Archive for Kiev

Ukrainian Egg Cup Woman

Posted in Art and Culture, Crooked Mirror, Human Rights with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2014 by Louise Steinman

Ukrainian egg cup woman
It’s good to have a talisman (or taliswoman, i suppose) when you’re in a dark place, suffering emotional turmoil, or just needing a visage of joy to counter balance suffering, angst. So here’s to the Ukrainian Egg Cup woman, another (inanimate) character who appears in The Crooked Mirror. Cheryl found her in on a dusty shelf in an antique store in the old city of L’vov (L’viv).

“The cup balanced on the woman’s sturdy head was cheerful too; orange and yellow dots, each looped by a delicate broken line. The Eggcup Woman was probably from the 1940s. Russian constructivist in style but authentically Ukrainian, the woman in the shop had informed Cheryl.

I imagine the artisans in that factory in some Ukrainian city, painting stripes on the red harem pants of a cheerful eggcup at the same time agents of the NKVD arrived unannounced in their black police vans (the infamous ‘chernyj voron’, or ‘black crows’) to arrest scores of Ukrainians on nonexistent charges.

Upon entering any bleak hotel room for the rest of our trip, our first act was to set up an Eggcup Woman. She was our Ukrainian Quan Yin, our Constructivist Buddha, our polka-dot Humpty Dumpty, our talisman of good cheer.”

So here’s to good cheer for the beginning of 2014! Here’s a toast to all those fighting for their democratic (and human rights) all over the world, in freezing squares in Kiev, in Minsk, in Cairo, and more. Here’s to brave Pussy Riot who stood up to Putin, to Reverend Billy who fights the Corporate Medusa… the Ukrainian Egg Cup Woman wishes you all a Happy (and more liberated) New Year!

Still a Cold Case, 20 Years Later

Posted in Family History with tags , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by Louise Steinman

It’s hard to believe today is the twentieth anniversary of my cousin Grisha Steinman’s murder. August 9, 1991. It’s been five years since I last checked in with the Van Nuys homicide desk, back when I wrote an article about the murder for the Los Angeles Times Magazine. “No new developments,” Detective Bub (!) said on the phone last week. It’s still a cold case.

I’ll light a yarzheit candle for Grisha tonight at sundown. And, to mark that second decade of not knowing, here’s my article that I wrote to honor his memory and the place he’ll always have in my heart.


A shooting in a Van Nuys parking lot took the life of a Russian immigrant 15 years ago. There were no suspects, no apparent motive. As the case has grown colder, the hurt of not knowing has never gone away.
August 06, 2006

On the 10th anniversary of Grisha’s murder, I drive across Hollywood–past Paramount Studios, west on Melrose, north on Gower, hard right onto the grounds of Beth Olam cemetery.
Yan and Rita, part of my family’s Russian contingent, are waiting for me inside the quiet vault. We stand facing a wall of crypts, peering up at where my cousin Grisha and his wife, Maya, are entombed.

The crime merited a brief note in the Metro section of the L.A. Times on Friday, Aug. 9, 1991: Los Angeles police detectives said they had no leads in the killing of an Encino man, Gregory “Grisha” Steinman, 57, who was shot in the head about 9:15 a.m. as he walked to his car in the parking lot of the Auto Club of Southern California on Kester Avenue in Van Nuys. He died five hours later.

Shot in the head. A phrase often coupled with “execution style.” It was easy to make that leap. Had there been an assassin stalking my cousin? Did he have some secret life none of us knew about? The Times piece quoted Det. Steve Hooks: “There was no one who would have benefited from his death or would have wanted him dead.” Then why?

The day of Grisha’s funeral was stifling hot. Smog obscured the Hollywood sign. Cemetery workers used a special crane to raise the coffin into place. It malfunctioned. Excruciating sounds: gears gnashing, wood scraping on marble, assembled family and friends sobbing.

Now, on the anniversary, Yan, Rita and I murmur the kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning that praises God, celebrates the gift of life and peace and never mentions the word “death.” We exchange no other words, just occasional, unavoidable sighs.

Russians like roses. Rita has brought a generous bouquet of robust yellow buds. We arrange half of them in the copper vases attached to the seventh-story crypt, proceed down the hallway to leave some at eye-level for my grandparents, Herschel (Harry) and Rebecca (Becky) Steinman. Next we climb stairs to the second floor where my parents–Anne and Norman Steinman–are immured. You have to kneel to read their plaque.

Rita feels faint, convinced that gasses are escaping the crypts. Outside, we gulp what passes for fresh air. Though none of us is an observant Jew, we wash our hands at a spigot before leaving the cemetery. It’s a vestigial gesture.

A lot of Steinmans are resting here. Age and illness took all of them except Grisha.


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