We spoke to three people affiliated with Kyiv club Closer.

todayMarch 5, 2022 19 1

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  • Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine has left its rich electronic music community in tatters, with many artists, promoters, club owners and staff forced to flee the country. After speaking to Nastia, Woo York‘s Denys Andriyanov, staff at Kyiv club (AKA K41) and Berghain resident Etapp Kyle, we managed to reach three people affiliated with Kyiv club Closer, including the owner, Sergiy Vel. All the comments and answers have been edited for length and clarity. We will update this piece as we speak to more people. This roundup piece includes various ways to help the situation in Ukraine, plus some useful resources and messages of solidarity. Last updated: 4:30 PM GMT, March 3rd

    Sergiy Vel (Closer cofounder)

    Living underground

    I was having my breakfast at my home when I heard the airstrikes smash into the TV broadcasting antenna. I could see the fire from my window. Some of our resident artists left for holidays in January but they are very worried and are texting us every hour. At night, I sleep in a bomb shelter with about 20 families, including children. There’s about 50 people there. We try to keep the women and children safe by keeping vigil through the night. Some people are making anti-tank fortifications. The bomb shelters were built during the Second World War so we’re using them now. They have toilets, hot water and tea. We only come up for food and each time we hear the sirens, we go back downstairs.

    Community effort

    I spent five days underground with my wife and daughter but I put them on a train yesterday so now they’ve gone to western Ukraine because it’s safer for them there. Many people are doing many great things to help the situation and our efforts to provide food from the big supermarkets is small in comparison. For example, venues like Atlas have been providing food for more than a thousand people every day.

    The future

    But we’re looking to the future with optimistic eyes. There’s been a lot of corruption and political problems in Ukraine so this war will change our country because it’s bringing people together closer than before. There is another world and another future coming. And I think we will legalise marijuana in Ukraine—I can see this happening and I believe it because our president is close to people, close to young people too, he understands their dreams. The old stupid situations will change. We are free people here. We had two revolutions in the last ten years and we have a war now. People in Russia don’t know what is happening in Ukraine. But they think they are helping us. The support we are seeing from people around the world is so important to us. Everyday I receive phone calls from people everywhere. They say such great words and this means so much to us. Believe me when this whole thing is over we are going to have one big party at Closer.

    Alisa Mullen (Closer PR)

    Becoming a refugee overnight

    It turns out that I’m now a refugee. At the moment I’m in Romania. Since the war started eight days ago my son and I have slept in five different places. On Friday we will already be in Berlin, where my friends have found us a separate apartment for the whole of March. I really miss my spacious apartment in Kyiv near the cycle track. In my head, I constantly make a list of the things I used at home every day. The plants will wither, I had a lot of them. But I will definitely be back. I was never ready to emigrate, absolutely everything suited me in my Kyiv. Almost everyday we were meeting our friends, relatives, having fun, having our habitual routine.

    Salvaging vinyl and toys

    When we were urgently packing, as the first rockets had already been fired at my city and other cities in Ukraine, the most important things were about 40-50 of my favourite records, removing the covers from them to make more space. And I also took a ping-pong racket that [my best friend] Vlad presented to me. I almost didn’t take any clothes. These will always be easy to buy. [My son] Danny took toys and one PlayStation joystick.

    The men stayed behind

    And it was the right decision to take only a couple of backpacks because we crossed the border with Romania on foot. Unfortunately, my beloved best friend, who drove us in a car, as well as our other friends, couldn’t leave because of the militarization in Ukraine—men are forbidden to leave the country. The guys joined the so-called IT ARMY of UKRAINE, and I started a Telegram news channel for foreigners who also stayed in Ukraine, as well as for everyone who wants to be fully involved in what is happening. Before all this, I thought that war is for the army, for the military. But it turned out that this applies to absolutely everyone. Each person is finding how to be useful and help achieve a common goal. I’m extremely proud of our people. At some point, I wanted to return to Kyiv and take up arms, as many did. But, of course, for me the most important thing is to get my child to a safe place. Thank God I have this opportunity.

    It’s time for action

    What do I think about Russian artists? There are those who have been spending nights at the police station. There are clubs that have stopped their work for an indefinite period as a sign of protest—and because their employees go to rallies. And there are those who simply shared the poster “I am Russian I am against the war,” and went to a gig that same night. By the way, more than 20 children have already died in Ukraine. Passive actions won’t count. Only brave, determined Russians can stop the war. I am very grateful to the world, to Europe, to everyone who helps stop this with information or physically, or who writes personally, who writes publicly, who takes to the streets. Brands and companies, as well as countries that have supported refugees. I can’t imagine how we would all go through this if we were left alone with this war. Glory to Ukraine! A Russian warship, go fuck yourself!

