icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Checking in on Peter Zalmayev in Kyiv

Peter Zalmayev sitting outside on a peaceful street over the summer. He took this screenshot as we were talking, music playing in the background. © photo copyright Peter Zalmayev 2022 with permission.


This is how my July 7 interview for HV1 with broadcaster Peter Zalmayev began:


9 a.m. EST, Thursday, July 7. Well known Ukrainian broadcaster, Peter Zalmayev, is talking to me on Zoom from a table outside the Sto Rokiv Tomu Vpered Café (translation: 100 Years in the Future) on Volodymyrska Street in Central Kyiv. He's sitting outside, it's summer, jazz is cascading out of the café, and scooters are parked on the curb. "In an ironic way there isn't a better place to be right now than Kyiv," he says.


Since then, I've been following Peter on Facebook, or he sends me texts on messenger with links to his latest interviews. Most are in Ukrainian or Russian. (He is tri-lingual.)  This week he did two interviews in English, one for the BBC World Service, and one for French television. So, he's alive, he's still broadcasting. Thank goodness. But the peaceful hiatus is over.


Always, an interviewer must ask, "How are you? How is your family?" Peter is living in a war zone and talking to him is not about ratings. Everyone who has interviewed him knows this, and respects it. He evacuated his family when the war started, brought them back over the summer, and has evacuated them again. His children used the playground in central Kyiv that was hit by a rocket and now has a huge crater. No one was hurt or killed in that particular location, at least. 


When asked directly about his family, Peter's reply is, "They are elsewhere." He is broadcasting again from a bunker, wearing what looks like a winter jacket and a baseball hat. It's cold down there as it will be throughout Ukraine this upcoming winter, cold in the metaphoric sense, too, without the end of war in sight.


It's difficult for those working and/or simply hoping every day for world peace and disarmament to think about more weapons and more lethal weapons for Ukraine, about the training of thousands of civilians to fight and kill, and the ever present threat of a nuclear cataclysm. But it's obvious, from where I sit, as a child of refugees from genocide, that Putin's war against Ukraine is a genocidal war—as it was against Chechnya—and  that he must be stopped, somehow. It took too long to stop Hitler, the genocide in Rwanda, Assad in Syria, to name just two other atrocities. Put your finger on the map of the world blindfolded and you will find continuing global escalations of cruelty and violence and war on every continent, including our own. Then stop and take a walk into a meadow or a forest. Talk to the cows, the porcupines, the chickens, the owls, the bees. All these creatures, and then some, are wiser than us.


Post a comment