Yuri Gorzy’s War Diary (36): Borcht at the dacha in Augsburg – Culture

May 29 2022
The almost forgotten feeling of spending more time on the road than at home. A few years ago it was normal for me, today I have to get used to it again. Even when I’m in my apartment in Berlin, I don’t empty my bag. This week we will go to Augsburg and Freiburg. I’ve been to both cities before, either with a band or as a DJ, and people dance until the wee hours. The mood is different today.

On the streets of Augsburg I hear almost exclusively Ukrainian and Russian. As in Berlin, blue and yellow flags hang everywhere. I noticed that near my hotel there is a synagogue built 100 years ago which is also a Jewish museum. I go and follow the guide. It’s a class, over 20 kids, who have to deal with German-Jewish history on a Friday morning.

The artist Andrey from Kyiv immediately told me about his life

The great hall of the synagogue is beautiful. The moment I walk in happy to be on my own, another door opens – class comes. Kids like it too. They listen more quietly to the tour guide. But what I notice is that no matter what he says, there are two men on the sidelines looking the other way. Maybe they don’t understand it. Then I hear one of them whisper in the other’s ear in Ukrainian.

Walking aimlessly through the streets of Augsburg, I suddenly found myself in front of a somewhat familiar building, but I’m sure I’d never been to. I approached and it occurred to me: This is the Grand Cosmopolis Hotel! One of the best Jewish songwriters of our time, Jeff Berner, wrote a song about this place that became the title of his album! I still remember how he told me excitedly about it in 2019 at a pizzeria in Friedrichshain – a hotel and hostel, which is also a residence for refugees. Concerts are held there as well, one of the lobby walls covered in posters of excursions.

I find a poster of Jeff, take a picture of it and send it to him. He called from his home in Vancouver 20 minutes later, when I was already on my way back to the hotel. He wrote “Grandhotel Cosmopolis!”. “I miss this people! I miss you too!” He would like to know if there are also Ukrainians staying there today. I answered, I did not hear any Ukrainians in the ten minutes I was there.

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In my hotel, I want to ask the front desk for a kettle, but I have to wait for the receptionist to finish with another customer. It reminds me a bit of my dad – I can see that he doesn’t understand anything the woman is telling him, but he does his best to pretend he doesn’t. The old lady standing next to him looks far away and does not join the conversation.

The Lord wants to tell her something. I heard they speak Russian and ask if they need help. Yes they do! Andrei told me they had to wait half an hour last night before the gate opened for them. I translate to him that this is not the only way to get to the hotel in the evening. We’ll go out until I show him another entrance.

Dasha in Martini Park in Augsburg.Photo: Yuriy Gurzhy

Andrei is very talkative, he immediately told me that he is an artist and hails from Kyiv, in addition, he often designs theaters in theaters. Whether you have visited Kyiv theaters before, you may have already seen one of his works. Accompanying him is a famous pianist, whom I could see in the Kyiv Philharmonic before the war. Andrei has invited me to his room, he has a lot of pictures there, I would probably like to see them. I must apologize for having to go to the event.

A dacha is built in a meadow in a Martini park near the Augsburg State Theater, and for a month many events take place there, including my reading. Then there’s Borscht for everyone. Late in the evening, I called Oleg, a friend from Kyiv who works as an art resident. I would like to know if he will know Andrei. But of course, Oleg replies, he is a wonderful guy. I’m supposed to say hi to him.

Tomorrow I have to catch an early train, and the road to Freiburg is long. I am writing to Andrei, and he did not contact him until hours later. We prepare each other to stay in touch.

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