“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”
«… More than two hundred pro-Russian separatists were killed or arrested by government forces in the Donetsk region during …»
A wave of revival ran through the barn looking waiting hall packed with a waiting crowd of bored passengers on the Freetown-to-Casablanca flight. Its point of origin, of course, was not the TV, where strange people with unpronounceable names were killing each other in oddly named cities, but from the descent to the boat dock. Muscular representatives of the local population dragged luggage onto boats; the careless handling of trunks eliciting gasps from the newcomers to these geo-proctologic lands. TIA, guys. T — I — A…
A cute newscaster in a neutral-positive manner told a little more about the glorious victories of the Ukrainian law enforcement over the pro-Russian separatists, casually mentioned Ukrainian officials as a source of information and moved to the Near East (for some mysterious reason English-speaking peoples call it the Middle East). However, nobody was listening any longer. People hastily lined into an assault column for boarding, ignoring the feeble attempts of black personnel to place everybody according to the numbers of their tickets. I don’t like crowds, so I was one of the last ones to attach myself to the end of the queue. I have been here for more than two years and never heard of a case when someone didn’t get on board because there wasn’t enough space on the boat, so there wasn’t any need for crowding. I had bought a book in advance (I cannot do without one on the road), so some waiting didn’t bother me.
The night air was cool; 79 F, no more. Sparse but really huge rain drops broke against the pier with a thudding sound and made sharp clicks when landing on the plastic trash which covered the water of the gulf in a thick layer. It was the beginning of the rainy season; a few kilometers from the coast over the mountains, a thunderstorm raged soundlessly. Even after all the times that I had seen storms there, I was still surprised. In three cases out of four, thunder isn’t heard. At all. The explanation, as always, is the usual one. TIA…
I, as usual, am traveling with one backpack of carry-on size, so with callous curiosity I considered the mountain of luggage carefully (by local standards) dumped in a heap on the boat’s nose, which was about to experience for itself the salt water of the Atlantic in its coarse form. The philosophical concept of a piece of canvas, unfortunately, could not fully take root in the outlook of the local people. The boat was slowly moving away from the pier, then it turned its stern to the coast and with a sharp jerk gathered speed. Half leaning out of the water, it sneaked right under the nose of an old and rusty container ship, which was bringing the peoples of Liberated Africa the Vietnamese rice, the Chinese manufactured goods, the European second-hand items and the American used cars.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, what we have here is not another case of collective insanity, and we’re not going to sail to Morocco on this boat. The explanation is simple: as is customary for the Black Continent’s alternative way of thinking, the glorious city of Freetown is situated in a small mountain range—the only one on the entire coast—so that it can enjoy the year-round lack of space and the curvature of the narrowness of the streets, along with mudslides during the rainy season. Lungi Airport, just as an added bonus, is located on the opposite bank of the wide, but shallow and muddy gulf (or estuary, hell knows). So getting there by boat takes 25-30 minutes, but by car about 3 hours, if you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam on the outskirts of the city. What exactly prevented the locals from building it on the plains on the other side of the mountain range, a few kilometers from the city, is a great mystery. Most likely, the same alternative way of thinking, because now the Chinese are going to build a new airport there. However, there are more idiotically-located airports; take Monrovia, for example. TIA…
Half an hour flew by, and the opposite coast was in front of us. The rain gradually increased. Mmm… Let’s hope they won’t cancel the flight. My mobile phone vibrated in my pocket. A look at the screen—it was Amarina. With a sigh, I pressed the green button. “I love you, come back soon,” etc. She is a nice girl. In contrast with 99% of the local representatives of opposite sex, not only does she have a neat figure but a beautiful soul as well. She is smart, kind, and does not treat me as walking ATM machine. Although I am a racist, and always looked at interaction with local women from an ironical-pragmatic position—and indeed, I am not such an emotional person in terms of communication with others—but you cannot live with a girl for a year and not begin to experience some warm feelings, and not just see her as a piece of furniture to use for medical purposes. I didn’t tell her my destination, of course, just said that I have to go to Moscow on some business. I mumbled something tenderly reassuring in response, once again said goodbye, hung up and turned off the phone. Otherwise, after ten minutes she would call again, and would begin to cry again, and I have an overwhelming desire to hang up even when a simple meaningful conversation (without any female tears) on the phone is over a duration of two minutes. I do not know why. I do not like talking on the phone, and that’s it. Anyway, I am not particularly talkative in general.
