were one of America’s most striking subcultures, and their influence can be seen in many areas of society. In one of his books, Barger claims that Harley-Davidson – the motorcycle brand favored by the group – adopted the gang’s ideas into its models. Barger played himself in the 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels, where he appeared alongside Jack Nicholson. He also had a small role in the TV show Sons of Anarchy.

Barger was a difficult character to define. He got up at 4.30am to feed his dogs and horses, then worked out for three hours, doing weights and going jogging. By 8am, he was on his motorcycle and driving down an off-beaten track. Unlike the stereotypical biker, he wore a helmet that covered his entire face. This was due to the fact that he had his vocal cords removed in 1982 after suffering from throat cancer.

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Art fakes: Disputed ‘Basquiats’ seized by FBI shake the US art world | Culture

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While New York surrenders once again to the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat with an exhibition of unpublished work curated by his family, in Orlando (Florida), there is considerably more controversy over the work of the artist who died at the age of 27. An exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art dedicated to the former close friend of Andy Warhol, entitled Heroes & Monsters, has cost the head of that gallery his job, while the FBI investigates the authenticity of 25 of the works, not to mention the threats made by the director against an expert who had been commissioned to evaluate the authorship.

Although the scandal began to take shape in February, when the exhibition opened, the FBI raid took place last Friday with the seizure of the paintings with a contested attribution to Basquiat. Aaron De Groft, director and chief executive of the museum, has relentlessly defended that these are genuine works, while emphasizing that it is not a museum’s role to certify the authenticity of the works it exhibits. “[The paintings] came to us authenticated by the best Basquiat specialists,” he told the local NBC television station in February.

De Groft had for months championed the importance of the paintings, asserting that they are worth millions of dollars, until an expert showed up who’d been hired by the owners of the paintings and she began to question his version of events. The director was fired on Tuesday, just two business days after agents seized the 25 suspicious works. The museum’s board of trustees met for hours that day, but not before warning employees that anyone who dared to discuss the matter with journalists would suffer the same fate as De Groft. Hence, it is impossible to know the version not only of the former director, but of any worker at the center. Nor can any information be gleaned at the New York exhibition, a mixture of unpublished work and memorabilia, where organizers are fearful of the devaluation caused by the Orlando scandal.

FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.
FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.Willie J. Allen Jr. (AP)

“It is important to note that there is still nothing that makes us think that the museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Emilia Bourmas-Free told the local chain on behalf of the art gallery. Cynthia Brumback, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, expressed itself in similar terms in a statement, saying that the board of trustees is “extremely concerned about several issues related to the exhibition Heroes & Monsters,” including “the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” as reported by The New York Times.

The statement refers to a disparaging message sent by De Groft to the specialist hired for the expert opinion, cited in the FBI investigation as “Expert 2″ but who the New York Times has confirmed is Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor of art at the University of Maryland. This expert, who received $60,000 for a written report, asked the museum not to have her name associated with the exhibition, according to the FBI affidavit. Angry, De Groft threatened to reveal the amount of the payment and share the details with her employer, the university.

“You want us to put out there you got $60,000 to write this?” wrote De Groft, according to the affidavit. “Ok then. Shut up. You took the money. Stop being holier than thou. Do your academic thing and stay in your limited lane.” The board said it has launched an official process to address the matter. The scandal was precipitated a few hours after the closing of the exhibition, which had originally been meant to travel to Italy.

Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.
Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.John Raoux (AP)

The mystery of the cardboard box

But how did the paintings get to the Orlando Museum? The museum and its owners maintain that the paintings were found in a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The New York Times reported that questions arose over one of the paintings, made on the back of a cardboard shipping box with FedEx lettering in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, according to a designer who worked for the company.

Both De Groft and the owners of the paintings maintain that they were made in 1982 and that Basquiat sold them for $5,000 to a famous television screenwriter, now deceased, who deposited them in a storage unit and forgot about them.

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Ramón Estévez regrets his name change to Martin Sheen | Culture

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At the beginning of the sixties, Ramón Estévez was desperate. His first steps as a television actor had gone well, but he felt stuck in that medium and wanted to get into theater and film. However, at the time, his name held him back: there were few successful Latinos in the United States. “Whenever I called for a position, whether for work or for an apartment, they answered me hesitantly when I gave my name, and when I arrived, I found the position already filled.” He said in 2003. And so, Ramón decided to create an artistic name by merging the name of Robert Dale Martin, the CBS network’s casting director, who had helped him in those essential appearances on the small screen, and that of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who, as Estévez’s little sister Carmen recalls, “regularly appeared on TV.”

This is how Martin Sheen came about, and owing to his great talent, he triumphed first in theater and, later as an actor in the movies, notably: Badlands, Apocalypse Now, The Departed, and Wall Street. However, the identity of Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez did not disappear: this name remains in all of Sheen’s official documents (passport, driver’s license and marriage license)… and in the actor’s soul. Last week, in an interview with Closer magazine, he confessed that one of the great regrets of his life was his change of name. He speaks with pride of the obstinacy of his son Emilio, who kept it despite “his agent’s advice to change it”. In relation to his own decision, he reflects: “Sometimes they convince you, when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later.”

Martin Sheen in 'The West Wing' reunion, last October.
Martin Sheen in ‘The West Wing’ reunion, last October.

