Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Don't take things Personally

This past week has again confirmed the importance of not taking things personally.  For one reason or another, and often because of our socialisation process as children or as adults in abusive situations, we tend to take things too personally and therefore have a constant need to defend ourselves.    We also have a need to attack without thought when our buttons are pushed for one reason or another.

It took me many years to learn not to take anything personally.  I was constantly being described by others as being volatile, angry and defensive, but I could not see that in myself.  And when I was described as such, it would make me more volatile, more defensive and angrier.
I was brought up in a home that was anything but peaceful.  I watched my father abuse my mother emotionally and physically.  When I was 12 years old, I stood up for my mother for the first time.  I don’t know where I got the courage or strength, but as my father lifted his hand to my mother, I grabbed a large glass Coca-Cola bottle and jumped between them. “Mommy, if he hits you, hit him with this”, I yelled, shoving the bottle into her hand.  And so began my dance with anger, defensiveness and taking things personally.   The world became a very hostile place to live in and no one, not even my teachers, believed the life I was living.  Those were the days when abuse was something that everyone turned away from and pretended nothing was happening. 
I learned to fight from the age of 12.  I learned to fight for my mother and for my siblings.  I learned how to provoke my father into beating me because I knew that if he beat me then my mother and the rest of the family would be safe for the next 24 hours.  I learned to be angry; I learned to be defensive of anything around me that could start an argument or a fight.  I learned how to defend everyone around me, and I learned to take the beating for someone else because I thought that I could handle it better than the next person.  
In hindsight, this upbringing and the socialisation process I underwent for the next 30 years turned me into this angry person who took everything personally and I was never peaceful.  I used to think that the only time I experienced peace was when I had nothing to do with another person.  Often, I would withdraw from people for weeks on end so that I did not have to deal with what I perceived as a personal attack on my very being.  
 And because I took everything so personally, I would defend my reasons for my behaviour to the hilt, even when it was not necessary.  It also turned me into a human rights activist who was continually in trouble.   Another very well-known activist told me that if I was not deep in the shit over my activism, then I was not doing a very good job. So for a long time, I relished the trouble I was always in, I relished the fight because I then knew I was actually achieving something.  If people were mad at me, then I was doing a good job.   
But the big lesson came when I finally realized that people (and the government) were not fighting me as a person, but for what I stood for.  I became the target for those who could not face their own consciences. With this realization, I could continue with my human rights activities without feeling personally threatened. 
It was years and years of working on who I am to get to this point where I take nothing personally.  Even if someone attacks my character, I still have no emotion attached and shrug it off as “Can’t expect anything from pig but a grunt”.  

This past week, I have had two situations where I have seen what damage is done to the person who takes offence to something.   I was asked a question on my Facebook inbox and it only required a one sentence answer.  I was busy doing a number of things and answered that one question with, “SATURDAY MORNING 11 IS FINE”… and then I was asked why I was using capital letters and if I was angry with him.  My answer,  “… because the capitals were on and I was in a hurry.  Please do not take things personally when I write to you in small letters either.  It has no meaning”.   
We can never give offence; it is always taken by someone else.  Very few attacks on others are ever personal and most people are just giving an opinion as they see it. Unfortunately, we are in dire need of intelligent and well-thought out opinions, but alas, we do not live in a perfect world.  You can’t give offence, others take offence.  And I refuse to take offence, because I am the only one who will be upset by it and I prefer now to live in harmony with my surroundings.  Of course, that does not mean that I have to shut my mouth when someone says something stupid, but it does mean that I no longer get emotional about the stupidity of others.  
The next situation was when someone took what I had said on FB personally and came out fighting.  The comment was not meant for her, her buttons were pushed because of her own history and she did not even read the comment properly.  Then another person took that as a personal attack on me (her cousin) and started fighting as well.   No amount of water could dampen these two ladies from becoming very personal and attacking one another.  All I could do was laugh because that is exactly how I used to behave before I became more mature in my outlook about taking things personally. 
Since I have learned this lesson of not taking anything personally, my life is a lot more peaceful and calm.  Even when others are slating me or fighting me for my beliefs or for the causes I support, I remain calm and am able in most cases, to win the aggressor over to my way of thinking.   I wish I could have learned this when I was younger.  I would have been less angry and I would have cried fewer tears. 

