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UKRAINIAN MOTO ZEN AFTER 60: KYIV – GROSSGLOCKNER (XI)

Taras Pysar

Tchaikovsky, Hitler and the blue-yellow rider

“You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?”

I saddle my metal Chinese horse and set off. Yes, the harsh truth is that my motorcycle is Chinese. Former Ukrainian emeritus law teachers simply can’t afford a Japanese advanced motorcycle. However, just like in prison, you can be free, just as you can be happy traveling on a Chinese motorcycle.

Leaving the glorious city of Uman I go to the next city on my route – Vinnytsia, finally to the West (oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet). 

Since I do not write the history of Ukraine or the history of any particular Ukrainian region, I provide historical and geographical information only to the extent that it is necessary for my traveller’s notes.

Tchaikovsky

Obviously, there is nothing in common between Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Adolf Hitler, except for one thing. At different times, both of them were in the same region of Ukraine – Vinnytsia region. Tchaikovsky had written music on a certain estate in Brailov. Hitler led the troops from the Werewolf – headquarters near Vinnytsia.

 On May 26, 1877, in a letter to Tchaikovsky, Nadezhda von Meck described her estate in Brailov as follows: this land is charming by its nature, vegetation and climate. 

Nadezhda’s opinion about Brailov and the Vinnytsia region can be trusted completely. She and her husband owned estates in various European countries and in Russia. Being rich, she could afford to give Tchaikovsky 6,000 rubles a year, while an ordinary house at that time could be bought for 100 rubles. Moreover, in 1881, Nadezhda von Meck invited Claude Debussy, a student of the Paris Conservatory, as a home composer)

Tchaikovsky traveled to Brailov five times (in the period 1878 – 1880) and stayed at the estate of Nadezhda von Meck when the hostess was absent. Here he wrote The Maid of Orleans, three pieces for violin and piano, Scherzo, Melody, Romances Amid the Noisy Ball, It Was Early Spring, Serenade of Don Juan and many other works.

Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda from Brailov, characterizing the nature of this place: “In Brailov I want to surrender myself to my love for nature. There is no place in the whole world that would give me so much space in this respect. Trips to Brailov will remain in my memory a radiant memory of the most poetic days of my life. “

Well, so as to maintain a cruising speed of 100-110 km/h, I was moving slowly towards the Vinnytsia region where Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was so happy. 

In this place before going to Adolf  it is convenient to give a few figures about Ukraine and the Vinnytsia region. 

Firstly, this country is the largest in Europe in terms of area, if we exclude the overseas territories of France. More precisely, the area of France is 547,030 sq. km, and the area of Ukraine is 603 549 sq. km. 

The length of the longest Ukrainian railway route Mariupol – Rakhiv is 1800 kilometers. And this is not in India. This is in Europe, where the distance between Munich (Germany) and Vienna (Austria) is 400 kilometers. 

I will tell you more about Vinnitsa itself when I get there. It is also appropriate to point out that the city of Vinnytsia and the Vinnytsia region are included in the historical territory called Podillya. It was for this territory (1394) that there was a war between Poland and Lithuania for 40 years.

Hitler

Führerhauptquartier Werwolf was the codename used for one of Adolf Hitler’s World War II Eastern Front military headquarters located in a pine forest about 12 kilometres (7+1⁄2 miles) north of Vinnytsia, in Ukraine, which was used between 1942 and 1943. 

It was built between December 1941 and June 1942 under top secret conditions by Soviet prisoners of war.

Hitler’s accommodation at Werwolf (the Führerhaus) consisted of a modest log cabin built around a private courtyard with its own concrete bunker.

There was a tea house, a barber shop, a bathhouse, a sauna, a cinema and a swimming pool, primarily intended for Hitler who never used it.

The facility also contained a large vegetable garden organised by the German horticultural company Zeidenspiner to provide Hitler with a secure supply of food.

During his Eastern campaign, Adolf Hitler lived mainly at FHQ Wolfsschanze (near Rastenburg, East Prussia) but he stayed at FHQ Werwolf three times:

16 July to 30 October 1942: The weather was hot, up to 45 °C (113 °F), and the bunkers were humid. Hitler caught severe influenza, with a temperature running up to 40 °C (104 °F). In this condition he gave his fateful Führer Directive 45, splitting Army Group South into two parts, trying to reach both Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields simultaneously. 

The Directive was part of the causes of the eventual defeat and destruction of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad and the German Army’s progressive withdrawal from Southern Russia to a new front near the Soviet city of Kursk.

19 February to 13 March 1943: to observe Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s Kharkiv offensive in the wake of Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad.

27 August to 15 September 1943: to observe the unsuccessful defense of Kharkiv.

The Nazis destroyed the site, including mining access to the underground complex, upon abandoning the region. The site was examined after the Nazi departure in March 1944 under the orders of Joseph Stalin, but no documentation was found. The Soviet Union took steps to permanently seal the underground parts of the complex.

Today only the swimming pool and concrete fragments remain visible on the site, which is an open recreation area. The site can be visited but plans to create a full-fledged museum had not come to fruition as of August 2018. 

Nearby is a memorial to the thousands of labourers and others buried by the Nazis in gravepits at Stryzhavka.

Well, I’m heading for a date with Tchaikovsky and Hitler, observing the beautiful land of Ukraine along the way.

It should be noted here that due to the design features of motorcycles, motorcyclists are much more likely to call in to refuel than owners of tin boxes. 

In addition, the hum of the engine, the whistle of the wind and the narrow seat (hello iron butt) force motorcyclists to stop at gas stations quite often.

Branded gas stations in Ukraine practically do not differ from gas stations in Western Europe. Maybe they are not that huge and do not have food restaurants. 

At the same time, here you can always refuel, have a snack and relieve the need for a free toilet. 

Therefore, it was surprising for me to see in some countries of central Europe (“Shocking” as James Bond or Sean Connery said) how adult European males save on paid toilets and relieve themselves practically in front of women and children. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The blue-yellow rider

This course of my thoughts on European multiculturalism was interrupted by the appearance of the blue-yellow rider. 

Like a giant ocean liner majestically and smoothly entering a Mediterranean port, the blue-yellow motorcyclist smoothly rode into the gas station on a huge BMW motorcycle. Oh, BMW … I tried not to look too closely at it.

Meanwhile, the blue-yellow rider slowly looked around and went straight to me…

To be continued.

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