Over time, Sheen recovered his Galician roots, the land where his father, Francisco Estévez Martínez, was born. His father was an immigrant who left Parderrubias, in Salceda de Caselas (Pontevedra), for Cuba at the age of 18 in 1916. He left with no Spanish, a language he learned on the Caribbean Island. In the early 1930s, he emigrated to the United States to a modest Irish neighborhood in Dayton (Ohio), where he married another immigrant, Mary-Ann Phelan.

Martin Sheen’s life has been profoundly marked by his childhood. His father worked at NCR Corporation, an industrial conglomerate that began manufacturing cash registers. Shortly after his marriage, the company sent him to the Bermuda Islands where his first children were born. Sheen was the seventh of ten children (nine boys and one girl), and the first to be born in Dayton, in 1940, after the family moved to the US. His left arm was clasped by forceps during birth, leaving it three inches shorter than his right arm. As a result of this, the character that Sheen interprets in the series The West Wing of the White House, President Josiah Bartlet, puts on his jacket with a strange twist of the body. As a child, he suffered from polio which kept him bedridden for a year, and at the age of 11 his mother died. Thanks to the support of a catholic charity and his own father’s efforts, the family remained united against the distribition of children to orphanages or foster homes, a common practice at the time.

Martin Sheen abd Francis Ford Coppola during the recording of 'Apocalypse Now'.
Martin Sheen abd Francis Ford Coppola during the recording of ‘Apocalypse Now’.

He was the eccentric of the family: he decided to go into acting. Against his father’s objections, Ramón, the most reserved son only enjoyed the theater and decided to study acting. “You don’t know how to sing or dance!”, his father told him, to which his son replied: “You love westerns and in those nobody sings or dances”. “But you don’t ride a horse either!” was his father’s comeback. Despite this discouragement, he moved to New York, following in the footsteps of his idol, James Dean.

In the mythical episode Two Cathedrals of The West Wing, he explains how the character President Bartlet reflects the experiences of his own childhood and adolescence. Estévez/Sheen: a practicing Catholic and relentless campaigner against global warming, a man in favor of civil and immigrant rights, he was arrested several times during demonstrations outside the White House. His activism began when he was just 14 years old in a golf club where he worked. He led a strike of caddies, protesting against the club members’ use of bad language in front of children.

Actor Martin Sheen takes part in a "Fire Drill Fridays" protest calling attention to climate change at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Actor Martin Sheen takes part in a “Fire Drill Fridays” protest calling attention to climate change at the U.S. Capitol in WashingtonJOSHUA ROBERTS (Reuters)

And then there’s the Spanish context. Francisco Estévez did not teach his children Spanish, but the Estévez family went back to their roots. Francisco was able to return to his hometown in Galicia in 1967 (just as Sheen landed his first big role in In the Custody of Strangers), where he began building a house, while making regular trips back to Dayton. He would never see this house finished. He died in Dayton in 1974, and was buried with his wife and son Manuel, who had died in 1968. His only daughter, Carmen, ended up working as an English teacher at a school in Madrid, where she married. For years people in Madrid have bumped into Sheen during his visits to his sister. Carmen finished building her father’s house and inaugurated a river promenade dedicated to his memory. Indeed, she has kept the memory of the Estévez alive in Salceda de Caselas.

The Camino de Santiago, a dream come true

In the early years of the 2000s, Sheen, his son Emilio Estévez and his grandson, Taylor, walked the Camino de Santiago. In Burgos, the grandson met a girl, and at the end of the walk he decided not to return to Los Angeles, but to remain in the Castilian city, where he got married. Influenced by that experience, Sheen and Estévez made the film El camino (2010), in which both co-starred and the latter directed. A few months ago, Sheen spoke proudly of El camino, a great success, and a faithful portrayal of his spirituality. During filming, at a lunch under huge pergolas at the back of Burgos cathedral, Sheen explained: “I am a Catholic, and a lot of that spirituality is in this movie. I have had an extremely happy life, with the normal highs and lows of a career. I have survived disease and my family is wonderful [his four children, including Charlie Sheen, are actors]… I believe in a church that does incredible work in the Third World. Other things, like some of the pronouncements from the Pope [at that time, Benedict XVI], are more difficult for me. I live my faith, and it is between God and I.” A few meters from Sheen and the journalist, at the long tables, was a strange group that didn’t not look like actors: “That’s my wife, that’s my sister and her husband, that my best childhood friend… I’ve invited them to come and have a good time with Emilio, Taylor [who worked as an assistant] and me”. Taylor Estévez currently works as a stunt coordinator in California.

Martin Sheen at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral with his sister Carmen, 2009.
Martin Sheen at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral with his sister Carmen, 2009. Andres Fraga

Carmen Estévez says that for decades the family did not understand their father’s deeply Galician sense of humor, until they realized that for much of the time he was not being serious. This sarcasm was inherited by his son Ramón/Martin, and he made a display of this in Burgos. In response to a question about his career, he said: “With my resume full of bad movie titles, what can I say. I’m an actor and that’s how I’ve supported my family. But I’ve been in about 10 films that I can be proud of…” at which point he dropped his cup of coffee and blurted out: “See? For gloating over my career. Divine punishment”.

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