Orange Summer

A singular tattered wooden shed accompanied by a dishevelled donkey for a sentry zips past the window: the most noteworthy event in what seemed hours of sprawling fields and planes. Blurred acreage of green and mustard draw me into a state of contemplative quiescence. I amdisturbed, suddenly, by a cigarette packet landing onto the hand lazily supporting my head. Andrij is my companion in this smoke-filled cabin, and with a familiar feeling of humility, I accept his offer and slide
out a smoke, take a draw and muffle a rogue cough. Having only met a few hours, the ashtray is already overflowing and a bottle of vodka stands half drained, as it clinks against the window. This is Ukraine.

Our conversation was provoked curiously enough from my choice of T-shirt. Having been in Kiev the previous day, I had –somewhat embarrassingly- been seduced by ‘orange fever’. This was the pervasive and intoxicating movement headed by Viktor Yushchenko against the incumbent government; accused of electoral corruption (amongst a string of more pernicious charges). Orange, the adopted colour of Yushchenko’s demonstrators, was splashed across Independence square in Kiev, the tourist market stalls and… my shirt.

I had purchased an unpardonably garish orange shirt with the 'Orange Revolution’s slogan: “TAK!” sprawled across the front. This was the summer of 2005 and the movement’s exhilarating impetus had not yet ebbed; I had wanted to feel the vibrations of change and baptize myself in the oozing, infectious excitement of the country. I chose to do this by… buying a T-shirt.

Talking to Andrij, sitting in my tangerine Tee, I Immediately felt a pang of embarrassment at my jejuneness. Andrij is mercifully conciliatory, however, and sagaciously reminds me that all politicians are 'the same'. The bottle of Vodka is pushed across the table and I take a swig. I glance through the glass at his inviting, yet guarded eyes and a creeping smile finds its way to my face. It is not reciprocated. I can feel my muscles relax as vodka meshes with the soporific tones of the clunking railway track. I allow my eyes to lazily drift once more toward the window. I love this part of Europe.

J Hawke

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