The Kiev Metro and Confrontations By Proxy
If you follow my blog then you will know by now that getting into a physical alteration in the Ukraine is an unlikely thing to happen. Does that mean it is out of the equation?
By far not, I say.
This article, as sad as it is, stems from my first-hand experience on one of the world’s largest subway transportation systems. If you read it as an anti-guide it will provide you with information to helü you improve your safety when you travel. Speaking of which: how do you actually get into a fight on the Kiev Metro?
From my personal experience I can tell you that one of the quickest ways to get into a fight in the Ukraine is by proxy. What does that mean?
A confrontration by proxy
What I mean here is being dragged into an existing argument where an escalation involving you is nothing more than the final straw.
Imagine a situation in which two men are having a quarrel. A third person overhears it and takes the side of one of the men. The conversation gets a little more intense and sparks the interest of a fourth man. Surprisingly that fourth man happens to live in the same housing block as the third man and has nothing good to say about him. Man No. 4 now advises man No. 3 to take it easy since nobody in the block would believe a word he says anyway. No. 3 and 4 get into a heavy confrontation while No. 1 and 2 unite forces to stop them from jumping each other. Once they kept that from happening No. 1 and 2 shake hands and say goodbye while No. 3 and 4 yell insults at each other from a distance. – In sum, a true confrontation by proxy.
During my first week in Kiev I was awarded a room in a „luxurious“ dormitory maintained by the University I worked for. I had an appointment with a female lecturer who was supposed to help me pick up the room keys. And what a special woman she was. Although no older than 30 the young lady somehow managed to obtain the personality of a dominatrix with 20 years of professional experience. The only difference was that she was wearing a suit instead of wearing a gas mask and whipping ball-gagged japanese businessmen in a dimly lit basement. The first time I met her was not that bad, because I was with somebody else. Now it was only me and her.
The downward spirale begins
I anticipated that things would go south once we met on the street across the university’s main building. The little lady simply refused to shake my hand, making me look quite clumsy for a moment. „You must understand! This is a cultural difference! Women aren’t supposed to shake the hand of men they aren’t related to!“ – My hairy ass. How could she have shaken my hand when met for the first time?! The little witch perfectly knew what she was doing.
I was fully convinced things would go south once she suggested that we take the Kiev Metro to get to the dormitory. Why? Because every little child knows that public transport is the root of all evil. I had expected her to mention public transport and thus practised a short come-back line suggesting that we could „just take a taxi, I’ll pay“. But since I was receiving value from her my frame wasn’t strong enough to work around the hellhole of underground transportation.
The crowded subway car smelled of haste, sweat and fear. I had to lean over another passenger’s shoulder just to ask my company when we had to get out. She located a map right next to the car’s exit doors where a short Ukrainian man was standing together with his 10-year-old daughter. In short, that man was in her way and the dominatrix didn’t take lightly to that „offense“.
Once the the map was spotted her eyes locked on to it like a guided missile and she then launched the most subtle move I have ever witnessed. She stepped up to the man, did not even look at him and started to physically push him aside while saying something among the lines of „C’mon, move it!“ in Russian. The guy stumbled to the side. First in shock then with a sour expression on his face he kept staring us two strangers. Little Miss Dominatrix got to the map, read it out loud to me in German and everything was as if nothing happened. As if.
Full-out havok – on a subway car
At the next station the subway car turned into a sardine tin.
Without anything to hold on to I lifted my left arm to place my fingertips on the ceiling. The short Ukrainian man was still standing next to me, visibly angered, because I was taller than him, because the world was an unfair place or because of god knows what.
Not very happy about my unvoluntary semi-bear hug, he tried to push me away. I told him to back off, but he started pushing me again. I pushed him back, we were pushing each other back and forth for a second and then – bam. The little misfit punched me with his tiny fist right on the mouth. Surprised as it felt more like a slap than an actual punch I responded by immediately hitting him back.
Within a second the whole car turned into a brawl. Children started crying, old babushkas started screaming, people were fleeing from the scene as if a fire had broken out. My little opponent wanted to go all out and grabbed me by the shirt while trying to punch me with his other hand. Sadly for him he couldn’t really move his other hand since there were still too many people standing altoo close to him. That didn’t keep him from trying, though. His attempts of striking my while he left the one side of his body fully unprotected I was able to land three hands right where I was sure they would be noticed.
And that was it. People were pulling the man away and told him to sit down on a bench in good distance from me. The train had rolled into the next station and the little man left the car, staring at me in hatred with his face all red from anger and hits he took, making him look as if he had just caught some kind of exotic jellyfish rash.
As if the confrontation had taught her manners the dominatrix was now giving me an anxious look:
„Are you okay?“ – „All good, no big deal.“ – I put my finger to my lip to see if it was bleeding.
„Perhaps“, she stuttered, „Perhaps everything was my fault. If I hadn’t pushed him to the side earlier things might have…“ –
I gave her the 1000 yard stare. She just looked down and said nothing.
– A true confrontation by proxy.
Read next: Quick Guide On Ukraine Violence