Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Also yesterday evening, riot police clashed with the people from the pro-Yulia camp, spraying tear gas at the protesters at some point (Ukrainska Pravda wrote about it here; the Interior Ministry has confirmed the use of tear gas today).

It felt very weird to be there during the clashes. Only a few minutes ago, the angry elderly lady from the previous post was yelling at a guy who didn't deserve being yelled at - and now she was acting as a nurse, splashing water on a middle-aged man who seemed to have gotten very sick after a close encounter with riot cops. Only an hour or so ago, I was taking pictures at the pro-Yulia camp, a place full of somewhat eccentric but totally friendly people - and now there was all this pushing, pulling and screaming. It felt weird, and sad, and unnerving.

At the end of the video below, you can see some bottles being thrown at the cops, and then a tiny cloud of what looks like smoke appears briefly over the people's heads: I was filming from the other side of Khreshchatyk by then - and now I wonder if this is what tear gas looks like from a distance...

Yesterday evening, when Yulia Tymoshenko was expected to emerge from the court, her fans gathered to greet her and ended up blocking the passage in front of the court's archway, a rather narrow path between Khreshchatyk stores and the two camps, along which "ordinary" people uninvolved in all this politics were crossing from one side of the block to the other. Upon reaching the court, these unsuspecting pedestrians had to turn around and walk all the way back to the underground pass near Besarabka.

Everyone seemed not too happy about this situation, including at least one of Yulia's elderly fans, who was extremely angry with all these apolitical intruders. She told one man to go to Yanukovych for help, assuming that he was a Yanukovych fan - and he replied that he didn't give a damn about Yanukovych, thanked the residents of Donbass for "such a president" and explained to the elderly lady that he just wanted to reach the other end of the block. She was still mad at him, and her hostility forced him to this conclusion about the pro- and anti-Yulia camps: "A Zoo here, and a Zoo there."

This exchange was taking place while the Ukrainian anthem was playing in the background. It was still playing when the crowd - and the angry elderly lady - started chanting "Han'ba!" ("Shame!"). Later, they switched to the "Bandu het'!" ("Down with the gang!") chant.

To imagine what it's been like to live and work on Khreshchatyk for much of this past summer and for much of this month, please watch this video at least five times in row, with the volume all the way up - and then imagine hearing all this constantly, over and over again, on weekdays and on weekends, from 9 AM to 8PM, for three months in a row, and also imagine hearing lots of music - Ukrainian songs, some of them good, some not so good, but all of them absolutely awful when played simultaneously - in between live speeches for your right ear and pre-recorded speeches for your left ear. (Just kidding. Or not.)

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Yulia Tymoshenko's trial - its final stage - has resumed today, and I spent some time in the evening walking around the pro-Yulia camp - and rushing past the fenced-off anti-Yulia camp.

The difference between the two is striking.

The pro-Yulia camp is an exhibition of all sorts of posters, political folklore and various hand-made items, all praising Yulia and making fun of Yanukovych and his bunch. You can walk all you want there, you can talk to people as much as you wish (though I felt better just taking pictures). Quite a lot of eccentric types are hanging out there, and the majority seem rather aged. Tired, too, but who wouldn't be, after a day spent in such a horribly noisy environment.

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The anti-Yulia camp is populated with young flag-waving human robots. I know this because I can see them from my window - but these guys are invisible to those who just walk past their stretch of Khreshchatyk. Their flags and anti-Yulia slogans is all you get to see up close. A few of them stand by the entrances to their space - and they don't look like people eager to explain their presence on Khreshchatyk. And even if they were, I don't think it's physically possible to talk to them: their monstrous sound equipment is too close, and getting as far away from it as possible is the only thing you wish for. I've a feeling that these guys are preternaturally tireless - and brainless - but I'm probably just biased against them (as many others who work and live next to their camp are).

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***

I also have a few videos of the clashes with riot police at the end of this first day - maybe I'll post them later tonight, maybe not.

***

All of today's photos are here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How wonderful it is to find myself at a place where there's plenty of fresh air, no politics, very few people, no noise, lots of flowers and enough space to walk for hours: Pirogovo/Pyrohiv, the open air museum of Ukrainian folk architecture...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Most protesters at yesterday's rally by afgantsy, chernobyltsy and others looked like people who probably didn't own computers and definitely did not organize through Facebook or any other social networks.

There was no dance, song, music or pre-recorded speeches at this rally; there were many fatigues and medals, and at least one "Thanks to Donbass residents..." t-shirt.

The rally also included a rather successful storming of the Rada building (I, of course, missed it, but here are some photos and video from Ukrainska Pravda) - and this storming inspired the MPs to wait a bit with the legislation that would've cancelled benefits for the groups of Ukrainian citizens that the protesters represented.

It took just a few days for that lonely bunch of hunger-striking chernobyltsy by the Presidential Administration to evolve into a much more impressive entity. "Ты никому не нужен" ("No one needs you"), a line that seemed to be begging to attach itself to the image of that tiny, irrelevant group last week, has been replaced with "Никто, кроме нас" ("No one but us"), the Marines' slogan that one could hear occasionally by the Rada yesterday (as well as the name of an organization that seemed to be behind the protests: Всеукраїнська громадська організація «Ніхто крім нас» (НКН).

Here are all the pictures that I took:

Monday, September 19, 2011

One of the many things I totally do not understand about Kyiv is why the Chocolate House in Lypky has been so neglected for the past 30 years or so.

They started holding various events there sometime last year (including an exhibition of some of Ilya Chichkan's works, which looked awesome in that setting - I do have a few pictures somewhere, should try to find them), and that's great - but not enough.

