Oleg Kadanov
by Ivanna Skyba-Yakubova
Short profile

Oleg Kadanov is a musician, actor, volunteer

Oleg Kadanov has been known for years, first as a musician (projects: Orchestra Che, Kerouac’s Mantras, The Mannerheim Line, etc.), a poet (‘Not me, but that one’ collection), and an actor (Arabesques Theatre, Puppet Theatre, ‘The New Stage’, ‘Oil’, ‘Wild Field’ movie [Ukrainian: Dyke Pole]). And now, in conversations, his name often appears next to the words "thermal imager, binoculars, transmitters": Oleg is the leader of one of the most proactive volunteer groups in Kharkiv that help the military. "F***ed and beautiful" — as the Kharkiv friends call them — they not only buy military accessories and equipment but also bring them to Donbas and Kherson Oblast themselves.

In the first months of the war, the poet and his friends, in addition to transporting aid, also had to evacuate civilians (including the wounded), and take away the bodies of the dead, and put out fires. However, there were also concerts for people in the subway or the military, poetry readings, and musical performances to raise funds for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

We are meeting not at the volunteer base but in the overgrown, this year neglected garden of the Kharkiv Literary Museum — a place where, six months ago, life was whirling, sharp discussions and festivals took place, and a community was being born. For many Kharkiv authors, this place became a kind of starting point. So, naturally, at the beginning of the conversation, I ask Oleg how long ago he had been here previously.

VIDEO: Олег Каданов для Craft Magazine

The last time I was here a year ago, at the presentation of Oleg Chmuzh's book illustrated by Diana Chmuzh [a Kharkiv designer — ed.], I created an improvised musical background for the reading. We took some risks by improvising without a rehearsal, and an incredible connection took place; I have extremely warm memories about how it all happened.

Do you miss the events that took place here and the cultural life overall?

— We had several performances since the full-scale invasion, and they were very exciting. Although there’s definitely no desire to go on tour somewhere now – the consciousness creates no prototype of such a possibility. There is a constant need to go to Donetsk region; this is the primary engine for consciousness, while creativity has taken a back seat. But Mitia Fenichkin and I have now made such a "zine" of poems written after February 24 ["What's in Your House" – an illustrated self-published collection of 9 poems – ed.], this is a kind of self-psychotherapy, the need to pour it out when consciousness has no idea of how to react to the crap that happened. Am I allowed to curse?

We’re at the Literary Museum – you’re very welcome.

— The texts appear as an attempt of consciousness to put it all on some kind of shelf, to classify it, to name it, because it is a completely incomprehensible empirical experience, which I never dreamed of and did not think that I would experience, but it happened to the whole country.

Well, yes — “There are many things that have no name, Yet they patiently wait for would-be names.” [the quote from the Kadanov/Fenechkin “zine” – ed.] Tell me a little more about this collection and, in general, how you manage to write when we don't know how to talk about it yet. We really didn't ask for this experience, we have no language for it…

— I don't understand how it all arises, but a critical mass of images gathers inside in the form of verbatim, and then it kind of spills out. Once I read a poem by Katia Kalitko, I don't understand how it all arises, but a critical mass of images gathers inside in the form of verbatim, and then it kind of spills out. Once, I read a poem by Katia Kalitko — I adore the way she writes — and a text was born in me as if in response. Have you noticed — there was a short text in the collection, "What's in your home — Fatigue”? Ania and I [Ania Gubanova, Oleg's close friend — ed.] were playing [with words], and it turned into a nursery rhyme, but with unpleasant complex meanings. 

OK, it's clear that imagery is changing now. What about the stylistics, the form itself?

— It arises first, and then you try to analyze it. For example, there are two texts, this ‘rhyme’ and "our eyes are turning gray". Previously, I had a tendency to accumulate complex, perhaps incomprehensible images, which were subconsciously linked in a rather dense chain, but one has to dig for these links, while they seem to be a scattered mosaic. I enjoyed playing that way.

