Kiev’s Ordinary Day
After my return to Kiev, my host’s family welcomed me as if I were a member of their family who they had not seen for a long time. We are sitting and talking about what is going on in Poland, what is happening in Ukraine. They are grateful for the support shown by Poles during demonstrations against Vladimir Putin’s policy. They say it’s very important for them. At some point, I said, “Striking contrast between the quiet life in Kiev and what’s going in the east”.
“Yes, but it is superficial peace”, I hear them say. “Once when we were spending time in our allotment garden, neighbours were talking about new garden plants, children’s affairs, increases in bills, at most. Now everyone is talking about the war. Everyone is gathering stocks and trying to have some fortifications in place. This may be panic but we do not know what can happen and when.
A few hours later I visit a local hairdresser working in a parlour in the building next door.
“Aren’t you scared? War is going on here now. I want to leave. The east has fallen already, and here, it’s only appearances. No one will help us if we are really attacked, even though it is enough what they are doing. A regular army is not needed to destabilise the country”, she shouts over the hair dryer’s noise. All other hairdressers and customers in the parlour became silent, listening to the conversation with the foreigner.
I didn’t know what to say in response. This question is now being asked by each international relations analyst and each general between the Dnieper and the Elbe. Will the West really help? Or just provide caresses? On the one hand, the serious words of Obama and, on the other hand, a visit of the Polish and German Foreign Ministers to Saint Petersburg which did not yield any results and was received as an attempt to mitigate the overly sharp rhetoric of the West towards Russia.
For the oligarchs and their wives nothing has changed, in fact. Six armed guards outside of the shop, four inside, and other customers banned from entering the shop. In the shop window, a skull made of Svarovsky type crystals is overlooking a quiet street as indifferently as it was looking at street fights earlier.
A car with a broken window is passing by. “Small shooting”, a colleague is saying. At night, in the centre of Kiev, so-called “wild sotnyas” not associated with the official Self-Defence structures, are fighting between themselves for money and power.