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
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.
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
'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.'
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
'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
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
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