A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for race

Save Yourself

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I am travelling the 1.5 hours to Zaporozhe, the evening before I am to leave for America, in order to witness firsthand a JCC charity fundraiser. The event, a freestyle competition, is called “Сохрани себя,” or “Save Yourself.” Entrance was 10 грн (grivnas), and all proceeds go to the family of Anton, a 22-year-old diagnosed with leukemia.

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A singular event

I was walking with my friend Danya the other day along Karl Marx St., the main thoroughfare in the center of the city, chatting in Russian, when suddenly, he cried out,

-A black!

-A black? I repeated, confused.

-A black! Back there! Didn’t you see him? A black. You know… a… “nihher.”

He didn’t have to pronounce the English word properly for me to understand what he meant. I was completely taken aback, and only partially due to his surprising lexicon. You see, I haven’t seen a single black person, or any non-white person, for that matter, since arriving in Dnepropetrovsk almost a month ago. This is the most homogeneous place I have ever been in my life. Danya informs me that every now and then you’ll see a black person with dreds, but this is a very rare occurrance and clearly merits screaming it out loud as you pass. Also, apparently, there are some Chinese people in Chinatown, which is not a town so much as an intersection not too far from Chessed, but I haven’t seen a non-white person yet in the couple of times I’ve been there.