The latest issue of Stranger’s Guide is dedicated entirely to Ukraine. In this essay, Anastacia Galouchka dances deep inside a burgeoning rave scene to examine the evolution of the connection between art and politics in Kyiv:
Clubs like HVLV, Closer and Keller often hire security guards to man their doors — in itself, not that unusual. But they’ll often stop aggressive youngsters from going inside, as they might create problems for other party-goers, such as members of the LGBT community. In a country where it’s customary to pay off a bouncer to gain entry into a club, this the idea of making basic decency the coin of the realm — “How open-minded do you seem and how likely are you to start harassing girls or beating up same-sex couples?” — was a radical concept. This safe space has allowed people to experiment with self-expression without fear of judgment or risk of oppression. It drew in more and more people from Ukraine’s middle class, and organizers rapidly saw their public double or triple.
That’s what makes the underground scene in Kyiv so unique: none of the people who frequent it have a simplistic “fuck the system” in mind. Instead, they are more nuanced. They believe in a brighter future for Ukraine. And they seem to be building a foundation for it within the confines of this underground safe space, where they can be who and whatever they want to be. The Podil scene is instrumental in uniting these people, allowing them to express themselves and subsequently spread the liberal values they encounter here through all of Kyiv, a city that is now learning to thrive in this new sense of openness and creativity. It has coaxed Kyiv out of the memories of dictatorship and oligarchy into something more modern and open-minded.