Friedman’s Metric

This is a story about a very unusual person.
I should probably start by saying that on August 4, 2014, Lev went to get water and in the process lost a leg to yet another round of shelling of Pervomaysk. But that’s how I start nearly every story about someone wounded or injured. So perhaps instead I should start by saying that he still lives with his Soviet passport, and as a matter of principle refused to exchange it for Ukrainian documents because he considers himself a Soviet man. But even that’s not as important, even though it made it hard for him to obtain pension and benefits.
–Lev, tell me, what kind of aid do you need?
–I’d like books about theoretical physics. I would really like to read about Friedman’s metric.
–He was pursuing a mathematical description of the Universe.
That’s Lev in a nutshell. We’ve known him for a year, and only a year later I felt ready to write about him. Even though there hasn’t been a visit during which we wouldn’t be his guests in Pervomaysk.

This photo was taken in autumn ’17. We visited Lev and found him hopping on one leg next to his house, collecting firewood. He stokes a stove  which has covered the whole kitchen with soot. There is a pleasant smell of smoke and firewood all over the house. You know, it’s such a refined smell, when firewood and not coal or gas is used. He lives alone, has no relatives. There was a brother, but far, far away. It seems he died, and his relatives are in Ukraine somewhere. No wife or children.
He doesn’t have a job, and what kind of a job could he, a one-legged retiree, find in wartime Pervomaysk?
He only recently managed to get his pension awarded, but when we first met him he still wasn’t receiving it. He lived thanks to neighbors’ help.
The neighbors love him even though they seem to view him a village idiot.
–Our Lyova doesn’t drink! He’s awesome, he hops on one leg!!!
And Lyova, indeed, is like a rabbit on crutches. It’s hard to believe he’s been retired for years.

After we got acquainted a year ago, I told Zhenya back in Lugansk about him for two hours straight. Zhenya didn’t go with us. I told him that there’s this guy there. Single, very strange, very smart. Not of this world, that’s for sure.
The whole house was full of books, no electricity, firewood only. There is a lamp with wires going to the neighbors’, for which we are very grateful.
Sometime ago he graduated from the Dolgoprudy MFTI. Which is one of the best.
Lyova lost his leg to Ukrainian shells. He didn’t get a Ukrainian passport because he refused to recognize that state. But after getting this kind of treatment from them, he smiles and talks about physics.

Zhenya, having heard my extolling him, made a pragmatic proposal:
–Say, let’s put him in our retirement home, with Seryozha Kutsenko!
Kutsenko also has no leg but is not as independent, even though he’s younger than Lev. Seryozha has polyarthritis and joint problems. And it’s impossible to imagine Lev in a home. He even danced for us somehow on his one leg, after throwing the crutches off to the side. So this was my only reply to Zhenya:
–It would kill him.
Lev hops on crutches from yard to yard, collects firewood in his backpack, and thus heats his home. Carries water in bottles, drinks tea, and reads books. And spends all his time thinking about how the Universe is organized.
We talk to him about food, electricity, and debts, and he doesn’t understand us. He talks about math and cosmology. About the purpose of life, the purpose of the Universe.
–I could use more books…

This photo was made during the summer. Our Lev is an athlete!!!

There’s war all around, people struggle to survive, and in the middle of that, there is the odd Lev with a Soviet passport in besieged Pervomaysk. Who had a leg torn off, and who lives in his book- and physics-filled life and hops like a paraolympian in a light quilted jacket in spite of the frost.
And I also think all the time about how the Universe is organized.
How good it is there are people in it like Lev.

Dear friends, we weren’t able to find Friedman’s metric. We found several articles, printed them, and will soon bring them to Lev.
But if you have anything about the question of mathematical description of the Universe or something new in theoretical physics, we’d be happy to bring it along.
Our humanitarian aid. Thanks to all who have pitched in!

If you want to join the aid effort for the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebookV Kontakte, or email: Paypal address:


When people call me a philanthropist, I get angry.
I also don’t like terms “humanitarian worker” and “volunteer”.
These worlds are absolutely alien to me, even though by and large they do refer to me.
But today I was able to figure out what makes me angry.
I wanted to become a writer during the last 10 years of my life. My father wrote, grandmother wrote, and I never planned it or saw myself in it.
My school compositions are horrible, to say the least. I wrote poorly and my writing is still bereft of talent. My phrases are awkward, and my texts full of repetition and endless inversions. When I reread my posts after a while, I want to destroy or rewrite them. But I give up and write something new.

