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Yuriy Gurzhy’s War Diary (86): Tour bus meets armored personnel carrier

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11/21/22
Cartier on the left, Dior on the right – I still remember stopping here a year ago, confused, looking for the right address for a performance, only to discover that the Kammerspiele is actually located on one of Munich’s finest boulevards.

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Today it’s the same stage again, this time here I am with my colleagues from Songs For Babyn Yar, a musical theater piece that explores one of the darkest parts of World War II, the 1941 Kyiv massacre. Before we go tomorrow and play the day after tomorrow, we meet briefly today to go through our monologues with London director Josephine Burton. We’ll finish at 6 p.m. so that everyone can make it to Serhij Zhadan’s event.

Yes, Serhij is here too, as a guest at the Munich Literature Festival, which is curated by Tanja Maljartschuk, tonight he is reading in the Muffathalle, after which the Sobaky will play. I’m invited to sing along to “Rebe”, one of the songs we recorded in 2016. While the reading is still going on in the big hall, I arrive at the Ampere, where the concert will take place afterwards.

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A few weeks ago we had a performance at the book fair in Frankfurt with Serhij and our project “Fokstroty”, but I haven’t seen the guys from the band for a long time.

In the last ten years we have experienced a lot together – played in shabby Kharkiv clubs and rocked a huge stage on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, made a record together and were on a tour in the Donbass.

On and off stage Sobaky have always been 100% Rock’n’Rollers, but in the backstage room of Ampere, where I meet them today, they seem different, you almost thought they were in the fifth week of a long, exhausting tour, huh but that’s not the case, the Munich concert is the start of the tour.

“One accident after another on the highway,” Alexander, the Sobaky trombonist, tells me about their adventurous journey from Kharkiv to Poland. “But hey, what else can you expect if you don’t put on winter tires? Apparently everyone has other worries in Ukraine right now!”. Once a transport tank drove in front of their bus, he says. “Imagine something like that on the snowy freeway and suddenly it skids and we drive right next to it – damn, that was really close!”

Just as I was walking from the Kammerspiele to the Muffatwerk, the director of the Kharkiv Museum of Literature, Tania Pylypchuk, sent me my train tickets – one thing is certain: I am going to Kharkiv at the beginning of December.

You can recognize the Ukrainians immediately, they shout along with every line of text

Sobaky know and love Tania. In the last few months they have often had to do with each other – at the concerts that the Literature Museum co-organized, with fundraising, but also privately, with the evacuation of the wives and children of the band members, she supported the boys.

Sobaky’s families left Kharkiv. Bassist Andrij remembers how the Russian missiles flew right over his house the first few days and his older son asked if they were dying now. When he says that, I think his eyes water. It’s hard for me to hold back the tears too.

The reading in the hall is over, a line forms in front of Serhiy and it takes at least an hour and a half until all the books are signed and all the selfies are taken. The Ampere is now packed, the band enters the stage, all in black, the audience is boiling. You can recognize the Ukrainians immediately, they shout along with every line of text. Most Germans haven’t gotten that far yet, but the ecstasy is contagious and sparks fly quickly.

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