    Pavel Plastikk (Closer resident DJ)

    Yesterday, I woke up at 4 AM and went to the border to send my kids, wife and parents-in-law to a safe place in Poland. Separating families for me is the worst decision made by our government during this war. I’m not sure they are aware of what they’re doing now. Later that day, I walked my dog and went to see some friends near Lviv. It’s exhausting. I call my parents every hour to check if they are alive as they stayed under the bombs in Kharkiv. About 90 percent of my friends decided to stay in Ukraine, some in Kyiv, some in the Western part. We are trying to be online every day and checking each other’s situation. I haven’t communicated with Russians. I stopped speaking with them eight years ago after Russia attacked our lands. Things that will help us now are shelters, donations and banning Russia from everything.

    Etapp Kyle

    I am currently in my home town of Chernivtsi, about 500 km south-west of Kyiv and 40km from the Romanian border. My day starts with a cigarette while reading the news. It’s been calm here. Nothing is happening except for the sound of civil defence sirens—luckily they were false alarms. So far, I’ve been helping out here and there. I managed to evacuate my family by taking them to the border and arranging a pick up on the other side. Afterwards, I joined some friends and helped out financially. We purchased requested goods for the army and delivered them to one of the distribution centres. That day, just before curfew kicked in, we managed to help a guy stuck at the train station in Chernivtsi and find him shelter in the apartment I had rented for my mother. It was lucky he got there in time because it’s very strict now, people seen outside are even arrested during curfew. It meant he was able to continue his movements the next day. Mostly though, I’ve been helping with logistics for a group of drivers trying to evacuate people from the Kyiv direction. Unfortunately, we haven’t so far managed to send even one van as the only available route near Kyiv is reportedly also being bombed now. It’s a mess, to be honest. My family is safe now. Got a message from [his wife] Daria that she has finally arrived in Berlin a few hours ago and my mom is on the way to Milan (she lives there) so they are fine. On the other hand, lots of my friends are stuck in Kyiv and I wish I could be more helpful so far with evacuation. Difficult to say how I feel about the curfew on men. When we reached my region, I was looking for ways to flee the country but realised I won’t find peace in Berlin either, so I decided to embrace it and try to be useful here. I actually felt relieved to know my loved ones finally crossed the border, I was more worried while they were here. And I’ve been able to speak with Daria several times a day. People outside of Ukraine can help by firstly spreading the information about this situation. It’s very important this topic doesn’t leave the headlines even for a second. It helps people to stay alert and active by offering shelters and donations. It feels like we are just a few days away from this madness to end, so let’s keep on pushing.

    ∄ Club Team Member A

    Leaving Kyiv

    I fled Kyiv on Thursday night. I went to the station with three of my colleagues. One of them has a dog. At the station, we had one ticket to go to Lviv. We were trying to get four people on this one ticket, then we saw there was a direct night train to Warsaw, so two of us went to this train because the others wanted to go to Lviv first. So we just pushed our way onto the train. Some of the tracks were destroyed from the attacks so we took a detour. It took 30 hours. We were stuck for four hours at the Ukrainian-Polish border but we were super lucky because we were some of the first people to get through. I made it to Berlin and I’m now trying to help some colleagues leave Ukraine by organising logistics to get them out of the country. If I had waited another five minutes on that platform in Kyiv, I wouldn’t have gotten out of Ukraine for another few days. But at that time we didn’t know. Nobody knew there would be extreme shelling on Kyiv on the second night. We were still expecting the first day of bombing to be a distraction from the war that was pushing in from eastern Ukraine. Nobody knew what was happening: if the trains were going, if the metros were going, if the border was open, and so on. Everyone else was stuck in Kyiv or in some western towns in Ukraine, and there was heavy shelling on Kyiv that night, which also resulted in the curfew, which started [on Saturday] at 5 PM and ends on Monday at 8 AM. There is heavy violence in the streets and no one is allowed to leave their homes or shelter.

    Trapped colleagues

    My colleagues are Ukrainian, but we also have American, Armenian, Belarussian, Danish and German team members. We’re trying to get about ten to 15 of them out. I know at least 30 team members that are still in Kyiv and I will talk with them again to see who wants to stay and who wants to leave. My colleagues who went to Lviv have been stuck there since 4 AM on Friday morning and we still haven’t managed to get them out. Lviv is about 70 to 80km away from the Polish border. They are stuck without vehicles, the train stations are collapsing, there are thousands of people pushing on the trains, families are separated, you can’t even get into the stations. International citizens can’t go into the country to pick people up. There are a limited number of vehicles in Ukraine willing to go out, so we’re just trying to call numbers of drivers and bus services to try to get people lifts.

    Infrastructure crumbling

    We don’t have cars. We don’t have petrol or drivers to bring people out of Kyiv and from Lviv. At the moment everyone is stuck. Plus there’s the problem that male colleagues who don’t want to fight can’t leave the country. Infrastructure has broken down: either the petrol stations don’t have staff anymore or they can’t be refilled because the trucks can’t get there. While we’re talking, my phone has been vibrating non-stop. There’s so much going on. It’s just super tense. Update, March 1st: Finally on Monday afternoon they were able to cross the border to Poland nearly four days after they began their escape. We have also just heard that our colleagues from the club have finally made it over the border too.

