Redak­tion „novinki“

Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­sität zu Berlin
Sprach- und lite­ra­tur­wis­sen­schaft­liche Fakultät
Institut für Slawistik
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin

#War­Diary 7 or #NoDan­ce­Diary

Über einen Monat nach Beginn des Kriegs Russ­lands gegen die Ukraine reflek­tiert Lina Zalitok in ihrem 7. Ein­trags ins #War­Diary über die Rolle des Tan­zens in ihrem Leben.

31st day of war. I spent already one month in my town. It is still rela­tively quiet, if one ignores air sirens. Recently I cannot get rid of the fee­ling that I am rather useless in stop­ping this war here. Actually like any­where else. The only dif­fe­rence is that here I could become meat for mis­siles or bul­lets one day. It would be not much meat though. My 50 kg don’t take much space, so it is not much likely that a mis­sile is going to hit me. Also, I still believe that our Army won’t let the bar­ba­rians come here. But you never know. Death has always been my favou­rite topic. To be honest, I could die soon because of anything else in any other place in the world. As people in Odesa say, you have to die because of some­thing (надо же от чего-то умереть).

I have not­hing to lose, which gives me a lot of power and makes me almost fearless. I don’t have any achie­ve­ments, any pos­ses­sions, I don’t have children, I am not even in love. Not com­ple­tely fearless, because I know that I am more than 50 kg meat. I have a life to lose which I could finally live according to who I am and what I want (if I find out). Since my school-years I have been told that I have a great poten­tial. I agree: I feel it in my veins, espe­cially strongly since in October I got 30 years old and rea­lised that I have been hol­ding my life pas­sion in prison and not allowing it to see the daylight.

After my last bir­thday I started to dance every day, alone and in dance classes, at dance par­ties in Kyiv and abroad. I had been lear­ning to dance with a con­stant fee­ling that I should hurry up. I felt some mys­te­rious time pres­sure. Maybe it was because I turned 30, maybe because ‘carpe diem’ has always been my inner mantra, maybe because I thought that because of corona, dance classes would again be pro­hi­bited or maybe because my body somehow felt, that this war was coming, even if I hadn’t thought much about the pos­sible war. I had just thought that I had to make the most of every day and that I had to learn to dance as a long as it was still pos­sible. Before ano­ther Corona out­break, before I decide to move to ano­ther country (my dance tea­chers in Kyiv are won­derful), before I get too old, before I get mar­ried, etc.

Com­bi­ning a full-time job with dan­cing was anything but easy, so in order to save time for com­mu­ting, I moved into a flat in the buil­ding next to my dance studio, with a small dance room with a big mirror. In November and December, I visited three dance fes­ti­vals in Cracow and spent one work­shop wee­kend in Ger­many with a genius dance tea­cher from the USA. I took a plane every two weeks and I didn’t feel bad about envi­ron­ment, because after corona pan­demic started, I only once tra­velled to Berlin by plane. Apart from that, I didn’t have enough vaca­tion days left to travel by train. All of these three lindy hop dance fes­ti­vals started on Thursday evening and ended on Sunday. On Thursday the dance party ends at around 3 a.m., on Friday at around 5 a.m., on Saturday it is the big­gest party ending at 6 a.m. and on Sunday at around 3 a.m. I danced as much as I could and till the very end of each party. During the day, on Friday and wee­kend I would also go to some 3 hours of dance classes each day with inter­na­tional tea­chers. On Mon­days, I would already be working in my office. I felt unstopp­able and driven by some powerful force. I felt so happy many dozens of days in a row that I often couldn’t fall asleep.

