When the Enemy Calls A Grassroots peacebuilding Initiative in Eastern Ukraine

Burning Fuse

Maidan Kiev, 38 degrees. The Beauties of Ukraine stroll through the highway streets of the center in miniskirts or expensive cars. Reflective sky-high glass-shopping stamps and ostentatious decked-out Soviet buildings look down proudly on the little people who pass them by like game characters. All just puppet shows? Behind the facades is a pile of garbage, homeless people in degrading position, shards and syringes. The hostel entrance in a courtyard - the immaculate facades of the State Theatre directly opposite - is blood-stained.

Building at Khreshchatyk

Just a few blocks away lies the sorrow soaked street of Khreshchatyk, which leads to Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The imposing boulevard - reduced to rubble in World War II except for a single house - also witnessed the latest bloodbath in the city when a peacefully planned demonstration exploded into a sacrificial revolution - the Euromaidan in 2014.

Khreshchatyk during the revolution

First there were a few students protesting against the non-signing of the EU Association Agreement in November 2013. Then the crackdown on the demonstration with excessive force by the government's security forces. And suddenly, there were hundreds of thousands streaming into the Maidan overnight on a daily basis from then on. What now poured over the pavement of Maidan and from there over the whole of Ukraine was soon to be called “Europmaidan” in the West and “The revolution for the dignity of Ukrainians” in Ukraine, because for the majority of the protestors the relations with the EU were no longer the core issue. This crowd of disgruntled people, from intellectuals to the homeless, from leftwing radicals to rightwing radicals, had called for demonstration as a result of rampant corruption and disregard for human rights.

Maidan 2014 and today

The Maidan filled up, organized itself, celebrated itself. A place and its people in the euphoria of being able to change the course of history. Catering points, a library, a field post, a university, a defense unit, medical care and all sorts of cultural activities from dance, poems to the famous piano, in the biting cold. And all this in no time. But with same speed with which they organised, the brutality of the state Police increased and with it the dead and the funeral services directly on the square. A legal service for victims of violence and also a group to support bereaved families was formed.

The increasing violence finally culminated on the night of February 20, 2014, when more than 100 demonstrators lost their lives and President Yanukovych fled to Russia in the dead of night. And then, before anyone could reflect or recover, Crimea already belonged to Russia and Donbass was at war.

Portrait of Serhiy Nigoyan, the first activist killed on the Maidan

The land is bubbling, the chaos is beginning to increase. Events follow swiftly on one another. While anger settled in the West with the president's removal, it only really flared up in the East. The radicals wanted more, they demanded independence and they had a strong ally, the beloved-hated neighbor Russia. And so, in a very short time, the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Lugansk People's Republic (LNR), which have been recognized by almost no one, emerged.

The Maidan - a symbol of civil society engagement, freedom of expression and a spirit of departure into a self-determined future. The Maidan, but also the burning fuse for the demolition and fragmentation of a society that has repeatedly struggled with geographical, cultural, historical and political stress.

One of the artistic projects created during the revolution

A fruitful vacuum

And today? Today, the Maidan is tidy. It shines in the new national pride and exudes normality and optimism. The memorial plaques suggest that the people have managed to defeat the enemy of the state Yanukovych and celebrate the heroes of the revolution who have died "for the dignity of Ukrainians". The place conveys the feeling that the problem has been overcome and is a thing of the past.

Maidan 2018

But the country is at war. For four years. A captious and destructive war. The government vacuum following the Euromaidan and nationwide destabilization became a breeding ground for radical groups, the heating of underground fermenting tensions, and geo-political claims to power coming from within and outside the country.

In the meantime, the war has already cost more than 10,000 lives-more than 100 times more lives than the Euromaidan itself. The initial euphoria has ever since disappeared, the war became part of everyday life. Why there are fightings is unclear to many. If you ask the people in Kiev, very few have an answer.

"That's not our war, you have to ask those up there."

Those up there? But those who die are those down here. You would have to know why.

