March 6 – Natalia Klyuchareva

Translated from the Russian by Mariya Gusev

I wasn’t expecting to be this scared. It was a physiological reaction I could not control, even with all of my resolve. As soon as we got there and took our place, my knees began to tremble. This was terribly embarrassing. And I could do nothing to stop it. Cheery music wafted from a shoe store nearby. I tried dancing to it. This would help, for a little while. But then the body would freeze up again – it is impossible to move, when you are this scared. And only one type of movement remained – this unstoppable trembling.

This was the oddest protest I’ve attended in my life. None of us said a word to each other. And definitely did not yell out any slogans, did not unroll a single sign. Only one girl had a crimson scrap attached to her backpack, which read – “Why am I wearing all black? I’m burying freedom of speech.” Attached to the front of her jacket, were equally seditious scraps: “No more tears,” and “No more blood.” Later she was the first one to be detained, of course.

How can you recognize the participants of an unsanctioned protest? They are the only ones on the street wearing medical masks.

I was finally sure that we were amongst the right crowd when I saw that one girl was standing there crying.

I visualized such protests of the future – people standing on the street together, crying. Silently, and without looking at each other.

We stood there together for a long time, in silence.

Suddenly, from the sidelines, someone screamed out, “Glory to Russia!”

Things got even tenser. My eyes scanned the crowd for potential instigators: here’s some dude in a Loco hat, two bearded men from the Caucuses. The last ones, however, were taken away by the cops themselves relatively quickly. Then emerged a grandpa in a trapper hat, and began digging into one very sad woman. I remembered a long-standing skill from the rallies of my youth— to stay far away from the instigators. So I walked away and didn’t hear what he was saying to her. He almost immediately started screaming. There was the word “Ukraine” and a phrase (he shouted it very loudly): “Were you there? No? Then why are you standing here?” He very quickly went into a rage and began to shout at everyone, “Why are you all standing here, scram!”

He had a large bottle of water in his hands, and he began to pour that water on everyone around him. As if during Epiphany.

One guy began to shout at him in response: “I will write a statement on you now!”

A plainclothes man immediately approached him and said, “Let’s go, and you will write it.” They took both of them away. The grandpa came back a minute later, but the other man didn’t. The cop politely asked grandpa to wear a medical mask. And he put it on.

Then a paddy wagon solemnly drove along Kirova Street (a pedestrian street), stood in front of us and opened its barred doors hospitably. On the other side came another, bigger one.

From there came an impressive male voice, which, with Leviathan’s intonations, informed us, that we are participating in an illegal action. It felt like that voice created the action. Before that, we just stood there and watched in silence, as we were surrounded on all sides by the police and riot police (OMON). They ran through this script twice. Admittedly, it makes an impression. “Immediately stop the wrongdoing.” Which one? Standing silently on Kirov Street? “Otherwise we will use special means.” The crowd scattered. I grabbed N. by the arm and quickly dove around the corner. Behind me, some girl shouted, “Please, not me! I’m little!”

That scream is still in my ears.

Almost all of them were very small. And almost all were girls. In round glasses.

Read End of the World Diary Pt. I here

Read End of the World Diary pt. II here

Read a poem by Natalia Klyuchareva here

Natalia Klyuchareva is a poet, prose writer, and journalist. She was born in Perm, Russia, in 1981. She was shortlisted for the 2002 Debut Prize for Poetry and her first book of poems, White Pioneers (ARGO-Risk Press), was published in 2006. Her novel A Train Named Russia was nominated for the National Bestseller Prize, and subsequently translated into five languages. Her short story “A Year in Paradise,” which appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 2009), and as part of the Rasskazy anthology by Tin House Books (2009), received the 2007 Yury Kazakov Prize and the Eureka Prize. Other publications include SOS (a novel, Limbus Press 2009), a book of essays, and A Village of Fools.

Photo – Russian OMON policeman attacked with snowball, Sergey Korneev/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: War in Ukraine


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