Of course, I still have buttons that others can push … if I am threated with a legitimate threat, or if someone I care about is threatened, the aggressor has stood on the lion’s tail.     Let us just say that I make a good friend because I think with my heart, but a formidable opponent because then…I think with my head. 

Left Wing and Right Wing

Flying with both wings

Yesterday I was asked why an obviously left-wing person (me) me would stand up for the rights of a right-winger (Eugene de Kock).  My immediate response was “Well, does that not show compassion?”  Not another word was said in response.
I pondered on that question all day yesterday.   My answer was instinctive, with no thought.  I wondered why people would view me as being ultra-left when I have worked so hard on taking the middle road.   I also wondered exactly what a left-wing and a right-wing person is and eventually looked it up on Google.   Left-wing people are radical, reforming or part of a socialist section of a system or political party.  Right-wing people are conservative or the reactionary section of a political party or system.  This originated in the National Assembly in France (1789-91), where the Nobles sat on the right of the president and the Common people sat on the left.  

Now, I am no political analyst so I also had to look up what kinds of people fit into right-wing and left-wing groups.   Right-wing groups seem to be those who are fanatical about their conservatism and continually provoke reactions from other people by their radical statements and venomous attacks on anyone they emotionally assume is outside of their group.  Left-wing groups seem to be those who have views that support social change, can be equally radical and venomous in their attacks so that a more equal society (in their view) can come about. 
I also learned that many groups can fall under either the right or the left wing categories, depending on the stage a country is in at the time.   So one person who may have been classified as a right-winger a hundred years ago would now be classified as a left-winger.   

I have never been able to fit myself into any box, be it religion or politics, a world view or even a career.  I have always been on a path that is different to most people, so I am surprised that I am labelled and put into boxes by others.  The most common box that I have been put into by other people is the “crazy” box, but that one I don’t mind being in.  It then means that I can do as I please and people will say, “Oh, don’t worry, she is just crazy” and leave it at that.   Although…I do believe that there is not one sane person on this planet and that each of us has a little insanity about us.  It is what makes us different, what makes us individuals and what typifies us. Anyway, I don’t fit into the rightists or the leftists.   But because of that, I seem to be constantly challenged by others.  As Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something”.  I am always trying to change something in society.  Actually, I even change the furniture around to give me a different viewpoint of my own home!
So I come back to this left wing and this right wing thing.  A bird can’t fly without both wings, so I guess for the moment (until history changes life again), I prefer to soar with both wings.  A bird with only one wing will stay on the ground.  But a bird with two wings can soar like and eagle or administer the compassion of an angel.   Angels with broken wings or only one wing can do very little at all.  

I fly with a right and a left wing!! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Trying to make a difference !!!

Forced removal of children from care to be returned
to abusive parents who were not rehabilitated yet.
The true story of South Africa's unwanted children
by Dianne Lang

What readers and publishers say about the book ….

I have never read a book like this in my life. It felt as if I were experiencing what was happening myself. You have inspired me to do something worthwhile with my life. Thank you. 

I am not an emotional person but your book put me on a roller coaster of emotions and now I look at the world with different eyes. 
I now have your book. I started reading and couldn’t put it down. Well done. 
I am really enjoying reading your book - though it was hard at first, .I'm not sure that enjoying is the word! Some of it is pretty gruelling. I’ll make sure it is passed around and will treat a few people for Xmas. I am making myself get on and read it so I can pass it on.
I've finished reading your book last night and my mom got her copy last week :) How you do what you do??? I seriously do not know...I would've gone mad ages ago and ran away. You're amazing! 
Human Rights Lawyer.

I'm reading your book - not yet half way. Oh, what a sad story. It wrings the heart. Your love and battle for the children's welfare shines through. 


I received the book yesterday...started last night and could not put it down...It is exactly as it happened. Am already at page 254. You have done a great job.

I was truly inspired by your story. I am enjoying the book. It is so powerful I can’t put it down. 

Just wanted to let you know that I received your book this afternoon and I am nearly half-way through it - I can't put it down! I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face and yet I can't stop reading. I must be so naive because I just had no idea what those kids had been through when I was in Middelburg. I so wish to be back there and give them all my love and hugs. And you too - words cannot convey the admiration and respect I have for you. I can feel your pain and frustration and wish there was something I could do to help. 

Karen : UK Volunteer

Amazing! I really hope I can source this book and read it, it seems as soon as one gets out of the country, things really can be said as they should! Good luck in selling millions so the truth can be heard, and I truly admire you for your honest approach and your guts to get the job done ! 