Short journey on a bus, and here it is, Lungi. By the way, this is a new building, in case somebody doesn’t know. Not even fully complete. Those who complain about it should’ve come here two years ago. Passport control, fingerprints—African countries love to roll back all the fingers entering and departing, this Orwellian fashion spread like gangrene—so, and why is he hesitating? A border officer looked at me with an expression of expectation, unconvincingly jabbing a finger into the keyboard. I blankly steer to the hallway behind his glass booth. Everything is so boring and predictable…
“There is a problem, sir…” (with distinctive for Krio «de» and «saar»)
I silently raise my eyebrows in a question.
“It’s a serious problem! The machine cannot scan your fingerprints. Something is wrong!”
“Do you understand me, sir? We have a serious problem here!”
Indifferently, I said, “I do not think it’s my problem.”
The little blackmailer behind the glass is thoughtfully thumbing through my passport, dotted with seals and visas, and making one last attempt.
“My good friend, I just want to help you. I do not know what you gonna give me…”
Annoyed, he threw the passport to me through the window and turned away defiantly. Smiling to myself, I passed customs. These guys are having fun and aren’t even trying to hide what they are interested in. «Russian? Goni babki! Goni babki!”
Damn, and who taught them that, I’d like to know. They don’t take failures as an offense, and are already asking the next passenger for money in Italian. Polyglots, you know…
There were another two hours before departure, so I got a beer and sat back. The situation stimulated nostalgic memories. However ugly the place is, Sierra Leone added two years to my geoproctologic experience, which wasn’t small at the first place. I immersed into myself and came back right in time for the boarding call.
A 3-hour flight by Royal Air Maroc and here it is, Casablanca. Before the flight to Istanbul I had a few hours, but didn’t have any desire to go into the city. The name is the only beautiful thing that Casablanca has, I checked it in practice a couple of times. However, it’s a very convenient transfer hub for trips to West Africa. Beginners, by the way, are very much recommended to go to the city, it will help you a little to prepare yourself for «the white man’s grave,» as they called the coast of the Gulf of Guinea two centuries before. Back then, damned white colonizers were breaking into peaceful African villages, where locals peacefully ate each other, leaving only houses, schools and roads. By the end of the first year, every second one of those tough guys had already gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Moreover, although today everything is much easier, cholera and typhoid fever are still here, as I have learned in my own experience. Malaria also is present, but that one I’d gotten a bit earlier, in Zambia. Scary thing indeed, by the way. An acquaintance of mine, a representative of investors from Ukraine, flew into Sierra Leone for a week to check how everything was going. They went to look at their mining site, got drunk, went to the ocean, got drunk. The man returned to Kiev, and in a few days fell unconscious in the sauna. It took some time for the doctors to understand what was going on and do an analysis for malaria—before they could do anything, three days later he was gone. The Ukrainian investors were quite impressed by that, so for more than a year they oversaw the activities of the enterprise by correspondence and telephone. For which they paid the price—a team of geologists headed by a professor (the head of some kind of international geological association) embezzled more than a million of the investor’s dollars, and finally sold out all the property, right down to the water canisters. A real professor, not some goof from a trailer park, he knows how to do things. They swept everything clean. I remember, during a joint booze session, that solid man of charismatic appearance told us about the morphology of alluvial deposits (no one understood anything, but it sounded convincing, and even caused sporadic desires to invest money). Then, in great secrecy, he showed us some exclusive photos taken specifically on his order by a special exploration satellite. Upon my naive question, «Why is there Google Maps written on the exclusive photos?” the professor gently moved the topic to a discussion of the relative merits of black women and women. For some mysterious reason, I was not invited there anymore. Heh-heh…
I like to sit in the transit area of the airport and watch the passengers, trying to guess by their appearance and manner who they are and where they are coming from/going to. Very interesting character types can be found sometimes. That black, confident, smiling man in his forties, casually sporty style, rolling accent. My guess, an American who came to look at the asshole of the universe lost paradise, where three hundred years ago, his ancestors were sold by a tribal leader to slavers for a bottle of whiskey. Lucky ancestors. Here is a group of Russians trying to cover up their insecurities with deliberately loud voices. They look like mining engineers. I listened to the conversation… yes, they are from Kharkov going to Ghana to work at mining. And there are several harsh Taliban-like guys—Gastarbeiter preachers from Pakistan, flying to infect poor blacks with “pure Islam” for Saudi grants. A seasoned kind of guy, just like me, boredly considering the Babel of the airport, obviously belongs to the same familiar type of «small universal businessmen» as your humble servant, trampling the red African soil since Stanley… Boarding call.
