The Cosmopolicast

Vladislav Davidzon and I talk about Ukraine, Russia, his wife, burning his Russian passport, rescuing refugees, the effect of the war on his nieces, Zelensky, and going to the Louvre

Claire—Vladislav and I recorded this conversation about an hour ago. I tried to upload it as a podcast, but for some reason I kept getting an error message: “An error has occurred.”

While waiting for Substack’s help desk to answer my ticket, I figured I’d just upload it to Buzzsprout. You can download it here, or you can listen to it on YouTube, above.

This is the article he published this morning: A Ukrainian refugee’s journey. You’ll want to read that first. From Kyiv to Chernowitz to the Romanian border, Vladislav has spent the past week putting people on planes, trains, and taxis to get them out of Ukraine, to safety. This includes his nieces, whom he escorted back to Paris.

… One small Ukrainian boy standing in line behind me was crying much more than the other children around us. He must have been eight or nine. His grandmother was Georgian, something that was obvious to every native Russian-speaker thanks to her her telltale lilting accent, and the little boy would speak to her in Georgian before switching into Russian to speak with his mother. “Poor kid,” I remarked to the stoic grandmother. She apologetically explained to me that he had only been able to bring along a pair of summer sneakers and that his feet were cold. She profusely apologized in the courtly Georgian manner for his unceasing weeping and causing discomfort to others. Indeed, the little boy continued to cry out over the next hour. Finally, I had had enough of it. I turned to him and raised my voice.

Khlopchik!” I said, using the Ukrainian diminutive for a boy (“boychick,” roughly). “The fierce blood of a Ukrainian and a Georgian man flows through your veins! How can you cry and make a scene like this?”

Several people surrounding us in line began to laugh and some even clapped. The collective mood lifted for a few moments, and the little boy was so mortified by the public embarrassment that he promptly ceased whimpering. He gave us peace over the next few hours as we approached passport control. At one point, three paunchy, middle-aged men approached us through the crowd speaking American-accented English. Assuming that they were aide workers or former military men who had arrived to help the Ukrainians, I engaged them in conversation only to learn that they were American missionaries and men of faith who were coming to tend to the spiritual needs of the Ukrainians on the border. One of them asked me if I was Ukrainian, and I told him I’m from Brooklyn. “God bless America and Ukraine,” I told him, clasping his shoulder.

He’ll be going back to Ukraine in two days. Obviously, he’s very busy, so I was very grateful to him for making the time to speak with us.

This wasn’t an interview, per se—you’re basically listening to a phone call in which he and I catch up. I forgot we were recording, actually.

But I think you’ll find the conversation interesting.

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Claire Berlinski