SA Woman of the Year Award Winner

I am impressed and very moved by your account.

Ian Francis: Blackwell Publishing

The unfeasible lack of government support is something that needs to be brought to the attention of a wider section of the world’s press. 

Jack Fogg: Fifth Estate

This is a terribly disturbing account of the abuse of children’s rights in South Africa:Rukshana Yasmin: Telegram Books

I've started reading your book and am loving it...just engrossed. 

Ruth Williams: Human Rights Lawyer

A very big congratulations to Dianne!! I'm so glad that Di had finally completed a book on rough patches in her and the children’s lives down in the Cape. Already having a lump coz I have an idea of what's in there given her not so good experiences.
Head of Social Welfare Department, Fort Hare University.
Please forward me Di's numbers. I wanna personally talk to her about the book. She means a lot to me and the community she serves for a blind government. Warm Regards, 
Viwe: Ex-SABC Program Producer
Available from the publisher,
http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/ or from http://www.amazon.com/ It is also available on Kindle.

Read this book before you take on charity work in South Africa!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The only thing I am sure about is ... my ignorance!

I am thinking that I think I know nothing.
The reason that most philosophers (thinkers) have problems with agreeing not only with one another, but with the public in general,  is because of the nature of the subject (all thought), and also because they constantly challenge traditions and ideas in order to generate  new perspectives on things.  The value of philosophy should never be underestimated.  Philosophers are involved in discovering every avenue of thought.   It should therefore not be surprising that I write about so many different subjects or why I cannot be labelled and put into any one particular category of person.   It should also not surprise anyone that some of our/my conclusions should be found unacceptable in some way or another.    There are often questions that come up where none of the suggested answers are acceptable to most.

In science, most people agree not only on the assumptions, but also on the questions based on those assumptions as well as on the use of certain concepts within that discipline.    But even with wide-spread agreement on the subject, the philosopher is still of extreme importance.  How would we know what to do with scientific discoveries without first thinking about what kind of society we want to live in and what responsibilities we owe each other, our children and the environment?
Another merit of the work/thinking of philosophers is the logical way in which they argue their stance, at least showing us what NOT to believe or accept as truth.   (Yes, there are rules that must be applied when using thought to reach a conclusion).   For example, we cannot say that all swans are white because only one black swan will negate that statement.  However, we can say that all men who have been unmarried are bachelors.  This is an undisputed truth. Logic is the most important concept in philosophy.  If something is stated that is not logical, then the philosopher is nothing but a fool. 

The history of social, political, scientific, religious and technological change is bound up in the history of thought.   Various philosophers have made these changes possible.   Without the logician Frege, the information age would not have been possible.  Female suffrage was taken seriously after Wollstonecraft.   Newton relied on Aristotle and Einstein on Newton for their great discoveries. 
While most people associate the USSR on Karl Marx’s philosophy on communism, many do not know that the superpower of the USA was born of the philosophical writings of Tom Paine.  

I have often stated that thinking is the real business of life.   It is not the province of specialists in philosophy, but it is intrinsically part of how a person navigates thought life.   If we all argued, using the rules of the philosopher, we would have a far more mature society to live in.  The first rule is to play the ball and not the man.   By playing the game of life in this way, nothing would be taken personally and we would have to think before we open our mouths to cause hurt and harm to another.   Real thinking should add value to society.
Anyway, this is just my opinion.  It is the reason behind why I try to put myself in another man’s shoes, why I do so much reading and research, and why I shut my mouth until I am sure that I am not talking shit.  It is a constant struggle for the only thing that I really know, is that I know very little about anything. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


