Russian-English dictionary… Ukrainian audio app? Ticked. Tripod? Fits perfectly the 25-kilo luggage. Extra batteries? Ticked. Camera, adaptor, headphones, cards, cassettes, umbrella, list of contacts, passport, custom-papers… Yes, it seems that everything is there.
I only had a to-do list of six A4 pages before my leaving to Kyiv, Ukraine. Yes, Ukraine. And yes, I was to be filming there by myself a 15-minute documentary. Yes, I know I am short and on top of it, a woman. How will I manage? Oh well, we’ll just have to see when I come back.
London-Kyiv flight. The only non-speaking Russian passenger. Out of 8 of us flying to Ukraine.
First lesson: Don’t use ‘spasiba‘ (Russian for ‘Thank you’)!
‘Spasiba!’, I said when I got my 400 Hryvnia for 20 pounds in the airport exchange. It’s a lot of money. Maybe half of the salary of the woman working for the office there. Her name is Liuba. Liuba just stared at me while counting the money in Ukrainian. Spasiba, again. No answer, again.
Shuttle bus. Sitting on a pile of duvets and people speaking to me in their native language misled by my father’s Ukrainian genes. I only reply with ‘spasiba’ from time to time. They laugh and turn their back.
Tube. Three lines and a speedy escalator. No standing on the right or left, just mind your own business and… survive.
Helpful Babylonian crowd to get to Pivdenna Station. Me and a Japonese. ‘Spasiba!’, I say on my way out.
Coffee and a delicious home-made cheesecake bought from the back of a car. ‘Spasiba!’ Vladimir, the barrister, looks at me and says: ‘No spasiba. You say: dyakuyu! Dya-ku-yu! No russian!’ (n.b. Ukrainian ‘thank you!’).
Maidan. ‘It smells like… death.’
So I took my 25-killo luggage, camera and backpack to Maidan Nezalezhnosti tube station.
We finally meet. Me and the Independence Square in Kyiv. Before seeing Oksana, the girl I knew almost nothing about who was to host me for five days, I wanted to meet… Maidan.
At the tube exit, I stumbled on something. Looked down. It was a candle. A burnt candle. Next to a plastic red-carnation. Looked around.
Army-tents were still watching over the place. As if the protests stopped the day before. This is the story of Maidan, six months after.