Zaporizhia lies at 200 kilometers from Donetsk, on the highway that runs from Crimea to Moscow. Donetsk and Luhansk of course, further to the east, are where an Italian photographer was killed on Saturday, pro-governmental militia members on Friday, and regular Ukrainian soldiers on Thursday.
There, “nobody understands what happens” as Mikhaïl Boulgakov writing about Kiev in 1918 put it in The White Guard. Are those fighting paid and incited by the Russian government? Or simply Russians themselves? Nationalist volunteers or special forces? It has been claimed that the main servers from the Ukrainian Central Election Commission were hacked, many Ukrainians mockingly deride this claim as a cover up for their administration’s incompetence. What is true, what is false, what is propaganda, what are the proverbial grains of truth? No one truly knows and if they claim they do, chances are they are deceiving either you or themselves.
Yet, here in Zaporizhia, where it is almost shockingly calm. Youngsters sell the Ukrainian flags that have become fashionable recently on the side of the road. Couples hang out near the Dniepr. In the villages men sit in the shade drinking beer and at night well-dressed young men and women flock to the town’s party mile. And then all of a sudden you come across two men beating a third lying on the ground and who has blood running down the side of his head. An act of random violence? People stare but no one intervenes and onlookers claim the man had sympathies with the separatists’ cause but do they really know that?
How to reconcile this eerie quiet and single sudden interruption with what social media and traditional journalism report from the neighboring regions? Here ten seemingly unarmed men stand guard at the regional Rada (parliament) to prevent a takeover of the building, and a middle-aged man with a boastworthy belly claims to have a thousand men at his command. Most everybody is disillusioned politically but virtually everyone proclaims his adherence to Ukraine and his incomprehension towards the supposed problem that were the linguistic question. Both the Ukrainian and Russian language are used interchangeably. But then again, who really know what is true, what is being said and what is left out?
Ever since this morning the elections are underway, people are milling to the electoral stations, from the outside looking in, participation seems to be high. They wear their Sunday best or traditionally styled clothes or even a dress in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The older have a higher presence than the young.
Rumours about what or who may incite violence later today or in the night abound, some people are afraid to vote or shun the whole process either because they are politically disillusioned or because they sympathize with anti-government militants in the Donbass . Parts of Ukraine clearly live turmoil and violence on election day, yet as the sun sets in this region bordering Ukraine’s very east, a calm election day draws to an end.