Thursday, May 13, 2010

Victory Day

By ten o'clock it seemed the whole of the city had lined up along Lenin Street. The 1945 victory address was pumping out of tannoys, a military band struck up a marching tune, and the admirals of the Black Sea Fleet drove up and down the street taking the salute from each of the units in turn. The mood was entirely celebratory. "For us today is a smiling day," said the Ukrainian couple I'd met back at the hostel. Women held flowers, children balloons, and the men either flags or bottles of beer. There were white-haired survivors of Afghanistan in camouflage jackets and hats and hunched old men with medals pinned to their chests. "Thank you! Thank you!" the crowd chanted as the veterans marched past.

The Ukrainians wheeled left, the Russians to the right. The band played one national anthem then the other, but there were more Russian flags than Ukrainian ones in the hands of those along the road. I saw hammers and sickles next to Hondas, and Stalin's face on a carrier bag in the queue for the Raiffeisenbank cash point.

After the parade everything was in chaos. I gave up trying to reach Balaclava after forty traffic-clogged minutes and walked an hour to the site of Chersonesos, the remains of Ukraine's oldest city, instead. The entrance was like a football stadium. "Good luck," laughed the man behind me as I joined the scrum for tickets.

The day ended with a firework display in the sky above the port. I stood by the Lenin statue, listening to the chants of "Se-va-sto-pol, Se-va-sto-pol" that greeted each explosion. "Is it like this in Britain on Victory Day?" asked the people I was with. "Not really, no," I said in reply.


christopher j.d. said...

I do enjoy reading your 'dispatches'. Have you read Daniel Kalder's 'Lost Cosmonaut'? You very much remind me of him, unless you actually ARE him...

Michael said...

I haven't read it, no. But I have just ordered it after reading the reviews on amazon. If YOU are actually him, congratulations on ringing up another sale.

christopher j.d. said...

unfortunately not... I have no talent..

I don't read much, well at least very selective.. but that one held me.. enjoy it.