Maidan during the revolution

Just as vague as the why is who, that is, the idea of who is fighting whom in the first place.

"It's enough to start a [war] process, and people from all over the world come running to shoot, they come as if it were a safari."

According to Nikolai Borisov. He has lived and worked in eastern Ukraine for a long time. As early as the 1980s, he had examined the economic fabric and structures in Donbass for a research project. And even then he came to the conclusion that: The situation in the region is explosive.

Donbass has one of the weakest governmental structures in Ukraine, he said, as it had become the hub for a criminal dual economy through coal mining. In the 1990s, they brought to light a system of oligarchs who, with the help of wild privatization, occupied most of the political leadership positions. Yanukovych is also a child of Donbass. Due to the resulting weak government structure and because it is on the border with Russia, the Don basin was particularly suitable for escalation. This is how Nikolai Borisov sees it, a small, fine, almost slender figure, but with eloquence and a sure appearance. He knows what he's talking about.

"In Ukraine there is no reason for this conflict, except that a small minority imposes its will on the majority - a group of business bandits supported by Russia... There are Ukrainians fighting against Ukrainians ... the conflict is absolutely artificial."

Yet the dead are real. And the longer the war goes on, the more people get involved, the more suffering arises and the sources of feelings of hate and revenge multiply by the snowball effect.

Institutskaya street

Engaging in dialogue with the enemy

Action is urgent, but advice is rare. Nikolai Borisov does not let himself be intimidated. He knows about conflicts. Originally a psychologist, he has been involved in conflict resolution in Yugoslavia, the Basque Country and Northern Ireland, building a mediator network in the turbulent 1990s, the "Ukrainian Mediation Group" (1994-2000), 2014, just a short time after the fighting began "he founded the project Donbass Dialogue (DD) in the midst of the erupting chaos. The project name is a program; it is intended to facilitate a dialogue between the local populations involved in the Donbass conflict. A dialogue between the pro-Ukrainian and separatist sides, between East and West, but also between the Front and those displaced from there, a conversation with the enemy. And this during the ongoing conflict and constantly meandering here and there between the boundary line. And one has to ask whether this is the right place and the right time for a conversation.

Between mines and depression

When one speaks of "Donbass," one means not one, but at least three realities. There is the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government in the west, the non-Ukrainian-controlled area in the east and the front area. And the quality of life is graded in the same way. It hits the people on the front line the hardest. According to a rough estimate, 100,000 civilians still live there, in other words in close proximity to the fighting and consequently regularly in risk of death.

"The circumstances there are catastrophic. Just knowing how hard it is for the people there is hardly bearable for me,"

says Nikolai Borisov, who regularly commutes between the two sides, among other things to visit his relatives.

People who stay in that zone often have nowhere to go, according to their own statements. Whoever can, sends at least their children to relatives, the mine risk is too high. Most young men have also fled, as they run the risk of being arrested as collaborators. Tragic enough, it is often older women who stay in the houses, guarding them, so to speak. Among other things, to prevent their possessions from being "converted" by the unruly army. Agriculture drowns hopelessly, no one knows where the next mine is, not even the fighting troops themselves - once those who planted the mines have rotated to another location.

Kiew, one of the memorials of the revolution

The permanent danger and the extremely limited range of movement, the unemployment and the lack of contact opportunities have many serious psychological consequences. Psychiatrists and doctors, however, are far to seek as well as the employees of the authorities. The population feels completely abandoned by Kiev and also by the army - the armies. The war has already produced nearly 2 million displaced persons, with an estimated 2.5 million still living in the uncontrolled area.

The border can be crossed, but it is associated with great difficulties. Queuing for hours, often overnight, bribes, harassment and proximity to the conflict zone, makes crossing an agony and an expensive and dangerous endeavor. Many don't even make it to their relative’s “funeral”. It is said that it happens that older people die during the energy-sapping crossing. Nevertheless, it is several thousand that take on these torments each day. Be it for shopping on the Ukrainian side, obtaining medicines, visiting relatives or collecting pension or other social benefits, because they cannot obtain them on the east side.

