Yuriy Gurzhy’s War Diary (25): Grandpa’s Records and Embarrassing Vinyl Treasures

22. April 2022
I spent countless hours of my childhood in Kharkiv in my grandfather’s room. Although I’m not really allowed to call it grandpa’s room, that wouldn’t be entirely correct, since it couldn’t just belong to my grandpa. Five of us lived in a relatively small apartment and when my sister was born in 1985 we were six.

It was a connecting room, and for a few hours a day it was turned into a dentist’s office. Both my grandparents were dentists and received their patients at home. It was illegal, but they did it anyway. Now I wonder how they coped with that. My grandfather wasn’t particularly brave, and going through with the private dental practice was a daring move…

The record shops in Berlin made me euphoric

When I was young, my grandfather wanted to be a musician. Then the Second World War began, he had to flee from his hometown of Rostov from the Germans. His violin was stolen on the way to Tashkent, and after the victory he decided to study medicine rather than music. Music remained his great love.

My grandfather could play many instruments and did so whenever he got the chance. At family celebrations he always sat down at the piano. He also collected records. I was very happy to stay in the room where his records and turntables were when I was ill and couldn’t go to daycare, which was quite often the case. When he wasn’t seeing his patients, he hung up the phone for me. His taste in music was very eclectic – if he had been born 50 years later he would definitely have been a DJ.

He played children’s records to me, as well as old Jewish music, and although I had no idea what “Jewish” meant at the time, I always thought his music choices were cool. When I was 13, I discovered rock’n’roll for myself. Musically, my grandfather and I didn’t get along that well anymore, but I also started collecting records. When we emigrated to Germany in 1995, we had to part with our record collections.

As soon as I moved from the emigrant hostel to my own apartment, I got myself a record player and started buying records again. I was euphoric about what the Berlin record stores had to offer – everything I could dream of in Ukraine was there. Every Sunday I went to flea markets in search of vinyl treasures and found myself in tears every time I suddenly came across a record that I recognized from my grandfather’s collection.

It would have been pointless, absurd to buy them for him again, he had no way of playing them, and he slowly lost interest in music, like his memory. But I had to take them with me, knowing I’ll probably never listen to those records.

It became a habit. Every time I’ve been to Ukraine in the last 20 years, I’ve gone to flea markets in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Mariupol, Mykolayivka and Popasna and always brought back old records to Berlin. And sometimes it was things that I bought when I was 15 or 17 – the soundtrack of my youth.

In addition, I’m a member of the Facebook groups of Ukrainian vinyl freaks, although I hardly ever buy anything there. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed how other record lovers want to sell the old albums of Russian bands from their collections.

Is war the best medicine against nostalgia and sentimentality? The songs that played in the background at our first parties, where we got our first kiss and rolled our first joint – often they’re just embarrassing now, especially when you realize today that their performers take part in the concerts, the to support the Russian army in its “heroic military special operation”.

By Editor

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