Kyiv Tour With Punk Fotog Olie

Full Photo Album:

My friend Dima is the lead singer of the well-known Russian Punk Band Tarakany (Cockroach) on my Punk Outlaw Records roster. Like a good cockroach, Tarakany! has been a staple on the rock music scene for over 30 years. I helped Dima translate some of his music on the 2010 “Russian Democrazy,” release on Punk Outlaw Records. Much of his music has been featured in Raw Travel’s soundtracks.

In the Summer of 2021, Dima reached out to me because he was being harassed by Russian “authorities,” and the band was having difficulty touring. It was so odd when I received his email because that evening, I had been in Zagreb, Croatia, meeting someone helping me film there, and she was talking about how she admired Putin standing up to the EU. When I saw her the following day, I showed her Dima’s email, but she seemed nonplussed. I wonder how she feels now? She was actually half Ukrainian, which simply illustrates the bizarre nature of propaganda’s power.

Even though Dima’s music was never openly critical of the Putin Regime, things eventually got so tense that Dima had to go into exile in early 2022, just before the full-scale Russian invasion.

While I was in Ukraine, I saw on the news that an American musician living in Moscow who had also worked with Dima on song translations, Travis Leake, was arrested on trumped-up drug dealing charges. It made news for precisely one day.

Travis was a Facebook “friend” who seemed to have rejected his U.S. roots and embraced his new home, at least according to his social media post. If that was a ruse to keep out of a Russian prison, it didn’t work.

Though I’ve never met Travis, I’m 99% sure he’s just another American bargaining chip for the Russian regime. As I write this recap, a second American journalist (the first from the Wall Street Journal is still detained) has been detained on spying charges.

Dima, unbeknownst to me until I met his friend Olie, is half- Ukrainian. He introduced me by email to his punk rock photographer friend, Olie, from Kyiv, and she and I met up. Though there’s not much of a punk scene to document in Kyiv these days (many bands are at the front or scattered throughout war-ravaged Eastern Ukraine), she agreed to show me an insider’s tour of what was and what could be. These are the photos from our rainy day together.