Here is the fifth of my series of interviews with people involved in the Gothic and Alternative music scene and to get an understanding in their own words how russia’s war of war crimes against humanity is impacting people just like you and me in Ukraine. For the fifth interview I am very happy to have an interview with Casa Ukrania who are a duo from Odesa, merging archetypical folk tradition with versatile modern electronics, finding balance between dark, chthonic themes and a colourful psychedelic passion for life.

Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your music project and your involvement in gothic/alternative scene, so for how long, what you do, your 5 top favorite bands, films, books etc.
We were both involved in the Ukrainian gothic/industrial scene since the late 2000s and met between some gothic parties. Our main project Casa Ukrania was created in 2014, when russia first attacked Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas; there was a huge inner rise of interest in Ukrainian music and culture afterwards. We’ve also written angst-pop/minimal synth under the name Acedia and some other smaller side projects. We release most of our music through our label Khatacomb which is also acting as an underground culture online magazine with music reviews, podcasts etc.
We love all kinds of music but the most influential were Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels, IAMX, Bjork and Coil. As for the movies, these are Alejandro Jodorowsky’s works (one of those has actually given the name to Casa Ukrania), some European arthouse like ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’ Wojciech Jerzy Has, or Gyorgy Palfi’s filmography, Tim Burton’s and David Lynch’s classics and modern noire from DC, with some absurdist humour like Monty Python and our absolute favourite musical movie ‘Frank’. Also we highly recommend the truly neofolk Ukrainian movie ‘Brama’ (‘The Gateway’, 2017), a great magical realism about Chornobyl, if that one hopefully pops up someday in Europe.
We also have a huge library with a special place there for books by Gustav Meyrink, Howard Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, and such brilliant Ukrainian authors like Pavlo Derevyyanko and Oleksii Zhupansky.

What do you miss most of all since russia started a full scale war? Could you tell me in your own words how the full-scale war being carried out by russia in Ukraine has affected your life?
We’re actually answering these questions during the two-week partial blackout caused by another russian missile attack, when we have electricity for two or three hours a day (mostly at night time, which doesn’t help much). The main problem is, these conditions are much better than the ones in occupied parts of the country. We have little light, heating and internet, but we can go out safely and find possibilities to do our jobs. Honestly, we miss traveling a bit, our sea is still out of reach and energy shortages complicate all we do, but that’s still much better than it could be.
Most of all we want all the people on the occupied territories to finally feel free and safe again, because that’s all that matters, and all the temporary difficulties can be overcome. People here help each other with work, money, food, access to electricity etc., and though the times are quite rough we’re thankfully not wasting our time and are still holding on.

How do you feel towards russians after they invaded Ukraine?
We’ve severed almost all our connections with russians back in 2014. A concept of so-called ‘good russians’ and ‘liberal friends of Ukraine’ has persisted in our country for several years, but it has proved to be a harmful myth already, because modern russia has become such a toxic and shameful environment, that the only way for russians to evade it is to unrussian themselves as much as possible, switching completely to a different language and cultural context. (Which maybe only several hundreds total did.) There were some weak initial hopes that russians will opt for some form of protest, but nearly all of them choose to do literally nothing even in a safe space abroad, while still actively shaming Ukrainians for anything possible. russia has totally failed as a state and a civil society, so until every single russian citizen uproots this arrogant empire-loving egoist in him/herself, we don’t see a possibility to communicate with them in any way but the military one.

What worries you have most about russia’s war in Ukraine?

The worst is the lingering, because russia still has overwhelming human meat resources that Ukraine doesn’t have. russia’s persistent death cult allows them to send a lot of a human scum to war because the value of life in russia is so low, while in Ukraine each day of the war takes away the best of us: activists, writers, translators, opera and ballet artists, sportsmen and so on. Those are the people who would be so hard to replace, and the human loss to our future is immense. As we say here, this war has equaled our two countries’ average IQ level, and this is just horrible.
We depend very much on western weapons and financial help to take back and defend our territories, but all the inner European and American political processes slow down the supplies, and each day of a holdback brings new deaths and unrepairable destruction. So the more joint efforts the world will make to bring russia down, the more lives and cities we’ll be able to preserve.

What are your hopes for the future?

The main our hope for now is that russia will cease to exist, freeing smaller ethnical countries; that these countries will be further demilitarized and will pay reparations for the next hundred years or so. Then it’s our duty to rebuild Ukraine, to make all the necessary reforms, to decolonise ourselves, to change people’s worldview and consciousness and to synchronize with the western world as much as possible, enriching our mutual political, economical and cultural interaction.

What more help would you like to see countries give to Ukraine?
The most important now is heavy weapons of course: tanks for counteroffensive, far-range missiles, aviation and anti-missile weapons, because until all our territories are deoccupied again and the majority of russian territory is demilitarized, we’re still not safe. It would be great to have some help in rebuilding our cities and industry afterwards, but it wouldn’t make any sense until russia can destroy any of that with one hit of X22.

Is there any more action that you would like the countries to take in regards to russia?
Unfortunately, the world didn’t listen to Ukraine much in 2014. Just like the Sudetenland in 1939, occupied Ukrainian territories were considered a sacrifice to satisfy russia’s appetites so that it won’t move further, and Europe depending on russian gas could be sure of the supplies from the aggressor. We’ve lost so much time and people because of that. Our Ministry of Defence has also repeatedly asked for weapons in 2021, knowing that the full-scale war is looming ahead, but most of the world didn’t believe in the prospect until it was, again, too late. We believe some conclusions must be drawn from that, as russia is not the only dictatorship on the planet, and it’s best to be ready if history repeats itself later with China, North Korea or some Middle East countries.
There’s also still no common understanding in the world that this is not a ‘Putin’s war’ but the whole russia’s one. We’ve been there already, trying to find some allies in russia but to no avail. Even those posing themselves as progressive pro-western liberals stumble over the Ukrainian question, denying our right for sovereignty and supporting the occupation of Crimea. (Alexei Navalny, who’s for some reason become a kind of an ‘oppositional icon’ in the West, is mostly known here as a former russian nationalist who asked to give his political party money instead of Ukraine, and said that ‘Crimea is not a sandwich to give it back’. The russians did nothing to oppose the war in Ichkeriya/Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Donbas, and now they’re denying any responsibility for allowing the full-scale war in Ukraine, while continuing to spread their imperial toxicity abroad.
We’d like the westerners to stop looking at Ukraine through the russian prism, to stop inviting us to the same events and platforms with russians, and to finally see us as an independent entity that doesn’t require russian approval for our own decisions. Even though we understand and sometimes use their language, it doesn’t mean we’re the same nation and have any common values. This war has proved that we have so much more in common with Poles and other Europeans, especially those who border with russia and know for themselves what it’s like to deal with a neighboring aggressive empire. Our relations with russia are typical postcolonial ones, though this perspective is somehow unclear even to western scholars who wrote a bunch of studies about former British or French colonies but can’t seem to notice any similarities with our situation. For many years the only ‘experts on Ukraine’ all over the world were russians (they still are, and don’t seem to see any problem with that). Now this russian cancer must be stopped, and they must be denied any public visibility until they recognise their responsibility for supporting the russian invasive politics. If they don’t want to take this responsibility, there’s no place for them anywhere in the civilised world.

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