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In Dol(l)drums

If it is remembered in any way in these Trying Times… the Japanese people celebrated Himamatsuri or the Traditional Day for Dolls on March 3. Sadly, the happiness exuded by these have been grossly marred today, as these days of tribulation has definitely led the world to a stage of uncertainty, giving rise to different forms of expression, as well.

In this connection, an article published in Kolkata-based Bengali-language daily Anandabazar Patrika on February 23, 2022. Chirodeep Dey, an Indian living in Hong Kong, penned the article. The author had to spend three weeks in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev due to COVID-19-related restrictions, while he was returning to his workplace from New Delhi in July 2021. While discussing other issues, Dey mentioned that Kiev, the beautiful city, could easily compete with other enchanting European cities.

Kiev

According to the author, each and every place of the Ukrainian capital carries the 1,600-year-old heritage of the city. The clean streets, with greenery all around, certainly win the heart of visitors. There are also a number of churches and palaces with extraordinary architectural designs in Kiev, as they are fine examples of different architectural styles, like Gothic, Baroque, Byzantine, etc. However, some of its lifeless pieces of architectures are reminiscent of the erstwhile Soviet Union, reminding one of the fact that Ukraine was once a part of the Soviet Union.

Interestingly, the common people in Kiev do not want to remember their Soviet past. From cafes or restaurants to souvenir shops… people either avoid discussions related to Russia, or get excited. Citing an example, Dey mentioned Matryoshka dolls, a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The name Matryoshka, literally little matron, is a diminutive form of the Russian female first name Matryona or Matryosha. They are also known as Babushka dolls, Stacking dolls, Nesting dolls, Russian tea dolls, or Russian dolls. However, if one asks a shop-keeper in Ukraine to show her/him Russian dolls, then the shop-keeper would tend to ignore that person.

Russian dolls

Dey explained that the ongoing conflicts between Kiev and Moscow over Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk and other rebel-held regions in eastern part of the country have left a deep psychological impact on common people in Ukraine. They consider Russia as an overactive unwanted neighbour.

Izmaylovo Market with matryoshkas, Moscow

Dey recalled that a shop-keeper in Ukraine had insisted that he should purchase toilet paper rolls. “Why should I purchase an item, which is used for a special purpose, as a souvenir?” Dey had reportedly asked the shop-keeper. Then, he handed over a packet to the Indian visitor, who discovered that an image of the leader of the powerful neighbouring country was printed on the packet, containing toilet papers! Sales of that particular souvenir might have increased in Ukraine, as Russia launched military operations in Ukraine on February 24 (2022). On the other hand, it was heard that toilet papers, covered in text of western sanctions, have been launched by their neighbouring entrepreneurs.

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