And here are simple, understandable images, I even thought they were too simple. But I post it on Facebook — and people like it. It's like an umbilical cord that appears between us, this opportunity to speak in a simple, understandable, painful language.

Nowadays language, yes. In the first months of the war, I’ve been speaking like an old ensign: "What? Where to? Where from? Understood – Yes, sir – The next task." And now you physically feel how the language changes, how the accumulations, the love for excessive metaphors fall off from it... And here I am curious about the musical language. Actually, your musical language has been always changing from project to project — with age, with the condition... And what about music now? Is it being created?

— At the beginning of August, we wrote a new song with Stas Kononov, we sang the text "Our eyes are turning gray." He would take some chords, I’d create a melody with my voice. I enjoy this connection — together we can enter a territory that each of us cannot enter separately.

In collaboration, you always seem to take risks, because you don't know where you're going, but it's always interesting to me. Because when you feel a good concept, it's cool, but it's not interesting to use it from album to album. It is not interesting when I already understand well what is happening in this area. I can write any number of tracks that people would like – but it's not about research.

And creativity is just about research. You may not find answers to your questions, but you have a chance to ask them, and they would probably create some other questions – deeper or simply different ones – and this will be an eternal search. What questions do you have for yourself now?

— Well, these sparks of creativity are so rare now. Consciousness works on the material, calm and balanced territory: for example, I have 12, 15, 20 tasks I need to fulfill today, so I move step by step, improvising just a little. While creativity is an irrational thing, there is now not the right time to free it and listen to it. Now, intuition works faster in the trips to the Donetsk region: like you plan to take this road, and on the way there is a feeling that you need to take another way – you listen to it – and it works.

You’ve mentioned Stas Kononov. When did you start to collaborate?

— It started back in 2014, at “Orchestra Che,” when I broke my arm, I had a nerve torn and couldn't play the guitar, and suddenly I became a vocalist. Stas and Petia Tseluiko appeared, both very cool guitarists with different mindsets, different styles, and different senses of music – they collaborated very coolly together. Back in 2016, Stas came up with a tune (before, I mainly wrote myself at “Orchestra Che”), I started humming something too, looked into my notes and found a text that fitted just perfectly there! And I understood it was cool! I wouldn't have done that by myself.

Shortly before the war, I decided to record a solo album, but at some point, I got stuck and called Stas. We went to the studio near Izum, “Singers Records,” which no longer exists, unfortunately. Seriozha, the owner of the studio, only managed to take the most expensive microphones, $3,000 each, to his backpack. In the studio, there were many guitars, and cozy rooms from the 70s – Seriozha has been stuffing it for all his life, built it from scratch, an Australian sound engineer created the project – a beloved studio it used to be... He had to cross the river Donets with his wife and child when they were fleeing.

But we managed to record that album there, it’s been ready yet before the war, and today we’ve decided to upload it and let people enjoy it. That five-day work at the studio, nose to nose, meant understanding on an emotional level when not many words are needed... Just the day before yesterday, we sat down again and recorded a new track.

You and Stas not only play together but also volunteer together. In general, your group is mostly people from the ‘cultural gang’ – tell me a little more about them. Correct me, but I see people here who have been ‘at war’ for a long time, at volunteering, people with some fairly established ‘Ukrainian identity’, or whatever it is. And there are also young people who have always been very European-oriented, and they seem to be discovering this ‘Ukrainian identity’ only now, in a bit different way than we did...

— I’ve also been volunteering since 2014, we’ve constantly been going to the Donetsk region, and when the army received more provision, it was more about moral support from our side. Sergiy Viktorovych [Zhadan], Borys Sevastianov and I have traveled a lot, and Stas also joined last year. He used to have a rather passive position – he was from Crimea, and he was trying to understand everyone, and later he got answers to his questions. Together we arrived at ‘zero’ [frontline], looked through binoculars at the separatists, and sang for our boys. On February 24, my friends and I gathered at Ania's apartment, which eventually became the headquarters of "Culture Shock" [a volunteer organization to which Oleg is a member – ed.]. Stasik lived nearby, so I decided to drop by because I couldn’t get through by phone. I called the intercom – no answer. Then he’d come out sleepy, and it's already ten o'clock, and said: "What happened?" “You’ve overslept the war,” I replied.

