“And what do you miss most about Ukraine right now, Mr. Gurzhy?” the friendly radio journalist asks me on the phone. I have to think for a moment. I’m sitting in the guest apartment in Erfurt, where I currently spend every weekend. It’s a luxury , to be able to return here, to always sleep in the same bed while I work in Erfurt between Friday and Sunday. I drink an espresso at the kitchen table, where I like to answer my emails. When I look out the window, I see the house opposite and a small Ukrainian flag on the second floor.
Ukrainian flea markets, I answer. Because today is Saturday, and if I were in Kharkiv or Kyiv right now, I would go to the flea market. I love flea markets because I’m a record collector – after my visits my luggage gets heavier and there’s less and less space in my record closet. In addition, every visit to the flea market is a kind of history lesson, here the past is traded.
Old dolls and books by Soviet writers, faded clothes and portraits of Brezhnev – many items found in Ukrainian flea markets seem straight out of my childhood. Albums by Russian propaganda pop bands from the 1970s can be bought for less than a euro; when they came out the music was omnipresent, today only a few want them.
On the other hand, the demand for the Ukrainian retro sound has increased enormously in recent years, and mustache funk is en vogue. Circulations by Ukrainian bands weren’t that high back then, nowadays VIA Arnika or Vizerunki Shliahiv records sell for 50 to 60 euros.
On the way back from the rehearsal room, I notice an advertising poster announcing the largest night flea market in Thuringia. I notice that it’s starting at 4 p.m. today (the night starts early in Erfurt!), and you can get there directly by tram. Although I’ve been to Erfurt a lot in the past few months, I haven’t bought a single record here, that should change! Behind me in the tram is a mother with two daughters, they are talking in Ukrainian. We get off at the same stop, they walk in the same direction. The mother seems insecure and keeps checking her cell phone, they are probably new here.
The largest flea market in Thuringia takes place in an exhibition hall and is about the size of a normal Berlin flea market. Admission 3 euros. I immediately see the record dealers’ stands; there aren’t many, maybe six or seven. For the most part, records from the GDR are offered here, you can see them everywhere in East Germany.
In addition to countless albums by Karat and the Puhdys, records on the subject of international friendship keep appearing: “Evening on the Moskva River”, “Musik aus Freundsland”, “Moscow – Berlin” … If they hadn’t existed, I think the German ones would have to Vinyl sellers today carry a lot less stuff with them. But it’s still there, even if no one seems interested in it anymore. Just as little as on the thousands of Ivan Rebroff discs that were produced in western Germany.
Russia kitsch. The drawers for the record shops in Germany were probably built in XXL size so that all the Anuschkas, Cossack choirs and “Taiga-Sehnsucht”, “Trink, Matryoshka” and “Wodka Party-Hits nonstop” would fit in there. I wonder if these records, which probably existed in every household in Germany 50 years ago, are partly responsible for the fact that my fellow citizens today have a hard time believing that their Russian friends are the new Nazis?
At the stand to my left, the Ukrainian from the tram wants to buy a pan and three cups. The friendly older salesman takes the five euros from her and asks where the lady and her daughters are from. “From Mariupol,” she replies.