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A holiday displayed by an explosive wave. Olena Huseynova analyses the Photo of the Week

This photo by Pavlo Dorohoi has been reposted by everyone. Or so it seemed to me. I saw it on the Facebook page of a military journalist I know, on the Facebook page of an unknown eyebrow artist from Myrhorod Even an IT specialist from Kyiv who managed to flee to Berlin in the spring of 2022 left this photo in his stories for 24 hours. The blue haze of cold Kharkiv. A bare tree with things hanging from its branches, thrown out from neighboring houses by a Russian missile blast. 

The Russians shelled Kharkiv on the evening of 23 January. 10 people were killed and 75 wounded. I push away the image from Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, where Paul Boimer, on his way to the front, passes a myrrh forest and sees trees with the naked bodies of soldiers hanging from them, thrown out of their trenches and their clothes by the blast wave. But I recall that the IT guy from Kyiv and I had argued long before he fled to Berlin, precisely because of Remarque. "I don't think we need such an anti-war novel at the moment," I said in response to his "When will we get our Remarque?". I think he said something else about how it was the only way the world would understand us, but I didn't listen.

I take a closer look at the tree in Dorohoi's picture and see the red, yellow and blue tinsel on the branches. I still haven't taken down the same decorations at home. Decorations of a holiday we had so carefully arranged in our own homes. A holiday nobody should know about but us. Well hidden behind closed doors and curtained windows. A holiday exposed by the blast of a Russian missile. A holiday that was over. Right here, on the branches of a bare tree that insidiously looks like a Christmas tree, in the cold blue haze of a Kharkiv street. But the holiday is over. It's over everywhere. And in my house as well. And in the press-stickered car passing the last checkpoint in Kurakhove. And in a beauty studio in Myrhorod.  And even somewhere in Berlin, where it is possible to escape from oneself and one's life in a Remarque-esque way. Even there, if you put the rain in a shoe box, you can never be sure where it will be hanging in a year.

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Olena Huseynova is a Ukrainian writer, radio host, and radio producer. She has been working at Radio Kultura (Suspilne) since 2016. She is an editor-in-chief in the department responsible for radio theatre and literary programs. Since 26 February 2022, Olena has worked as a live presenter of a round-the-clock information radio marathon at Ukrainian Radio (Suspilne). She is the author of two books of poetry, Open Rider (2012) and Superheroes (2016). She also writes essays and short fiction.

Pavlo Dorohoi is a documentary photographer and film director from Kharkiv. Starting with school and wedding photos, Pasha moved on to documentaries and reportage, working with archives. Then the war came to our country and he became a fixer for foreign media, so he could see everything with his own eyes.

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