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.