Friday, October 22, 2004

Greetings from Kyiv

I am sitting at a computer at the offices in Kyiv, Ukraine of a nonpartisan civic organization called ZNAYU!, which I am told means "I KNOW!" in Ukrainian. The group encourages civic activism and voter participation. (I can't do Cyrilic letters for this post, so I may not be doing the name correctly in Roman letters.) I'm in Ukraine as an international observer of the upcoming Oct. 31 elections, monitoring preparations for the voting next week. Earlier today, police or security officers, who refused to identify themselves, raided the offices of the organization. Supposedly they are searching for illegally copied software on the group's computers.

I forced my way in past one of the security officers, and I'm just sitting around observing. I'll let you know if there's anything really interesting. I've been directed by the security officers to sit here; I get up periodically to walk around and I'm directed to return to this seat. The volunteers at Znayu! seem fine and in good humor and spirits, there's been no violence or display of weapons, just big guys in leather coats who aren't as nimble as they think if a 49-year-old got past them.

The security guys may think they can handle mind-numbing boredom better than I can. They just don't know they're dealing with an American real estate lawyer.

Film in 11 days.

UPDATE: Around 2:30 pm, the security officers said they were finished, apologized for any delay or inconvenience to me, and left. I may write about this in my next column (and have to log off now because my plane home has just been switched to a new gate). I've also corrected the translation of Znayu!, which means "I KNOW!" and not "NO!" as I first heard.

I can't believe I spent an entire week in Kyiv without once singing "Oh the Ukraine girls really knock me out" but we were kept really, really busy.

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