The nights don't get dark, the seagulls don’t stop calling, and there's always a stripe of the red sun across the horizon. Every hour the Visby Cathedral tolls to lets everyone know of its presence, just like it has done since the 13th century - we'll disappear, it will stay...
Every night I see a frail woman in her late 40s in the communal kitchen, patiently filling a huge thermos flask. It's as if the woman only emerges in the night, maybe to avoid the curiosity of the rest of the group. She mutters she's Irina from Ukraine and scurries back to her writing chamber.
"Are you eating anything at all?" I ask on the fourth night, when Irina is boiling water, her eyes staring into the middle distance.
"Well, some sandwiches and biscuits," she replies, quickly adding that it has nothing to do with her current nomadic lifestyle, but that's how it's always been. Food is secondary to her, just fuel.
Irina is editing the fruit of her five years of work, a travelogue and historical study "The World of the Wild Southeast", her history of Mariupol and its surroundings. Paradoxically, she finishes her work just as Mariupol falls – Russia's bombs have destroyed most of the city and the fighters of Azovstal have surrendered...
In the first part of the book, Irina searches for her German roots, studying the tragic fate of the Mennonites and German settlers in eastern Ukraine; she also explores how forests were planted into the steppe, and visits different steppe forests. In the second part, Irina travels along the paths of her Greek roots on the coast of Azov, describing how the Greeks had moved to Crimea but were resettled by the Russians to the Mariupol area. Irina wanders into fishing villages and digs in the archives about the forced deportations by the NKVD in the 1930s. In addition, Irina investigates the ecological disasters and the environmental footprint that both the USSR and modern predatory capitalism have left on the coast of Azov.
The icing on the cake of her magnum opus is the third part, where Irina dissects the fate of her Greek great-aunt's husband, Yevgeny Steblin-Kamensky. By accident, Irina found in the State Archives of Ukraine documents from 1921, about a conflict between the young lawyer Steblin-Kamensky and Patrushev, the head of the Mariupol Cheka. Namely, Steblin-Kamensky refused to remain silent when he found out that Patrushev had covered up Cheka’s rape and murder of an innocent young woman. Naturally, Steblin-Kamensky's quest for justice led to his own repression and execution by the authorities.
"And now there are new Patrushevs working on Mariupol," says Irina bitterly, hinting that Nikolai Patrushev, the long-time director of the FSB, is currently the Secretary General of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.

The short documentary “Last Day in Gotland” depicts Irina’s last day on the idyllic Swedish island.
Longer interview (in Estonian, behind paywall)

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