Jim Lynn

independent journalist

Month: November, 2013

‘Poet of the world’ calls Columbus home, for a while (Columbus and the Valley magazine, Nov-Dec 2013)

Moscow winters are frigid. And Anzhelina Polonskaya hates the cold.

“I love heat,” Polonskaya says, gesturing outward with both hands.  A noted Russian poet who hasn’t followed the well-worn path of traditional Russian literature, Polonskaya is this year’s Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellow, a position awarded by the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians of Columbus State University.

Sitting outside the Carson McCullers home on a recent evening, the setting sun prompts her to squint, but she seems to welcome the chance to sit in the sunlight nonetheless.  In conversation, through her thick Russian accent, it becomes clear that it’s not just the weather that makes her feel at odds with her country.

“I can’t write at home,” she says.  “There are many, many political problems, and the environment around me is not very quiet.  At night, I write, and at night I can’t write and think about my motherland, and people who are in jail.”

Polonskaya is a member of the Russian PEN-centre, a group of writers publicly critical of the government on human rights issues.  A recent statement from the group opposed the prosecution of a punk rock band on “hooliganism” charges.

“Our country doesn’t change a lot,” she said.  “You can buy glamorous things now, if you have the money.  But people are like they’re looking for a new Stalin.  It’s very sad in a way, very sad, but true.”

Columbus is a far different world.

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Katrina isn’t over (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, May 13, 2007)

Page: D1100_3459

KATRINA NEIGHBORS

ALMOST TWO YEARS LATER, BONDS BETWEEN COLUMBUS AND THE DEVASTATED GULF COAST ARE STILL PART OF THE LONG RECOVERY

JIM LYNN, Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

Ben Welman and his wife Jonnie never dreamed they’d see the inside of a shelter. Theirs was a comfortable life in suburban New Orleans, children in private school and a home in River Ridge. They never thought they’d lose a race with a hurricane, be forced to spend the night in their car in a parking garage in a town they didn’t know while an unimaginable wind hurled sheets of rain and debris past them all night. Five hours to drive 18 miles. Eight days in a Red Cross shelter. And they never thought they’d call Columbus home.

Joel never imagined a storm would force him out of his modest two-bedroom house, where he cared for his 92-year-old grandmother on a postage-stamp lot in tiny, impoverished Pearlington, Miss. He never thought he’d be living out of his van, then a FEMA trailer. Or that people he didn’t know from a church in Columbus — a town he’d barely heard of — would be helping him get his life back together, nearly 20 months later. But the Welmans and others like them, Joel and others like him, the tiny towns of Pearlington and Waveland and others like them, all are tied to Columbus now. Katrina and its seemingly unending aftermath have forged lifelong bonds through happenstance, acts of kindness, the missions work of local churches and the generosity of Columbus residents.

For a time, Katrina’s havoc and the third world drama of New Orleans wrenched our guts. It ripped the tight-knit fabric of what we thought was America.

But that’s history now. It’s been 20 months since Katrina, and we’ve moved on.

The perpetual storm

America has moved on. But Katrina isn’t over. It’s not over for the Welmans. And not for roughly 100-150 other families who now call the Columbus region home. Not for the communities of the Gulf Coast. And not for the dozens of Columbus-area volunteers who trek back to the region to help rebuild homes, and neighborhoods, and lives.

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