Right now, for example, there's a small theater puppet exhibition (and some of those puppets are truly great) - but one of the rooms is filled with drawings done by some 11-year-old girl - and I've absolutely nothing against her, but it seems like such an odd place to exhibit a kid's work...

Below are some of the interiors, puppets and kids' drawings (more photos are here):

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

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I keep thinking of Kyiv's size, of the fact that there are nearly as many people in this city as in the whole country of Croatia.

And at Georgi Gongadze's memorial yesterday there were many people - more than last year, I've been told.

Two hundred or so, including journalists, according to TSN.ua.

Surreal.

The day before, crowds of football fans flooded Kyiv's center on their way to the Dynamo Stadium. Thousands of them, it seemed.

And yesterday, a bunch of people walked slowly uphill from Maidan to the Presidential Administration building, with candles, chanting occasionally. A bunch that seemed both numerous and tiny, depending on what you compared it with. Angry honking from an asshole cab driver riding behind this group - a needless reminder that there were way more people in this huge city who couldn't care less.



(A few of my pictures from the event are here.)

While still at Maidan, I eavesdropped on a TV journalist carefully correcting an elderly woman she was interviewing: "Yes, but perhaps low pensions in Ukraine isn't what has brought you here today?"

Up at Bankova, as the names of the 63 journalists who lost their lives in the 20 years of Ukraine's independence were being read, Kuchma's ex-guard Mykola Melnychenko was rambling about something, looking very important, in front of a bunch of TV cameras.

A few dozen meters away, three or four Chernobyl liquidators lay on the ground, hunger-striking, irrelevant.

"Ты никому не нужен" - "No one needs you" - read a stencil near St. Sophia's Cathedral that I took a picture of earlier that day. Exactly.

"No one needs you"

Friday, September 16, 2011

The pro-Yulia camp - and a Georgi Gongadze Sep. 16 memorial poster - on Khreshchatyk:

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The anti-Yulia camp (all those flags on the other side of the street):

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A very realistic photo of St. Sophia's Cathedral (and if the only thing you see at first is someone's shiny Toyota parked on a sidewalk, that's because this photo is, as I said, very realistic - Kyiv is full of nice, shiny cars that drive and park on sidewalks):

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Kyiv is also full of riot cops now (partly due to politics, and partly due to a Dynamo Kyiv football game today, which we have managed not to lose thanks to a Croatian player on our team) - here's a photo of a grey bus used for their transportation (and a boy waiting to cross the street):

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And finally, a short video, in which some guy in a car parked on the sidewalk is calling for Ukrainians to unite to fight the totalitarian regime, while others are thanking the residents of Donbass for a moron of a president (a complete video and photo report on the ugly mess that took place at and around Maidan today, see this piece in Ukrainska Pravda; some background in English at The Next Web here):

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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To make the transition from the wonderful island of Vis to the Besarabka nuthouse a bit more bearable, I've decided to re-read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, one of my very favorite childhood books.

I've always remembered Durrell's descriptions of the Greek island of Corfu: mention an olive grove to me, for example, and even now I would still immediately think of his book.

But six years ago, in 2005, when we first went to the Assos/Çanakkale/Küçükkuyu area, which is relatively far from Corfu, but is still totally part of the same ancient, amazing land, I realized something funny: as a child growing up in Ukraine, where it rains pretty often in summer, I could never imagine a land so dry - and it turned out that all those images from Durrell's book that I had kept in my mind all those years had to be sort of re-painted, desaturated, once I found myself in the more or less actual setting of the book.

I think I first realized it when we took a walk from our friends' house, located above a mountainous village, down to the sea, passing some of the olive groves along the way. I remember looking at the olive trees and thinking: so sturdy, they seem to grow out of rocks and are capable of withstanding powerful winds - and there's no emerald green grass growing anywhere around these trees, or anywhere at all here...

Back in the Ukrainian village where I was reading Durrell's book as a kid, there was a river, and the grass covering its banks was indeed emerald green - and so lush. And even though we used to spend many of our summers back then in Crimea, in Sevastopol, a land that's probably as dry as the Mediterranean, my mind somehow chose to cling to the more "northern" imagery, found nowhere in Durrell's book, obviously.

I've been thinking of this curious perception error all these years, including this summer on Vis. And now that I'm finally re-reading Durrell's book, I first see my initial, childish, picture of the place, the wrong one, the greener one - and then, as vividly, I see the real picture, so familiar to me now as well, so dear. And so beautiful, in a totally different kind of way.

(I really like Storify.com - helps make Twitter a little bit less of an abyss and a maze...)

Monday, September 12, 2011



It took Vimeo forever to process these seven minutes of the cacophony outside, filmed from inside our room in the early afternoon, with a couple of windows partly open.

The quality's awful, but - just for the record.

I know that no sane person will have the energy to watch this thing, and I've no energy to edit it, or to explain what they are yelling about Yulia Tymoshenko, her gas deals with Gazprom, her debts to Russia and other evils - after a day like this, I can't really hear myself think.

As for the music, at first, there's their idiotic anthem, which I must've heard at least 50 times today and as many times yesterday, and then, at the end of this video, there's some Volodymyr Ivasyuk with Ya Pidu V Daleki Hory from the pro-Yulia camp - and some beautiful Ukrainian signing from the anti-Yulia camp - but they both sound predictably horrible when played simultaneously...

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Finally, I've opened the windows and recorded a little bit of the sound that has been coming non-stop, from around 9AM to around 8PM, seven days a week, since early July or so, from the anti-Yulia and pro-Yulia camps right across the street from us.

Nearly five minutes of Oleh Kalashnikov's recurring pre-recorded speech (and here's a rather cute picture of him) and his organization's anthem - and some Ukrainian choir music in the background, from the pro-Yulia camp.

Enjoy! :)