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.