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3 April, 2014

The music of our times

‘What’s it like to live in a country, which always expects a war to break out?’ I have asked an old Israeli in the airport queue. He looked at me, surprised.‘We just live and enjoy every day of peace! Besides’, he added, ‘we know that we created the country ourselves, so here is the reason to be jolly…’

‘But last year, during the missile attack…, ’ I insisted, ‘ How did you live? How did you deal with anguish and fear?’ He thought about it for a second before replying: ‘ I quite enjoyed taking my talented grandson to his violin lessons…’and added‘… music! Listen to the music, it helps!’

I remembered then an old legend about the girl called Ukraine – how she was late, when God was giving out his gifts, so the only gift Ukraine received was a song. Her own song.

Ukraine’s melody now is played in a minor key, with notes of pain and concern.  You cannot hear the first violin in the Ukrainian orchestra, and there are no music scores of hope for the national choir…

Мusic disturbs and lifts. Have you heard of a strange disease of the nervous system - encephalitis lethargica, when music makes those, who have spent years immobile, move? What a wake up call for people like me!

My position has always been simple: ‘See no evil, hear no evil…’I live far away from Ukrainian countryside, in a different country, far away from those 47 million who did not fight at the Maidan. Correction – my position remained simple until last Sunday, when I ended up at the anti - war march in the centre of London, next to a Swiss Banker and a student, who was waving as logan  'Donbas is in Ukraine!’ Behind us a chorus of students from Venezuela was singing the Ukrainian anthem together with thousands of demonstrators with Ukrainian flags.

Music helps to find the answers… or at least to ask the questions.

When I write stories, I end up with a single question: Why?

Why, for example, the mentality of the crossroads became a Ukrainian Cross, country’s political destiny? Will Ukraine ever step into the circle, this eternal symbol of unity and protection?

Why Ukrainehas been a trump card in a great game of political poker through centuries?

And finally, why, as well-known translator of Ukrainian literature Maria Malanchuk asked me, even the route of Ukrainian word ‘виховати’ ( to bring up) means ‘to hide’ the children from danger…

I am often asked now about the plot for my next novel. I had sketches for two stories, never finished: modern take on Ivan the Terrible’s life and madness, and the historical novel about the tragic destiny of Armenia.Too late now – the world reads these stories in the newspapers…

So, I have decided to write a fairy tale next - about the world of a puppet theatre. Most of the puppets would be frozen in apathy in the background, with only several puppets dancing in the limelight, wound up by the mighty puppeteers. And then– the puppets from the background would wake up to create the music. Their own music.

Stop what you are doing for a minute. Open the windows and listen – you will hear that Ukrainian harmony mixes the echoes of the orthodox belfries with the songs from the ‘’Varangians to Greeks’ great trade routes, with kleismer violins from Odessa and Tatar melodies…My battered, robbed country on the crossroads, will you ever find the harmony of peace and a wise, capable conductor?!

Maybe, to find this music, you should travel to Kamyanetsk-Podilsky, this micro-model of Ukraine, where the cathedral on the corner of Armenian and Tatar streets, between a Ruska Gate and a Polish gate has a minaret, and the whole city stands periliously close to the abyss…

 Or you can listen to the words of the German general  in Dovzhenko’s film ‘Ukraine in flames’,when he says to his son about the Soviet Ukrainians :‘…they lost the ability to forgive each other for different views even for the sake of common interests…They don’t have the instinct of statehood…They have been using negative slogans for the last twenty five years, they don’t accept God, or property, or family, or friendship! For them the word ‘nation’ has turned into an adjective… ’

If, after reading this, you’ll say: ‘What insolence – how dares she! We will decide for ourselves how to build a new house on the crossroads , whether to make it a fortress or a  welcoming home,we’ll decide that the word ‘ Ukraine’ should have another meaning  –  not ‘the country on the edge’, but  ‘a state’ !  If you say this, it will become the first A major note in the music of Ukraine today. Because you won’t listen to me, you’ll choose your own melody.

And maybe you’ll  ask yourself next:  ‘What fairy tale should I read to my children? What music will they choose for dancing in a circle?‘ It’s your time to sing now. 


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