Yuriy Gurzhy’s War Diary (67): Blind in the left eye

September 17, 2022

Although I moved to Germany in 1995, my first encounter with the local anti-fascists took place much later – in March 2014, when I was at a solo evening for families with other Berlin artists and activists in the studio of the GorkiTheater who organized victims of the Kiev Maidan. Two days earlier, the following appeal had been spread in several Facebook groups: “Friends, this is Nazi propaganda from Ukrainian Benderas (sic!) who are voting for Hitler. Nazis don’t have a word in Berlin!” Despite the frightening promise, we didn’t actually get to know each other in person on the evening of the event.

Unfortunately, what came across as a very bad joke at the time turned out to be a recurring motif in the subsequent years of the Russian war in Ukraine, sometimes with slight variations. Every now and then I hear from antifa groups who think they see Nazis in Ukrainian artists. Last week, an e-mail from the Waterkant-Antifa to the Wilhelmsburg community center in Hamburg was enough for the cancellation of a concert by Oleg Skrypka at short notice.

Class-conscious anti-fascism against the Ukrainian freedom struggle

Skrypka is one of the most important Ukrainian musicians, among other things he organized the largest world music festival in Ukraine, Krajina Mrij, between 2004 and 2017. On his current tour he is collecting donations for Ukrainian children who are suffering the worst from the war. The first link in the Waterkant-Antifa-Mail contained the interview he gave to the right-wing newspaper Junge Freiheit in March – undeniably a bad decision by the musician who, I assume, did not have an adviser by his side would have.

The other three links only prove the ignorance of the Waterkant Antifa, whose concern, according to a Facebook post, is “to advance class-conscious anti-fascism in northern Germany and to break out of the comfort zone of the left-wing scene”. Apparently the fight against Ukrainian musicians has recently become part of it.

The pro-Russian symbol Z on a house facade in St. Petersburg.
The pro-Russian symbol Z on a house facade in St. Petersburg.
© Photo: Anton Vaganov/Reuters

I’m finding it difficult to continue reading. I need a break and call my friend Oleg Sosnov, who traveled to Kharkiv with French journalists from Kyiv the day before. He says the number of cars on the streets has increased compared to the last visit two months ago. “The Americans from the ‘Wall Street Journal’ stay in the same hotel … the whole world seems to be here,” he reports. But my hometown is not the terminus for Oleg today, his destination is Izyum and other towns and villages in the Kharkiv region, which was liberated from the Russian occupiers last week.

As in the case of Bucha and Irpin, there are so many gruesome stories to be told; some have already made it into the news, others will. Mass graves were found with hundreds of bodies buried mostly women and children. Traces of torture are often found on their bodies. My fellow musician Dasha, who fled Kharkiv six months ago, posts new photos on Facebook of her grandparents’ dog from the village of Tsupivka: the Russians carved a Z on its nose.

A photo of the hand of a nameless dead man from Izyum with a cheap yellow and blue bracelet went around the world… The world is watching, the brutality of the Russian occupiers is stunning us all. But when I look for a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people on the Waterkant-Antifa Facebook page, I can’t find it. Instead, you can see pictures of the anti-fascists marching through Hamburg with Soviet flags. The photos are from May 2022.

A certain bitter irony cannot be overlooked. Everyone recognizes the true fascists, only the German anti-fascists do not. But I still can’t laugh about it.

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