Tetiana Bezruk: My Neighborhood in Kiev

Tetiana Bezruk: “My neighborhood in Kyiv after it was shelled by the Russians.” Facebook, 21 March 2022

I really love my neighborhood in Kiev.

It seems that none of my friends and acquaintances gets this. They usually laugh at it.

I can even see their point. It’s a bedroom community, and residential buildings, kindergartens, schools, and shops are the only things there. By Kiev standards, it doesn’t even have a decent bar.

Every Saturday morning, I would wake up at a “non-weekend” time. I really could have slept until 10 a.m., but I had a little ritual.

Every Saturday morning, I would first go to buy coffee in a small cafe where they also sold Basque cheesecake. The small bits of sweet сurd stuck to the roof of my mouth and smeared on my plate. It was tasty and pleasant.

After having coffee, I would go to the market. I have several stalls where I buy everything. I buy large, sweet red peppers and tomatoes at the stall over there. Un-tomato-fortunately, I’m from the Kherson region and I won’t buy just any old crappy tomatoes. Tomatoes should smell like the field, as they did when I was a child, at Dad’s “fazenda.” They should be plum-like and dense, red and redolent — not green. It’s easier to find big, beautiful peppers.

Then I would have to go deep into the market to find basil or, say, green lettuce. After that I would look for apples, but they could not be sour or sweet. Apples are also a problem: it all depends on my mood. Then I would buy pears or plums. I might also go to the woman selling sweets and buy eight caramelized-milk “nuts.”

In autumn, chrysanthemums would be sold in flowerpots at the exit from the market. At home, we called such flowers “oaklings.” They have small flowers, like calendula: yellow, brown, burgundy, pink. It’s always hard to resist them. Once, I broke down and picked out a huge flowerpot for myself. But I couldn’t pay for it because I only had a bank card on me, no cash. I was quite upset.

After the market, I would go for a walk in the woods. I would put on headphones and listen to podcasts. Admittedly, one time I got fed up with them and I just walked through the woods, watching children climbing on ropes, grownup men and women drinking in the “great outdoors,” and a little boy asking a squirrel to get down from a tree. “Squirrel, get down!” he said to it.

By the way, there are a lot of squirrels in the woods. There are even three of them on one of the trails. They are brave, unafraid of passersby. Someone even brings them nuts.

I loved those Saturdays so much. When I was tired, I would live from one Saturday to the next. I had personal reasons. :)) I walked 8-10 km a day, so I had to keep the bar high.

If these walks happened in the evening, I would return home after dark. There were dozens of lights on in every building, the windows covered with different curtains. I always wanted one of them to be mine. For this neighborhood to become a real home to me, because it was already was a home, I only had to find a good realtor and buy a flat.

That was what I had been doing for two months before full-scale war broke out. I wanted a flat in my neighborhood or in Irpen. My parents urged me on. I was stressed and said that I didn’t have time for everything, that I had a lot of work, but I was looking.

Yesterday, the Russian army shelled my neighborhood. I hate Russia for that. There are only kindergartens, schools, residential buildings, and shops in my neighborhood. And there is also a woods with ropes that children climb on weekends.

I really love the place where I live. I have always defended it in arguments with friends, trying to prove that my neighborhood is the best, because I feel good here. I’m at home here. My house has everything: my favorite hair masks and body scrub, photos of my parents, earrings that I don’t have time to wear, a new eyeliner that I spent as much time looking for as for an apartment.

I love the tall pines and the neighborhood market. I love the baklava with nuts at the store next door. I love the store that sells the flowers that I buy to bring home, because I always have to have flowers in my apartment. And my love for my home will always be stronger than the hatred in me now.

Source: Tetiana Bezruk, Facebook, 21 March 2022. Translated, from the Russian, by Thomas H. Campbell. Thanks to Ms. Bezruk, a Ukrainian journalist based in Kyiv, for her permission to publish this translation.

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