Since February, we’ve all been consumed by news from Ukraine. We follow military action closely; we read media accounts of refugees, and see photos and video of cities, villages and the Ukrainian people.
But many of us have only a vague knowledge of the country itself. What is its history, from the Middle Ages and the “Kievan Rus,” through 600 more years of rule by the Austrian Empire, Ottoman Empire and Russian tsars? How did it become part of the Soviet Union in 1922, and what happened during the horrors of World War II? When the USSR collapsed in 1991, how did Ukraine transition to independence? We know that President Zelensky is Jewish, and a former comedian. But what was his path to office?
How does Ukraine’s geography impact its history? What about its natural resources? Why is it fighting so fiercely for its independence, and why does Russia covet it so?
In other words: What do we need to know about Ukraine’s past, to understand what’s happening there today and tomorrow?
On Monday, May 9 (7 p.m., in-person and Zoom), we can all learn together.
The Westport Library hosts “Understanding Ukraine: Past, Present and Future.” Professor Wolodymyr Zaryckyj — director of the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations — will provide insights into this fascinating and important country that most of us know only through recent news reports and images.
It’s a great way to learn about the geography and history — long-ago and just-before-February — that most of us never learned or knew.
“06880” is a co-sponsor of the event. I’ll moderate the discussion, and lead a question-and-answer period at the end with Professor Zaryckyj.
Click here to register for a spot in the Library Forum. Click here for a Zoom link. Click here to learn more about Professor Zaryckyj.
What role has geography played in Ukraine’s history? We’ll learn together on May 9.
Well, my “06880” blog is, anyway. It’s 13 years old — and, since that first story back in 2009, I have not missed a day of posting. That’s over 14,000 stories, on everything from COVID, trees and hurricanes to Unsung Heroes, Pics of the Day and entitled drivers.
I couldn’t do it without you. Which is why today, I ask for your help.
This man is smiling, because he loves publishing “06880.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)
I’m honored to publish “06880.” I love telling our town’s stories; shining a light on the men, women, children, institutions, businesses and history that make us who we are; creating a sense of community for newcomers, oldtimers, ex-pats and anyone else who ever wandered through this fascinating place.
But those stories don’t magically land in your inbox, or on this site.
I conduct interviews and research. I take, find and edit photos. I moderate the comments (140,000 now, and counting). I answer every email.
All that takes 6 to 8 hours a day. So on this one day, I hope you’ll give back.
If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880. Click here for details (via credit card, Venmo, check or PayPal) — or scroll to the bottom.
Am I worth $1 a month? $5 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day. Choose whatever amount you’re comfortable with. It’s greatly appreciated!
I hope that if “06880” has ever:
Made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
Spurred you to attend an event, read book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
Help you meet a neighbor or stranger, or connect with a friend
Kept you up to date on a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
Connected you to your new home town (or the place you grew up in)
Alerted you to a new housing or zoning development
Provided a forum to rant about an issue, rave about a place, or complain about me
Galvanized you to support a cause
Publicized your event, book, appearance or concert
Published your photo
Honored someone you loved or admired
Saved you time or money
Opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, or made you look at someone or something in a new way
Made you say “Wow!” (or “Holy F—!”)
you will consider tossing something my way.
“06880” offers many unique perspectives on our town. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography
Thanks for 13 great years. (How many teenagers say that?!) I’ll keep doing what I do (unless no one contributes). I’ll still answer every email.
That’s the “06880” way. I look forward to the coming year with excitement, gratitude and joy.
PS: While “06880” is now a non-profit — allowing us to sponsor events like the Holiday Stroll, educational workshops and more — our tax-exempt status has not yet been approved. When (and if) it is, it may be applied retroactively.
PPS: “06880” has 12,000 daily (free!) subscribers. Another 6,000 to 8,000 readers check in each day, without subscribing. I love you all. But only a small percentage contribute. I’m just sayin’…
You can donate by PayPal or credit card: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account.
Checks can be mailed to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881.
Mark your calendar: Thursday, July 16 (6 p.m.). That’s the date of the 3rd annual “06880” party.
Last year’s event was a great success. It was a true community gathering — a chance to meet and mingle with the diverse “06880” community (both online and real).