Italy and Greece floated below, we were beginning to descend, and a spectacular view of the surrounding area of Istanbul was right in front of us. It’s a beautiful city. Even Islam cannot spoil it entirely. It looks like Kiev, but the climate is better, and there is a sea. I can wander around it for days, and that’s what I’m planning to do for the next three days.
In every normal country there are places that are a “must see,” if you happen to pass by. Even some abnormal countries are equipped with such places. Not Sierra Leone, by the way. And in each normal city they are also present. It is clear that they are often disappointing, but as they say, it is better to try and regret than to regret not trying. In short, in Istanbul, the most important of these places is the Hagia Sophia. And, to tell you the truth, it is quite disappointing, and there is no need to go there. Unless there is a need to stoke your dislike for Islam. But I personally don’t have any lack of it already. Don’t take me wrong, the cathedral, of course, is beautiful and majestic. No, sorry, it was. It was that way in 1452. Doesn’t look like it has been repaired since then. There are few remains of frescoes, and in the corridors, it stinks with urine. Idiotic chandeliers on ropes finally spoil any possible view. It is evident that the Turkish government does not pay much attention to the maintenance of the Cathedral, let alone any restoration. Ridiculous sticks of minarets and ugly round shields with Arabic inscriptions leave a very bad impression, even though I am an atheist, and Orthodoxy is usually not any concern of mine. It is clear that everybody will go anyway, but my conscience is clear: I warned you.
Oh, sorry, I forgot to explain what I’m doing in Istanbul. The fact is that I want to become a rebel. In a good sense of the word. That’s why I’m on my way to a small city with the symbolic name Slavyansk. Why the hell do I want to do it? Well, it’s a difficult question… A bit later I will try to explain in more detail, but for now I’ll just say that I wanted to do something right. And why am I in Istanbul? Firstly, I haven’t been in Russia for almost three years. The land of my fathers is certainly missed, but to cross the Russian-Ukrainian border didn’t look like a good idea. The FSBain’t sleeping and, contrary to popular Western beliefs, they consider us, the Russian far-right movement, as the biggest threat to Putin’s regime. And my healthy (?) paranoia told me that all the men of fighting age are to be documented on arrival to Rostov-on-Don, and more likely even when buying a ticket there. Right now the FSB isn’t daring to press us too hard, because volunteers for the Donbass war are very popular among Russian people, and more than ¾ of all volunteers are far-right. However, I always consider the possibility of changes in the political climate, so I’ll try to avoid being arrested for attempted illegal border crossings. In any case, I do not relish at all the prospect of being in one of Department E’s little black books. Secondly, given the current balance of forces in the area of the Rebellion, I optimistically figure my chances of staying alive and healthy to be not more than 50%. Accordingly, before the war I wanted to wander through a beautiful Mediterranean (I love the Mediterranean) city, and Istanbul was perfect in terms of logistics. Also, during my previous three visits here I had had only a few hours between connecting flights, and now I had plenty of interesting places to explore.
