I admit that I sometimes try and get people talking to understand what’s going on in their heads. Today, however, I had no such plan. I only permitted myself to go outside for ten minutes to drink a cup of coffee and to look at the sun as seen from somewhere other than the window of my office. I went to my favorite coffee shop, a two-seater, without any ulterior motives. And without wanting to hobnob with anyone. I sometimes have a nice chat with the barista, because it was simply impossible to have an unpleasant chat with him before [the war]: he has no interest in politics whatsoever. He’s an exemplary sweet summer child, a vegan, the antipode of universal evil. But then he tried to get me talking, on the contrary, taking me by surprise. He suddenly started discussing Ukraine. For some reason I assumed that the hellishness going on there would disgust him, but far from it! When I said that civilians were being killed there, he was genuinely surprised. “Who’s killing them? What civilians?” In a nutshell, he has a girlfriend in Kharkiv. She stays at home, doesn’t go out, and hears gunshots, but she hasn’t mentioned anything to him about casualties. “There, in Kharkiv, you know, everything is fine, you just shouldn’t go outside.” Then he started complaining to me that, in Ukraine, they name streets in honor of [Stepan] Bandera. Tall and blond, the guy looks to be about twenty-five. Bandera is the bane of his existence, but otherwise everything is cool. Something tells me he’ll never want to learn the truth.
This feuilleton was posted friends-only on social media earlier today by an experienced and thoughtful Moscow-based journalist and activist. They have kindly permitted me to translate and publish it here. Photo by the author. (It was taken on another occasion several years ago, but seemed to fit this story.) Translated by the Russian Reader