My interest in communism was first sparked by the contrast of what our government led us to believe about Die Rooi Gewaar and what is now seen as a very legitimate part of our country, The South African Communist Party.  I have read as many books on communism in Russia and in Red China as I can lay my hands on. The most tenacious behaviour that determined people’s lives under communist rule was the way in which the state turned family against family, neighbour against neighbour and colleague against colleague.  It created a society of whisperers, people who were too afraid to think for themselves or to utter words that were not aligned with the party line.   The collectivisation of farms and small holdings removed the individual’s belongings and took away his freedom to earn his own living.  He had to give all he owned to the collective farm and then work it for the food for his table.  Everything that was grown or farmed that was more than what could be consumed (and often was not enough for human survival) had to be given to the state. The state was the party and the party were those who were in power.  Everyone lived from hand to mouth and dressed in hand down clothing or had to stand in queues for hours and hours in the hopes of buying just one loaf of bread or a small packet of sugar. Accommodation was extremely poor, more often than not with one family living per room of one house and sharing a kitchen and bathroom.  The shops were empty of goods. 
The only ones who had access to fully stocked shops where those who worked for the party. Their rewards were the ability to purchase anything from the special shops, to have holiday dachas and to eat the best and wear the most expensive clothing.  Those outside the party had to work just to feed themselves.   They would have to watch how they thought, had to be extremely careful of what they said and who overheard them for there was always someone around who was only too happy to take their names to the party police in exchange for some favour.  To tell a joke or to say anything against the communist party would land you in a gulag if you were lucky or tortured and eventually executed.  No one was safe to say how they felt.  Generations grew up in this oppressed society, watching what they said and to whom. 
The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union was not the end of the Communist era and their spies, intelligence personal or police.   They all just evolved to match the new conditions of the new order in Russia.  They are the dark partners who were not swept into the rubble of history.  NATO has grossly underestimated the Soviet era shadow that continues to lie over Russia and their former states. 
The liberation from communism in 1989-91 was exhilarating but the effects were only skin deep.   The free markets that replaced the planned economy, the free media with state censorship and one-party rule with free elections were great changes.  But these changes could not be matched by the change in the human beings that inhabit those systems.  Millions of people grew up under communism and collaborated with it.  The toxic legacy of secret police files, sordid secrets and compromises still smears public life.  It provides scope for blackmailing the guilty while discrediting the innocent.  Even those seen by the West as heroes, such as Poland’s former president Walesa, have come under a cloud of suspicion about past alliance.  All the secret police files which have been buried create great possibilities for pressurising anyone born before 1970.
Daniel Treisman, an American academic, states that Russia is no more messily ruled than other middle-income countries such as Mexico or Turkey.  Elections are rigged, media is manipulated, and there is high-level corruption and abuse of state power.  Unfortunately these are not rare cases.  Russia’s legal system sometimes works, especially in cases that do not involve the interests of the rich and powerful.  NGO’s and charities can function only so long as they stay away from taboo areas such as Chechnya.   Elections in some provinces sometimes still yield surprising results that annoy the country’s leaders.
The similarities of the collapse of apartheid and the collapse of communism are very evident to me.  The collapse of apartheid has left us with a country no more messily ruled than Russia.  And those who were educated in the communist countries who are now in power in South Africa are not averse to using the same tactics which they learned from the communists.
The WikiLeaks revelations that started in November 2010 exposed the concern of diplomats of the level of corruption in Russia and the fusion between business, crime and government.  The spill over into the West caused the then Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, stated in a secret document that Russia was “an oligarchy run by the security services”.
When impeachment was looming for Mr Yeltsin’s family in 1999, he went to the ex-KGB (now FSB) for help.  However, he had strong principles and did not want to muzzle the media and encouraged competition between the intelligence and security services.   By contrast Mr Putin has given the FSB a near monopoly.  The FSB was intended to be a kind of beefed up FBI, responsible for fighting organised crime and spy-catching.  Those times are gone.  The FSB is a sprawling empire, with capabilities ranging from electronic intelligence-gathering to controlling Russia borders and operations within and beyond them.  Its instincts are xenophobic and authoritarian with massive doses of paranoia, ignorance, and nostalgia for the Soviet past.
Mr Putin was the FSB agency director up until 2000.  His successor, Nikolai Patrushev, describes the security forces, whether explosive specialists or counter-espionage operational officers, as Russia’s new nobility, which is cause for concern.
During the Soviet era, the leadership had the best access to foreign goods, luxurious dachas and spacious accommodation.  Now that there is no more need to pretend to be austere for party reasons, they can enjoy the best when, how and where they want it.  Our own leadership too seem to have the same access to these enjoyable living arrangements and conditions.   
J. Michael Waller, an expert on Russia, also believes that the former KGB has retained influence in Russia after the Soviet collapse and returned to power with Mr Putin in charge.  Taking communism down is one thing, removing its structures is completely something else.  
The Russian police and intelligence agencies are as incompetent, nepotistic, corrupt, wasteful and as blinkered as the state they serve.  Given the amount of publicity our South African police have received lately, there seems little difference between the two countries.
In retrospect, the West has over-estimated the scale of the Kremlin’s retreat.  What looked like a roll back from one point of view was a stay-behind operation from another.   “Stay-behind operations were a staple of NATO planning during the early years of the Cold War, and envisaged well-organised networks of saboteurs and spies working to disrupt Soviet rule after an invasion of Western Europe, with access to secret arms caches.  These included the notorious Operation Gladio, which degenerated into political mischief-making in Italy”. (Edward Lucas Spies, 2012, p 314).
Perhaps we should listen to those people in Russia who share our values and to help encourage them rather than demoralise them.  In February 2011, the four leaders of the main opposition party, the Party of People’s Freedom, wrote an article berating the Western countries for their role in facilitating the misrule of Russia.   “We urge Western leaders to discontinue their kisses-and-hugs “Realpolitick”, which has failed and to stop flirting with Russian rulers – behaviour that has not brought any benefits to the West and produces in Russia an impression that Putin’s system is a decent, one, like any other in the democratic world.   It means the West should cease greeting Russian rulers as equals, providing them with legitimacy they clearly do not merit.  It means the West should start exposing corrupt practices by the Russian establishment … should introduce targeted sanctions against the officials directly abusing the rights of their compatriots”.  (Washington Post, 20 February 2011).  
Given that Russia emerged from communist dictatorship only twenty odd years ago, the advocates of Russia suggest that we should be impressed that the country is so normal, rather than being depressed that it is no better.  The temptation of many Westerners is therefore to accept the superficial image of normality and cooperation, without digging too deeply into the violent, thieving and distorted mind-set and personalities behind it – or the pervasive incompetence and partiality for dangerous short cuts.
Given that South Africa emerged from the National Party only eighteen odd years ago, the advocates of South Africa suggest that we should be impressed that the country is so normal. I suggest that we do not accept the superficial image of our country, but look at the persistent incompetence and penchant for short cuts.
When I see the hammer and sickle of the SA Communist Party, I am left with cold shivers that we too could become a society of whisperers.



