It was a good evening for Random Waves.
It all started at about 3:30 this afternoon. "Ukrainian Hero Speaks in Hartford," the event title said. Mykhailo Havryliuk. 3 PM at my friend Tomas' house. All last-minute.
I knew this because my friend Sofia, who co-founded Maidan United, a organization sending money and aid to those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, was going, and Facebook is very good in telling you what your friends are up to. Now, Sofia and I have spoken in the past about getting some sort story together about the conflict, so I texted her to see if I could interview the hero. Maybe I could get a war story or something. In the next five minutes I got the following info -- he went through torture during the Euromaidan protests, he's a politician now, he probably doesn't speak English, and he's OK with being interviewed. A quick internet search turned up a famous video of his torture and the fact that he's a minister of parliament.
Holy crap. Within ten minutes, I had secured an interview with a Ukrainian Minister of Parliament.
"I'm 25 minutes out," I texted as I rushed out the door. On the drive to Hartford, I furiously ran questions and answers through my mind -- what my podcast is, do I call myself a freelance journalist, how do you pronounce your name. You know, standard interview questions, haha. When I parked my car, I was scared. I was going to be found out as a fraud and told to go home. I was in over my head, though I know that this is exactly how you move ahead. You take risks.
Well, it turns out that Sofia's texts meant that it was ok that I came over, not that Havryliuk was ok being interviewed. He wasn't even told about me. So, I stood in the back of the crowd of fifteen Ukrainians as they sat and stood around a dining room table discussing stuff with the minister.
In Ukrainian. It was all in Ukrainian. I understood nothing.
I stood there in the background, pretending to understand. I got some context from the expressions and how words were spoken, but it took a sidebar with Sofia to understand what was going on. It was a discussion of politics and asking for financial support. Very little if anything about war stories or torture.
I kept my field recording equipment and ate some dinner, thinking that I'd crapped out. But Sofia did introduce me to some of the guests, and I spoke with a few about what it was like in Ukraine. And then it happened. A narrative came up out of everyone's stories. A narrative of revolution and hopes that never materialized and frustrations in the diaspora. Here was a hero who held the hopes of a nation and failed to deliver when he went to Parliament. And there's a bit to take away to the crazy times we're having now in our country.
So many great stories. And my field equipment was still in my bag. Crap.
So, I've written down an outline of an essay I'll write on this narrative and record it for a future episode of Random Waves. I'll do it Nate DiMeo style. No source recordings, just interpretation.
All in all, it was a good evening. I learned a hell of a lot about a country I don't know much about, and met a few people named Victor along the way. Good times.