Sunday, November 28, 2004

My friend Tanya (the one I wrote about for the New York Times) has told me about her trip to Kyiv this past Monday.

She was planning to go by train but then changed her mind and took a marshrutka (vans functioning like buses, a lot faster and more numerous than the buses). As they set out, the driver turned on an FM station playing music that they, for some reason, call chanson here, annoying songs sang mainly by male singers, about prison and post-prison life (I hate to generalize, but I can't help myself here: people who like this type of music are perceived by many as typical Yanukovych fans).

Anyway, Tanya was sitting in the van, suffering from the loud prison music. When they reached a police checkpoint outside Zhytomyr and a cop approached the van, the driver didn't turn the volume down. The cop looked inside the van briefly and let them all proceed.

Right after they left the checkpoint, the driver turned off the radio and put on a tape of Ukrainian folk music - hutsulski kolyadky, Hutsul carols (the Hutsul are Ukrainians living in the Carpathian Mountains) - beautiful music, so beautiful that Tanya, who sings in a Ukrainian choir herself, wished she owned this tape. And with this lovely music playing loudly, they spent the next hour or so, until they arrived in Kyiv.

This is how some Ukrainians are fooling the government fools. If the driver had been playing Hutsul music at the checkpoint, the cop would have assumed people in the van were all pro-Yushchenko, going to Kyiv to join the protest rallies, and he might have been forced to turn them around and thus prevented them from reaching Kyiv. But he turned out to be one of those generalizers - he must have figured that if, by the time the van reached the checkpoint, the driver was still alive, despite the music and the volume he was playing it at, then the passengers did not present any danger to the regime.

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