Your eyes cannot see how many drafts I have made of this article. There were a few. In one of the first versions, I gritted my teeth and barked at the hand of Rodina Mat looming over Kiev atop a hill. The grotesque statue vaguely resembling the Statue of Liberty in New York is something of a relic you would only find in a 007 movie from the 90s. Truth be told, the Ukrainian capital intimidates the living daylights out of me. It’s large, so large, and on the wrong day it feels unwelcoming. The sight of unfinished business like the dormant construction of the Podilskyi Metro Bridge creates the feeling of going nowhere. I hate going nowhere.
It was to be a friendly visit but by the time we kissed for the first time, when the day had already succumbed to the night, I discovered love on her vodka covered tongue.
When I first arrived in Kiev I felt uneasy. The passage of border control is not something to take lightly. Warning signs in Russian and other languages tell you to not engage in corruption. The woman behind the glass was nothing like Nikita in the song of the same name by Elton John. No fire, only ice. I wanted to get it over with, walk outside and see her … the girl, my reason of being in this country in the first place. Nadya. It was to be a friendly visit but by the time we kissed for the first time, when the day had already succumbed to the night, I discovered love on her vodka covered tongue.
A Body without a Soul.
Loving Nadya is easier than loving Kiev. The crowded subway, the military on the street, Maidan a lot more empty than in those cold months at the end of 2013. The anonymous concrete buildings rising high up in the clouds. The city has the appearance of a body without a soul. The inhabitants have a similar demeanor. Concrete on the outside. It takes time to discover what lies underneath. If you find a way to crack it open, you will discover hospitality, dedication and passion (Kiev traffic for instance is fuelled with passion and therefor catastrophically dangerous). Warmth. You will just have to look a little longer, dig a little deeper, try hard, to find the true nature of this nation. The descendants of the proud Cossack, infused with its blood and habits. They will never go down without a fight.
I had been impatient, disloyal and discourteously around other women. For which I am sorry.
It was certainly a fight to conquer Nadya’s heart. No, that is incorrect actually, I knew I owned her heart from the moment I first looked into her eyes and wrapped my arm around her tight waist, months before, in a different city. But she would not let me consume our love that easily. She made me work for it, even though writing love letters, buying her presents and walking around inside monumental churches did certainly not feel like working. She made me like the man I became in her presence. Patient. Dedicated. Respectful. Which made me realize I had been impatient, disloyal and discourteously around other women. For which I am sorry.
Kiev is rising and there is nothing despot presidents and their corrupt gang can do about it. For the future is in the hands of the youth.
Nadya taught me a new way of living and in the process of doing so, made me fearless too. Her beauty alters the grain of reality. Her hometown of Kiev does not intimidate me anymore. Why should it, when holding hands and drinking a cappuccino at Kontraktova Square while musicians play their songs fills you with bliss? When I walk through Mariinsky Park, I enjoy the trees and walkway and weird statues, and remember how Nadya looked me in the eyes on the steps next to the football stadium, where she lifted her skirt on a burning hot summer day, only to place my hand there where it was even hotter.
Kiev is rising and there is nothing despot presidents and their corrupt gang can do about it. For the future is in the hands of the youth. A conscious, intelligent people, dominated by an abundance of internationally educated and cosmopolitan women, luckily, who can keep a cool head where the cackling cocks get heated and dispute each other over boundaries. The literal and the symbolic ones.
Nadya is shortened from the Russian name Nadezhda, which means hope. It is part of a trinity of names that has songs about them: Vera (faith), Nadezhda and Lyubov (love). Under the bleak skin of Kiev, and its people, I have learned to find just that: faith, hope and love. It is my pleasure to provide more stories about that in the months to follow.
Would you look at that. The final version of this article is entirely new.