However, at every crossing, they risk having the border guards pass on their data to the authorities, who will then - unofficially - cut social benefits for border crossers - traitors to the country.

And where there are borders, as is often the case, corruption is not far away.

"The customs officers don't even hide the piles of money ... Of course, there are many here who have absolutely, but absolutely no interest, in making these checkpoints disappear again,"

says one of the regular checkpoint passers-by.

Nikolai Borisov and Daria Orlando are also among the displaced persons, they have moved to the controlled side for safty. Not exactly secured, but at least they have electricity to work, a job to finance volunteering at DD and stay well connected to keep the Donbass Dialogue going-a project that thrives on uninterrupted internet access.

A dialogue beyond good and evil

Internet is the keyword of this innovative project, innovative not only because it is run during ongoing conflict, but also because both conflict sides are involved and because crowdsourcing has not been applied in the promotion of peace so far.

Specifically, the sequence of the course is: First, a top topic is chosen by the organizers together with a group of experts. In a closed Facebook group, questions related to the overarching topic are collected (crowdsourcing). These in turn are merged and aggregated and the resulting sub-topics are submitted to the FB community for voting. The elaborated, highly rated topics which have been developed in the way described above and which have highest scores in the FB-vote form the basis for the four-day online conversation. Each individual conversation between two to three persons is led by a facilitator. Between the talks there are thematic inputs from experts. Following the discussions, the group of experts remodel what has been discussed into a suitable conclusion.

One of the "Icons of the revolution", 2018

Crowdsourcing in peace-building?

Crowdsourcing means that the topics to be discussed are not prepared by the organisers (top-down) but jointly by the participants in a 4-month online process. The main advantage is that as many people as possible can be involved in the peace process. This inclusive way of working is, on the one hand, decisive for the outcome of the discussions, in which a multitude of perspectives and experiences are reflected. Secondly, it makes a significant contribution to the people affected becoming active. "They are brought out of their rigidity of the servile authorities and fatalistic "Homo Sovieticus", out of their attitude of lamentation and asking questions towards an attitude of reflection and bringing in their own proposals, in a process of joint design of living together.

A confusing encounter with the front

While the Donbass-Dialogue team is getting ready for the final preparations, the shootings continue at the front. In Kiev, this front has been pushed to the background through the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life and the heroization of Maidan victims. The only memory is the conspicuously numerous unarmed injured soldiers who travel in the city along the road sides, begging for money and spending the night on the Maidan memorial sites. “They are on holiday,” they laugh. Actually, they are wounded soldiers and should be in hospital. But they cannot afford this, so they frolic around the Maidan together with other volunteers and sell the commemorative fabrics that passers-by tie to the monuments and whose proceeds belong to the wounded soldiers. "We get nothing at all from Kiev, from food to the underwears everything is brought to us by volunteers.” And why exactly are they fighting for the Ukrainian army anyway, when they are completely abandoned by the government? "We are not fighting for the government but for the defense of our land. If we give up the position, the pro-Russian side will be in Kiev tomorrow. "

Once more, a luxury car tries to park in front of the memorial plaque. The two soldiers send him away politely but decidedly. "A little more respect for the dead, please." The policeman, who was actually employed precisely for this task, sits at some distance in the shade and smokes.

