Since September 1st, my social media feeds have been inundated with photos of Ukrainian schoolyards. And once more my ideas revolve across the topic of college. College the place we expertise so many issues for the primary time. College, a spot the place our worldview is immediately and not directly shaped, even when we’re nonetheless too younger to acknowledge it.
I might have laughed if somebody had informed me twenty years in the past that I get a slight feeling of nostalgia after I see photos of the varsity buildings in my house nation from the Seventies. In Kharkiv, Kiev and Odessa they hardly differ from one another and are harking back to the varsity buildings from the GDR.
Really, in 1995, after I left Kharkiv, I had had sufficient of prefabricated buildings and if doable by no means needed to see them once more, nevertheless it’s superb what number of of my reminiscences are linked to them. And I by no means imagined going again to these faculties as an grownup.
However that’s precisely what occurred in 2020, when the German theater director Georg Genoux invited me to go to the Donbass together with his workforce to develop music for his venture along with the native youth. Though the locations we visited in these 5 weeks are usually not that removed from Kharkiv, I had by no means been there. However after I walked into the faculties in Mykolayivka or Popasna, it felt like I used to be strolling into my very own college.
Set up new window panes day-after-day
The director of college No. 1 in Popasna Viktor Schulik welcomed us like previous associates. The truth is, I used to be the one one within the workforce for whom it was the primary time in Popasna – Georg and his colleague Den Humennyi, the theater maker from Kiev, have already applied a number of tasks there.
On our final night in Popasna, Viktor informed concerning the occasions when town skilled heavy shelling. He shared the way it grew to become a routine to place new panes of glass within the home windows day-after-day with a unique instructor.
I used to be deeply moved by the tales concerning the conflict, each by Viktor Schulik and by the scholars and lecturers from the 5 locations in Donbass, Ukraine, that I received to know in 2020. That these smiling, sensible, gifted youngsters we wrote songs with within the auditorium spent virtually half their lives in conflict was inconceivable to me, regardless of how onerous I attempted to grasp it. And naturally, even in my worst nightmares, I couldn’t have imagined that simply two years later, the entire of Ukraine would undergo one thing comparable.
So far as I do know, the younger contributors of our venture left their hometowns in Donbass. The varsity in Mykolaivka was hit by a Russian missile for the second time. Viktor Schulik fell in battle towards the invaders close to Bakhmut in October 2022. His city of Popasna was captured by Russian troops in Could 2022.
Yesterday I gave all my small change to the younger avenue musicians on the Friedrichsbrücke in Berlin-Mitte. They performed early Beatles songs and I might have sung alongside to any of them. The 2 musicians jogged my memory of our duo from the final college years. Rostik and I have been ardent Beatles followers and used each college live performance to current our renditions of the Liverpool band’s classics. This may have been unthinkable only a few years in the past, however occasions have been altering and with the Nineties an air of freedom was within the air.
At college we immediately began studying the Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus, who died in a labor camp in 1985. My mom introduced books by Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov from Moscow. Underground bands from Leningrad performed on the Kharkiv stadium.
Thirty years later, Russia is bombing Ukrainian cities, destroying faculties and killing Ukrainians. Russia bombs Ukrainian cities, destroys faculties and kills Ukrainians. I repeat this sentence within the hope of lastly with the ability to perceive it. However I can’t.