'When will it end?': Ukrainians turn to psychics for war forecasts
October 31, 2023 08:30 PM
Flanked by candles and a crystal ball, Ukrainian clairvoyant Roman Zavydovskyi tells his viewers: "I want to assure you, the end of the full-scale war will be in 2024."
With Kyiv and independent military analysts unable to predict where the 20-month war will head next, some Ukrainians are turning to the predictive powers of astrologers, tarot readers, witches and magicians.
"Most of all people ask 'When will the war end?' The second most popular question is 'When will Putin die?'," Zavydovskyi told AFP.
Military forecasts by Ukraine's most popular soothsayers rack up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and TikTok, and are reported on by mainstream media outlets.
"Victory is already on the way, but you have to understand it won't be in one day," magician Sergiy Kobzar told his viewers in one video.
The Kyiv hotel room where he meets clients features a goat skull with a red candle stuck in it and fox bones.
Ukraine, a largely Orthodox Christian country where religion was suppressed during the Soviet Union, has recently seen a proliferation of different beliefs -- including in the occult.
The war feeds such interest, said psychologist and politics expert Lidiya Smola.
"People don't know whether the Russians will fly Shahed (drones) again tomorrow, whether there will be shelling... No one can give them an answer when the war will be over," she told AFP.
"And this uncertainty, which is very unbearable for people, pushes them to look for support. And for some people, horoscopes and predictions become this support."
- 'Simple answers' -
The trend is not unique to Ukraine.
Russians have taken an interest in Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga -- a blind woman who decades ago predicted a Russian named "Vladimir" would become "Lord of the World" -- and Britain also saw a growth in the occult during World War II, Smola noted.
Psychics offer "simple answers to very difficult questions," she said, adding that some "want to be deceived."
But false hope "leads to deeper depression for a person when it doesn't come true," she warned.
Boarding a bus to escape shelling attacks on the eastern city of Kupyansk last month, one woman, Lyudmila, told AFP she kept track of the mystics' predictions.
"We hope the war will end soon. The psychics are also saying soon, soon, it will happen," said the 60-year-old, who declined to give her full name.
"I'd like to believe this, of course, but how it will really be, we don't know."
Alyona Zakharchenko, a 34-year-old journalist, said a session with the curly-haired clairvoyant Valeriy Shatylovych in Kyiv could bring quicker results than therapy.
"If you go to a psychologist, you'd have to tell somebody about your life problems for a long time... Valeriy and I talked for an hour, he already understood what my problems were," she told AFP.
Psychics themselves say they fill a need.
"I think I help people in these days," said clairvoyant Zavydovskyi, who offers "Roma and eastern magic," based on tarot cards and "intuition".
"These predictions make them comfortable. They want to know about the future because they don't know what will happen the next day," said Zavydovskyi, who is from Ternopil in western Ukraine.
- 'Don't abuse grief' -
Officials have sounded the alarm over psychic fraudsters targeting desperate families with offers to find relatives lost in combat.
A 29-year-old woman whose husband was missing was contacted by a psychic who persuaded her to hand over $1,100 and gold jewellery, police in western Ukraine reported in September.
In Kyiv, small ads posted on city walls advertise "searches" by a clairvoyant and a black magic practitioner.
Kobzar, the magician, said he no longer accepts such requests, since the missing person is usually dead.
"I'm a proponent of leaving hope," he said.
Shatylovych, however, sees value in it.
"Maybe a husband died and she won't find him or he's a prisoner-of-war... but if you see something good in her future, she'll gain hope and stimulus to keep living," he said.
"I don't abuse this grief, I don't take money for this... Those people themselves seek me out and ask this question," he said.
Zavydovskyi also believes the idea of talking to people whose loved ones are missing can be helpful.
"They find in me some kind of relief ... it's not just silence like from the military," he said.
As the conflict grinds into a winter stalemate, hope for a speedy settlement has faded and Kobzar said the kinds of questions people have about the war are constantly changing.
"At first it was 'when will there be talks?', then 'when will the war end?' and now 'when will it all end?'".