Slava Ukraini !

The horrific events regarding Ukrain, remind me of the people I got to know whilst working on a commercial shoot, back in 2014. They must be living through hell, as I write these words, and for the foreseeable future — hour by hour, day by day…relentlessly.

Mostly, my thoughts go to an excellent location handler who spent most of the week looking after all my photographic requirements — Roman. At the end of one very cold day (no lunch break as daytime for outdoor photography was precious in January) Roman invited me for a late afternoon “lunch” his mother has already made for us, in his parent’s flat, few stories below the precarious roof we were standing on — a typical block of flat in Kiev which provided me with the perfect panorama. This generous invitation gave me an opportunity to better understand real Ukrainian way of living. It was a memorable experience.Knowing I am Jewish, Roman also took me to Babi Yar and allowed me few minutes, on my own, among this enormity of snow-venerated, silent whiteness and trauma (few days ago, this site was bombed too, killing 6 civilians). Roman also provided an additional bit of imformation regarding the Jewish-Ukraine links — explaining to me the important influence of Jewish humor on Ukrainian culture. That influential Jewish humor was apparently originated in Odessa (my grandfather is said to have left Odessa, secretly, when escaping the Communists to Istanbul in 1929).

When the UK vfx crew arrived at the centre of Kiev — January 2014 — we were welcomed by a Ukrainian tank in the middle of the square, outside our hotel, and a crowed listening to a patriotic speech by their, then, president. The UK producer told us the following morning to always carry our passports with us, as we may be asked to evacuate to the airport at a very short notice. Arrogantly, I belittled this. Little did I realize, then, the enormity of the Russian threat, and its realness — then 100km away from Kiev (so I was told).
It was during that time in Kiev that I learnt the shout ‘Slava Ukraini!’ and when we parted ways — I was given a present from the driver who took me around: the “Putin toilet paper” and the butterfly in the Ukrainian national colours. A sticker-symbol for their resistance. These are kept, ever since, on the shelves of my basement office in the comfort of my London home. I never thought they would mean so much to us all in the free world.

So, in case any of you, Roman and the rest of the Ukrainian friends out there, even have a chance or inclination to read this — my thoughts are with you, your families and friends.

Slava Ukraini !