Lindy hop changed my per­so­na­lity and I (re)discovered the impor­t­ance of my body. Social dan­cing is like a life meta­phor, so I couldn’t help sharing my insights and expe­ri­ence in a dance diary, which I started to write on my Face­book. In this way I com­bined the pas­sion for dan­cing and for wri­ting. I even wrote some poems. It was like coming back to myself, because I hadn’t been wri­ting since I was 22 years old or some­thing. After fee­ling lonely in Kyiv during one year or so (it had seemed to me impos­sible to make friends when having a full-time job) and con­ti­nuing to hang out online with my friends in Ger­many, I finally met lots of won­derful people in Kyiv, because lindy hop is not just about dan­cing, it is a com­mu­nity. Almost all of my dance friends were like me dan­cing very inten­sely before the war esca­lated. We had a sharp fee­ling of life. It was shar­pened by corona, but two weeks before the war it was even more shar­pened by the expec­ta­tion of war. Here is what I wrote in my #Dan­ce­Diary on February, 18:

“As for pos­sible war and the ques­tion about having fun during hard times, remember the Dance of Death and the burying rituals of many eth­ni­ci­ties like hut­suls who dance and sing during fun­e­rals. Dan­cing helps me to feel more alive, come back to myself (at least par­ti­ally) and rea­lize that I am stronger than all the anxie­ties and life dif­fi­cul­ties. To illus­trate, lindy hop and authentic jazz were not invented by happy rich gen­tlemen and women, but by slaves. For me dan­cing is even more inspi­ring during hard times (also per­sonal ones), because then I dance in spite of all. There is some­thing powerful in the word com­bi­na­tion “in spite of all”. To sum­ma­rize, dan­cing is to my mind life- and love-affir­ming.” I also com­mented on one of the posts of my dance friend exp­lai­ning why it was not light-hearted to dance in times of war anti­ci­pa­tion: “Let’s “dance out” our fear and suf­fe­ring! Lindy hop and solo jazz were invented by people with a tragic fate, who, des­pite slavery, found the joy of life in self-expres­sion and music.”

On February, 22 I was too late for my evening dance class because of work and I somehow ended up in a bar next to my flat where there was live music. I ordered ice-cream and wanted to finish one work task. I felt so cool: It was my first time going alone to a bar; it was the first time I went to that music bar close to my flat where I couldn’t go before because of lack of time; I had a won­derful job; I was living in Kyiv centre like a prot­ago­nist of the book I recently trans­lates into German; but first and fore­most, I was lis­tening to live music in a bar full of people IN SPITE OF all the war anxiety. I even posted a short video of the con­cert as aFace­book story with a hashtag #FuckWar, but deleted it after one hour, as it sud­denly seemed to me irrele­vant and inap­pro­priate. Later, when the war esca­lated, I thought, it was stupid of me: I had better packed my bag for quick evacua­tion that evening. However, I am happy that that evening I spon­ta­ne­ously decided to visit that bar and to walk through the famous Kyiv Food Market for the first time.

It’s been 31 day since me and many of my friends have not been dan­cing. I was wrong that dan­cing was necessary for life, at least it is not necessary for My life, at least for now. Many of my dance friends, who have been dan­cing and even tea­ching many years, stopped dan­cing. I am so sorry for them, because for many of them it is their pro­fes­sion and they cannot live it for the second time, the first one was because of corona lock­down. But there are Ukrai­nian dan­cers, mostly living abroad, who con­tinue dan­cing now. Frankly, it hurts a lot to read that they still dance and go to dance fes­ti­vals. I click away all the photos and videos from the recent dance fes­ti­vals like one clicks away photos of an ex-partner after a bre­akup. I haven’t been lis­tening to jazz music and haven’t been watching dance videos since the war esca­lated. Before the war I did it every day to get some inspi­ra­tion or to learn some­thing new. Some days ago my dance friend sent me a lindy hop video illus­tra­ting soli­da­rity, but I couldn’t force myself to click on the „Play“-button.