Continue reading

First help after three years of prison

“Greetings. I’m Dima ****, I want to thank you and your team for the provided help. It was the first I’ve seen in the three years of prison! Thank you!”
In mid-January I wrote a post about POWs who were exchanged by Ukraine and the Republics. Some of them turned out to have nothing at all to their name–their houses are on the other side, in Ukraine, which considers them “separatists” and which kept them in captivity. Many have homes right on the front lines, but just on the other side. They were settled in a dorm in Lugansk.
I was then approached by an internet-friend, who didn’t know whom else to turn to. Or rather, he approached everyone he could find to ask for help. We went to the dorm ourselves. Or, rather–I was still in Moscow, our Lugansk Zhenya went.
At that time, these former POWs were literally starving and had nothing, not even elementary personal hygiene items. They weren’t just military men, but also women and ordinary civilians. For example, those who helped organize the referendum in another part of the Lugansk Region, in Rubezhnoye, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk, and other towns. Which are now under Ukraine. We collected money for these people and brought them food. After we left, they were helped by the Red Cross, some social organizations, and even the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. They also started to receive help from local inhabitants and volunteers. I’m glad many people read my post, and help arrived not only through us.

Ira had left us

No miracle happened.
Always with a beaming smile, head raised high, and a guitar in her hands–Ira was a real fighter.
She fought cancer for several years. It was discovered during her pregnancy–she gave birth to a daughter in 2015, and was immediately sent to the cancer ward.
The pregnancy gestated for much of 2014. You know what that year was like in Lugansk–war in its most awful form.
Then it was a life of endless struggle–chemo, medications, metastases, hospice. Over and over again.
It’s a miracle she survived the last 18 months.
We showed her medical history to Moscow physicians in the hope that in Russia she could get help, but they said there was no hope for recovery, and she had weeks left to live. But Iran kept on living, and fully participating in her family’s life.

Continue reading

Happy International Women’s Day, Lugansk!

Everything in Lugansk is under a thin layer of ice. It’s very difficult to walk or drive. The elderly don’t venture out at all, too easy to get an injury.
It’s under these circumstances that our friends drove all over town to bring greetings to our girls.
These “girls” are mostly single retirees to whom nobody else will bring these holiday greetings, as they have no husbands, no children, and they are completely alone on this day. Many have incurable illnesses, and it’s not just people under our care but also hospice patients. Yes, the staff there is all women, and they are working. It’s difficult for men to work there–this is no empty phrase, in general such institutions employ mainly women.
This is a very spring holiday, a very touching one, and also a badly needed one.
And you know, it’s nice to see the smiles of our women who find themselves in such trying conditions.
May everything turn out well for them! Maybe for some not for a very long time, but even that is something! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit everyone. But I can’t imagine how our friends managed to make their way around the city.
This is Lera. She’s an orphan, her mom Inna died last year of cancer–he helped her with the treatment and with money.
Look at how she’s grown. She’s a beauty!

Continue reading

Elisey and Timur

This is Elisey. He has an 11-year-old brother, Timur.
Both live with their grandmother in Lugansk. Their mother ran off in ’14, when the war began. Disappeared and nobody knows where she is. Disappeared, and the boys live with the elderly Lyubov Mikhailovna who can’t even get any benefit payments for them. Their house is on the front lines. So far by miracle it wasn’t hit, though all the windows were broken, but their neighbors were not so lucky. All the horrors of war unfolded right before the eyes of children who were abandoned by their own mother. Elisey was tiny, and it’s hard to imagine how the retired grandmother coped.
LPR civil courts are still not operating, so she can’t obtain custody over the kids. They live off her pension which she supplements with her knittings, “but there are almost no buyers.”

Timur gets all the top grades, and also attends a music school.
He used to study English and drawing. But he stopped–the family has no money for transportation there.

