Returning from Chornobyl you feel dirty. “Get clean again!” rings in my head. Back in Kyiv I took a hot shower, then a bath, gave all my clothes to the laundry and slept for a long time. Breakfast in clean clothes with normal hotel guests without camouflage, fresh coffee, porridge with honey, bliny, croissants - back to life!
After breakfast I enjoy a walk in the city center. I turn around the Bessarabskiy Market towards Khreshchatyk, the Champs Elysées of Kyiv. Young people enjoying a Sunday late morning stroll, small groups, young couples. I’m walking under the iconic chestnut trees which are paving the pathway with their golden leaves, and passing Vitaliy Klichko’s town hall. This is exactly where I lived in 1995 and 1996 and every spot is charged with memories for me.
Later, I meet Denys in a cefé, a hydrologist from Kyiv who has a laboratory in Chornobyl. I’m asking him about the time when Chornobyl was occupied by the Russian Army. He says: “It was weird, they messed up my office, but when I cleaned it up, I realized that no hard drive, no documents, no scientific book was missing. The only thing which they took away was - my favorite book: the autobiography of Keith Richards”. He adds with a bitter smile: “You must know: I’m a big Stones fan.” And I wonder where this book is now, if he’s still alive, if he had believed what Russian propaganda had told him, or if he had protested against Putin in a time when that was actually possible.