Several days ago I can­celled my par­ti­ci­pa­tion at „Jazz Roots Fes­tival“ in mid-April in Paris, where I was going to go tog­e­ther with my dance tea­cher. As we booked it in January, it felt like a dream to us. To me because it would be my first solo jazz fes­tival (I just started dan­cing solo) and because I love Paris and because I was going there with my dance tea­cher like equals alt­hough I was a com­plete beginner. To my dance tea­cher, it seemed like a dream because the year before she couldn’t go there because of Corona. The orga­nisers reim­bursed our fees very quickly and I am very thankful for that. The orga­nisers of Retro-wee­kend dance fes­tival in mid-March in Warsaw also reim­bursed us very quickly. Wiz­zair can­celled our flights and reim­bursed us without wai­ting for our reim­bur­se­ment request. It was nice, because I wasn’t sure I would manage to put myself tog­e­ther to ask for reim­bur­se­ment. I still have a ticket for ano­ther dance fes­tival in Turin star­ting on April, 29 and some­thing stops me from can­cel­ling my par­ti­ci­pa­tion. Maybe the same thing which stops me from dele­ting all my Google calendar noti­fi­ca­tions about my dance and yoga classes. I still see them every day like a reminder that there was a dif­fe­rent life once upon a time and that maybe one day it will continue.

This Thursday I moved out of my flat with a dance room with a mirror in Kyiv where I used to walk through beau­tiful streets remin­ding me of Brussels. Maybe because of art nou­veau buil­dings or because of hills. The war was not the only reason for my decision. The flat owner made a bad impres­sion on me on the very first day. Several days ago he asked me either to take my things from his flat or to pay a rent with „a good dis­count“. I chose the first option andhe told me to pay the rent for two „extra days“ of „staying in Kyiv“, because we signed the con­tract on Sep­tember, 22. He also deducted 100 UAH (some 3 Euro) mon­thly “dis­count” from my bail (Kau­tion), which he had given me for a ward­robe purchase, which I didn’t buy in the end. Such tho­rough cal­cu­la­tions sur­prised me, then made me angry, later I found them­ri­di­cu­lous, now I pity him, because he sounds like a person with mental problems.

He didn’t pay me back the rest of the bail, so I didn’t give him my key back. The Scroo­ge­seemed to be totally unim­pressed by the war esca­la­tion and was sure he was going to find a new tenant easily. Later he pro­mised to me on the phone to transfer the rest of the bail „in the near future“ and com­p­lained to me about his finan­cial losses because of the pre­vious tenant and pro­blems with health. I told him ever­ything I think about him, and he ans­wered to me that I was the one who was unfair in war­time. He does have his own key from the apart­ment and could enter it. But maybe it is uncom­for­table to think that some other person has a key from your apartment…

The good thing is that he is not Ukrai­nian. He has the same citi­zenship as those bar­ba­rians who invaded my country. I don’t care about the money, it is about jus­tice. Quickly packing my things to the sound of air sirens was a spe­cial expe­ri­ence. But having found an unknown man who was ready to trans­port my belon­gings from Kyiv to my town without asking for any remu­ne­ra­tion, was much more spe­cial. I had texted to my Ukrai­nian dance friend living in Ger­many that I was loo­king for a car and he sent to me the phone number of this man five minutes later. Later my friend told me: Ever­ything is all right, you got this flat when you needed to dance, now you don’t need to dance, so you gave it back.

The first weeks of war esca­la­tion my body felt like a stone, I started again to live only in my head like many years, before I (re)started dan­cing. My bad pos­ture was back. But on day 17 or so I sud­denly started to feel that my body was waking up. Then I started to feel the strength in my body and all the changes after months of inten­sive dan­cing. So all of that was not in vain. Some days ago I had also two online warm-ups with two dance tea­chers who orga­nised them to raise our spirit. We moved our bodies, but we didn’t dare to dance. In the first days of war I said I would never dance again. I feel like there is a fun­eral every day. And there is indeed a daily fun­eral, in dif­fe­rent parts of Ukraine, with or without fun­eral cere­mo­nies, with indi­vi­dual or mass graves like in the Second World War. I cannot dance when my people are dying. Butnow I think that maybe one day I will dance, I am almost sure I will dance, because it is won­derful and I won’t let those bar­ba­rians take hap­pi­ness and love away from us.

Bild­quelle: © Olek­sandr Kova­lenko, 2022. Die Autorin des Bei­trags auf ihrer letzten großen Tanz­party und das erste Mal auf der Bühne mit einer Jazz-Nummer in solo.