Well, we all gathered at Ania's. We hid in the subway during the air raid alarms, but in the evening we realized that something had to be done. So, we called Pyrotechnik [Oleg Abramychev, co-founder of Sergiy Zhadan's Charity Fund — ed.], Zhadan, Anton Bigmenko [sound director of many Kharkiv cultural projects — ed.], and gathered near the office of Fraikor. The Fraikor people asked us to find some generators, I wrote about it on Facebook, and someone immediately responded, so we went, and punctured a tire. Everything was chaotic, we called our friends from the Armed Forces, and no one understood anything. We went to the headquarters of territorial defense [TRO], who said: "Oh, guys, you have a bus! Take this pile of things to HODA [Kharkiv Regional State Administration – ed.]." A major with the nickname Vito came out – we’ve been meeting with him every day until the HODA was destroyed – and said: "Go to the military warehouse, they will ship a lot of things to you there." We collected a heap of gear and came again in the morning. The warehouse manager asked: "Are you from Vito?" We replied: "Oh no, we already have our own requests." For two weeks, he had been sending military equipment with us. We took out a bunch of uniforms, knee pads, and unloading equipment – for territorial defense, for the 92nd, and the National Guard. All that was done then without any documents – no time for that – the dude has just taken that responsibility to ship because he understood that it was necessary.

It was whirling and twirling around. On the evening of the 25th, in one regiment, they said: "We would need thermal imaging." So, a girl called Annychka found the contact of the owner of a hunting store, I published a post, people sent money to my card – I took 8 more binoculars. The boys were so happy in the morning, they said: "We’ve clobbered them! We noticed them through your thermal imager and clobbered them!" And it was very inspiring. I’m very thankful to the people who trusted us back then and still trust us. A super community has emerged, and it is still active.

Ania and Masha, Katia Shcherbak, Tania Golubova, and some guys there joined our HQ. We all started huddling together, cleaned the basement, and spent a few nights. Someone started to deal with civilians, someone with military. This is how the “Culture Shock” headquarters was born. So, this is not ‘Oleg Kadanov's headquarters,’ as they say. Our decision-making is absolutely democratic.

These are all people from the cultural community – artists, cultural managers. It's a kind of ‘festival that we didn't order’ (that's how it looked in the first months, because many poets, actors, and musicians stayed in the city, and everyone got involved in this job). And I – in no way – want to say that the volunteer movement consists only of the ‘people of culture,’ but the cultural community still played a big role...

— It seems that this activism of the cultural community is not only about volunteering, but also about participating in pride events and social life. These people keenly feel any social injustice and react to it, and have a keen feeling of responsibility to themselves, and to society. It’s rather a responsibility to themselves as it implies a dialogue with one's own conscience. And, of course, we couldn't stay away, although the first weeks were very scary. We all were frightened.

Today I met Valera [Dzekh], a puppeteer. I studied puppeteering as well, belong to the other generation, though, so we’ve heard about each other but were not introduced. I’ve only gotten acquainted during this volunteering. Valera has been staying all the time in Pivnichna Saltivka [a residential area of Kharkiv – ed.].

I went there – and there were nonstop bombings every day – we had to have super intuition to show us the safe paths. We came under both the Grad missile and mine shelling. Once, we had a delivery for the guys from the Kharkiv University of Air Affairs, when a mine landed just six meters away from us, like in a fantasy movie, with a black tail. It seemed they really aimed at us. Panic came up from inside, but you understood you just couldn’t panic. We calmly handed over, hugged, went away through the archway, through the garden...

