Thursday, May 25, 2006

More on how relaxed Kyiv is.

I was walking with a friend yesterday - he's a Moscow native but has spent the past decade living and working abroad; we met in Iowa City in 1996; he's in Kyiv for a few days now, his second time here, though the first time was 20 or so years ago.

A small rally was taking place by the gates of the presidential administration: supporters of Yevhen Zhovtyak, head of the Kyiv Regional Administration, whom Yushchenko fired later that day. My friend was surprised to learn that cops let ordinary people pass through Bankova even during a minor emergency like this; if he had been on his own, it wouldn't have occurred to him to even approach the blockpost.

On the way to the park, I told him the flag story - and this one as well:

A month ago, on April 26, the good-bye day of the previous parliament, I was passing by the Rada in the afternoon, with Marta, of course. When the MPs are on vacation or gone for the day, the cops and the military who guard the building let you pass right next to it and across the fenced off maidan at the park's edge. Sometimes they ask you to wait when someone's about to arrive - the way they drive, it's safer to wait, as one cop explained to me once.

This time, I wasn't really allowed to cross the street at all, I guess, but I pretended I didn't realize it and then talked the young cop into letting me pass on quickly and quietly. But I was stopped very soon again, before I reached the open space of the maidan: turned out I was on a collision course with Volodymyr Lytvyn, who had just become an ex-speaker and was probably taking his last nostalgic walk around the area. He was with a guy from his bloc whom I remembered from their campaign ads - and with bodyguards. I was with another cop, whom I had warned that if Marta woke up because of them all, they'd have to call in the troops to calm her down.

"Can I take a picture of Lytvyn?" I asked as we waited.

"What for?" he replied, rather amicably.

"Well, it's such a memorable day for him, the last one," I said.

"No, if possible, please, don't take pictures," he said, smiling. "You see, for as long as I've worked here, Lytvyn has feared someone'd kill him. So it's better not to do anything."

I felt it'd be mean to disagree.

When Lytvyn passed, I was allowed to proceed. Lytvyn wasn't inside the Rada building yet, and one of his bodyguards - his rear guard ))) - walked by me and - suddenly - said: "Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience." Very seriously, very politely, a very good-looking young man in a dark suit.

It was amazing: the conversation with a cop about Lytvyn's fears, his exemplary bodyguard.

It felt like Iowa City, I explained to my Moscow friend yesterday, using an analogy we can both relate to.

So relaxed it was almost possible to forget how they park and other shit. And even forgive them, temporarily.

And so unlike Moscow, it's making me proud.

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