On December 24, even before the start of the full-scale Russian aggression, activists of the Sphere NGO staged a street performance near the Russian Consulate in Kharkiv, “Hell’s Mykolaiia”. The action was conceived as a peaceful statement against the escalation of Russian aggression, and turned out to be both expressive and provocative.
The activists came to the consulate building with original gifts to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The gift set included a textbook on the history of Ukraine, the UN Human Rights Convention, a trip to the Veliky Ustyug, a pair of skis, white slippers, a game of “Sea Battle”, a suitcase, a brain and many other useful things. Each gift had its own symbolic meaning: for example, a trip to Veliky Ustyug invited the Russian president to develop his vast and undeveloped territories instead of threatening Ukraine, the human rights convention simply reminded of its existence, and the game “Sea Battle” probably foretold the future of the Russian warship.
At the beginning, the organizer of the performance Anna Sharyhina told about Hell’s Mykolaiia – she is the one who comes to the ones who’ve been bad (a kind of feminist manifestation of St. Nicholas or Mykolai in Ukrainian). In this way, the president of the aggressor state was made aware of what Ukrainian society, and in particular the LGBT+ community, thought about Russia’s increase in military forces and the concentration of troops at the border. Then other activists spoke, explaining the symbolic meaning of each gift.
The performance was accompanied by a queer choir, which performed under the consulate building the famous song by Pussy Riot “Virgin Mary, Putin is banished”, translated into Ukrainian. In total, about 15 activists took part in the performance. One of the participants was a volunteer Elya Shchemur, who later tragically died during the Russian shelling. Elya volunteered at the Kharkiv Region Defence Headquarters and was hit by Russian bombs. She was one of the first to volunteer to help the defenders of Kharkiv.
Employees of the Russian consulate also joined the action as much as they could: they tried to find out “who is in charge here”, took photos of each participant and inspected each item in the gift box. Later, in addition to Ukrainian news and newspapers, the performance was shown on the Russian socio-political show “60 Minutes” with Olga Skabeeva. And, although it is impossible to reach Russian propaganda, the community’s opinion on the escalation of Russian aggression was very accurate and timely.