The two are between thirty and forty, friendly, fluent in Russian and Ukrainian. They are open and have travelled the world, and they cite Russian literature. Somewhere they also have a family. It seems like there's nothing easier to take off their uniforms and send them in shorts, sunglasses and flip-flops to the nearby sandy beach, to lead a normal life away from stunning detonations, burning fields and body parts separated by mines. What makes them risk their lives on a daily basis? "We fight for our people." For which people? In this confusion of population shifts that not only the Soviet Union brought with it. Both have Russian and Ukrainian roots. And also their “geographical people ," the civilian population in the war zones, obviously suffer from the presence of the army instead of feeling protected by it. "They support the other side; they are all separatists, even if they live on our side of the front. Why should we protect them? "

"We have to go back to the front, there are almost no experienced commanders. If I do not return, I will be replaced by a young inexperienced officer and that will cost a lot of lives, I can't let that happen. "The second adds." So many of my friends have died for this cause, I just have to finish it because of that." The two stand between the black metal frames on which the portraits of the Maidan victims are displayed. The faces of the fallen soldiers are sought here in vain.

"The bad thing is, the acts of war are totally unnecessary, it's about nothing at all, a phone call and a bottle of vodka would be enough and both armies would retreat. We're all just waiting for this command.”

And before the war? Before the war, they ran a business in Russia. "We have nothing against the Russians, just something against the separatists. Or in actual fact against neither of them, the guys on the other side are nice people. When it's quiet and no command comes from above, we smoke together and chat about women. " They laugh. And after a break: "My brother fights on the other side." And they both light a cigarette.

Bracelets of solidarity with the victims

Talking against the currente

It is difficult to persuade the people who are currently fighting against each other to talk. The danger of worsening relations is significant. And the risk itself of "getting caught in the crossfire" is ubiquituously in a direct and figurative sense. The populations on both sides of the front are fed with hateful narratives portraying the people of the other side or a third party as a threat and cause of the war. With each passing day and death, anger and incomprehension increases. Pulling people out randomly and getting them to participate in the DD is one of the toughest nuts for the organizers. In addition, many are struggling "just for survival." And "in Ukraine there is a catastrophic lack of professional facilitators... The country has lost its facilitators on the Maidan. Many were very involved in the Maidan movement. This also means that most have lost their neutrality. And a facilitator without neutrality is a worthless facilitator. "

And last but not the least, working nearby and with the front always poses safety challenges. And - "the family suffers great distress from it," Nikolai Borisov admits, "It would be much easier to move to a safe place."

When counting the dead

Early June 2018. The OSCE's disillusioning website reports new violations of the ceasefire. To measure, count, report the violations is one of the core tasks of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM). They publish the violations daily. Today's list is long, 10 pages long. There have been (at least) 185 ceasefire violations in the past 24 hours. 27,000 violations had been recorded in the month of May alone. Again and again, civilians are affected, isolated, injured or killed. No one believes anymore in the ceasefire established by the Minsk Agreements I (2014) and II (2015). Neither the soldiers, nor the politicians nor the civilian population. Both sides continue to use heavy weapons that cause great damage, the troops are positioned far too close, and there is no neutral actor between them who could guarantee respect for the ceasefire. The question of "who started” is like the question of the chicken and the egg. Both sides see themselves as victims and their actions as pure self-defense.

And why do the attacks continue despite OSCE’s presence? "They are just watching!" A commander laughs as he scribbles the frontline and OSCE positions on a crumpled piece of paper. The SMM, the largest and most expensive OSCE mission with more than 1,200 people deployed in June 2018, has little choice but to watch and count. They count and count and estimate. It is often "difficult to identify who is who, who is doing what and where there is shooting," said an OSCE employee in a sobering conversation about the hopeless situation. Is it not "depressing" to have to watch - to say the least - that one's presence is obviously in no way able to intimidate the warring parties? Hesitation. "From an official point of view, if we record exactly what is happening, our mission is accomplished and our performance in this regard is very satisfactory. At a personal level - at a personal level, however, it can be very depressing." Is the OSCE's involvement in the current conflict situation really justified in view of the impotence, the costs and not forgetting the death toll of OSCE personnel? General sighing, at the political, diplomatic, civil society and military level, in the east as well as in the west of the front.