This year’s party will be even better. The 3rd time’s the charm, and all that.
We’ll gather at Compo Beach — the alcohol-is-okay end. Bring your own food, beverages, beach chairs and blankets. Like the website, “06880” simply provides space to get together, have a good time, chat, laugh, and of course bitch.
We expect a big turnout at our “06880” party on July 16Sa.
There’s no charge. It’s a “fun-raiser,” not a fundraiser.
The “06880” tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” We call this party “where ‘06880’ meets each other.”
PS: We picked a Thursday because the beach is not as crowded as on weekends. As alert readers know, “06880” does not believe in reserving tables.
When I hurled that 1st post into cyberspace on March 6, 2009 — click here for that trip back in time — I thought I had a few things to say about Westport.
My biggest fear was not finding enough material to fulfill my goal: posting once a day.
I shouldn’t have worried.
“06880” helps Westport weather in good times and bad.
I did not foresee windstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. Great Cakes. Church Street. Newtown.
I knew there were amazing Westporters, doing incredible things. I didn’t realize I’d find so many of them. They paint and preach and run 86 flights up the Empire State Building. They run for office, and run our town.
They drive too. Though not very well.
Four years ago, I envisioned an ongoing “06880” conversation. I hoped there would be some interesting back-and-forth. I had no idea dudes like The Dude would wade in with such gusto, commenting and opining and inciting near riots.
It’s been a wild ride. In 4 years I’ve posted over 2,600 times — an average of well over twice a day.
Commenters on “06880” have called this man a socialist and a bully.. Whatever.
You’ve made more than 30,000 comments — an average of more than 10 per post.
For me, it’s a labor of love.
As “06880” has grown, so have the hours I spend on it.
There’s writing, sure. But also interviewing, researching, responding to comments (public and private), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate) graphics.
I spend a few bucks, too. I pay to keep “06880” ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.
So, once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.
If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”
A suggested donation to “06880.”
Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.
If you think “06880″ deserves 10 cents a day, that’s only $36.50. (If you think it’s worth more — and you can afford more — well, who am I to argue?)
I hope if “06880” has ever
made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
published your photo
delivered breaking news
opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
given you a voice in the comments section
— you will considering tossing something my way.
Can’t we all just get along?
Republicans: Think of me as a small (ho ho) businessman doing his best.
Democrats: Help a non-union worker get some benefits.
Libertarians: You won’t find a “Comments” section like ours anywhere else in the world.
Thanks for 4 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.
But it would be nice.
You can donate by PayPal: click here, then click “Transfer” and select “Send Someone Money” from the drop-down menu, and enter this email address: email@example.com. You don’t even need a PayPal account!
Checks (or cash, if you’re paranoid I’ll find out who you are) may be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880″ on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.
Sunday’s “06880” post — based on a reader’s request for insights into the Westport and Weston school systems — elicited plenty of reasoned, insightful and well-written responses. The online discussion was thoughtful, nuanced and robust.
Lately, that’s a rarity.
The “Comments” section here too often resembles the Wild West — not Westport.
This rendering of the new Y unleashed a torrent of hostility — much of it anonymous.
Everyone knows that every Westporter has an opinion about everything. Taxes, education, transportation, downtown, infrastructure, recreation, Winslow Park, Baron’s South — if it exists, we’re experts on it.
One of the reasons I started “06880” nearly 4 years ago was to be able to express my opinions about my hometown.
And to give everyone else — those who grew up here, live here now, or somehow wander through this town (or site) — a chance to express theirs, too.
One of the founding tenets of “06880” was that anonymous comments were okay. The First Amendment is a powerful force (though it does not apply to private blogs), and from the beginning readers took advantage of the option for anonymity to toss in their 2 cents’ worth.
Some were private citizens, eager to talk but worried what their friends and neighbors might think. Others were town officials, happy for a chance to chime in without bringing their names and titles into the discussion.
But — month by month, year by year — the thoughtful anonymous commenters have been elbowed aside by trolls. Bozos. Haters.
Troll — or “06880” commenter?
