This is Nicholae and One-eye (still pretty sure he had two good eyes, he’s on the left). I met them in Kiev train station.
Having arrived a couple of hours early for my train to Krakow I decamped to the station bar. There were only two tables so I shared one with One-eye. He quickly began to pour out quite slurred Russian (even I could tell) to the rebuttal of my confused face and upturned hands.
We soldiered on for half an hour but it quickly became apparent that our skills in each other’s language were, at best, nonsensical. As such I pulled out the first piece of writable surface I could find in my bag. I’m sure Mr and Mrs Cuddles didn’t mean for my birthday card to become the Rosetta stone, but that it became.
My new Ukrainian friend was quite frustrated by that point and grabbing my pen, began furiously drawing. He created the three-pronged mountain peak on the left hand side, encompassed by the eye shape (turn your head ninety degrees to the left to get the right orientation,) with squiggles of Russian underneath. I still have no idea what this is.
I took my turn and drew a quite atrocious globe (bottom right hand corner). Upon which I marked London, success. One-eye showed his first (and only) moment of understanding. Snatching the pen he dutifully marked Kiev on the map with the globe, I refrained from telling him he’d put the cross on Syria. One-eye didn’t seem a man for detail.
By this point his beer was low and he used various universal signs to suggest that as the foreigner I should be buying a round. At sixty pence a pint I was far from needing encouragement. The drinks hit the table, enter Nicholae.
In comparison to One-eye Nicholae was Wordsworth. His English vocab stretched to beer, London, England, train, please, thank you, vodka and usefully if not possibly incorrect; “he has one-eye.” In retaliation my Russian contained all of; beer, hello, goodbye, thank you, please, one, two and vodka.
I was under no illusions; Nicholae wasn’t here for the conversation. He’d seen the strange gay/sailor looking foreigner buying a beer for One-eye and came over to claim his beverage. Initially he went all out and asked for a bottle of vodka. The right hand illustration is my confirmation of such, to frantic nodding. Feeling bad for One-eye, who was now completely lost and frankly, shit-faced, I purchased Nicholae just the standard beer. We then confirmed that I was going to Krakow (see top right) and that I was in architecture (See bottom middle).
Talking loudly and slowly in each other’s native language continued until Nicholae became suddenly most excited. Seizing the pen he drew a swastika (Middle top left). One-eye lifted his head off the table and vibrated with great excitement. As far as I can gather the Nazi’s weren’t nice people and it concerned me a little that I’d just bought two of them a round. However I drew an excellent Hitler face (middle) and they crossed it out. I took this as anti-Nazism and slightly relaxed, still unsure as to the meaning of the symbol.
Our remaining minutes were spent debating the subject of my sexuality. One-eye was convinced I didn’t like ladies but boys. This is why I drew the two girls to the left hand side, got slightly carried away with the lower one. Unable to change One-eye’s mind on the subject I bid them both goodbye and minced off to get my train.
Written and contributed by RebornKoala