    ∄ Club Team Member B

    Organising transport

    Our main mission at the moment is helping people find transport from Ukraine, mostly from Lviv to the border with Poland. Communication is chaotic. We’re trying to find logistical solutions via all kinds of channels (Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, BlaBlaCar, FlixBus, train, private contacts) and then contacting people to see if there is something available, or if they have updates about the border situation at different checkpoints. Then transports have different routes with different circumstances: waiting in the car, waiting by foot, walking a lot, and so on. Once [people are] on the other side, we will see where they can go next. But it seems like that doesn’t really matter at the moment—all that matters is crossing the border.

    Denys Andriyanov (Woo York)

    Stay in Kyiv or leave?

    I woke up from an explosion at 6 AM on Thursday, the day it began. I grabbed my kid and wife and tried to escape from Kyiv. It took us three hours to drive from our place into the centre of the city because of the traffic. You could hear explosions and fighter jets. We decided to stay at our friend’s place near where we got stuck in traffic. We were considering what to do because the whole city was stuck. So we stayed at my friend’s place, running to and from the basement as the sirens went off. We were thinking to either stay until the traffic subsided or to go now. We decided to leave that day at about 5 PM. The idea was to drive to my parents’ place, 300km to the west, in Rivne. It usually takes three hours to get there—it took us ten hours.

    Arriving in Rivne

    It was about 6 AM when we got to my parents’ place. As soon as we took our luggage out, we heard big sounds. They were hitting and destroying all the airports, firing from Belarus. Rivne is on the border with Belarus, where Russian troops are also positioned. This was the day we arrived so I didn’t sleep at all. The next day we spent the entire day in the basement. Then we decided to move from Rivne to Ternopil, where my wife’s parents live. I kept thinking it was safe, but then air-raid alarms went off again, so we ran back to the basement. We spent the day running up and down to the basement. [My] parents are old [and] didn’t want to leave. My father is already 80 years old and said he doesn’t want to go anywhere.

    Thoughts on joining the army

    I can’t imagine myself killing people. It’s also important to mention that they’re now not accepting many people into the army because there are so many volunteers. I don’t know what to do, because I thought [Rivne] was safe, but considering we were running to the basement so much… I have all my stuff packed ready to move again if we need to. I can help the government in different ways as I have skills as a programmer. I’ve worked in a huge IT company in security for 15 years. I will be much more helpful in this field. I’m already working in cyber attacks. If they require me to go [to the army], I will go. But I don’t want to. I can’t imagine myself with a weapon. It’s something I can’t imagine myself doing. But luckily we have a lot of brave men who aren’t like me and who can defend our country with their weapons.

    Where next?

    I cannot go anywhere. We’re already in the “safest” place in Ukraine, unless maybe the mountains. I know one friend who has built a home in the Carpathian Mountains—they’re there right now. But I don’t plan to move there because I don’t have a place to live. Ukraine is split into orange, yellow and red zones. Where we’re at now is in the yellow zone and isn’t as dangerous as others, but still you can hear the air-raid alarms.


    Leaving Ukraine behind

    [Taken from Nastia’s Telegram diary, February 27th.] Before we crossed the Polish border, I thought it would be a miracle if it happened, but now I feel an absolute emptiness inside. My heart ached a lot from what was happening at home. It hurt a lot for those who have to fight these days. And it was painful for mothers, especially with small children, because I remembered how hard it is to travel long and far with a child under ten years old. It got even worse. Reading the news was unimaginably painful, feeling safe was even disgusting. No relief happened, instead came the realisation of how indecently lucky I was. Then a wave of flashbacks began: how well and carefree we lived in such an awesome city and such a cool country. Then I began to imagine what would be left of all this. Now all friendly borders with Ukraine are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe. Yesterday it took one-to-three days to cross the boarder. Today it takes one-to-two weeks. There is zero infrastructure to help people go through this and only women drive cars with children because all men must stay.

    Speaking with Russian friends

    For them, it’s not easy to speak out because most of society is intoxicated with propaganda. If you go to the street [to protest], they put you in jail. If you donate, they put you in jail. If you post on Facebook, they put you in jail. Putin is a dictator, everything is under control. They are very good at making propaganda and building up narrative full of fakes. I receive many messages from people surviving the regime and those who support [Alexei Navalny]. Reading their supportive messages is making me feel even worse: I can only imagine how it is to live there and be a slave of the system. Ukrainians are free and I believe we will win and become even more free. We have strong unity, more pressure, more power we have to resist. I am super proud.


Photo: Tina Hartung
Update, March 1st: Parts of the original article have been removed due to safety concerns for people in Kyiv.
With additional reporting by Carlos Hawthorn.
Article by Resident Advisor

Written by: Newworld

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