Another story happened on Buchma Street. We arrived just after the shelling stopped. We had to evacuate an old man, but he refused, and I argued with him for 5 minutes. Anyway, we took the family with the children from there, when someone cried: "A wounded!" I had a tourniquet with me, we ran into the entrance, the house was on fire, and explosions started. I thought: “Damn, are these gas pipes exploding?” Their tactics were like starting the second shelling 15-20 minutes after the first one when people were crawling out to pick up the wounded. And so we ran into the house entrance, and those 15 seconds saved our lives. We saved the guy who was in the house, but the other guy who stayed at the entrance died.

From time to time, I have the reflection… and you depicted it so vividly now: you tell the real scary tales, but you do it as if there were some terrible perverted beauty in it. You speak like an actor, like an artist...

— Some of these events are already in the past, you can step aside and see how it looked from there. And at that moment you see a dude... Half a dude. I have never seen so much flesh in my life. The dude stands, a bouquet of nerves, bones, and flesh where the fingers should be. Inside you’re suffocating, but the brain says: "I have to grope the unbroken part of the arm and apply a tourniquet." I lead him, I talk to him, and the part of me that is emotional is in awe but detached. And thank God that there is a rational part that clearly understands that it is necessary to act this way and that way. Yet in the evening you think: "Hell, what was that?!" And you have no word for it. That’s why you had to invent a new language, to name everything in a different way. I don't know what to call it, I don't know what I feel. It's anxiety, it's fear, confusion, shock – a cocktail of strange emotions that I've never felt in such a combination, and I don't know how to deal with it.

Tell me about fear. How does it change a human?

— The mouth gets dry. It is hard to speak. As if you smoked weed too much and couldn’t speak. Fine motor skills are disabled. You can make wide sharp movements, but not fine ones. Thoughts are chaotic, however, there is a leader in your mind who says: "Yes, that's it, now I'm in charge." And he gives the command, "Take your time!" because it is panic and chaos.

Let’s look at it on a wider scale, not at an action moment. We live under constant shelling. Putting it simply, we can die any day. How does it change your hopes, dreams? How do you sleep in general?

— Well, I have a normal sleep. I no longer wake up during explosions. However, I will not take unnecessary risks. I will put on a helmet and a bulletproof vest when necessary. You do realize when there is nothingness, there everything can end now. But you have to go – and you go, minimizing the risk as much as possible, you keep in touch with everyone, and you ask which path to take. Satellite phones help a lot as there is often no mobile connection.

Somehow life goes on. It might be scary. Several times I felt like I didn’t want to go there so much, I even got stuck, but I somehow managed to negotiate it with myself. Sometimes, when in 5 days about ten moments when you can die happen, it gains a critical mass, as if the body is screaming, "That's all, enough!" And sometimes everything is in order: you are calm and ready to prudently take risks.

Have we all grown up in these months?

— I think yes. It’s all about responsibility when you don’t wait until someone does something. You know you can do this, this and that – and you just do it.

We have no time to waste. Time has appeared to be a very valuable resource. There is someone to demand from – the someone is you. There’s no one else to do it. Although, there are some situations: there is a chain of people, and someone slips. People in Western Ukraine do not have this experience, there is a completely different tempo, I may say that as a Galician. As they didn’t hear explosions regularly, didn't see flesh, didn't have to transport cargo 200, 300... And they still live in that [pre-war] tempo. They are not to blame. But sometimes you want to say: "Damn it, don't screw it up!" "We haven’t sent you a thermal imager today, so we will send it tomorrow." Tomorrow there may be no one to give this thermal imager to. And I want them to understand this – but how, if they haven't lived through this experience?

Okay, now that you've stepped on thin ice, I'm going to do something nasty, and then we'll hug each other. I’m going to read another quote: "The East is the East, and Kipling has nothing to do with it. The roots were torn out. Memory erased. They rock their babies to [Russian] chanson. Such festivals are simply an instinct for self-preservation." You know, I’ve been feeling offended because of these phrases for many years. You said it in an interview for the "Road to the East" festival, which we all did together with the charity fund of Serhiy Zhadan in 2016 in Izum. And I wanted to yell, "Look at you, "memory is erased"! Yes, it has been concreted for decades, but it is still breaking through!"

