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Yuriy Gurzhy’s war diary, part 7: My old neighborhood in Kharkiv, desert – culture

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March 11, 2022

There are little pieces of paper lying all over my apartment. Keywords, two or three sentences, stories that I don’t want to forget.

A week ago I was called by a classical musician who left Russia in a hurry in the first days of the escalation of the war. He talked about his last concert with the Russian orchestra the day before. “We had to play,” she says. “You see, we had to do it! And when we sat on the stage” – there were more than 100 musicians – “everyone cried”.

Hi Taras, happy birthday!

While some intellectuals worry about Russian culture, Ukraine celebrates Taras Shevchenko’s birthday on March 9. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian national poet is not (yet!) as well known in the West as, for example, Pushkin. Unlike many other authors of the past, Shevchenko is still relevant today.

[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]

Especially when it comes to the Ukrainians’ struggle for independence. They often just call him Taras, and everyone knows it. When you read “Hello Taras, happy birthday, friend!”, everyone immediately understands that this is not a Facebook friend, but a poet who died 161 years ago. My compatriots don’t care about tares. He died at the age of 47, but his poetry lives on.

An elderly relative of mine who, like me, is from Kharkiv and has lived in Germany since the 1990s, asks if it’s okay to put hearts on photos of dead Russian soldiers on social media. When he thinks of the joy he feels in those moments, he gets sad, he says. In fact, for years I had the impression that she was no longer interested in Ukraine.

Read the other parts of Yuriy Gurzhy’s war diary here:

I don’t want to ask him what news he reads, what he listens to. Has she already seen photos of the half-destroyed houses and burned-out cars on her street? Yesterday an acquaintance who stayed in Kharkiv sent me photos he took while walking through “my” neighborhood. My way to school… on the right two kindergartens, on the left the five-story houses where my classmates lived. Kostia here, third floor, Maxim next door, on the fifth. They are actually color photos, but they look black and white. No, black and gray. And there are no people in it. Neither.

People still drank tonic espresso in the summer.

“Kyiv Daily” is a website that summarizes tips for going out for residents and guests of the Ukrainian capital. When my Berlin friend Wladimir Kaminer and I visited the book fair in Kyiv last year, Vika Fedorina, editor-in-chief of “Kyiv Daily,” interviewed us backstage in the open-air courtyard of the Mystetskyi Arsenal cultural and museum complex. . Vladimir’s latest book was translated into Ukrainian and ceremoniously presented at the fair, it was a hot sunny day, people were buying books and drinking tonic espresso, the drink of the summer of 2021. Volodymyr Zelenskyj was there, but so was the predecessor of he, Petro Poroshenko.

Until two weeks ago, every day on the Kyiv Daily started with “Good morning! Where to go in Kiev today? In the meantime, this phrase has been supplemented with a “no”. “Where can’t you go in Kiev today?”… Like everyone else, I am witnessing so much atrocity and horror right now. But this simple and completely neutral sentence makes me cry.

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