And yet it remains one of the only and most reliable sources of what is happening at the front. In addition, it repeatedly negotiates smaller but vital ceasefires so that at least civilian facilities that have fallen into the firing line can be repaired. Such as the water filtration plant, which in the event of failure will see 400,000 people without clean water. And it seeks to engage in a dialogue, such as in the exchange of prisoners, which was obtained by the SMM humanitarian group at the end of 2017. 380 prisoners, after almost three years of negotiations - an achievement and yet it remains a drop in the Ocean.

10,000 lives in just 4 years means an average of 7 lives per day. And Where is the reaction of the population? Why do they watch this silently? The people who crowded the Maidan from one day to the other in the brutal non-lethal measures against the demonstrators in November 2013? The millions of people who supported Euromaidan morally and financially? The media and social media that allowed a small spark to set crowds in motion around the world. Now that there are more than 10,000 deaths, the people are silent. The media is silent. International politics is silent. Ukraine Fatigue has long since spread.

Groundlessly optimistic?

Can civil society even play a role in this conflict? Or are those who believe that a solution can only come "from those up there" right?

Civil society is hardly involved at the political level. Due to a lack of trust and, above all, because the government representatives have not been able to agree on whom the warring parties are at all. Who should be mediated between? A dialogue between Ukrainians from both sides of the line of conflict is rejected by the Ukrainian government. Dialogue between citizens of Ukraine and Russia, in turn, is unacceptable to Russia, which does not see itself as a warring party.

And yet, there remains enough to do for civil society.

"The conflict is now so complex that it does not need a single solution, but a variety of solutions at different levels ,"

Nikolai Borisov is convinced.

Deadly conversation breaks

Looking back at the political level, the Track-1-mediation is a less optimistic. The presidents of Ukraine and Russia had not met for 16 months. 16 months, during which people are dying for this conflict almost daily, out of conviction, good will, delusion, hope that their lethal use of force will bring the country closer to a solution. This long break in conversation raises doubts as to whether there is any political will to end this slaughter at all. Russia can demonstrate its influence and hinder Ukraine's further rapprochement with the EU. Ukraine, on its part, is coming for war to distract attention from internal problems (including the still rampant corruption), to benefit from Western support, and last but not least to prevent the people of Donbass who feel abandoned from Kiev from getting a suffrage. And Europe is unsure whether it has favored Ukraine's drifting from crisis to war with its either-or-strategy, "Russia or us".

The much-needed decentralisation and federalisation of this country, which is almost twice as large as Germany in terms of area and whose different regions have very little to do with each other, is proceeding very slowly. At various levels, federalisation is associated with secession and secession with terrorism. So federalists are equally terrorists. A train of thought that one must first get used to as a Swiss.

On 11 June, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine will meet in the so-called Normandy format, in other words together with Germany and France. Main Item: The deployment of UN blue helmets, which could at least guarantee the ceasefire. But the ideas of what such a mission should look like are still very far apart after the conversation-too far. Russia wants to deploy the peacekeepers exclusively on the frontline in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine, on the other hand, wants blue helmets throughout the war zone, especially at the approximately 400-kilometer-long border with Russia. Optimism regarding an agreement is small. "Maybe in two years" as can be heard from diplomatic circles.

View on Europe Square

The front does not come to a halt though. It continues to move on, a village to the right, a village to the left. It eats itself further into the lives of the population. Without haste. A solution is a long way off. The civilian population continues to suffer alarmingly high losses. In May alone, 10 civilians died and 25 were injured, according to the OSCE. Including children. And as the prospects for peace decline, the cost of living for Ukrainians is rising. Ticket prices doubled this week, with the price of bread up by a quarter. As life-threatening as before are social services like pensions. Many have to get away with as little as 50 francs a month-even in the expensive city of Kiev-that is, potatoes, cabbage and buckwheat. Old women who want to earn a thing by selling berries, herbs and dairy products line the streets. But more and more often they are expelled by the police.

"While we can now theoretically enter Europe visa-free, no one has money to travel," one of the random interlocutors sums up a widespread mood",

one of the random interlocutors sums up a widespread mood.

