Notes and Diaries From Kyiv (shared from the Instagram profile @asiabazdyrieva)
Before the invasion
Kyiv is so quiet these days. How many people have actually left? Hundreds or thousands? While media attention is no longer here (I'm seeing international journalists wandering pointlessly through the streets though), and the shelling along the eastern borders seem to remain unnoticed, I am-we are, strangely alarmed by the twisted narratives that are coming from Russian news, on multiple levels, targeting different audience and attempting to fracture what we see and what we make sense of. We are still waiting. The most meaningful time is now spent by my friends. We join households, we sit an a parlor and make jokes, trying to be a bit louder than the cold emptiness, the pressure of which comes from every corner.
Slept for good 7 hours; Delivered resources for Molotovs and medical aid to the Territorial Defense; Moved a plant into a bigger pot; Downloaded the book sent by Merve; For the first time in these four days I've: ate chocolate, casually chatted on a phone about cats and books; had a zoom call where I've heard words "scope" and "timeline" as if from the parallel universe.
The call was war-related though, and I quit abruptly when sirens signal air raid, and we ran to hide in a trench next to our house.
28. 2. 2022
*hallucinated sirens and fighter aircrafts*
*at 5 a.m. had an anxiety attack*
Useless and demoralized the whole day.
I am not helpless, I choose to not be a refugee (yet). I am with my family in our only home, and I want to be here when Russians collapse.
Every time I open social media now, I’m feeling more and more isolated. Seems like almost everyone left. | went for a long walk (for the first time!) for the sake of sanity. The city is now a fortress and on the streets I was reminded that I was not alone. The city park was full of people who went on their Sunday promenade. Coffee and cakes were in good supply (the candy factory nearby put a sign that they were functioning as the bomb shelter). The vibe downtown was like: “russkies, we've got life, so stop this self victimizing whining, denazify yourself and buzz off.”
This doesn't mean that the situation is normalized, no. Other towns were nearly eliminated, besieged, cut off. Russians continuously targeting civilians and critical infrastructures. The death toll now counts in thousands. There are millions of people who cannot leave. And the main threat is Russian fascism.
I go to to get flowers, it's March 8th. Flower kiosks are open. I prefer tulips, but tulips are cash only. Cash is scarce, ATMs no longer work, but cards do so I proceed to the supermarket where I find Hyacinths. Women's hygiene products are out of stock everywhere.
It's been quiet for a few days now in our area. No sirens. No panic. I took note of what S. told me the other day: "It is important to clearly mark dates and reflect on how things change. Reflect, analyze, structure this flow." It's all I do now.
If I considered leaving? Yes I did. Yet by now I'm mostly interested in how the nature of these considerations has changed across the full spectrum. A few days ago I was in panic, I feared isolation and violence. Given the evidence, there is no crime that Russians cannot do. I recalled my friends being detained, kept in basements, tortured in Donbas for their articulate political position-or months. My fear was physical and very real. I was thinking about evacuation, and then I was thinking about my parents whom I didn't want to leave behind, and then I cursed Russians for putting me in the position of needing to choose between staying endangered with my family and becoming a refugee. Then I gave myself one more day to think about it, and then one more, and then one more.
I received a notification that I, as a freelancer who lost income due to the war, I can receive a one-off payment from the government — obout 200$. Then I found out I was not eligible because my tax office resides in an area which is considered not damaged by the war.
Then a former Fulbright fellow asked if I had an apartment on Airbnb, because people from all over the world book apartments in Ukraine to support people. And then I said I don't have real estate, neither my money comes this way. I earn through teaching, which is now ancelled entirely. Who needs art history now? (Do I need art history now?).
How long can I live while bing reduced entirely o the war? Existentially, economically.
Insomnia is back. When I cannot sleep I read western media. Their analytics now goes as follows:
It is economically beneficial for the west to close the sky now. So not because Ukrainians deserve to live, but because sooner or later - when Baltic states (NATO) are endangered - the west will have to do it anyways. So why postponing it and spending so much money on the refugees in the meantime.
Also, my hyacinth:
Asia Bazdyrieva (UA) is a researcher and art historian. Her research interests range from histories of modernist utopia to grassroots expressions that challenge dominant historical narratives. She studied analytical chemistry at the National University of Kyiv (2009) and art history at The City University of New York as a Fulbright grantee (2017). Previously, she worked for Storefront for Art and Architecture (New York), IZOLYATSIA platform for Cultural Initiatives (Kyiv), ART UKRAINE magazine (Kyiv), amongst others. In 2018, she was a postgraduate researcher in The New Normal design think-tank at the Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design (Moscow). She is currently based in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Together, Bazdyrieva and Suess co-author ‘Geocinema’— a series of documentary-led investigations that examine infrastructures of earth-sensing data as forms of cinema. In 2018-2019 they were Digital Earths fellows.