Monday, 26 January 2009
The Surreal East, (or an evening among some of my people)
Our first time east of the European Union, proper, took us to Kiev, Ukraine. Where female Customs officers fully embrace their new freedom in a democracy by wearing their Bloc-era uniforms short and tight with the (apparently) requisite fetish footwear. They also embrace their sadistic roles and we were reminded that soviet habits die hard. When asked to produce an address to our Hotel (I can't help but mention the incompetence of booking agents now) we didn't have one and were essentially told to make one up if we wanted to make it past her. We did and I really do hope that the "Hotel Kiev" gets at least some of the business it's reported to get. (I really wished to get a picture of some 'officers' but I already looked like either a gypsy or revolutionary - 2 strikes any way you look at it - in the sea of Fendi, Prada, Louis Vuitton and didn't feel this was a good occasion to test my Russian skills).
We were quickly whisked off to a truly bizarre evening of fervent fans, photographers and post-show autograph session! We spent a good portion of the evening shell-shocked as every time we entered the venue we'd be flooded with flash photography and many thanks to Yulia and Sergei who took us out for borcht and blinchiki - neither as good as my mother's, but comforting nonetheless. I also think I may have shocked our hosts a little bit when some of them realised that I spoke Russian and could understand what they were saying. I mostly plead ignorance from then on out as we were pretty constantly surrounded by an entourage that talked about us amongst themselves quite a lot and I didn't want to add awkward embarrassment to their stress and eagerness to please.
The stage was, unfortunately, a 'floating' one so I had no where to turn. Among the photographers was Daria, who took a 13hour train to Kiev from Moscow to see the show with her Ukrainian friends. She sent us the above and following pictures:
We got a quick tour of the city - by car as it was raining and we were rushing to make a plane back Berlin. After much deliberating, it was decided that the best place to take us was a hill by the Philharmonic that overlooked the city and Dnieper River. I'm not sure of the reasoning, but Communist era statues endure including quite of few of Lenin.
the banks of the River Denieper:
The latter might be a ditched plan for an expressway - it was difficult for me to ask any potentially negative questions as I was met with concern when I snapped a picture of suburban housing in serious disrepair and asked to avert our eyes as we left the city's centre.
I grew up in chaotic household where we spoke Russian from an early age and ate thousands of blinchiki - to this day, it remains my favorite food. But, we were pretty removed from what it meant to be Russian, Ukranian, Armenian, or Jewish - my mother drilled into us early on that we were 'Canadian' and 'Pentacostal'. I wanted to see if there was any similarities to my family's world past this border to the East. There was a little bit - the ever-presence of chaos and proud self-delusion. That might seem harsh, but I think Slavic history is so awful and full of brutality that those things are just necessary to survive. I'll have to ask my parents to confirm this - I lived a comfortable life, relatively free of dictators.