Yuri Gorzy’s war diary (37): Radio Ukraine – Culture

June 1, 2022

When I was at school, I always had a big problem with the selection of works of Ukrainian authors in literature classes. It was a kind of literary diet, which I didn’t know about when I was a kid. But I was amazed, because it was almost always about the difficult life of the Ukrainian peasantry before the revolution – and then how their situation improved after 1917.

I wondered where all the wonderful romantics, futurists, avant-gardes had gone. Because even school reading written in the twentieth century seemed dull and lifeless. We are not told in the literature class that almost the entire generation of active writers in the 1920s has been wiped out. Only those who survived were ready to report exclusively about how comfortable the Ukrainians felt in the large family of Soviet peoples.

We raised over 1,000 euros in donations with one song

In the early 2000s, when I returned to Kharkiv after taking a break for a few years and visiting a bookstore, I was surprised to see book covers by new Ukrainian authors. It was colorful and funky, and it looked very different from the Ukrainian books I was familiar with.

I bought three of them and read them on my train trip to Berlin, two by Serhag Zahadan and one by Irina Karpa. I was delighted—at last I found people of my age who wrote about our contemporaries, in a language I could understand, which I had learned in school—but it was a different and new language, the new language of Ukraine, and I fell in love with that language through literature.

I bought new books every time I visited Ukraine, and I still remember how a friend from Ivano-Frankivsk recommended the works of Tanya Maliarchuk to me. Tanya writes in Ukrainian, but also in German, she lives in Vienna and traveled to Freiburg on Sundays to read at our theater event.

Readings, talks, music – often go well together on a radio show, but this combination is somewhat unusual on stage, so after long deliberations with the curators we agreed on the title “Radio Ukraine” for our event. It was a long evening, often emotionally difficult, but it was also a very pleasant evening.

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I don’t get enough sleep, but satisfied, I took the packed ICE to Berlin the next morning. I look at my calendar and realize that a music week is coming up. I’m recording a new song with The Anti-DicKtators project. We collected the first, “Russian warship, go and strike yourself!” , over €1,000 in donations – a good motivation to keep going!

The new song is about home – a topic every Ukrainian can think a lot about these days. Many have lost their homes and had to flee, others are fighting the Russian invaders with guns in their hands – for their homes, for the right to live in their own.

The lyrics for “Home” are already finished and sung, but I feel like the song is not complete and I’d like to hear another voice besides my own and Katya Tasheva, straight from Ukraine.

I think of Diana Berg, a dear friend I met six years ago at her club in Mariupol when she was hosting my concert there. I recently saw on Facebook that she was performing in Canada and I’m writing to ask if she could audiotape some of her thoughts. Diana gets right back to you – she just came to Berlin from Montreal, and she’ll be on her way to Ukraine in a few days.

I invite her to me. We are eating cake and drinking coffee on the balcony, I am shown pictures and videos from Canada. She can finally relax there. She says and laughs, “It’s such a relief to feel that no missile can suddenly kill you here!”

We go to the music room to record. “I’ve lost my house twice already,” Diana says into the microphone. Once Donetsk, now Mariupol too. All I have left are the keys to my apartment and my memories. She ruined my life again, and I have to start from scratch and I’m afraid because I know every house can be destroyed.” I realized I didn’t set the microphone properly, but I didn’t dare ask her to repeat the songs.
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