Radka Rubilina: The State Border, Ukraine 2007
Monitoring of an election process can be very thrilling, though not really in case you have been assigned to an uninhabited land strip alongside the Ukraine – Russia state border; not much of the election thrill you can expect here. Election observers tend to serve in pairs and this time I was paired up with a curious 60-year old man, named Morton, from Canada. “I have one wish,” Morton shared with me, “I would like to see the state border”. So, the day before the election - during which each pair should get to know their election district - we declared as a trip day.
We arrived to a village Oleksandrivka. We went to the election place and checked with the local election committee on a preparation status, obviously culminating before the opening day. Then, we drove until passing the last house in the village; after that point we had to get out as there was only a damp meadow ahead and the car would get stuck. We got out and walked. It was a warm day powered by the autumn sunshine. Silence everywhere. Fairly ahead of us, a winding river created the borderline. Nobody patrolled it. Cows were out and grazing on a fresh pasture, in a same manner on both sides. The river, half-way blocked with overgrown stalks of reed, flowed calmly, being rocked only occasionally by mild waves. We were experiencing ultimate peace and time, most likely, did not exist here.
After roaming around for a few minutes, we even found a sign on a pole stating that this is the official state border. Yet, during my sprightly hopping around with a camera while taking pictures, somehow I kicked the pole and it started to go down. As I tried to prevent its fall, catching it with my hand, only the sign with a text ended up between my fingers; the rest was laying on the grass. I sort of expected to see a border patrol together with a watch dog rushing out from some hiding place in bushes, but nothing was happening. I thoughtfully looked at the sign, Morton peeking over my shoulder. The driver just shrugged his shoulders and then brought a shovel from our car. We placed the pole back in to the ground and the torn-off sign propped against it.
Later, Morton was staring out the car window without saying anything. Suddenly he turned to me and said: “Listen, you should take that sign home, as a souvenir.” “I know,” I answered to him, “but I was worried what you would think of me.” All the cultural and age-related differences faded away by now and therefore, our last stroll event did not take me by surprise. I and Morton were hurrying to have a last supper in Luhansk, the district town. We heard street musicians playing somewhere in a distance. Morton stopped unexpectedly at the moment and asked: “Shall we dance?” “Certainly, “I agreed. We were dancing around on the falling-apart asphalt sidewalk; in a town, where high-rise buildings were crumbling away and where all capable individuals have been already gone so that families could be fed and also children could go to school and live normal life.
I have no idea how the musicians appeared here. Yet, I can say that if one knows how to enjoy life then she/he can find beauty anywhere: be it a place with a meaningless state border or an abandoned town with street-wandering musicians.
Radka Rubilina /Bzonkova/, 2007, Ukraine