Lyubov Mikhailovna is disabled herself. Type B diabetes. Hypertension going back years.
The family is in a difficult situation. The kids have to eat, they have high utility debts. One doesn’t want to moralize about the mother, though it’s hard not to.
I usually mention disappearing fathers. But there are also many mothers who abandoned own kids, left them with grandparents. And have forgotten them. Live somewhere far away and think everything is fine, the kids are with the grandmother, after all. That the grandmother may be disabled, elderly, that the kids have problems–that doesn’t cross their mind.
To be honest, I’ve seen many such stories even in Moscow. Which has many abandoned kids who don’t even think about their parents…One can always find a justification, it’s not hard to delude oneself.
Because it’s not about the war, right?
But at the same time it is.
The mother would have ran off regardless of the bombings. If the mother was not afraid to leave the kids under the threat of artillery shells, she’s totally indifferent to them. But the situation in the family would have been different if it weren’t for the war. The grandmother would have had the ability to deprive the mother of parental rights. She could have filed for and obtained benefits. But officially the mother is still the custodian. That’s what the documents say…
It’s all very, very complicated…
Yesterday I watched a program on NTO with lots of analysts which among other things talked about the Donbass conflict. They spoke general and largely correct things. But a lot of what they said sounded utterly wild, no matter how you approach it, and I approach it mainly from the perspective of treatment of human beings.
They are the spare change of big politics.
And yet there are tens of thousands of people there. All with their own different fates.
All of them have fallen under the steamroller of war.
How I wanted, at that moment, to drag all of these strange speakers, including the anchors, to the families whom we help.
How I wanted to take them to every last apartment and shattered house which we visit.
So that they would listen, they would listen.
Maybe then they’d talk about people, not about numbers and bio-units.

Our humanitarian aid. Thanks to all who participate!
If you want to help  Lyubov Mikhailovna’s family, please label contributions “Timur and Elisey”.

If you want to help the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebookV Kontakte, or email: Paypal address:

Please label contributions meant for this family “Timur and Elisey”.

Bringing “ours” greetings

Shortly everyone will be greeting women on the occasion of March 8, the International Women’s Day, and I’m still writing about we, on February 23, brought greetings to people under our are. But it’s better late then never, right?
You know, February 23, May 9, those are days when people OVER THERE are so happy that we can’t even imagine.
Over there–in LPR. Over there–in Novorossia. Over there–where there’s war. Where people have been living on top a volcano for 4 years already.
This day is unbelievably important to the Donbass people.
We brought greetings to the men under our care with what many internet users think foolish, ironic, but to them important little things. Not everyone can always afford to buy shaving cream or deodorant.

Seryozha…Seryozha was a tank commander and served near Moscow. Once upon a time he was Ukraine’s boxing champion.
Now he’s disabled–he’s lost a leg, he has polyarthritis. He lives in a retirement home. His house in Khryashchevatoye is gone, it was bombed out during the summer of ’14.
But you know Seryozha!!))) Our Seryozha!
If not, please click on the Kutsenko tag at the bottom of the article.

Continue reading

Nobody But Us

It’s difficult to write a post based on someone else’s words. It’s important for me to look the person in the eye. But one sometimes has to write on the basis of what Zhenya or Lena wrote about people whom I haven’t seen. Therefore sometimes these posts turn out to be lean. But now I’m reading what Zhenya wrote about Petya and Ira, about whom I write in early February. And I don’t know what to write now. There are only Zhenya’s words, which I’ll cite. He’s never said that about anybody:
“Their love fro one another is unbelievably strong. It shines bright and strong. They know how fragile everything is, and how happy and fortunate they are to be together. They have deserved this happiness. More than anyone else. I don’t even know how to express this. It’s the small things, one can see it in the details, how they worry about one another, they are almost blowing dust motes off one another. And not for show, either. They still can’t believe their luck to be with one another. If anyone wants to confirm such love exists, they just have to cast a glance at this family. They are LIKE THAT… They are a source of light. It can’t be expressed in words. People who went through real hell and did not lose the ability to stay happy, and they are happy earnestly and at the smallest things. One gets a sense they are making up for lost life…”
Petya and Ira.

Continue reading

Sofiya and Nastya

Sofiya and Nastya are sisters and one can say with certainty they are children of war. Nastya was born in the summer of 2013, while Sofiya in October 2014, at the height of fighting in Lugansk. They have known no life other than war. The family lost its home and now lives in a dorm. The girls, thank God, have a family–they have loving parents, but both are de-facto disabled.

Continue reading

Helping Ours

–We were behind the partition, then went down into the cellar, our house has a cellar, but we couldn’t breathe there.
–Was this at night or in daytime?
–It was exactly 4:48. January 15.
Of 2015. That was a bloody winter for Pervomaysk.
–And then bang–and the roof is gone. We lived for the next two years without it. It was covered up only in December ’17.
This is Tatyana Leonidovna. She’s raising her grandson alone. She is his caretaker, because his mother, Tatyana’s daughter, died of lymphoma.

Continue reading