I was finally in Russia, but not yet where I was supposed to be. I briefly considered hitchhiking to get to my destination, but considering I had slept little, had no idea where I should go, and my cell phone battery was running low, I decided to take the bus to Voronezh in stead. That meant that first I had to find the bus station. I had to ask many people along the way, but managed to find it without too much difficulty in the end. When I got there, I scoured the station for a plug socket, but the only one I could find was in the cafe. So I went to buy some juice. The women behind the counter asked where I was from; I asked them if I could charge my phone. When I went to plug it in I overheard the people behind me discussing ‘the junta’ in Kyiv.
I had thought about how I should react to such thoughts in Russia, but had not settled on a proper response. Besides, I was not a participant in this conversation. I didn’t think butting in just to let them know the Russian people are being misled would be a very good to start the Russian leg of my journey. Anyway, when I am traveling I turn into a cultural relativist, purely on pragmatic grounds (i.e. to avoid getting into pointless arguments). This was immediately tested when I ended up talking (in English) to the guy next to me on the bus. He said that Slavs need strong leaders, and democracy would only work in ‘small’ countries like France and Germany. The situation in Ukraine was the result of democracy, he said. I had to bite my tongue. He told me that his brother lives in Kyiv close to Maidan, and that his brother had asked him what the hell the Kremlin thought it was doing. I figured that if even a sibling couldn’t sort him out, he certainly wasn’t going to listen to me. So we spent the rest of the trip discussing his youth on Sakhalin and different kinds of meditation, until I fell asleep.
I woke up in the middle of a Voronezh traffic jam and a little while later I was at the flat of my couchsurfing host. Considering where I had just come from we were talking about Ukraine within ten minutes. Very carefully (I did not want to spent the night on the street) I tried to discuss the situation with her, but when she brought up the supposed fact that Ukrainian forces were using UN helicopters to bomb civilians I realised this could become one of those unfortunately pointless conversations. We just settled on the fact that it is barbaric that such things can still happen in 2014 without agreeing on an exact culprit.
Luckily we had overlapping musical tastes and plenty of other stuff to talk about. And when she and two friends showed me around town the next day, it was very easy to forget our political differences and just hang out together.