By Charles Platiau
When I arrived in Donetsk, southern Ukraine, two weeks ago I didn’t think you would be one of the best friends I made during my stay. Nobody speaks English here, even if my hotel is called “the Liverpool hotel” and plays Beatles music all day long everywhere except, thoughtfully, in my room. I don’t speak Russian either, but I soon learned Vladimir Ilyich is how locals fondly refer to you, Mr Lenin. Your statue dominates the landscape of this city’s downtown. You remain in full view in contrast to the advertising you stand opposite; maybe people even remember what you stand for.
It’s hard to judge a place in such a short time but I wonder what Donetsk looks like when there isn’t such a big event in town. The city is quiet, very clean and there are more advertising boards than in most western countries. All the ugliest buildings are now covered with banners to advertise Japanese goods or to hide the worst aspects of the city.
Later I saw this big car advertisement had gone and residents behind it could walk on their balconies again.
You watch this all with admirable stillness, but nobody glances at you any more. The Soviet system is gone, then came the adverts, and now football has come, if only for a little while.
In the good old days there were thousands of comrades shouting at your feet, but now only a few soccer fans take photos of one of your last statues existing outside Russia.