???????????????????????????????Again I am here, in the city where I spent the best years of my life… Again, the trees are very green and thick in their greenness, and they reach well over the fifth floor where my flat is.  And the sky is very blue and very high. A kind of a southern woody plant is blossoming right into my window. I don’t know the name of the plant – a sycamore? a plane-tree? or maybe a Hippocrates’ tree? I don’t think the name matters a great deal as long as big and heavy clusters of white blossom mix with the high blue sky right before my eyes.

Almost every time when I come to the city, I go to ???????????????????????????????the place where the city was started about two and a half centuries ago. Once I lived here with my family. Looking at these low houses on both sides of the narrow lanes, you can imagine how it was at that time – in the middle of the 18th century. Czarist soldiers were settled here after they had retired from their military service. Up the street there was their hospital (it has remained a hospital until this moment). Next to the hospital there was a church and a cemetery. I do not remember the church (it exists no longer), but I remember the cemetery, which was razed at the time when I was in my teens.

???????????????????????????????Since the Maidan victory in Kyiv  last winter the city has noticeably changed. It has become more pro-Ukrainian and more patriotic. A couple of monuments to former communist leaders have been knocked down and the free pedestal in the central square is used to commemorate those who died in February fighting against the hateful regime of Yanukovych. One of those who was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Maidan was a local citizen. Now the street which earlier was named after a top KGB functionary bears his name.

A feature that strikes the eye is the blue-and-yellow ???????????????????????????????colors which you see now and then. Electric poles, fountains, bridge railings are often painted in the colors of the national flag. Small flags are fixed on the tops of cars, bigger banners may be seen displayed on balconies or in windows. When I arrived in here the day before yesterday, the first person I met when I got off the coach, was a young man wearing a “vyshyvanka” – a shirt  embroidered in the national Ukrainian pattern. You would like to have a vushyvanka too? No problem – there’s a firm here that will make them specially for you within a couple of days.

???????????????????????????????When Viktor Yanukovych became President in 2010, he appointed his “overseers” from Donbas  all over Ukraine. On my last visit here, the odious names and faces (the “city elders from Donbas”) were teaching from billboards what to do and how to arrange life in the city they had never lived in before. Now they are gone, but their faces and names are brought together by the city community onto one common billboard and the stamp “persona non grata” is affixed to each of the portrayed.

However, every cloud has its silver lining. Once the dwellers of a block of flats where I live complained to ???????????????????????????????an “overseer” about their living conditions:  poor water supply, shabby pipes, unsatisfactory central heating… Trying to be helpful as much as he could, but being unable to meet the request, the overseer “presented” them with a bench to sit on at the entrance to the building. Fearing lest the bench might be stolen in the night, the dwellers kept it in their flats for a few days, and after they had bought some cement and had found a couple of hands to dig up the pit and embed the bench in concrete there, they felt almost happy. Now the Big Brothers from Donbas are gone, but the bench remains – for old grannies to sit on and to talk about politics.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????



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