Anyway, my plan was to fly from Istanbul to Kiev, and from there move to Donetsk by train or by bus. That way I’ll drop out of sight of the servants of His Darkness. A preliminary study of reviews of the practices of Evil Empire nationals, males aged 16 to 60, (not) entering the territory of New Democratic Ukraine inspired some optimism. Again, the fact that I had lived for several years outside of Russia, in places damned by God and then forgotten by Him, was also, in my view, to play in my favor. At first I had the idea of a direct flight to Donetsk (this was before the epic fail of the militia on 26–27 May), but then I rejected it as too obvious. I did not buy a ticket in advance, because it was clear that the situation may change suddenly and dramatically. My first morning in Istanbul, I made a foray into the nearest office of Turkish Airlines.
I felt something wrong when the plump brunette behind the counter made a gloomy face looking at my Russian passport. In a mild and polite tone it was explained to me that the airline was fucking tired of carrying smart-asses like me on return trips from Kiev on its own dime. Therefore, I could buy tickets only in the presence of a certified translation in Turkish—or, so be it, in English—of all the documents that the vigilant Ukrainian border guards required from the Evil Empire’s male citizens to skip the Front Line of Democracy. I could get the ticket online, but she advised me not to, because boarding without the full set of documents would still not be allowed. Perhaps I fell for the bluff, but I decided to save my time, money and nerve cells. A ticket to Moscow was in my pocket, and three days of leisurely walks through ancient Constantinople re-awakened the dream of a small house on the shores of the Mediterranean closer to old age. Not in Turkey, of course—I have not lost my mind—but Sicily or Sardinia… There are too many places on the globe where I want a house when getting old (Cape Town and Valparaiso are leading so far), but I must earn enough to buy an apartment in Moscow first. Well, at least an apartment somewhere.
I woke up early in the morning, then there was a taxi ride through the sleeping city, and then a steel bird took me to the capital of terrible Mordor. The question now is, how not to be caught by the eye of Sauron…
 Freetown is the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone (a small country in West Africa)
 Casablanca is the largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco (a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa), one of the main transport hubs in Africa
 TIA—“This is Africa,” a typical African expression for explaining something that doesn’t usually happen in normal places
 Monrovia is the capital (and largest) city of the West African country of Liberia
 George Orwell (1903-1950) was a British novelist, journalist and critic. His world-famous dystopian novel “1984” shows a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, where individualism and independent thinking are persecuted as «thoughtcrime»
 Sierra Leonean Creole or Krio is the lingua franca and the de facto national language spoken throughout Sierra Leone. It is an offshoot of the languages and variations of English
 Russian for “ante up”
 Kiev is the capital of Ukraine
 Kharkov is the second-largest city of Ukraine and its biggest industrial center, most of the citizens are ethnic Russians
 Ghana is a country in West Africa
 Foreign or migrant workers
 Sir Henry Morton Stanley was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Central Africa
 The Hagia Sophia (built in 537 C.E.) is a former Christian patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey
 Orthodoxy or The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian Church in the world, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents
 Slavyansk is a city in the north of Donetsk People’s Republic, currently under Ukrainian occupation. It was one of the focal points in the early stages of the Rebellion (Russian Spring) in the Eastern Ukraine in 2014
 The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) is the principal security agency of Russia and the main successor agency to the USSR’s Committee for State Security (KGB)
 Rostov-on-Don is the largest city in Southern Russia, located near the Ukrainian border
 Department E or Center E is a common name for units in the FSB or Interior Ministry that “fight extremism.” In fact, they are mostly used for political repression
 One of many ironic nicknames for Vladimir Putin
 An unsuccessful attempt of the rebels to take the Donetsk airport under control. The operation was poorly organized, the Ukrainians used fighter jets and helicopters, which resulted in more than 50 killed rebels and a few civilian casualties