Tuesday, April 12th
sounds of Ukraine
Артем Лоік (feat. Абіє) – Лютує (2022)
“Things fall from the sky: Tom Stevenson in Ukraine” (excerpts), London Review of Books, 4/7/22
I crossed into Ukraine overland by taking a bus that had dropped off refugees in Krakow and was heading back to pick up more. There were few passengers, almost all of them men. We travelled in silence and it was night by the time we reached the border. The last building on the Polish side was a lonely-looking single-storey building with a sign that read ‘Motel Panorama’.
In Lviv the curfew was still in effect, but I found a driver with a car that wasn’t quite falling apart who was out in the dead of night regardless. He took me through the empty streets at speed until he got lost, stopped, and got out of the car to hold an ancient map of the city in front of one of the headlights. By six in the morning Lviv’s central train station was surrounded by lines of people moving in all directions. Large numbers of the displaced have come to the relative safety of the western cities. Here, too, people were standing around fires, but they had wood and cardboard to burn. A woman holding a printout of the Norwegian flag above her head was leading people towards the coach stand. A group of American evangelicals turned up and were getting on the buses and shouting about God. ‘We came all the way from America to tell you Jesus loves you,’ one teenage girl said as her friend translated into Russian. There were thousands of people in the station building but only one train.
I crossed to the eastern side of the city [Kyiv] on foot over the Paton bridge. At the western end, the bridge was a maze of concrete blocks; the eastern side was blockaded with sabotaged trucks and buses. The left bank of the city is made up of Soviet-era prefab tower blocks and office buildings that would make soft targets for Russian artillery. There are few fortifications in the streets. One checkpoint was attended by a man in a red Stetson. A two-chair barber shop in a corrugated metal shed at the side of the road had opened its doors under a sign that read: ‘Express haircuts: fast and quality. 60 hryvnia.’ Marina, the woman working there, was turning away the local babushkas: she only wanted to serve volunteers. She spoke Russian with a heavy Ukrainian accent. The barbershop had reopened one week into the invasion, she said, and it would stay open ‘until things start falling from the sky’.