— I feel so ashamed for this and for the way I behaved at that time overall.

What has changed in your perception over the years? What do you think about the East now, what do you hear, what do you see? What's with the memory there, after all?

— These lands are very important to me, therefore I stayed here. I could get away to Ivano-Frankivsk. I'm not bragging, I just realized that this territory is really very important to me. Kharkiv is important, and everything that we experienced here, and Kharkiv is Ukraine. I can't take those words back, I blurted them out then, and I no longer agree with the guy who said it.

Is the East getting closer?

— For sure. We are all united now, and a lot of people feel it. Once we came to Saltivka, to Natalia Uzhviy Street – there, on the first day the air defense division was defeated. We had to get the ‘200th’ out, he’s been laying there for six days. "Omega" and I somehow sneaked in and took the body. At that moment, two guys, the gopniks [members of a delinquent subculture – ed.] came up. We thought there would be a ‘fight,’ but in those few days even gopniks have become Ukrainians.

For me, there is no difference between the East and the West, on the contrary, I sometimes resent the West for not being as active as possible.

Hey, you become a Slobozhan [an inhabitant of Northeastern Ukraine]!

— I become Ukrainian.

What are the locals in the East saying now?

— We talk more with the military, but, you know, there are still many pro-Russian sentiments in the Donetsk region, even now, even under shelling. Everyone got changed dramatically in Kharkiv. Well, those who have stayed here. In March-April, it was this kind of community: the police, civilians, everyone got together, at all levels, informational, and material – everyone worked together, money was not an issue at all. It's awkward but I feel somewhat nostalgic for those months...

We all feel nostalgic.

— But the unification took place anyway. And it's very cool. Though it happened not everywhere in the Donetsk region. Probably because the war had come to them somewhat earlier... I could be wrong, but I think it's because Russian propaganda had constantly been working powerfully there, Russian television only had been broadcasting, and the war was already on. That’s why they would not be surprised by this war, by its escalation, while Russia remains the big cheese for them. Values have not changed.

You know, I am very grateful for what you’re saying because your rhetoric and your views have been changing; as there remains a group of people in Western Ukraine who say that we ourselves are to blame for this war because we’ve been speaking Russian...

— I read something about that, and it sucks.

Well, to my mind if even the war does not change us and our rhetoric, it would be very scary. So, tell me more about the changes. How has Kharkiv changed over these months, in your opinion?

— Kharkiv has always had two poles. On the one hand, artists – poets, musicians, painters have always been super powerful here. And on the other hand – Barabashovo, cops, prosecutors. So, Kharkiv existed among these two bowls, and the bowl of spivs and cops seemed to be bigger; but the cultural community was also there talking about spiritual values. Now [the values can be found] among the police as well, among those who haven’t run away... Why did they stay? They remained to do their job, to protect Kharkiv, and this is such a unifying moment, and it prompts us to think about some spiritual matters. When life and death are so close, all the fuss falls away – you understand what is valuable. That's why it was so easy to collect money for a thermal imager, for instance, because it's not difficult to give, you won't take this money with you. There is no point in sitting on them.

For the last few weeks, I have been arguing that a new Ukrainian identity is being crystallized in Kharkiv. I mean, similar processes may take place anywhere else, but here it is such a Petri dish, perhaps due to the kind of people who stayed, and to how long the war has been lasting. For instance, Kyiv, fortunately, was recaptured rather soon, while for Mariupol it doesn’t seem to be the time for building an identity, but for survival...

— But have you seen? Yesterday, the guy marched there with our flag!

Yep! So, here is kind of a nationwide laboratory. I would only wish not to lose these valuable features later, but to extrapolate them to the whole of Ukraine.

— We’ve talked about it with the military also – about the sense of justice. Many people from the 92nd brigade and the National Guard think not only about the war. They know that we are into music, so they would say: “You must continue!” The National Guardsmen cited to me that phrase said – according to a legend – by Churchill, “If we don't spend money on culture, then what are we fighting for?” They would tell me about corruption, about those processes that had prevented Kharkiv from living and breathing before the war; they would say all that must be changed. They would not think just about repelling the Russian attack, but also about how to build a new Ukraine.

