THE HOTEL, IN SUBURBAN KYIV, WAS DECORATED in a faux medieval style, with velvet paintings on wall tapestries and fake ceiling beams. Olga joined me in the dining room for a get-to-know-you session. She told me several pieces of information that seemed unrelated to each other, though it could have been my jet lag. She was born in Azerbaijan in Astara, on the old Soviet border with Iran, in 1972. Her father was a tank commander, a colonel in charge of his regional garrison. She told me about a twenty-five-year-old woman she knew who wanted a tattoo but said her boyfriend wouldn’t like it. Olga said: “Whose body is it? Are you his pet?” Olga also told me that she was a strict vegetarian, very concerned with her health, and that she smoked cigarettes.
And we talked about the war. Olga had lost her long-standing job as a facilitator for an American adoption agency because of it, and she and her partner, Alex had to flee from the occupied zone. She said prices had risen a lot. Their rent had gone up by ten percent twice in the last two years; there were no rent controls.
“I hate the people who come into my country to kill,” she said. I asked her if she had participated in the Euromaidan protests. She said no, and that all the protestors were paid, by one side or the other.
“All of them?” I was shocked at this opinion.
“Yes. You see, not all patriots jump on their desks.” She and Alex helped as volunteers for the Ukrainian war effort by delivering silencers and night vision goggles—they drove them to the front or mailed them directly to individual soldiers. These activities were
coordinated through an online forum they belonged to called the Honda Mafia, which consisted of Honda vehicle owners. Then she told me that she never watched the news on television, because it was all lies. The truth, she said, was on the Internet.