Thursday, February 17, 2005

I should never make any promises on this blog - because I never seem to keep them. You know, I'll write more about this and more about that - later - and I never do. Or, I'll visit Lesya Malskaya's photo exhibition at the Andrei Sakharov Center first thing next week - and then it takes me nearly two weeks to actually go there...


The Sakharov Center is located just off the (garden-less) Garden Ring - I walk five minutes through sludge and traffic from Kurskiy Train Station, then turn onto a narrow path trodden in the cleanest snow and end up in what seems like the remains of a charmed forest in the middle of a crazy megapolis. Even in summer, when today's contrast between the whiteness of the snow and the urban ugliness is no longer there, the place is still a bit too peaceful to really belong in Moscow.

I pass two modern art type of sculpture things - a Pegasus, and something that looks like a chunk of the Berlin Wall decorated with a huge hole and clumsy but colorful butterflies. I also pass a couple teenagers sitting on a bench, drinking beer, and a young mama with one hand on a baby carriage and the other holding a cigarette, her bottle of beer standing open in the snow next to her.

Then there's Sakharov's head on the wall, and the words beneath it: Andrei Sakharov, thank you!

Sad and beautiful.

The Center's got two buildings, and Lesya's exhibition is in the one with the following sign on it: Since 1994, there's a war going on in Chechnya. Enough!

It's a new sign that wasn't there the last time I visited the Center over three years ago - I was gathering some material on the Crimean Tatar movement then (the Center's got a really nice library in addition to the exhibition space, and, across the Garden Ring from it, there's the apartment where Sakharov used to live and which now houses his archives).

Inside, there's a guard dressed like a cop - he tells me to take off my coat and hang it in the wardrobe room myself, and that makes me feel at home.

I walk past the library (the door is open) and up the stairs. The staircase is decorated with a few orange flags and ribbons from Maidan.

Upstairs, the exhibition area is divided into three segments: one permanent exhibit of Gulag documents and another on Sakharov's life, and, squeezed in between, there are Lesya's Maidan photos, a Ukrainian flag and six TV screens playing scenes from the Orange Revolution and Yushchenko's inauguration.

There is no one but me there, and it upsets me at first, but the photos, and the Ukrainian anthem, and other Maidan sounds coming from the TV screens all make me feel as if I'm back in Kyiv, back in November, and then I catch myself smiling and humming the anthem to myself, and I end up spending a quarter of an hour walking back and forth, looking at the pictures and feeling totally happy.

Then a woman working at the Center brings in some visitors and tells me there's more stuff downstairs (blurry photos by Valeriy Rivan, in the hallway next to the Center's staff offices).

I tell her that I feel like I'm walking down some kind of a deja vu alley - and really enjoying it. She laughs - as if she knows exactly what I mean.

Lesya's photos are really great - though I wish there were more of them. Or, more exhibitions like hers. Here in Moscow - and everywhere.

She's now working on arranging an exhibiton in London and New York, and I hope it works out.

(A bunch of quick snapshots from my visit to the Sakharov Center is here.)

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