The following night, Anna and I had our 9pm meeting with a different person to usual, and his name was Viktor Sergeyevich. Viktor was a professional children’s entertainer his role at the camp was to present the evening performances. He was a Ukrainian man from Lughansk, he had come to Russia to escape the war. After we had discussed our schedule for the next day, Viktor offered us tea and we sat longer to chat with him.
He said he wanted to go home but he couldn’t. His parents, sister and niece were all still in Lughansk and were unable to leave. He said he still couldn’t believe it was happening. The night before the troops came to the city he hosted a graduation ball – which included bed and breakfast the following day. In the morning he said they could go outside and take their first look at the world as independent adults. They went outside and saw planes flying overhead, and bombs dropping. The new graduates were crying. Apparently the Second World War had begun at the same time of year in that city, graduation time, for that group of young adults it is just when their hopes are highest.
It was so sad to hear him talk about his beautiful city and happy life being destroyed by war. He talked to us about the corruption in the government, and opined that it was up to them whether they let the country get completely destroyed or not. It was also unsettling to see him – a professional children’s entertainer – talk so very gravely, with staring, unsmiling eyes. I think I forgot that evening that he was the same man that boogied about shaking his hips on stage and told the children funny stories in a squeaky woman’s voice. When he and his fiancé (now wife) had come to Russia they had 5,000 roubles – about 60 pounds. It was 10,000 roubles to rent a flat for the month, so they paired up with a girl who also had 5,000 roubles. They had no money that month, for food, or even water, and it was a scorching summer. Viktor said as soon as he got a job and could afford things again he was so hugely thankful for everything, things like water. It was sad because Viktor was only 28, yet he looked at least ten years older, with a weathered face and grey temples. He showed us photos of him a year or two ago, and his hair was dark and his skin clear. He had aged so much in such a short time. We talked about happy things too. He talked for a while about why his favourite colour is purple, because it’s the colour of magic and fantasy. He made us a yellow balloon dog each, because yellow is our favourite colour. Nevertheless, Anna and I left that meeting feeling rather solemn.