Sinasi Sismanhassanoglu or translated into English, Sinasi “Fat Hassan’s Son,” was a good friend of mine in Turkey.   His family came from the Crimea when the Soviets exiled all the ethnic “Tatars” or Turks in this case to Siberia.  They were exiled for having collaborated with the Germans when the Germans invaded and seized Crimea during World War II.  Sinasi’s family had enough money to buy their way to Turkey.

Sinasi did not stay in Turkey but immigrated to the USA where he settled  in my home town Washington DC and became a cook in several restaurants.  Eventually Sinasi returned to Turkey and opened a restaurant in Ankara that catered to the tiny foreign community which was basically the corps diplomatic.   In honor of his second home he named the restaurant the “Washington” and his family still operates it to this day.

I mention Sinasi since the news today speaks of the looming conflict in Crimea.  This peninisula-come-island has had a colorful history due to its prominent location in the Black Sea.  From Crimea one can control the sea and it is the reason the Russian open sea fleet is located there.   This is the only naval base for Russia that is not closed in winter by ice or at least historically the reason, since ice breakers now keep other ports open in the winter.

The complicated break up of the USSR was remarkable for the lack of conflict.  However, it was not entirely peaceful.  It left several Russian enclaves in various parts of the old “Soviet Empire,” e.g. The Transnistra Republic in Moldova and the two Russian enclaves in Georgia.  And it left the Soviet fleet base in Sevastopol in Crimea and a Russian speaking majority in a newly annexed part of Ukraine.

I took two trips to Crimea during my stay in Ukraine.  The first was a business trip to Cimpheropol or otherwise rendered as Simferopol.  I took the overnight train from Kiev arriving the next day in the capital of Crimea where I spent the day in discussions with a vodka maker with a great product sold under the name Admiral.  I returned that evening to Kiev having seen very little of Cimpheropol which had little to offer, since there were no tours available to the battlefield that gave us the immortal ode to the horrors of war, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  Unknown to most is that the charge was actually successful, the British cavalry overran the Russian artilery installatons, but could not hold them so retreated.

This was also the location of the “creator of modern nursing” Florence Nightingale who tended injured English troops during the “Crimean War.”  But alas there was nothing to see of where she did her work.

The train station, however, is, as is the case for all train stations in Ukraine, a masterpiece of Soviet architecture.  One could easily do a full tour of these monumental buildings and capture the cream of Soviet building.  But as impressive as they are, they were way too large for Soviet technology to keep warm at reasonable cost so they were always cold places.

So here we are  once more in a historic land that has been fought over by Greeks, Scythians, Romans, Normans, Russians and Turks.  And now we may see a battle between Russians and Ukrainians for this key to control of the Black Sea.