I have been writing down and collecting funny, quirky stories from my adventures in Kyiv for over 14 years. Here is one of them.
So, we are all on the phone one morning, and in the apartment building there is quite a bit of renovation/construction work going on, because it is still a “new” building and not all the residents are living there yet. Between, Monday and Friday you often hear hammers and drills and it generally is ok, as it may be a few floors down, or, above. But that day it was very very loud – it has happened a few times, and when they drill into the concrete the whole building can hear it. When it goes quiet you can think again. Not the biggest problem in the world, and they always stop promptly at 7 pm each day, during the week.
So, where were we … we are all on the phone, and the drilling is loud and I can’t hear shit, and they can hear over the phone the loud noise. Craig, who is on the call, says “When will they stop all the construction work ?”
The noise is most of the times in the distance and not very loud. About once a week it is loud, and only for a few hours at a time. Like that morning. The first time we hear this extra loud concrete drilling we all got a fright – it felt like the building was about to fall down. Once it was so loud and I scurried downstairs to the admin office and in broken Russian I asked about the construction.
Zhanna, the cool lady who looks after the building, speaks English. She is a very kind person with a great sense of humour. I chat with her and her colleagues, Sergey, Sergey and Sergey (it gets confusing sometimes). Between my scatty Russian, they understand that I am stressed and worried. They tell me all is normal and that I must not worry.
What I really want to find out is “When will this current drilling be complete so that we have an idea as to what date the noise will ease off ?” And that is when things get colourful.
Eastern European culture is very very defensive. No one is ever wrong and no one ever makes a mistake. Did you watch that brilliant TV show Chernobyl? That is an example of this culture.
So, when I ask when the drilling may end they straight away get defensive and start telling me that they are doing nothing wrong and that the builders are following the rules and that they are allowed to drill from 9 am to 7 pm from Monday to Friday.
I say that all is cool and yes, I tell them that I know all of this. I just want to try find out when their construction project will end so we can try plan ahead. For example, I tell them, that if they are only going to drill for one more week then we will be ok, but if it is for 3 months then maybe we will go walk in the park during the day … trying to explain to them why we want to know. And, it is a simple question : we just want to know. Call me curious.
Again, they start with : But what is the problem ?
I again say that there is no problem and that I am just curious. I just want to try find out when the drilling will stop.
They are not hearing me, and their view is that I am complaining and causing trouble.
I pick up on this and say that I am not complaining – I just want to try and find out when they may be ending their construction.
And again it goes on with the defensive push back. No one understands what I am about, and because I am soft spoken and not aggressive, they are very confused. To them I look like a doose – a guy that is complaining and he looks not happy.
I am not complaining and I am not happy or unhappy – I am just polite and am trying, for the love of God, to get an answer. They pull out some paperwork and point out that we also made construction in our apartment and no one complained when we were making noise. I can see that I am now being labelled a trouble maker, and if this were Soviet times I would be sent to Siberia for my bad attitude.
Craig says to me, “This shit there never changes.” Craig has been to Kyiv many times and has experienced this when we shot that Ukraine concept video back in 2018.
The thing is, they have been suffering in Ukraine for over 1000 years. And we had been suffering, because of the drilling noise, for a few hours. Well, not exactly suffering but it was very loud, and you can’t work when the drilling is happening. They can’t understand what I am complaining about. But I am not complaining. If there was drilling for a 1000 years, then go ahead and complain, but their view is :go back, and enjoy the noise, because for a long time we didn’t have any drilling. So, they seem to like drilling and can’t understand why we would complain about it. But I was not complaining. I was simply trying to find out when they estimate the construction will finally be over.
In the end we all laughed, nervously, and I left clueless, and with them all being suspicious of me. The next time I went to ask them something they all disappeared when they saw me coming. Like it was “Look, there’s the complainer again, coming to make trouble.”
I did not complain. I was simply trying to find out when …
They have been suffering here since +- 400 AD, when Kyiv was formed. They reckon a bit of suffering builds character. I guess the drilling noise is seen, er, heard, as a positive thing. And they don’t like trouble makers, who complain, and then start revolutions.
I am not starting a revolution. I was just trying to find out when the construction guys may end be coming to the end of their building project.
I am laughing now, as I write up this story. I miss Zhanna and Sergey and Sergey and Sergey. I miss everyone in Kyiv. They are soulful people with big hearts. I hope we can return to Kyiv soon. And I miss the drilling. Those were good times.