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In Kiev, European Doubts And Wishful Thinking

Woman marching in a parade in Kiev, Ukraine
Woman marching in a parade in Kiev, Ukraine
Francesca Sforza

KIEV — In real life, Nadiya Savchenko's eyes are neither large nor blue. But on welcome posters splashed across Kiev Airport recently with the slogan #freesavchenko, the doctored photos of the just released air force pilot — who was captured by Russia and elevated to heroine status back home during her long imprisonment — played fast and loose with the reality of her physical features.

In current Ukrainian politics, this blend of ambition, longing, wishful thinking and manipulation is typical. Savchenko, who is already a member of parliament, announced her willingness to run for president "if the Ukrainian people want it," confirming rumors that she intends to seek a greater role in politics.

The first to recognize Savchenko's strategic potential was Yulia Tymoshenko, the erstwhile leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution and an astute politician despite her own recent troubles. Tymoshenko urged Savchenko to run for parliament in absentia and win a seat for her party. She was also the first to greet Savchenko on the runway when the pilot arrived from Russia. Analysts wonder, in fact, whether Savchenko will report to her political mentor or vice-versa, but it's become clear that Tymoshenko has used the last two years of tumult to raise a new generation of young opposition politicians who will soon be ready to take power.

"We're disheartened by the presence of so many extreme right-wing parties in European parliaments," says 28-year-old Alona Shkrum, a Parliament member for Tymoshenko's party, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland). "It's not like that in Ukraine, the extremists of the Right Sector party aren't in parliament and extremist parties only have marginal popular support."

Shkrum and her fellow Parliament member Alex Ryabchyn, 33, describe a country that cut ties with Russia for the uncertain prospect of strengthening its bond with Europe.

"We studied at Cambridge University," says Shkrum. "But we share the Ukrainian people's pride in our national identity."

The fact that Kiev's streets — its sights and smells, architecture and shops — resemble those of an average Russian city doesn't bother Baktivshchyna's young guns. "My mother is Russian and so is my family and we always spoke Russian, but this war made clear who our friends and enemies are," says Shkrum. "Everything changed when people saw Russian soldiers fighting on our land, and now we speak Ukrainian at home."

The West has yet to open its doors to Ukraine, however, and membership in the European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is still off the table. The U.S. Ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, has praised the relative success of the Ukrainian economy and the country's geopolitical shift westward. But the head of the EU delegation to Kiev, Jan Tombinsky, has instead emphasized the lackluster results of European investment in the country and stressed the need for internal stimulus to revive a moribund economy.

Tymoshenko's young protégés are the first to admit that Europe is a long way from replacing Russia as Ukraine's major trading partner, but they are more hopeful about working towards a difficult future than about harking back to an unsustainable past.

"I think we need to change our perspective. We have to help ourselves," says Shkrum. "Europe isn't strong enough to take on Russia alone, and we Ukrainians have a stronger national identity after this war. It's our time now."

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Star Trek And The Journey From Science Fiction To Pseudoscience

Fans of Star Trek live in a Golden Age where old and new series are readily available. As one hardcore Trekkie points out, the franchise is a reminder of the similarities and differences between pseudoscience and science fiction.

Image of holographic bodies standing next to each other in an office

Holographic figures of the same person standing beside each other.

Carlos Orsi


For my Trekkie part, I'm still a fan of the old ones: I still remember the disappointment when a Brazilian TV channel stopped airing the original series, and then there was a wait (sometimes years) until someone else decided to show it.

Living deep in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1990s, it was also torturous for me when “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered on a station whose signal was very bad in my city.

I don't remember when I saw the original cast for the first time, but I remember that when Star Trek made the transition to the cinema in 1979, in Robert Wise's film, the protagonists James Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and the Starship Enterprise were already old acquaintances.

And I was only eight years old. Nowadays, given the scarcity of time and attention that are the hallmarks of the contemporary world, I limit myself to following spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds and reviewing films made for cinema, from time to time.

So, when a cinema close to my house decided to show the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan (originally released in 1982), I rushed to secure a ticket. And there in the middle of the film, I had a small epiphany: the Star Trek Universe is pseudoscientific!

This realization does not necessarily represent a problem: contrary to what many imagine, science fiction exists to make you think and have fun, not to prepare for a national test).

Yet in a franchise that has always made a lot of effort to maintain an aura of scientific bona fides (Isaac Asimov was a consultant on the first film, and the book The Physics of Star Trek has a preface by Stephen Hawking!), the finding was a bit of a shock.

And what made me jump out of the chair?

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