Linked to acts of carnage and death
During the midnight raid
He seemed so unassuming
And to discover the truth, the country’s infamous began
The dreaded “Section Six” – Solitary Confinement
The scourge known as “Detention Without Trial”

Stripped of basic Human Rights
The interrogation never-ending
Deprived of sleep
Blindfolded, bound and tortured
The shock treatment … and the pain
Screams that would never be heard

And as days became weeks
More intense the torture … the pain
His resistance pushed to its limits
What made a man clutch so to his beliefs?
Where the end of his pride?
All in the quest of a myth … called “Freedom”

Finally, the loneliness and pain too much
Tears uncontrolled … like those of a child hurt
From the pen thrust in his hand the ink flowed
As he revealed names of comrades, friends … even family
And pages torn before his eyes
Those stained with his tears of shame

His persecutors cheered their success
As they looked down upon a once defiant martyr
One who had stood tall, had held a vision
At their merciless hands his spirit broken
His pride turned to shame
Once a Hero ... now a Traitor

And when the sun rose
To his dismay, the darkness remained
He had played his part
His final prayer … that his efforts were not in vain
That his children … and theirs one day
Would know the “Freedom” that had been his dream

And in the morning he was found
There was no escape from the burning shame
Never again could he look loved ones in their eyes
And at his grave sobbing and wailing
As the soil of Africa claimed yet another fighter
Oh the price … and how many more?
Mandela, where this “Freedom”?
Alan D Elsdon

