Hard rock, climate and the darkness in Kharkiv

I visited a record fair for the first time in Kharkiv in 1991 and was deeply disappointed when I realized how little I could afford. Most of the records on offer came from abroad and were simply too expensive for a 16-year-old like me.

I had nothing better to do that day than examine the album covers closely. I was particularly impressed by the covers of Pink Floyd and the German hard rock band Scorpions. On the Scorpions album Blackout there was a guy with a bandage on his head and two forks in his eyes.

Although I spoke English fairly well, I didn’t know the word blackout. But combined with the cover art, it seemed menacing – exactly what you’d expect from a hard rock band, and that was enough for me at the time.

34 years later, I suddenly realize how records and blackouts have influenced my German-Ukrainian conversation today.

We talk to Tetiana Pylypchuk, the director of the Literary Museum in Kharkiv, about the record production of our last year’s project SkovoroDance. I’m excited – in my career as a musician there have been countless CDs, but never a real record.

Kharkiv is sinking into darkness

When I need to think about something, I stop – like now. Hopefully I won’t disturb the people rushing past on this busy corner of Pappelallee and Schönhauser Allee.

I pause at the advertising column with the Misereor advertisement. A likeable young climate activist with long hair smiles at me: “You and I protect the climate in South Africa – change the world with 2 euros.”

I read this sentence while waiting for Tetiana’s WhatsApp message. “We might want to think about a series of presentations once the record is out,” she writes. “What do you think of the idea?”

When I ask how she is doing, she replies: “Actually pretty good. We have an Ecoflow in the museum.” Ecoflow is the brand name for portable power plants that were very popular in Ukraine during last year’s power outages.

However, the hope of overcoming the severe power outages after the Russian bombings was suddenly dashed. The March 25 airstrike caused severe damage to the Kharkiv thermal power plant, and now the city is almost completely plunged into darkness.

The feeling of absolute darkness

Evening photos from Kharkiv on my friends’ Facebook pages show streets without lights, buildings with dimly lit windows and an eerie silence through which not a single car drives.

I already experienced what this absolute darkness feels like in December 2022 during my first visit to my hometown after the start of the great invasion and I have to admit, it is an eerie experience that I don’t necessarily want to live through again.

I wonder whether there is an advertising pillar somewhere in this country where climate activists and environmentalists draw the attention of passers-by to the effects of the daily Russian bomb and missile attacks on the environment in Ukraine?

Two days earlier, Russian rockets hit the neighborhood where I spent the first 13 years of my life. Many of my friends lived there, some are still there. I wrote to them.

“The rocket hit the house next door,” one replied. “I was downtown coordinating the lecture schedule with my colleagues when it happened.”

Luckily someone else was somewhere else. “I’ve been sleeping in the bathtub for days, dressed,” he wrote, “but that doesn’t matter, we’ve experienced worse.” The house where my classmate lived for years is in ruins, but she recently moved to Kiev .

By Editor

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