Amid the hysterical counter claims from the ‘interim government’ in Kiev supported by $5bn dollars of American money which chased the duly democratically elected government out of town and now condemns as ‘criminal’ the people of Eastern Ukraine holding a referendum to democratically decide their future – there is a three letter word which is conspicuous by its absence. Can you guess what it is yet?
I’ll give you a clue. As far back as the eighteenth century, the impoverished peasants of Drohobycz, then part of Poland, used to dig out rocks that contained a yellow vein known as Ozokerite – several dangerous and primitive methods were used to extract the foul smelling wax which was then used to make candles. Some of the peasants lived on land so polluted and sparse that it neither yielded crops nor rocks of Ozokerite – it oozed a dark sticky liquid that they would collect in buckets and sell in the local town as a lubricant for cart wheels.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that a peasant discovered a method of turning this sticky mud into something that eventually became a more reliable method of lighting your rooms. He couldn’t make candles from his land, but he could make Naphta which was used in oil lamps. It’s future was assured when the Austrian Emperor lit his fancy new railway station in Vienna with Naphta.
The apocalyptical scenery around Drohobycz, mountains of discarded rocks interspersed with pools of sticky oil, became one of the most desirable places on earth for a young man keen to make his fortune. Peasants who had eked out an existence trading hand made candles for food found that they could exchange their family lands for a fortune that would get them out of Drohobycz to somewhere more salubrious. The new landowners were Polish Jewish families who hired Boykos – peasants who had never owned any land and had no means of escape – to lower themselves into the smelly pits and bring back buckets of oil. The chaotic working conditions were appalling with derricks and trenches collapsing, toxic methane gas seeping from the primitive excavations and a constant threat of fire, which broke out and spread out of control frequently.
Some of the oil companies under Jewish ownership grew and became significant at the beginning of the modern oil industry. Polmin, Nafta, Bakenrot, Galicia and Gartner were just a few of the enterprises launched and operated by Jewish entrepreneurs. The lucrative industry and the increase in global demand for oil at the turn of the century attracted Austrian banks and international oil companies from Germany, England and Belgium. Luxurious buildings were established to house the regional headquarters of these international companies and the city’s infrastructure was improved.
When the Germans invaded Drohobycz and Boryslaw in 1941, they recognised the importance of the oil industry and continued to operate the wells and refineries. Drohobycz and Boryslaw were not bombarded by the approaching German army, the way many other polish towns were. However, the cold chilling numbers cannot be disputed. In 1939, 32,000 Jews called Drohobycz, Boryslaw and environs their home. After the Holocaust only 400 survived.
What is now Western Ukraine was the strip of land, Polish land, that the red army took over from the Third Reich – and never gave back. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that ‘Ukraine is a product of Mongol invasions and Polish colonialism.’ At the time of perestroika ‘Ukraine’ had no desire to be rejoined to its impoverished Polish origins, Poland was in no better state than they were; they wanted independence, a Ukrainian currency, Ukrainian ‘borders’, and control over the Russian nuclear arsenal then stored within the area.
They didn’t get the Russian nuclear arsenal; they got the job of clearing up after Chernobyl, a Ukrainian currency, and the social unrest concomitant with a population – in the Western Ukraine – reared by Nazi collaborators who had imbibed a hatred of Russia along with their mother’s milk. By now, oil fields had been discovered in the thick sediment in the Dnieper-Donetsk, the Black Sea, the Transcarpathian and Carpathian basins, as well as in the folded region of the Carpathians. Oh – and the responsibility of deciding which way to send the oil oozing from the ground – east to Russia, or west to Europe?
It was into this combustible mix of tribal loyalties, long held and justified grudges based on the holocaust, and the shareholder driven pressures of International Oil companies that the delicate footsteps of Baroness Catherine Ashton plodded. Europe, not Poland, not Russia, was to be the spiritual home of Ukraine; all Ukraine, the polish part, and the Russian dominated east, in fact she was prepared to put $15bn of Europe’s hard pressed tax payers money into ensuring that the oil flowed West. This was democracy in action!
$15 billion of European money, $5 billion of US money; much of it raised in the salons of – there’s a coincidence – the oil producing states of Texas.
Oil, the three letter word we hear so little of. In fact if you listen to the media you would think that we are on the verge of World War III in the name of democracy.