The Russians, The Boers And My Ignorance

Anglo Boer War 
How ignorant and how skewed can one’s view of the world become through socialisation and the media.  I was shocked to my core after reading a number of books on communism and the Red Danger (as it was known in South Africa) to find that the Russians actually came to the assistance of the white South Africans during the Anglo-Boer War.   Although I had studied Marx, Engels and Lenin, their communism and socialism certainly did not tally with the awfulness of Stalin and Mao’s communism, or the communism that the National Party was so determined to keep out of South Africa’s borders. 
Why did I never think further than my nose?  I knew about the horror of living under Stalin’s rule and I knew about the Soviet ties with the ANC and the South African Communist Party.  I knew that cadres were being trained in Cuba and in other communist countries and that they were coming over our borders to disrupt the Nationalist government.   I knew that the children were fed up with being forced to study in Afrikaans and were burning the schools; I knew that Winnie Mandela was going to set the country alight with her matches and her tyres.  And I knew that the communist countries were helping the ANC.   I also knew that no one had the right to tell anyone else that they could or could not do something based on the colour of their skin.  This I also understood was wrong.  And while I supported the ‘struggle’ for equal rights, I was convinced that if the communists took over we would be in big shit.   At the time, I did not know about the alliance between the SACP and the ANC.  I only knew about the PAC and the ANC.  The very thought of the SACP did not even enter my head. Surely, if the National Party would give everyone equal rights, they would ensure that the communists stayed out of it.  Well, that was my belief.   I never once wondered why the communists would want to help the ANC.
Now that I am mature (I don’t like to say old), I have been reading and researching as much as I can about communism, what it was like to live under the rule of communism and how communism eventually fell away.   I am trying to understand that if history has shown how abusive communism is to human rights, why are we  still be so involved  and tolerant of the SACP?   I am trying to understand how it is possible that group rights (communism) are more important than individual rights?   I am trying to understand if it is at all possible for individual and groups rights to co-exist.   I personally think that it is mutually exclusive and cannot co-exist so that groups and individuals have rights.  If group rights are emphasised, then individual rights are abused and vice versa.
I digress … Russian politics has been muddled up with South African politics for much longer than most of us realize.   I did not know that Russia (under the Tsar) sent the Russian Red Cross to the aid of the Boers during the Anglo Boer War, nor did I know that Russian volunteers, and one in particular, played such a large role in helping the Boers fight against the English.   In fact, the Anglo-Boer War was the starting point of direct relations between the two countries.   There are political parallels between the Soviet ties to the ANC and the SACP and the help that Russia sent to the Boers.  The second would not have taken place without the foundation that was laid by the first. The fierce anti-communism of the apartheid government has made it difficult for South Africans to associate with Russians, or even to admit association in the distant part.   It is my opinion that the demise of both communist Russia and apartheid South Africa has been a blessing.  Both political standpoints were barbaric in every sense.
One of the most remarkable Russians who came to the aid of the Boers, first as a Russian war correspondent from the Russian paper Novoie Vremia who swopped his pen for a revolver, was the Deputy Commander of the foreign volunteers, Colonel Maximov.  A Belgium nurse, Alice Bron, wrote about Maximoff during those days in May 1900.  People get to know one another very quickly when in close contact during war.   “…He was brave even to rashness, as all his men told me, while he delighted in relating incidents which showed the indomitable bravery of his Dutch followers…At one point the colonel ordered his men to attack a position. They hesitated; thinking that the attempt was sure to fail.  The colonel, exclaiming, “You’ll see I am right,” dashed forward, and his men followed him.  The colonel was wounded in the foot, shoulder ear and temple.   The temple wound dropped the colonel and his men gathered around him, opening fire to protect him.  This incident shows the bravery of both officer and his men.  (Davidson, A and Filatova I, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1998, p68).
After the death of Commander Villebois, President Steyn appointed Maximov commander of the European Legion.   His greatest battle was that of Thaba Nchu where he shot the English Captain Towse at almost point blank range.  He lost only two men, while he was one of five seriously wounded.  Maximov was taken to Kroonstad where Nurse Alic Bron found him on 12 May, 1900, just hours before the British troops entered town.  The day before, he had ridden (wounded) to Pretoria and spent the day with President Steyn.  When he returned to Kroonstad the Boers had already left town and blown up the bridge.  The nurse tried to persuade Maximov to leave.  He relates his argument against leaving as such; “Never, never have I run away from an enemy.”   They eventually left Kroonstad, with the colonel on horseback while his secretary, “boy” and nurse rode in a kind of dog-cart.   She described him as bold as a lion but as obstinate as a mule.
After Thaba Nchu, De Volkstem wrote that he was a very brave officer and had faced the enemy at twenty paces.  When it was found that his wounds were too severe (fractured skull) for him to continue to act as veggeneraal, Maximov proposed that the command be handed over to P Blignaut, son of the state secretary of the Republic of the Orange Free State.    The official handing over was held on the 22 May 1900 in the Hollandia Hotel in Pretoria.
Maximov attended the last session of the Transvaal Volksraad before he returned to Russia.  President Kruger and General Smuts personally thanked him for his services to their country and for the blood he had shed in its defence.
The Russian public saw the Boer struggle against the British as a battle between David and Goliath.  The pro-Boer sentiment weakened Britain and also served domestic interests by distracting public attention away from the social and political inequalities at home.   Perhaps the most important reason for the Russian pro-Boer attitude was the growing gold-mining industry.  The Russians would have been interested in the methods and know-how of the Transvaal gold miners for their own newly born gold-mining industry of Siberia and the Ural Mountains.    The increasing Jewish emigration from Russia to the Transvaal also provided a further reason for Russia to establish close ties with South Africa.  Even though the Jews were fleeing due to political pogroms, the Russians were quick to turn this to their advantage by realizing the advantages of having Russian speaking people in South Africa.  This served as a network between Russia and South Africa, along which flowed money, people and information.
I doubt that many South Africans even know about the involvement of Russia in helping the Boers, let alone the unbelievable bravery of Colonel Maximov.   In Russia, Maximov is almost completely forgotten.  Even his grave in Manchuria is forgotten.  Such insignificance is given to a particular Russian individual’s fate because the ordeals of Russia’s people have been so terrible during this century that those who lived either did not care or were too afraid to care about the memory of so many of the dead.  If Maximov had belonged to another nation, his heroism would have been celebrated with pride.
Perhaps the underlying involvement of the Communist Soviet state with the ANC and the SACP was nothing more than a way in which to take control over South Africa’s enormous environmental wealth and the “equal rights struggle” just a means to that end.  


