2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

R&K Insider: Dispatched from Ukraine and a mission to Mars

This week on R&K, Russian aggression, fighting for veterans’ rights in Ukraine, and pretzels in Philadelphia.

This post originally appeared on November 30, 2018, in R&K’s weekly newsletter. Read the archives and subscribe to the newsletter.


Another Friday, another week of surreal Russia news. And I don’t mean former Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen’s plea, the Trump Tower-penthouse-for-Vladimir Putin plans, this bizarre thing Putin said about Ukraine, or indeed, this guy taking his bear for a walk. A million years ago (last Sunday), Russia-Ukraine saber-rattling turned nasty when Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea. In response, Ukraine instituted martial law in 10 regions. (In the time it took me to write this paragraph, news broke that Ukraine has now barred Russian men aged 16-60 from entering the country.)

So, it’s grimly appropriate timing that we published our latest piece in our Dispatched seriesabout war, corruption, and the struggle for veterans’ rights in Ukraine. With support from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, David Gauvey Hebert and photographer Oksana Parafeniuk tell the remarkable story of Vadym Svyrydenkowho, as he himself puts it, is “an endangered species.” Svyrydenko is the only quadruple amputee from Ukraine’s brutal war against Russian-backed separatists. (Fifteen years of U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced only five American quadruple amputees.) Recovering veterans struggle the world over, but in Ukraine, they face specific challenges: negative stereotypes of soldiers, hostile Soviet-throwback bureaucracy, and Russian-troll propaganda painting Ukrainian soldiers as neo-Nazis.  Through sports events for veterans, Svyrydenko but has been trying to change all that—but he faces an uphill battle, and some Ukrainians are skeptical about his motives.

This week, we also published our latest Edible History piece: a history of Philadelphia in 10 dishes. Cheesesteaks are on the list, of course, and lager—but also Ethiopian wat and ice cream. Did you know that George Washington reportedly spent $200 ($5,000 in today’s money) on ice cream in a single summer?

In extraterrestrial news, the U.S. is going (back) to the moon. NASA announced that it was partnering with U.S. companies for further scientific study of the moon and Mars.  Also: it’s sometimes hard to get my head around the fact that not everyone spends a significant chunk of their waking life hours scrolling, with increasing dread, the Twitter timeline watching WTF history unfold. But sometimes this activity leads to the discovery of some gems. Check out this photo of a Mars sunset.

Although CNN aired its last episode of Parts Unknown earlier this month, our sister site, Explore Parts Unknown, is continuing to produce top-notch food and travel stories around past episodes. Stay tuned in coming weeks as we go to Vietnam, Spain, New Mexico, and more destinations Tony visited.


Up Next

Street Moments: Q&A with Abdullah Shakur

Featured City Guides