Kiev Commonwealth of Naturists

"Naturisme" #3

KIEV DIARY: Olga and Galina

Olga and Galina are two young women from Kiev. Bart Wijnberg met them and spoke with them about naturism and nudity and freedom in the former Soviet Union.

The website naturism.kiev.ua looks splendid at any rate. I have to be in Kiev in the Ukraine for my work for a couple of days and I prepared myself thoroughly. I get an address through the INF. How wonderful an invention Internet can be. No loss of time for weeks to send a letter. No censorship at the border. No noisy and cluttered telephone line that prevents you to ever understand your Russian counterpart. And how nice a site it is. Very professional. High quality pictures. Many a Dutch site maker could still learn from that.

"Naturisme" #3

Monday

I stay in Kiev in one of those old-fashioned Soviet hotels where time seems to have stopped. Badly lit, with old-fashioned furniture. Many hands for little work, much red tape. And most charming babushkas on each floor, who have to take good care of the guests, and who in the meantime are busy learning to say 'good morning' and 'good evening' and the room numbers in English.

I ring up my contact. I don't know exactly what will be awaiting me. I get a lady on the phone who actually speaks English. It turns out to be a different club than the one from the web site. I do not know whether they work together with those that I had been given. She gives me her son Oleg's telephone number. Oleg is chairman of 'club II'. He is kind enough to give me also Andrii Litovchenko's number and one of his woman friends, Olga.

Olga's English is better than Andrii's, so she is the one who continues the telephone conversation. We get into an animated discussion. She has visited Italy. She would very much like to have a vacation job, e.g. at Le Betulle. She might go there early June when the Western naturist federations have a meeting there. She had been to Cap d' Agde as well, and noticed "quite a few things" there. She wouldn't explain that over the telephone.
As a matter of fact, I am a little distrustful. I know naturism as it is being practised in Poland, and that has all the characteristics of Cap d'Agde you could possibly think of. We agree to meet on Wednesday somewhere in town. I am an analphabetic in these Cyrillic surroundings, so this solutions seems the best one. If the weather cooperates we will visit a naturist beach, and Andrii will try to organize a special sauna session. How will we recognize each other? I will discreetly carry an American naturist magazine. And she gives a description of herself: rather tall, on the blonde side and 23 years of age.

"Naturisme" #3

"Naturisme" #3

Tuesday

During the meeting of my work I get into contact with one of the female speakers, Galina, a young doctor. Women in need of IVF come to the private clinic where she works. She too turns out to have been abroad. Even for an extended period, first on a scholarship from the French government, later by having a sideline in France.
We pass a McDonald's in town. 'When it was still new, people who came were wearing smart clothes', she tells. But now that Kiev has about a dozen, the chic has worn off. She knows the system from inside as it was in a McDonald's in France that she earned her extra money.
'Haven't you met your husband in France?', I ask teasingly. I know the feeling, it happened to me too, when I was a student in a foreign country.
'No, she replied and her tone sounded thoughtful, 'I got married here to a man from Kiev. I am not sure whether money would have merited the uprooting I possibly would have felt.'
I have great appreciation for that answer.
'I will go to the beach tomorrow', I try to avoid any emphasis.
'We have many beaches.'

'I will be going to a nude beach, but why are you laughing?', I ask her when I notice her reaction.
After which she tells me a story about herself, about the time when she was 19 years old and visited Germany. She was cajoled by friends to the local nude beach.
'I just did not know where to look, me as a good Soviet girl, and she makes a gesture of having blinkers. I spent the the rest of the afternoon in my bathing suit and firmly lying flat on my stomach.'
I asked her about my other passion, music. Would there be any music stores in Kiev?
She knew them, although she did not play herself.
'But I do paint.'
'What do you paint?'
'Landscapes and nudes.'

Wednesday

7:45 AM: somebody is calling and I have to get up. Group II on the phone, Oleg. He had something arranged for the evening. Somebody will fetch me. But I got an appointment in the meantime.
His story about the existence of two clubs sounds familiar. Sharing power is always difficult. OK, so let there be two clubs, then. It resembles the Netherlands of twenty years ago.
Galina, the young doctor, had promised to bring some work, but she found that too much honor for herself after all. I had brought some issues of Naturisme magazine for my newfound naturist friends, so I could show her a copy. One cover shows a Russian man diving into hole in the ice, a picture from Siberia. She examined the issue attentively. Very intently even.
'No Playboy indeed', she said, almost to her relief. 'After all, one always can have one's thoughts about it', she added. 'If a man undresses completely here on the beach, then it must be a weirdo, but if a woman would do it, you immediately think that she is after something. We are slightly more oriental here, after all.' She seems to take a keen interest in the magazine all in all.
Wednesday 1:15 PM. A tall blonde walks over to me. This must be Olga.
We immediately take the metro and go to Andrii's appartment. He opens the door, dressed only in short khaki pants. It turns out there are two more young women in the apartment, Nadya and Tanya.
It is the most beautiful weather on earth when we reach the beach. Only a few people are there, as it is a working day, and they are only men. I am told that weekends show a more mixed crowd. I had seen that already on a video Andrii had shown me at his flat, and also the dozens of pictures he has, show many children, regular families, who seem to have a great time indoors and outdoors. But nothing of the kind on this beach today.
A cool dip into the Dnipro river makes our beach visitors want to play a game of volleyball. It strikes me that two men who happen to be present on the beach, get invited to join the game. I will show them later our Naturisme magazine with the Siberia ice cover. That breaks the ice, as it were. They turn out to be regular people, and not weirdos. But then, my wife is not a 'nudist', as one of the men put it.
It is nice and busy in the sauna that evening. Quite a few rather young people, in their twenties, in spite of the hefty entrance fee. But mobile phones have reached this group as well, so I figure they must be slightly above average income. Everything looks spic and span and brand new. We wear ice caps in the sweatbox. For better perspiration, I presume in my innocence, but that is certainly not the case. The inside temperature is so high that a cap has to protect one's hair. Andrii takes our snapshot. People in Eastern Europe don't generally act in a spastic way when it comes to pictures. 'Publication in a Dutch naturist magazine? Just go ahead', they tell me when I, too, take some pictures. The Dutch smoothy club could canvass quite a few new members here. Olga says this has become fashionable since about a year and a half.
Towards midnight I walk to the metro. The station hall is still all hustle and bustle from people who are offering the small fishes they had been catching. I also spot an elderly woman holding a cake. She pre-cut it and one wedge has been sold already. Warmth and poverty. Earlier that day I had been at one of those pedestrian subway crossings and Kiev has many of them. I heard two women there playing music heartbreakingly beautifully, accordeon and singing, but what pathos! This is also a side of life, next to the many Mercedes 500's (no less), in this part of the world.

Thursday

Galina will bring me to the airport. She is already waiting for me in the hall of the hotel. Her very first question is: 'How was the beach?'
She has a surprise for me in stock. From her bag she conjures up a number of drawings and sketches she made. Small, lithe figures, nude, obviously drawn from life. She has seen them before her. I am allowed to keep one sheet of sketches, a touching present. I promise her a copy of Naturisme magazine.

Bart Wijnberg

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