A snippet of a chapter from Saving Mandela's Children

I woke up with a jerk.   Someone was yelling.  

“Mama D.  Mama D.  Luke is getting bad.  Come quickly”.  

I jumped out of bed and ran down the passage.  Luke was ashen, lying with his big eyes looking at Amore as she held him.  Amore was one of the many young people that I had gathered around me during my life.  I always seemed to have with me a young person who was troubled.  She had come with me to Middelburg because she had problems with her family, and although she did not take Patience’s place, she did have a very special place in my heart. 

Luke had the most beautiful eyelashes and eyes I have ever seen on any child.   Luke was eighteen months old and dying of AIDS.   He had been living with us for almost ten months.   When his mother brought him to us to take care of, the doctor told us that he did not have long to live, and the best that we could do for him was to make him comfortable.  But we never believed doctors.   We lived as though there were no tomorrow.   Luke had been sick before and we had managed to get him well again.   He had even managed to go through the baby stages, getting teeth, sitting up, trying to stand and walk, all the things that he was not able to do when he arrived.   For some reason, we just all believed that Luke would be like all the rest.   He would just grow up and be like all the other kids.   Whenever the children got too sick, they would be brought into my bedroom and there they would stay until they were well enough to join the others.  When they got really ill, I would put their little bodies against my chest, wrap a baby blanket or towel around the two of us, and let the baby feel my heartbeat.  I would not put them down other than to change their nappies or to feed them, and then back they would go, tied to my chest.  And time and again, they would get better.

Now was the time for Luke to come to my bedroom.   When Luke became ill this time, Amore asked me if she could take care of him.  
I agreed, but I did warn her that it might be traumatic.   Amore was only twenty at the time.   She wanted to be with him 24 hours a day so that he would not be alone for one minute.  I agreed, as I would be there as well.  

Amore sat rigid in the chair, her eyes as wide as saucers.   I could see she was afraid that Luke might be dying and she was scared of death.  Luke was conscious but in pain.   His frail little body was sore and as I gently took him from her arms, he moaned faintly.   His breath was coming in short sharp intakes and the out breaths just left his chest without any effort on his part.   His heart was racing.  You could see how the artery was fluttering in his neck.  He was looking past me as though he was seeing something there that we could not see.   “He will not die now Amore, but Luke is dying”, I said gently.   I knew that there was nothing more we could do for our little boy.  He was beyond our help.  This time we would not be able to save our boy.  “Nooooo!!!”, she howled as she leaned over and put her head in her lap.  Her body shook with grief and her anguish poured out of her in great big sobs.  When Amore had calmed down a bit, I asked her, “Do you still want to be with Luke till the end?”   “Yes”.   “Then come”, I quietly encouraged her.   I called the staff and told them that Luke did not have long to live and they went to break the news to the other children.   The children were sad and crying, but they all came and said goodbye to Luke, some kissed him, others touched his forehead and others just stroked his little feet.   The staff stood around and said a prayer.   I called Father John and he came and baptized Luke and gave him the last rites.   Father John called me aside and said, “Dianne, you are forever calling me out to baptize your children at all hours of the day and night.  I think you should now do it yourself.   I can’t always be coming out, day and night, whenever you think one of your children is going to die and then they don’t.  All you have to do is say: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  OK?”.  “Yes, Father, thank you for coming”, I said. We sent word out to try and find Luke’s mother, but she had gone to Cape Town.  Then Amore and I took Luke to a quiet place and sat with him.  

