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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

My First Contact

I arrived in Kyiv at the beginning of October, and started looking for local anarchists.  I had few good ideas on where to start.  The city was huge, and it wasn’t the place you’d expect to find a radical social center.  Even the tradition of having social movements, however pathetic they may be, had been pretty well mauled by the Soviets.  So, I opened up the magazine some stranger had pressed into my reluctant hands way back at the Köpi.  Abolishing the Borders from Below, a magazine by and about the anarchist movements of Eastern Europe, written in admittedly bad English, and published in exile in Berlin.  I found it to be a treasure trove of interesting articles, written in an earnest, non-dogmatic style.  More important to my present purpose, it contained a lengthy contact page at the back.  The section on Ukraina was worryingly thin. I sent out an email, and tried not to think what the winter would be like if no one wrote back.

A week later, I got a response.  “Yes, let’s meet.”  I proposed the central square.  “We don’t like this place.  Too many nazis.”  They suggested a statue by a certain metro station.  It was an open area, lots of people moving through, and from several approaches you could see who was out on the square before they could see you.  In other words, not a spot for setting up an ambush.  I waited in the cold for half an hour before two people, unmistakably anarchists, approached me.  Katya and Andrey.  I later found out that they screened all new people this way to protect themselves from fascists and police.  It was a common necessity in the former Soviet Union.  Little by little, they showed me the ropes, and we became friends.