Sometimes I care only about Kyiv. Sometimes I can't bring myself to care about any other place in Ukraine but Kyiv. What happened there in February, what went on there between March and now, and what's still to come. Sometimes nothing else but this matters.
And then sometimes I realize I have it in me to care about other places as well.
I've been there a few times in the past. It wasn't always nice. Actually, the city felt alive only once when I was there - ordinary, normal, happy. FC Shakhtar was playing Lazio that day; Google says it was Sept. 12, 2000. Shakhtar played beautifully, but lost 0:3. They played beautifully in between those three goals. And before they lost, they city had been alive, there were many people out in the streets, happy and hopeful. I don't know, maybe it was like this many times before and after Sept. 12, 2000, but I wasn't there. I'm sure it wasn't an ugly place during the UEFA Euro 2012. I hope it wasn't.
And I remember the doctors from Donetsk region that we got to interview back then. One of them more than others. He used to work with coal miners - with their lungs, that is. He told us some really scary things about those coal miners' lungs. I remember how shocked I was when I saw that doctor go out for a smoke into the hallway of the Nadezhda Krupskaya library. Those lungs he sees every day at work - and he's a smoker? I wish I remembered his name. I hope he's still around, safe.
In Moscow, I know one woman from Donetsk. Her husband was a coal miner, he died very young in a mine explosion, leaving her with their little daughter. The daughter's name, Luiza, always makes me think of a little bit of sunshine that someone accidentally allowed to enter into an otherwise dreadful place. I wouldn't want to talk about politics with this woman - I tried once, sometime in April, and it felt surreal. She's one of those people who believes what the Russian TV is telling her. She was not bloodthirsty at all. But she was scared - when it wasn't scary at all yet - and fear does make some people bloodthirsty. Not her, I hope. She works with kids, she cannot afford to be bloodthirsty. And I hope her elderly parents in Donetsk are safe. Or safely out of Donetsk by now. No matter what bullshit they believe in when it comes to politics.
And I remember how one day in 2004 people in the huge orange crowd in Kyiv were chanting "Slava shakhtaryam!" ("Glory to coal miners!"), as they stood face to face with the pro-Yanukovych crowd. Some in this pro-Yanukovych crowd turned out to be from Crimea, not from Donbas, and this chant pissed them off, for some reason. "We're not coal miners, damn it! We're from Crimea," they yelled back - but the orange guys waved them off and went on with their cheerful chant: "Ah, who the fuck cares! Slava shakhtaryam!" And soon afterwards some of the orange guys were chatting with whoever still remained from the pro-Yanukovych camp, and the Romanian TV journalist I was helping that day was running around, asking everyone what seemed like a very silly question back then: "Is there gonna be a civil war in Ukraine?" Everyone - the orange and the remaining pro-Yanukovych guys - seemed to find this question absurd. "A civil war? In Ukraine? No way! East and West are together!" Well, it's different now, ten years on. And there is a difference between Donbas and Crimea after all.
And then there is Lugansk. A place I'll never really care about, definitely not the way I care about Kyiv or even Donetsk. But one of my dear Moscow friends has a cousin there. This cousin's wife is pregnant. I hope they are out of there, safe. They - and a few more people I know who have families there.
Everyone, actually. I want everyone to be alive and safe. In one piece. I want everything to return to normal.
It's weird when you have to make such an effort to care about places in your own country. Maybe it's because of what happened in Kyiv in February. It hurts so much it makes you numb. And it mutes you. Me. It mutes me.
I know people who used to say, "Oh, screw the south-east, Donbas and Crimea, let them go to hell, to Russia." At least a few of my friends, and at least one well-known, award-winning Ukrainian author. It wasn't all that uncommon to think this way, I guess. And I used to get furious: it's never pretty when shit like this is happening for real and not just in people's heads. A humanitarian catastrophe and all that. As if we don't have enough problems with healthcare, etc. Oh, and the shit that people in those "pro-Russian" areas used to carry in their heads - somehow, I never took that seriously. Similarly, at some point I began to just take for granted the crazy stuff that the Yanukovych government was doing - nothing to discuss there - but was fuming over the mistakes of those I'd been voting for.
Enough for now. Maybe I'll write more sometime soon. It feels good to vent. Like blowing one's nose during a cold.
Monday, August 11, 2014