Kiev, May 9
No Victory Day in Kiev, and no parade. Instead Kreschatik Street is strewn with rubble and amassed flagstones. Enclosed by barbed wire and stacks of tires, metal shields and blackened pallets lie scattered around the tents. At the entrance to each, boxes silently collect offerings for The Cause, while flowers and memorial candles honor the fallen. Walls and fences are daubed with slogans decrying Capitalism, while U.S. and EU flags flutter amidst the red-black of the Pravy Sektor’s flags.
Men with cossack haircuts patrol the streets, sporting bulletproof vests over civilian clothing. Boys not yet celebrating their twenties roam in camouflage fabrics, wielding billyclubs. Some are cradled with guns holstering their slim hips.
Unexpectedly, it’s fairly quiet. A huge portrait of Stephan Bandera reigns over Independence Square, watching us all.
I join the stream of people climbing the hills of the Dnieper River bank, to flood into the Park of Eternal Glory. Here children clamber about the tanks, while teenage girls take pictures of each other. An accordionist plays “Katyusha”, while some respect one of the last veterans, a white-haired survivor of World War II, Stalinism, Cold War, and the collapse of Soviet Union. His narrow chest is shielded with medals—including even the recently banned St. George ribbon. Today, star spangled banners and neo-Nazi symbols wave in his country teetering on the precipice of yet another change. For now Russia is the enemy, and a banker, on behalf of all, shakes hands with the world leaders, promising staggering amounts of money and economic agreements.
Under the obelisk, her shoulders slumped, wrapped in a green foulard, Katyusha clasps flowers in her wrinkled hands. She smiles and thanks.
And “she still preserves her love.”
(quote: Katyusha, Russian wartime song by M. Blanter and M. Isakovsky).