“We’ll save some money and in summer we’ll go to Zatoka”, an unknown to me couple in some Kyiv restaurant seems just have started to dream of a long-awaited vacation. He was proud of this idea and finished his coffee, she was glad and it seems that she was about to start looking for a new swimsuit on some of the websites. “Saving money for Zatoka”, I couldn’t get it. There is still someone who’s planning and even dreaming to go there.
I’ve spent most of my life in the city not far from Zatoka. There, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky, this resort village was not perceived as a place for recreation or entertainment. It was, and perhaps still is, a gold mine. Without any exaggeration. It was quite normal and even correct to quit an old job or take a vacation for the whole summer to go to work “by the sea”. There, “by the sea”, if you have a goal you can earn a lot of money, so you don’t need to bother yourself with work for the rest of a year. Zatoka is a source of income for locals and some kind of a strange magnet that for no reason continues to attract tourists. The biggest mystery is those who come back there again.
Zatoka is a projection of a human desire to earn money multiplied by the long-awaited joy of the upcoming of the season. When you happen to be there as a local, you feel it quite simply, because, in fact, nobody hides it. But somehow, those who after all saved money and get to Zatoka not always notice it. Or at least, they pretend that everything is in line with the plan.
The village comes back to life in the summer. Somewhere at the end of April, it wakes up because the first local laborers appear, then seasonal stores are opened, faded and broken signs are switched on. Mass attempts to tidy everything up before the arrival of the first tourists begin. Before this, Zatoka looks archaic, to some extent. At the end of the autumn, and especially during the winter, it is closed for strangers, it becomes light, and maybe authentic. But all this can be seen only “before”. Then comes the “after”, which rather resembles obscure chaos. The chaos that defeats you and absorbs all your hopes for a quiet and relaxing holiday.
If cities could be characterized by some human qualities, I would probably say that Zatoka is a miserly approach. Without any attachment to individuals or locals, especially to tourists. It’s like a chemical reaction, the result of the interaction of all these people, the synthesis of negative energy and disappointments. Miserly approach or “zhlobstvo” (extreme forms of cupidity, translator’s note) as it is called here is something that happens when you don’t care about your clients or tenants, and in their turn, they don’t care about the place where they have rest. Salesmen, customers, locals or guests – nobody’s preoccupied with what will happen after him. The vicious circle of indifference, from which, it seems, there is only one way out – to escape. That is Sansara they have in Zatoka. Such an infinite cycle of suffering.
Sometimes the miserly approach is combined with a strange and even unexpected vulgarity. The closer the nigh, the more of vulgarity you can see. All the battles against it will be in vain, as, indeed, with everything that can annoy you here. The worst example of market relations, where only mechanism “buy-sell” has preserved. Total ignorance and distrust of each other. But, of course, not without the local warriors of light, who try at least somehow to sort it out, and to offer something in return. However, these warriors quickly break down and obey the system. It’s been mastering not for weeks, not for months but for years.
Sometimes, it seems that Zatoka is some kind of special school of life, even if you come here only for a few days. It is a parallel world with its laws and regulations, with its leaders and controlling bodies. They have nothing to do with official authority. This is a world, where your desires can only be fulfilled with your ability to pay. And implementation doesn’t mean to get everything at all. You either run away during the first days or restrained and obediently spend your vacation here, moist yourself with sour cream (folk-remedy from sunburns) after the first day at the beach. You’re walking down the alleys wearing just your pants or swimsuits. Sooner or later you become an element of this system.
There is nothing to be ashamed or to apologize for. Zatoka is indefinitely good at one thing – the ability to accept everyone, regardless of their views. Again: everyone just doesn’t care. You can be the most polite person, let the other in the tight aisles of the local market, throw the cigarette butts into the trash. Also, you can throw it under your feet, shoulder your way to the beer tent first, forget about “please” and “thank you”. Both options will work, in the same way: everyone will go on to ignore you.
The most terrible thing in Zatoka is the center, further, the surrounding gets lighter and calmer. However, the center still remains a magnet that gathers everything around itself. All the infrastructure of the village, all the normal stores and relatively normal restaurants – all of them are in the center. Somewhere between greed and indifference, between ignorance and vanity, all of this is gathered somewhere there. Outside the center, it slightly fades away. But it doesn’t disappear completely.
I am sure that Zatoka can be loved and understood. You can stay alone with it and trust it. But something tirelessly kills all of this and prevents it from growing. All this calm, all this understanding – it wakes up when the village goes to sleep, tired of the next summer. The tourist season takes all the might from it, all the power and ability to fight. This is done not only by locals but by those who have decided to turn Zatoka into a bridgehead for their business, for a quick profit with minimal investment. And those who are willing to buy and support it with their visits. Zatoka needs to be restarted. I wonder if that couple saved enough money, did they go to Zatoka?
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel
Photo by Maryna Bandeliuk