It took eighteen hours for Luke to die.  He never lost consciousness.   He was awake the whole time.  He suffered for eighteen hours.  His breathing became more and more erratic.   He could not swallow.  He could not pass urine.   He could not cough.  He would take a deep breath, exhale and then there would be no breath for a long time and then he would take another deep breath.   And so it would go on.    And on…and on...and on.   Amore grew tired.   I told her to go and have a sleep.  I would wake her if there was any change.   We were taking it in turns holding Luke in our arms, talking to him and singing to him all the time.   Amore curled up on the couch with a blanket and was soon fast asleep.   The emotions of the day were draining and she needed to rest.   Who knew when this would end?   In the stillness of the night, Luke’s breathing became more pronounced and his suffering became more evident.   I longed for the suffering to end.   This poor little mite was struggling to breathe for hour after hour.  I had already phoned the pharmacist and asked her if there was anything that would ease his suffering and she had told me that there was nothing.   I knew from experience that there was nothing at the hospital.   What could I do to help this little soul?   The minutes ticked by so slowly.   I kept looking at the clock.   How much longer does this have to go on?   I started to pray.  “Please God, stop this suffering.   Take this child into your care now.   This is enough.   Don’t let this carry on any longer.   Please don’t let him struggle for one more breath.   Just let him stop breathing”.  But no one heard.  The silence was made more deafening by the incessant struggle for the next breath from Luke.

OK, I thought.  I will do something now.  Amore is asleep.  No one will know what I am about to do.   I will take a pillow and put it over his mouth and then he will stop breathing and it will be over.   Not even God listens.   To allow this to carry on is beyond cruel.   I lean over and take the small pillow out of the pram.   I hold it up in my right hand.   Luke is lying in my left arm.   He has stopped breathing.   I don’t have to do it.   Thank you, God.   Then he struggles for the next breath.   I have to do it.   I hover with the pillow still in my hand.   I hesitate, knowing that I have no right to take another’s life, but at the same time consumed by the need to stop the suffering.   I
move the pillow closer to his head.  Closer still: the pillow is now just above his face.   And still I hesitate.   Do I or don’t I?   I need to stop his suffering.   I have an irresistible need to stop this awful breathing that is filling my brain and my mind and my soul with anguish and suffering from hell.  He looks at me.  Those big eyes of his look at me.   What is he trying to tell me?  Help me?  But how?  The pillow goes down on his face.   Gently.   My hand holds the pillow gently on his face.  I pull the pillow away from his face and fling it across the room.  I can’t do it.   I have failed him.   “Oh, Luke, my darling, darling little Luke, I am so sorry, boy.  I am so sorry I could not make you well.   I did my best, but you must go now my love.   Please go now.  Don’t stay any longer”.   “Amore”, I call, “wake up, and come and hold Luke”.   She stretches and comes over.  I put Luke into her arms.   He is still struggling to breathe.   I tell her to tell him it is OK for him to leave us now.  She does.   It is not long and she screams and throws Luke at me.   I catch him in my arms.   He has stopped breathing.   He will never breathe again.   Our baby is dead.

I phone the hospital and tell them that our baby is dead.   “What must I do?”, I ask.  “You must phone the police”, they tell me.  “Because if someone dies at home, it could mean that it is a homicide”.  I phone the police and tell them that our baby has died.  Two police officers arrive within minutes.  They call the mortuary van over the radio.  The mortuary man arrives and takes Luke.  He opens the back door of the mortuary van and wants to put our tiny little Luke into the back of the cavernous vehicle.  “Please can’t you take him in the front with you”, I beg.  “OK”, says the man, obviously seeing how distraught Amore and I are.  Luke leaves and our family mourns: the staff, the children, Amore, me.  For the rest of the night, I cradled Amore in my arms.  Little did we know what the next day would bring.