I Remember Kyiv

| Mar 21, 2022
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The Maidan, or Independence Square.

You have seen countless pictures on television of Maidan Square in the heart of Kyiv with its tall column capped by a statue of a woman representing independence. The column was built in 2001 but I remember the square as “Independence Square” in the mid 1990s when I was there on a grant from the U.S. State Department to encourage small businesses. The square lies astride the Khreshchatyk Boulevard which is the eight lane main street of the town, running East-West. You have seen traffic on it all night long on the webcam views. The streets fanning out North from the square into the distance were still there and one of them had my favorite place to eat breakfast, strangely an Irish pub. Some of these streets had buildings erected in the 1700s which survived the destruction of the city in World War II or at least their facades had.

To the right, or the East, the Khreshchatyk leads down to a bluff over the Dnieper River which is the central waterway of Ukraine. At the river’s edge where I used to go running, there is a monument to the Norse Founders of the city. The river is still somewhat radioactive after the Chernobyl accident (fish are not supposed to be for human consumption). The Norsemen migrated down waterways from the North to one of the few defensible places in Ukraine. Kyiv is defensible because it is built on an escarpment which commands the river. Most of the rest of Ukraine is flat as a pancake and conducive to horse or tank invasion. The Kyivan Rus as their country was later called, featured Moscow as a Podunk outpost to the North.

The Khreshchatyk hotel is on the way to the river. I stayed there several times until I got an apartment because it was one of the few hotels open after independence. It was run by the city and had a “den mother” on each floor who provided laundry, booze and ladies of the evening at minimum cost. I only used the den mother for laundry despite her insistence that I needed a girl to keep me warm. In addition to my repulsion at prostitution, I was in love with my “to be” second wife back in Atlanta. Legalized prostitution was run by the city at that time. At one point, there was a big European meeting which swamped the number of available hotel rooms. The mayor was quoted as saying “Oh, the men coming to the meeting can meet a nice Ukrainian girl and stay with her during the meeting if there is no hotel room.” Every night at about 1 a.m., a van would pull up outside my apartment building to collect ladies of the evening. It was a police van. They were not there to arrest, only to see the girls safely home.

Overlooking the river is a huge titanium statue which was erected during the Soviet era. It is known as the Motherland Monument. Of course, it faces back to Moscow. It is also known as “Brezhnev’s daughter” or “Old Tin Tits”. Every time I see the statue I think of all the forced Soviet laborers in the titanium mines. I also think about the irony of how during the cold war, CIA front companies bought titanium from Russia to build airplanes such as the SR-71 which were used to spy on Russia.

Passage Street

My apartment was a couple of blocks to the West from Independence/Maidan Square (to the left as you view it on webcam). It was on a narrow street, fittingly know as Passage. It had statues of famous literary figures over each doorway and mine was one of the few apartment houses in Kyiv that met European standards. I shared it with my male assistant and it served as a good place to throw parties for the Ukrainians that worked with us. A half block down Khreshchatyk was a McDonald’s restaurant. It was at the foot of a hilly street where I kept my office. I found out that the location of the McDonalds was the previous headquarters of the Gestapo during World War II. Ukrainian partisans had attacked this building by rolling barrels of lit gasoline down the street starting in front of my office. The Germans were not pleased and killed 100 hostages but the Ukrainian partisans were not deterred. Ironically, the McDonalds franchise was owned by German interests.

Ukraine is somewhat used to invasion. In addition to the Russians and Germans aforementioned, it has been invaded by several other countries as well as the Mongols. I was not surprised at the fighting spirit of the Ukrainians which has ground the Russian invasion to a halt. Some credit the collapse of the Germans on the Eastern front during WWII to the skill and daring of Ukrainian tank forces. The Ukrainians also handled invasion by making “love, not war”. After each invasion, the Ukrainian women seemed to get more beautiful with the confluence of Western and Eastern traits.

Founders monument.

While I was in Ukraine, I did try to contact transgender people in secret. This was doubly dangerous because I was still in the closet with a security clearance and they were hiding from the state. They were still not accepted, even after independence. Of the attempted contacts I made through the internet, many were no-shows. I found out that they were coping as best they could, as I was. Nearly every time I came home to the states, I was forced to take a polygraph exam. My security officer would ask me whether I had contacted any foreigners in Ukraine. That was absurd because my mission there was actually to make contact with Ukrainians. Even though I gave her all the business cards I had collected of people I had met, that was not enough to prevent the exams. In retrospect, she was just doing it in a CYA mode.

The people in Ukraine were very cordial and treated me well, even though we had been enemies until the Berlin Wall fell only five years before. I went to several parties in buildings which from the outside were designed with dreary Soviet architecture. But inside the buildings, the apartments were beautifully appointed and the food and people wonderfully cordial. Americans were welcome.

The center of Kyiv.

Eventually I got married and had to end my time in Ukraine. But I did take my new wife to Kyiv for our honeymoon. There was a party in her honor where she met my Ukrainian colleagues.

She did not know any of the language but made herself understood in her usual charming way. Undeterred by the language barrier, she went shopping on her own. Later in that trip we cruised the Mediterranean, a bit more like what one would expect for a honeymoon.

They say that a well-conceived, well-supplied military defense has a 10-1 advantage over an invading force. That is, it will take 10 times the number of troops to take a defensive position. So far, that theory has been borne out in the Russian invasion. Furthermore, the Ukrainians have something to fight for—their independence, and many Russians have family in Ukraine. Putin may have bitten off more than he can chew. If he does succeed, he may come to realize that it is the people of Ukraine who are the most valuable prize in the country and they are not with him.

I have stopped watching the Independence Square webcam. I would not be able to stand watching the city or Independence Square be destroyed or victorious Russian troops marching down the Khreshchatyk. I will watch again when Ukraine is free of its aggressors.

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Category: History


About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at danabevan@earthlink.net.

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