These are so-called change agents. For example, Anton, who’s the owner of a construction company: he’d never been an activist, but as soon as he joined the men on the battlefield, he realized that we were many fronts to fight at – that we are fighting for the new Ukraine. I wouldn’t like it to remain how it used to be. I am sure that we’ll gain victory – at what price and when – it is not clear, but we have no other way out. There will be a lot of work after the victory. It will be necessary to find collaborators who have changed their ‘colors’ because being Ukrainian is now powerful and fashionable. Many people come here, but their visions have not changed, and we will have to work with this as well.

What do you think about the current processes of renaming the streets, and eliminating certain monuments...?

— It should be cleaned out. I support the renaming. I don’t doubt Russian culture imposed here for centuries should be canceled. It’s not a matter of logic but a matter of emotions. Now I can’t even sing my own texts written in Russian.

How could one continue consuming that culture while realizing that Russian-speaking culture is one of the reasons for the misfortune and destruction that we experience now?

Would you fancy this change in our talk: tell me about happiness, Oleg.

—  Good change. Happiness, in general, is difficult to crystallize. It is split-second moments, impulses, as if you’ve grabbed it and it slipped away – but such split-second moments still happen. I am terribly grateful to Ania Gubanova that she stayed and did not go anywhere, although I insisted on it. And I'm so glad that she stayed – even though it may sound selfish – I want to see her next to me, to feel her, though I doom her to danger. But it was her conscious choice. I am grateful to her for it, as these seconds of happiness and joy arise due to communication with her. Words are not enough for my gratitude.

Grateful for your sincerity. I just had a question about personal relationships during the war. I was a bit concerned about it, though it is very important, as the war does not diminish our thrive for life...

— On the contrary, war even increases the thrive – where Thanatos is, there is also Eros...

Sex during the war – what is it like? (giggling).

— Passionate. The body probably feels it at the physiological level, "I can expire tomorrow", – and takes the maximum from this physical existence. Although, you don’t always have enough strength. You kind of mean: "Eh! Eeeee…” Shit, we’re talking about that, right?


— There is a certain regularity during peaceful life. Now the regularity seems to have decreased, but the passion has increased. Ha-ha.

To tell the truth, it’s very cool that we discuss it. The whole country is in an awkward state. In private relationships, people behave differently. Not better or worse, just differently. You cannot understand what is happening to a person. Only later you understand that it is a consequence of accumulated fear, uncertainty, and fatigue, which none of us was ready for... And I think it is very mature to discuss it. Since we are talking about personal matters: are your parents in the Frankivsk region? Do they ask you to go to a safe place?

— Yes, surely. Fortunately, my mom doesn’t use the internet.

Meaning, she doesn’t know what regions you visit?

— Well, the neighbors tell her that I am a volunteer, but I say that I’m a hotline operator sitting in a safe place, coordinating some things. She is very worried. Since the first day, she’s been asking: "Would you leave? Take Ania, come together, here we have everything." Finally, I said: "Mom, I understand what these from-morning-till-night checks are after, but they take too much strength from me." I continued: "Mom, you believe in the Lord, trust the Lord that everything will be fine with me." I tried to find an argument... Now we have a call once in 2-3 days.

I’d like to point out another thing about relationships. Ania always sees when I get reserved, because of devastation or exhaustion, and she encourages my self-disclosure. She is a facilitator, now trying to understand the processes that we experience, the traumas that have not been fully lived through and worked through. And she tremendously helps me with this. I've never had a relationship like this where I can voice everything. It's rather difficult to be completely sincere, because when you open up, you may easily get hurt. Having previous experiences, it’s fearful now. But I am grateful to her that whenever I am with her, I can be sincere and frank, I can be a child – she accepts it and does not say, "Where is the man for me to lean on?!"

