Why cannot you go to Crimea?

I was sent video on Viber and cried. On that video, there was the Crimean Black Sea. I cried because in August I used to go to Crimea for a couple of weeks to see my friends, to sleep in my room and to look through my teen diary for the umpteenth time, to reread my dad’s letters for me in Kyiv and again “fend off” mom who half an hour after breakfast or dinner asks whether I want something tasty.

For five years I don’t go to Crimea to rest, don’t see the sea and don’t go out with my friends in Sevastopol, Feodosia and Koktebel. But this week at least three people asked me, “How do you think, is worth going to rest in Crimea? Tell us how the road is there, the borders, the checks. They tell that there is no problem and what the media writes is all fearmongering and propaganda.” And these are people who read not only my Facebook but are on speaking terms with me, know my pain and relationships with relatives. It seemed to me that I often write about Crimea, the media often talks about it, but nope. This is not enough.

I bravely sigh and ask, “Why don’t you want to go on vacation to Luhansk or Donetsk? Because there is no beautiful landscapes and the bluest Black sea in the world? Or because there is no war in Crimea, shelling, but a lot of tourists, sea, fruit, corn? Why don’t you want to Donetsk? These are the same territories, occupied by one country?” In response – either silence or “why do you connect the dots”.

I want everyone who goes to Crimea on vacation or plans to do so realize one simple thing: by your trips and the words “all is fine there, plenty of holidaymakers, no problem at the border, the sea – it’s amazing, the Crimea remained the Crimea and nothing has changed”, you make the theft, murders, kidnapping and tortures legal. You make the occupation legal. All is clear: if you are stolen phone, or your flat and car were illegally taken over – this is a theft. Phone, flat, car were yours but suddenly a gunned Gopnik came and said – now it’s mine. At this moment you have no doubts – this is a theft, you were robbed of your property and then told that you have never owned it. Moreover, you were said – “if you resist – we’ll do so no one from your family ever sees your again”. You are offended, start looking for defence and deserved punishment for a thieve and murder but friends say, “Well, you know, he is much stronger and now this is his phone, car, flat. Deal with it.”

I can be mistaken with figures but: 124 political prisoners, 24 captured Ukrainian sailors, hundreds of those who are on the frontline in Donetsk, around million and a half of displaced persons, terrible pressure on the indigenous peoples of Crimea – the Crimean-Tatars, the only nation in Crimea that could say – this is our land since it’s the Crimean-Tatars who are recognized as indigenous peoples of Crimea by international law. But the “newcomers” want their claim for this land to be recognized. And when you cross a so-called “border” between Crimea and Kherson you make their claim legal. That’s is, for your flat, car, phone. Because they have power. And you are deprived of it.

It concerns the citizens of Russia who go to rest in Crimea or the citizens of other countries who believe that “there is nothing bad” and fly to Crimea across Moscow. But their responsibility is a different story. Why talking about them if after five years of occupation they don’t understand it?

So still, is it OK or not to travel to Crimea? Yes, it is. If you have parents and relatives whom you have to visit. Or you have any issues with real estate, property or land – you also have to go, you can’t give the enemy what belongs to you, by all possible means you should defend it and preserve your property until Crimea returns home. Or you are an attorney and you defend political prisoners in the court or a journalist and you cover a real situation in Crimea (I keep quiet here because I have a very close friend who does it and every time jeopardize herself).

Probably, that’s all. In other cases, if you have friends there who call you for free or for “little money” to live in their houses and enjoy Crimean sea air that heals, if you missed Laspi or Fiolent, if you crave for so long to walk along Kara Dag or Yalta – no, you can’t go. Otherwise, you should understand that by this trip you make murders, arrests, tortures, absence of freedom and that fear which rules over the peninsula legal.

Actually, I can tell about a long way to Crimea, checks at the “borders”, the inability to pay with a regular bank card, the lack of a regular telephone connection, and tasteless expensive products. But the main question is not about everyday things, it’s about different. I politely tried to explain why you can’t travel to Crimea. Politely is the main word. Crimea is a trigger that immediately makes me react emotionally, sharply and uncompromisingly. Self-possession, as dad said, is not my best weapon, and I can’t discuss the topic of Crimea calmly and politely for more than five years.

I wish I were at my mom’s house, ate delicious Bakhchisarai peaches, swam in the sea and hung out with friends on the southern seaside as I used to do for many years of my adulthood. So it should be in August. And I will certainly do it as soon as the Crimea and all political prisoners return home, and the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians will again be able to live and breathe freely in their native land.

Olena Bogatyrenko

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