Those are not my descriptions. They’re yours — expressed to me in emails, by readers frustrated that the comments section has devolved into a mud pit of finger-pointing, name-calling and real nastiness.
I have always responded the same way to those emails: “I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. I don’t like what some people say, but I defend their right to say it. I’m keeping the ‘anonymous’ option open.”
Scott Smith — who always comments using his real name, alias-sounding though it is — emailed me:
I know you don’t agree, but I think the policy of allowing anonymous posters devalues what has become a vital community resource.
I know full well the online trusim that uninhibited commenting results in an inexorable drive to the lowest common denominators among us. Trolls, crackpots, hatemongers and the uninformed always come to dominate and ultimately drive out the more insightful people who might wish to add their views.
I see it as a shame as I, perhaps naively, wish for more enlightened discussion among a group I willingly choose to be a part of. But who wants to 1) stoop to their level, 2) get attacked personally, or 3) engage in an unfair debate?
Not me, and it seems, increasingly, many other loyal, intelligent denizens of “06880.” Though many of your own items are wonderfully insightful and uplifting, the comments on your blog are all too often just the opposite.
Scott noted that when he argued in the comments section for a policy in which commenters could use pseudonyms only with my blessing, and for a reason, he was attacked by an anonymous person — and his place of employment cited.
He said — and others have, too — that serious commenters no longer contribute their thoughts. They’ve been driven away by the level of vitriol.
Another commenter who believes “06880” is Number One.
Scott acknowledges that “the unbridled free-for-all of anonymous commenting can be fun and liberating. Certainly revealing. I know you like a certain amount of free-spirited rabble-rousing.
“But like most libertarian exercises, the end result is usually excess, anarchy and ultimately negative consequences. Sadly, we are not an altogether enlightened species. Too often, dumb and dumber triumph over good and gooder.”
Scott admits he’ll “probably keep checking in on ‘06880’ every day. There is too much good stuff on it, from you and occasionally from others.” But he may not check the comments.
Or, he says, “I may join the dark side and start posting anonymously. (I bet I would be vicious.)”
Neither solution is appealing, he says. So he turns to me for the answer.
Thanks a lot.
I’m not sure of the solution. Personally approving every comment would take far too much time — and because of the lag, it would kill the real-time conversation that can make a blog like this so valuable.
I could ban certain commenters. Again, more work for me. (And not foolproof.)
I could require names. But I’ve seen blogs that do that, and the discussions on them are about as lively as a Trappist monastery.
This is not how I want to spend my time.
I could sweep through the comments section every so often, deleting those I deem overly nasty, personal, unsubstatiated or whatever. But that too takes time. Plus the comments would already have been seen. Plus it seems way too school-marmish for me.
There may be a way to have commenters register, with their names and emails, before posting. It’s an extra step or 2 for the commenters — though time they could use to compose their thoughts logically, perhaps? — but that’s not foolproof either. It’s not always easy verifying which names are real.
So maybe the burden isn’t on me after all. Maybe it’s on you. Maybe, as we head into a new year, readers’ resolutions should be to call off the attack dogs. To play nice. To use your inside voices.
I want the “comments” section to remain an important part of “06880.” I want this online community to really feel like a community — not a dysfunctional family. I want, above all, to keep allowing people to comment.
But I may not be able to. My new year’s resolution is to not get another email like the one I got from Scott Smith.
Or the many similar ones I got before his, from readers who no longer feel welcome at “06880.”
The “Comments” pages of “06880″ have been filled with wild stuff the past year. Crazy drivers, crazy weather, crazy crap going down with senior housing — if I’ve written about it, you’ve commented on it.
Today, let’s play nice.
This post’s “Comments” are devoted to a simple topic: giving thanks
I’ll start it off. I’m thankful that I live in such a beautiful, creative, compassionate, involved and supportive town.
I’m thankful for the thousands of readers who make “06880″ such an interesting labor of love.
And I’m thankful that despite all the craziness that sometimes threatens to drown us, we somehow manage to keep our heads above water, shake ourselves dry, and find our way back to firm, familiar land.
Oh, yeah. I’m also thankful for electricity. It’s on, most of the time.
Now it’s your turn. What are you thankful for? Just click the “Comments” link.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)