You mean, you, being an adult bearded man, who visits the devil’s hell, are not afraid to speak, not afraid to work through your fears?

— I think this is what helps. During these months of the war, masculinity has been expressed more with me. But those subtle fine mechanisms of world perception, which help create music and poems, are simply screwed up; I wouldn’t call it hysterics, but it’s rather despair. From time to time, I feel as if I were a child – and Ania hugs me, we may just lie down, be silent or talk about something – and then I feel like getting empowered so that I can be of help to her again. It is a mutual process.

You are 44 y.o. What have you learned and been through by now?

— I’d been disturbed and shaky almost until I turned forty. I’d been taking a lot of drugs and alcohol. I had a hard addiction that was destroying me, my relationships, both personal and with other musicians in the band, and all social connections – everything was breaking to pieces. At breakdowns, it was easier for me to blow, sniff, and hide into a hole where I felt fine alone because my worldviews in dialogue with the world were getting destroyed, it turned out that everything was not exactly as I have imagined. And when I realized that I am soon forty and have no desire to live, I thought, “This is kind of bullshit, I don't want it to be like this.” I would work a lot with psychologists, read books, and go to psychotherapy sessions, so they helped me figure out where the primary trauma was: some things come from childhood, others from the post-puberty period, from not really successful first relationships... In fact, they were a complete failure.

As soon as I realized the reasons for my state, I also understood where my addiction came from. I have stopped taking anything and begun enjoying my sober life.

Once, during the war, I wanted to drink some vodka, but I realized: it was just a reflex, a try to recover, and my hand was trying to reach for a glass because I didn't know how I would get through that day. But I was like, "Well, this is some kind of bullshit!"

So, you get recovered without a glass of vodka? Tell me how, because my hand still reaches out for it.

— I drink tea. Puerh, oolong – they work differently. I have a large bar at home.

You take some tea and just get better, right?

—  Yes. I also practice breathing techniques that either help to return to normal or at least relieve peak tension at disruptions. If I had drunk, I would have gotten worse.

You do not miss that brazen drunkard, do you?

— Not at all. I mean, it's cool that all has happened, but I also feel ashamed for many things. And it’s good that I feel ashamed. Sometimes you ask yourself: "Do you want to call that creature again? Oh no-o-o!"

In the movie filmed about you by Mykola Pastyko, you read the student oath [written] on the wall of your theater room, and there was the last line: "If I break this solemn oath, let the severe punishment of my conscience befall me." How is your relationship with the conscience these days? May "severe punishment befall" you?

— So far so good. I try to listen carefully to it. Moments of choice also happen when you have to decide whether to give a thermal imager to the military or not. In the first weeks [of the war], I gave everything to everyone! And then — stop, let's figure it out: so, I have two thermal imagers and four requests. If there were four, I would give them all, but now I have to ask: "Guys, do you really need one?" And here, the conscience is very careful, it is a responsibility, and a big or a small decision has to be made every day.

I may be wrong, but I understand where I will give [a thermal imager], and where – I’m sorry, but no. Let's say, I'll give you simple analog walkie-talkies, that's enough for you – no one listens in to you at block posts, so you don't need Motorola 4400 at all, but there people need them, and I'll dig the ground but will find them. We will either give them satellite phones, or Starlink, because it is very important for them to have connection, and it is difficult to communicate under EW [means of radio-electronic warfare — ed.]

It was very cool when we’ve brought the satellite phones to one of the intelligence battalions, and later they were so thankful for those phones that helped them to keep control of a settlement! The Russians attacked, there was no connection, no means to coordinate their actions, so they coordinated by satellite and fought back. Some two tiny things have saved everyone.

Okay. The last quote from yours as well, “We stop speaking aloud about our purpose, as the path becomes our purpose.” What will we be like at the end of the war, and what is ’the end of the war’ after all?

— We’ll see. I believe we won’t be ashamed of those people.


Translated by Natalia Letik

Short profile

Oleg Kadanov is a musician, actor, volunteer