Kyung-hwa Choi-ahoi

Natalia and Sergey

Yesterday we rang the bell at the guest apartment where they have found a place to live with our construction community for the past week. Natalia opened the apartment door and faced us. We met for the first time. Wordlessly, we handed her a bag of wheat flour. After handing it to her, we ran the text translated into Ukrainian in the audio from the cell phone. Because we can’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, we prepared in google translator for it, so that we can communicate with Natalia and Sergey why we visited them. The artificial machine voice from the cell phone was running:

This is Kyung-hwa from Korea and Niko from Greece. We heard that you need the wheat flour and sunflower oil. Here is wheat flour. Tomorrow we will bring you sunflower oil.

Silently she was. Her look at us was such that I cannot make an apt description of it here. Simply written, very touched. Short and to the point, she said “Thank you!”. I assume that DANKE (Thank you) may be the first learned German word she has uttered since arriving in Germany. Mutually, we immediately had unconditional trust and full of compassion, although we did not know each other at all.

This afternoon the doorbell rang. When Niko opened the door, Sergey was standing in front of the apartment door. He brought us homemade fresh pancakes with vanilla sugar. Although Sergej didn’t speak a word, Niko understood what the smell of vanilla butter said. The two stood across from each other closer than a meter, Corona forgotten, and laughed together, the war forgotten.

Wheat meal and sunflower oil

Natalia and Sergey went to the supermarket to buy groceries. Almost everything they needed they found at the discount store. Wheat flour and sunflower oil they did not find anywhere. Everywhere the shelves were empty where they should be. They were all.

Since the Ukraine war, the price of wheat has risen massively. Ukraine and Russia are major exporters on the international wheat market. A good quarter of the world’s exports of sunflower oil also come from Ukraine and Russia.

Natalia and Sergey from Kharkiv, who would have to flee to Hamburg because of the Russian attack, could not buy their staple food, wheat flour and sunflower oil, on all discounters ALDL, LIDL, REWE in Altona on the day…, both because of broken supply chains, and because of hoarding purchases. On the day they could not fry Wareniki in sunflower oil. Thus, the long-fingered Putin and his cronies reached not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe, indeed, all over the world.

Today in the news it was reported about how a farmer from Zaporizhzhya drove his tractor to his field just in the war. He had the bullet-proof vest and helmet on his head. In a few days Niko visited them without an appointment. They suffer not only from the “it’s not so easy to get wheat flour and sunflower oil”, but also from the loneliness here in New-at-home. They speak Ukrainian and Russian but no English. The just-so chatter is missing for the two of them. Niko wanted them all to talk to each other using their cell phones, or more precisely Google Translator with the audio-visual function. They spent one afternoon talking to each other thanks to Google Translator. Natalia and Sergey were even much better at using it. While Niko slowly typed the sentences with one finger, the two quickly pronounced in Ukrainian on the microphone. Automatically, the pronounced sentences appeared in German in Display.

Natalia shows the images from a Ukrainian news channel, its logo “TPYXA” in Cyrillic appears at the bottom of the display of a burning prefabricated building in Kharkiv. The news anchor talks about the war and on the display appears “Nobody expects.” Or “We don’t understand. Why is this?”…. Natalia would also like to see if her own apartment in Kharkiv is still standing and if so, whether it is damaged.  So far she could not tell from the TV pictures if her apartment building was bombed or with luck, survived it until now. Her fear and agony is clearly readable in her eyes.

Niko: “Next summer the war will be over. You will be back home by then. (His statement amuses Natalia and Sergey). Then I will visit you and please reserve a room in a hotel, for me in Kharkiv“. (The two smiled).

Natalia and Sergey: “No, then you stay with us, not in a hotel”. (Quickly Natalia’s mood darkens)“.

Natalia: “But if my house is still standing. Maybe it’s already gone. Maybe everything is broken”.

Niko: “If the house is broken, I’ll visit you with a drill and tools, then we’ll fix it (The two hugged Niko and laughed heartily all three of them together. They shed Corona)“.

Written by Kyung-hwa Choi-ahoi, April 3, 2022

Kyung-hwa Choi-ahoi  경화 초이-아호이 , real name Kyung-hwa Choi ,  최경화 ; born 1967 in Seoul ) is a south korean artist, author and unniversity lecturer living in Germany . From 2015 to 2019 she was a professor of drawing at the University of the Arts Bremen and has been a professor of drawing at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee since 2019 .

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