The Ukrainian author, DJ and musician Yuriy Gurzhy lives in Berlin. Here he writes about following the war in Ukraine.

12. 5. 2022

In my Instagram feed I’m trying in vain to find an invitation to an exhibition opening where I’m supposed to DJ, but I’m quickly distracted by a message that has just arrived. A 77-year-old gentleman writes to me who recently spoke to me after a reading. Since I had to hurry to catch the last train to Berlin, we could only chat briefly – now he writes to me on Instagram about how exciting he found my performance and what associations my texts aroused in him. For example, the history of his family is directly connected with my hometown Kharkiv. “My uncle was there,” he writes, “he was an SS man, he was shot there in 1943.”

Glad I checked the address again! For weeks I assumed that the Buchkunst gallery, where I had to go, was on Immanuelkirchstrasse. But no, I actually only met Thomas Gust, one of the operators, on Immanuelkirchstraße, in a great photo book shop. I’ve seen some great exhibitions there over the years, including one on the Kharkiv School of Photography.

This week, when I finally got around to cleaning up my apartment, I came across two boxes of my father’s black and white pictures. Just like Boris Mikhailov, the most famous photographer from our hometown, my father was born in the late 1930s – considering his age, like Mikhailov, he could have belonged to the first generation of artists of the Kharkiv school. However, if you look at his paintings, you can see that they are very different from those of his prominent colleagues – not as radical, not as experimental. You won’t find his work in the Center Pompidou, but he left behind images of the city where he lived for more than five decades – and generations to come won’t be able to see him like this again.

I’m only playing Ukrainian music that night and although as a DJ it annoys me if I can’t be loud, this time I’m happy. Today it’s not about making people dance. Today I like to stay in the background.

13. 5. 2022

And again it’s off to Erfurt, where the workshops on the “Old Stones, New Sounds” project will begin this weekend – with my fellow musicians and young participants from Thuringia, we’ll deal with the Jewish history of Erfurt and compose pop songs for it. Christian Dawid and I, both of whom haven’t had enough sleep, meet at the main train station shortly after eight, only to hear that our train has been cancelled. The Deutsche Bahn website says burned cables in Hamburg are to blame. 90 minutes later we finally manage to board a train. All seats are taken, we have to stand. Christian tries to sleep. I’m listening to the songs I started writing for the project earlier this year. After the war broke out, I didn’t do anything with it anymore. I’m excited to see what we can now develop from this together, and I have to think back to the three weeks I spent in Popasna in autumn 2020, where we wrote and recorded songs for the album “New Donbass Symphony” together with the school children.

It was one of my most exciting experiences as a songwriter. A few days ago, a colleague who was there at the time sent me a recent photo of Popasna. The city seems completely ruined. In the picture taken from above, there is not a single undestroyed house.