The party was going well. I was on Spotify DJ duties and thirty fun-loving friends of my brother's were hopping on the dance floor we'd created by rolling back the carpet of our rented apartment overlooking the protest camps still dominating Kiev's Independence Square and the city's main boulevard, Khreschatyk. The vodka was flowing, snaps were being Facebooked and the balcony was groaning with chain-smokers.
That was when R Kid and I saw a sight on the house-phone monitor that put the shits up us both. Three combat-geared men in full-face balaclavas hammering on the door outside. No one had said anything about fancy dress, and these blokes looked angry.
I got the back story later. A couple of female latecomers in the street below had been called whores by camp protesters. These guys, according to our Kievian friends, are rural rednecks with nothing to go back to. Unfortunately, for us, the credibility of the authorities right now is so low as to be powerless, and the camps have evidently formed their own militia.
To cut a long story short, they'd noticed we were having fun and got it into their heads that there was some kind of brothel action going on up there. Involving Ukrainian girls. And possibly foreigners.
Like I said, it was a scary sight to see them at the door, and someone called the cops. When they arrived, R Kid looked through the spy hole and saw two properly uniformed officers, responding to the call. When he opened the door, a dozen hardcore masked militia piled in behind them with truncheons and guns.
I was at the back of the flat in the smoking zone giving a friend a shoulder to cry on when someone said there were masked men in the kitchen. Oh fuck, I thought, here we go.
I can't remember if I switched the music off or if someone else had done it. They herded everyone they could find into the big reception room, not to dance but to sit. Everything became very calm and quiet all of a sudden except for the shouting of the masked men in Russian, which meant nothing to me, so was filtered out. I noted my brother on an armchair ten feet away, but couldn't see my sister-in-law anywhere.
R Kid stood up and said, 'I've got to find my wife,' which produced more shouting in Russian. I looked at the gun in one guy's hand, dangling by his thigh. It was a revolver, and shiny – silvery, not dark. And the rifle slung over another guy's shoulder looked like a single-barrelled hunting rifle. R Kid was about to walk out of the room when his wife appeared and came and sat on his lap. She looked calm, the perfect party hostess.
By this time Katya, a young mother and props manager on advertising film crews, stormed into the room ranting in Russian at the intruders and ignoring everyone else's imprecations to sit down and chill out. Whatever she was saying, the message spread. Before we knew it, another friend of ours, Anya, over on the sofa behind my brother and sister-in-law, shoved one of the intruders she was arguing with and another two or three of them started to pile on. For a second, my worst fear was that she might be raped. There was a tussle between guests and gatecrashers that ended when someone marched onto the balcony and fired off a revolver shot.
I thought he'd executed someone out there, until I heard no screaming. He was just bringing things under control, and it worked. If he had shot someone, they'd have had to kill us all, including the two hapless coppers.
Despite these guys pooping the party for a good hour or more, the situation was taken in hand by a seriously body-armoured military officer in a blue beret, who turned up from I don't know where, and managed to defuse the situation by taking written statements from both sides about what was going on and what was thought to be going on. No one was searched, no documents were required, no evidence of any wrongdoing was taken away. Slowly, the militia types drifted out, some more reluctantly than others, and the party continued, but without my high-wattage DJing.
Perhaps they really wanted to party with us but were too shy to ask. Perhaps they hated to see other people having fun. Or perhaps a party overlooking the sight of a revolution where good people had died offended them. But the revolution, at least in this city, is over for now, and to many Kievians they have the whiff of Robespierre about them. As my brother explained to the authorities, we were having a party to celebrate good friends and life.