‘This is not for Europe. This is for Roads without Potholes’. Here’s ‘Arry – and this what he was writing recently. Here’s Harry Kratchnikov. ‘This is for Victory, the Fight Continues’, he also wrote. And he is on his way home.
Pretend he is just a mask if you like. But he already has a life of his own. HK for Harry Kratchnikov. Harry or ‘Arry. And K for Kratchikov. Or for Kreshchatyk Street, the long main street of the city where it crosses the Maidan. Or K for Kiev. Or Kalashnikov. Or Kraznahorkai, or Kulikowski.
No. It’s K for Kratchikov, sat in a chair, and the face behind the mask is you.
When my father was dying, it didn’t feel to me like he was coming home. Mainly it felt that he was already long gone in the nursing home where he was. That is what dementia does for you the last of the six or seven years, and, the way I saw it, the last two he was completely gone. Except that last day, he did come back to die, and for his last few breaths as he went blue. He was back there with us as we listened and watched his breathing. Then the very last breath that felt like a pause rather than an ending, and hung on the air until there wasn’t another one, and then he was gone.
Whether it is better called coming home, or going home, there was something bloody minded about it. Defiance, resistance – not zest for life at all. And now he is due a medal from the Government, the Arctic Star, to add to his row of other ones. And he is up for one from the Russian State too for the Great Patriotic War if he wants it. What would he say to that posthumously speaking? In the Maidan they were looking down at the street like in your photograph, but the cobbles stones are smaller in Kiev. They dug up the street so they could continue fighting, but it is not good for the potholes. Back to the hand drawn placard, ’This is not for Europe. This is for Roads without Potholes’. There’s an irony there isn’t there HK?
Harry Kratchnikov. The name also made me remember the doctor from Kiev we met a few years ago. He was the one we met, who had come over to the west with Oxana his girlfriend, and – do you know – I think his second name was ‘K’. He had been well trained at the KNMU in the 1990′s but was earning much less than the $170 a month, which is what I read that doctors typically get now in the Ukraine. So it was a no-brainer when he got the chance to work in Holland in the 1990′s. He had to get a phony new passport and travel papers because it was before Ukraine joined the EU, but that didn’t cause too much of a problem. The trouble was the job. He was working for a euthanasia organisation and his job was snuffing life. After he did a few, maybe it was over a hundred actually, it got to him and he couldn’t go on. He had broken up with Oxana by then too. So he disappeared.
Now I am jogging my memory, you know I think his first name was Alexei. A for Alexei. But maybe it is ‘Arry now. Anything is possible. And he is coming, or going, home – wherever that may be.
Only there is a problem. They will want to know where the manuscripts were found. And everything that’s in them, and of course where they are now. Manuscripts – handwritten words in x100 Daybook Notebooks – dont turn up on NSA online spying searches do they? Or the FSB (Russia’s state apparatus), or GCHQ/MI6 computers? Yes, they will definitely want to know.
Oh dear, and I did warn you sunshine, but – more bloody-minded defiance – you insisted on publishing the extracts last week. And HK isn’t just an empty mask, is he? He is sitting in that chair right now.