Back to the meaning of life

In the meantime, the Donbass Dialogue has been successful through the cable. A dialogue about the difficult topic of “return”. A return to where? Everyone knows that this place, this state, this time to which they want to go back to, no longer exist, is lost forever. They share their ideas, wishes, conditions, fears and visions of how they want to shape their future coexistence.

The DD team is completely overtired but satisfied. The results will not be published on their website until the next few weeks, when they are signed off by all. Nikolai Borisov looks back on four years of the most intensive effort.

"Considering the circumstances in which we work, only the very fact that the project still exists is a success".

Over the four years, the unpaid and understaffed team has managed to mobilize 25 participants of the dialogue, the online community has risen to 350, the expert group has increased to 60, and local, national and international recognition has increased significantly. "But the most important thing, according to Nikolai Borisov," is the most important changes that the dialogue participants themselves are going through. At first, they think they know all about the war. It is only through DD that they realize that these are very diffuse opinions and ideas that they have built up through one-sided channels of information, but not knowledge. The DD becomes a crucial source of information for them to define their own point of view. And most importantly, they understand that they are part of the solution ... They evolve from objects to self-thinking and self-determining subjects. "

"And what's fascinating is that they almost always agree on something, even those who shoot at each other ... To see how these people, work together to find a solution is a great satisfaction."

And Daria Orlando? The diligent volunteer in the background, who holds so much together, plans, arranges, organizes, invests endless hours in the project and does so in addition to the already not exactly sweet everyday life in Donbass.

"My greatest success? My greatest success is that I am still alive at all." She laughs. She laughs loudly and happily on a sizzling Sunday afternoon on a bench in Shevchenko Park. And one would like to laugh along in hoping to scare away the tragic reality in her words.

Daria Orlando

DD looks ahead. The platform is to be expanded and collaboration with the representatives of the negotiations will be established at government level. They also want to train facilitators as a matter of urgency. And, and, and.

Their vision extends unusually far beyond the usual horizon of conflict. "When the war is over, maybe there will be dialogue buses that invite people throughout Ukraine to participate in conversations, to talk about difficult topics with people you wouldn't otherwise meet." There would be no shortage of issues and regions. "The crowdsourcing method still has enormous potential for application in a wide variety of areas of life and can contribute to the support of a long-term peaceful coexistence of the diverse Ukrainian society, Nikolai Borisov is convinced. A peace organization for which peace is not the goal. But the process. A permanent process.

Between legacy burden and visions of the future

The sun sets over Kiev, with its endless parks, the branched-out Dnepr and its summer-relaxed inhabitants in weekend mood. This blood-soaked city smells of flowers today and mountains of fresh berries pile up on the roadsides. The Khreshchatyk is closed and the wide street has turned into an amusement mile, where breakdancers, skaters, family picnics, go-karts, techno parties and jugglers hustle and bustle. In the last rays of sunshine, the city shines as if it were made of pure gold. And in the midst of the evening sun stand the portraits of the "Heavenly Hundred Heroes," who lost their lives on the Maidan. They line the streets, are leaning between cobblestones or embedded in tyres. They stick to trees, to street lights at metro entrances and pillars. All these temporary memorial sites, like so many things in connection with the Maidan, are also an initiative of civil society. People stop in front of the plaques, firstly to read the poems, names and ages, by curiosity; others stop to commemorate, to cry.

The city yearns for summer, for normalcy after carelessness. But whether the yearning is sufficient? Maidan's shattered floor boards still show the traces of a disastrous past. The people dance happily on it. Maybe just so boisterous, because no one here is sure how long this mood will last. Will a much greater financial crisis soon follow, an intensification of fighting, a further hardening of positions and, above all, much more poverty and suffering for the population, which will bear the consequences of the unrest?


