Yuriy Gurzhy (25)’s War Diary: Grandpa’s records and embarrassing vinyl treasures – Culture

April 22, 2022
I spent countless hours of my childhood in Kharkiv in my grandfather’s room. Although I am not allowed to call my grandfather’s room, this would not be entirely correct, as it could not have been simply my grandfather’s. The five of us lived in a relatively small apartment and when my sister was born in 1985, we were six.

It was a connecting room and for several hours a day it was back to the dentist office. Both of my grandparents were dentists and took patients home. It was illegal, but they did it anyway. Now I wonder how they coped with this. My grandfather was not particularly brave, and moving to the private dental office was a brave move …

The record stores in Berlin made me euphoric

When I was young, my grandfather wanted to become a musician. Then World War II broke out, he had to flee his hometown of Rostov from the Germans. His violin was stolen on the way to Tashkent and after the victory he decided to study medicine and not music. Music remained his great love.

My grandfather could play a lot of instruments and did so whenever the opportunity arose. On family holidays he always sat at the piano. He also collected records. I was very happy to stay in the room where his drives and boards were when I was sick and could not go to daycare, which happened quite often. When he was not seeing his patients, he hung up on me. His taste in music was very eclectic – if he had been born 50 years later, he would definitely have been a DJ.

He played me children’s records as well as old Jewish music, and although I had no idea what “Jewish” meant at the time, I always thought his musical choices were delightful. When I was 13, I discovered rock’n’roll for myself. Musically, my grandfather and I did not get along so well, but I started collecting records as well. When we emigrated to Germany in 1995, we had to separate from our record collections.

As soon as I moved from the immigrant hotel to my apartment, I got myself a discography and started buying discs again. I was euphoric about what the record stores in Berlin had to offer – everything I could dream of in Ukraine was there. Every Sunday I went to flea markets in search of vinyl treasures and found myself in tears whenever I suddenly came across a disc I knew from my grandfather’s collection.

It would have been pointless, absurd to buy them again, he had no way of playing them and slowly lost interest in music as his memory. But I had to take them with me, knowing that I would probably never hear those discs.

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It became a habit. Whenever I have been to Ukraine in the last 20 years, I have gone to flea markets in Kharkiv, Kiev, Lviv, Mariupol, Mykolayivka and Popasna and always brought old discs to Berlin. And sometimes there were things I bought when I was 15 or 17 – the soundtrack of my youth.

Moreover, I am a member of the Facebook groups of Ukrainian vinyl freaks, although I almost do not buy anything there. In recent weeks I have noticed how other record lovers love to sell old albums of Russian bands from their collections.

Is war the best medicine against nostalgia and sentimentality? The songs that played in the background at our first parties, where we got our first kiss and rolled our first knot – often they are just embarrassing now, especially when you realize today that their performers attend concerts, to support the Russian Army in “its special heroic military operation.”

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