But there is also the feeling of a new wind, of a new identity, of a push forward, of a new social cohesion, away from the feeling of powerlessness towards participation, away from resignation to "we can do it". People who are committed to dialogue in the most impossible places and at the most impossible time. They are committed to designing a space in which they want to live together and in which they play an active role as a civil society. People who understand peace not as a signed treaty but as permanent work on relationships and people who succeed in managing the hopelessness of confronting with concrete actions and giving back a little meaning of life to those affected by war.

What about me?

When I arrived in Kiev, in the city of well-cared-for ornate Stalin facades and blood-stained backyards, my first thought was: Nothing like getting away from here. Too grotesque. A fist on the eye, in the figurative and direct sense. The hostel housemate who was beaten up shortly before I arrived at the entrance, sits at the kitchen table in a curved posture, with blood-stained dresses and a devious face. At the sight of his injuries I feel sick and I just want to be Bulgakov's Voland and disappear without a trace. Erase me. Actually, I don't want anything to do with him at all, I don't want anything to do with the city at all, with its terrible war and the whole tragic history of hunger and misery. But I'm there.

And already the stranger has a name. And before I realize it, I'm already part of the story.

And I feel once again that the very big difference between reading and visiting lies in the fact that when you visit-whether you like it or not-you simply become part of the action, you expose yourself to the situations and questions that you can duck over and remain passive as a reader. Once in, you can't be neutral. Even doing nothing becomes an action.

Der Mensch wirkt hier immer klein

I sleep really badly. The first thing I notice in the morning, my food was stolen from the fridge. And I realize when I wake up, with whom I share the hostel, the city, the country. With those people who can not even afford basic foodstuff.

Many Ukrainians, who cannot afford prepayment for an apartment, live here in hostels, where they pay daily. The hostel owner puts the guy from the brawl, Bagdan, to the door without batting an eyelid. His appearance seems to act as deterrent to other hostel guests. And as other hostel owners join this sentiment, he will spend the next few nights in the park. We stay in contact. But first I accompany Bagdan to the police, because he sees nothing at all from his completely black and swollen eyes and-he is afraid that he will disappear when he composes the advertisement in some corrupt chamber. We are sent from one dimly-lit basement to the next, across the city. It soon becomes clear that apparently no one is responsible - or wants to be. And above all, it becomes clear that parallel societies prevail here, again realities that could not be more different and that coexist, one as real as the other.

And me in the middle of it, floating between the two realities. In the morning, a cheap coffee at the memorial sites with returnees from the Donbass war, in the afternoon a visit to a chic embassy. Stroll along the beautiful streets and expensive cafes and dive into an underworld where the neglected losers fight for a piece of bread.

From the hostel to the Maidan which leads me to Institutskaya, the street that became the sea of flowers during the Maidan, where thousands of people laid flowers for the Maidan victims. Today, most of the plaques are located here. I walk along the faces of the dead every day. I talk to them in my thought about the Maidan, all the senseless killings and about war and peace. And about the hope, the hope that there is any meaning, that at the age of 21, 27, 39, 22, 54, 83 years they gave their lives so tragically. And I am thinking of all those who are not on exhibition here, because-10,000 portraits are difficult to exhibit.


And while on the last day of my stay, I wandered through the vast parks and oversized memorial facilities to the Holodomor, the World War II, the Afghan war, reading about over millions and millions and millions of victims, the disgusting feeling creeps over me that some people are in favour of the ongoing killing on this artificial front, because they calculate already that afterwards they can rebuild large memorial sites and use the terribly high cost of human beings to spread patriotism and nationalism that will then lead to further conflicts. The number of victims on Donbass diverges widely in a wide variety of sources. Human lives, not just here, are being reduced to statistical elements that are sometimes pushed up or down, as it suits better, to produce the desired responses in the population.

And I am tormented by the question of what it takes for two brothers to face each other on the same front to risk their lives "for their people."

And I am glad that I stayed and that I have met people for whom such facts are not grounds for resignation, but motivation to continue fighting until it comes, peace and far beyond.

"Alley of peace"
Created By
Lea Suter