On Human Nature

I kept thinking whether to write about it. How will it be received? Will anyone want to help others at all after this?
But now I realize that writing about it is the honest thing to do. Life is not black or white. It consists of half-tones, mistakes, and human villainy.
This story begins in autumn. When we learned about Kolya who suffers from suppurating meningitis and has rapidly dwindling survival chances. I think everyone remembers me writing about him. We then decided to help him survive. It seemed everything was possible. One only had to get on it. But everything turned out to be far more difficult and now I realize I know nothing about this life.

Sometime in October Kolya Sipunov was to be taken out of Moscow, so we gave his mother Katya 20 thousand rubles. There is a photo and a receipt showing that the money is to be used for his treatment. But on the next day his departure was cancel. We never learned why.
The doctors immediately told mother to buy medications, but she said that she had no money, and what we gave was taken by her husband who vanished. There is a recording of that conversation. The husband is Kolya’s father. It was clear the two of them misused the cash. Nobody doubted it, but everyone pretended they believed the story.
After that, we had no contact with the mother, and instead contacted the doctors directly. We fought for the kid any way we could–contacted Liza Glinka personally via facebook, we called up every institution up to the Ministry.
But the problem was that one couldn’t decide anything without the mother. And odd things
were happening.

Then I came to Lugansk last week and on the very first day went to see Kolya, in Krasnyy Yar, a Lugansk suburb. We wanted to know why Kolya still hasn’t been sent for treatment. He was on a list, after all, and his time was running out. It was a matter of days.
We brought him presents and food.
The house is a septic tank. There was immense stench, and strange-looking relatives kept coming by. Either Katya’s sister, or sister’s roommate with piercings. But all were sober. There were kids, and also Kolya, unhappy after four surgeries, with bright eyes and a quiet smile.
As we were leaving, I saw a terrible wall-sized photo of Katya and her husband. I couldn’t help taking a photo of it. Katya sighed about how bad his husband is, and about how she hasn’t seen him since he stole the money some months ago.

After that we left, but once we were in the car I immediately realized my camera was gone.
Its battery was low so I wanted to recharge it, which is why I noticed. Otherwise we’d have left and I would have cursed myself for my clumsiness. This is when the situation became surreal. It was obvious the camera was stolen, and I even knew exactly when. Because there were no other possibilities. But my brain refused to believe this little family took us for a ride, like idiots. I spent an hour by the gate, crying and digging in the snow with my feet. I wiped my tears while the relatives spread their arms and said: “What? It’s gone? It was there and now it’s gone? Don’t cry!”. They even brought snow brooms and swept a 1 square meter path. It was nuts, but it was so hard for me to believe what happened that we didn’t simply search the entire car, we searched the trunk and all the bags in it. From the horror of what had happened.
Katya vanished almost at once. She claimed she said some neighbor who might have taken the camera. We made the mistake of letting her go–I wanted to give her the chance to find an honorable way out. There is no way there was any neighbor involved, everyone knew that–the only light was by the gate, and it was snowing–the car stood astride the only set of footprints across the street. Neither Lena nor Zhenya nor I saw anyone.
We called the cops. While we waited, two hours passed, and then a sleepy husband in slippers came out of the back of the house. Yes, yes, the very same one who is on the wallpaper photo, and who vanished with the money. Our jaws dropped to the floor, and this relative with piercings just spread his arms: “Well? I never saw him. He must have come in when we were leaving.”

Upon seeing us, the “runaway husband” put his tail between his legs and went back to the far room. I wanted to run after him but the subsequent events showed that were were lucky to have kept our lives. An hour later some drunk came in from the street carrying my camera. He didn’t answer any of my questions. When did he pick it up? Where exactly? Where was he coming from and where was he going? He kept whining he was not guilty of anything and simply walked past us. He just saw the camera and picked it up. That’s all. Then he left, but two hours later he decided to come back and return it. He had a bottle in his pocket, he wanted to split and begged us not to show him to the cops.
The camera turned out to be smashed beyond repair. But, oddly enough, the lenses were undamaged. It was obvious that it was smashed against the rock by someone holding the strap–you could see where it was hit on the side. It was a sports camera: shock-proof and water-proof, I’ve dropped it from the third floor and off a bike onto asphalt. You really had to try to smash it like that.
Why did they break it? Nobody knows to this day. But it was probably out of sheer spite and anger.
The whole story is full of questions. The main being: what for? What did Katya gain by this?
It may be that she’s like Shura Balaganov. She couldn’t resist the temptation of the red camera strap.
That we are the thin thread on which her son’s survival hangs did not cross her mind. Not even once, during these several hours.
But facts remain facts.
We have her a thousand ways to get out of this situation. The next day, she was all but shouting at the social workers that the camera broke because we ran over it with our car.

It’s a mystery–how is it that Kolya lives with this creature?
Hundreds of people can’t give birth, but the likes of her breed like cats in order to get social benefits. That’s what they told us at the precinct. They bear kids to get benefits. Unhappy kids, too. It may be that she loves him in some way. With her peculiar kind of love. But it was now clear why Kolya is so sick. She is simply indifferent, and she allowed a simple ear ache to transform into suppurating meningitis. His first trip to the ER was back in April. She hasn’t done anything the whole summer. When she told me about it, she kept getting months and dates wrong, until in the end telling me she tried to cure him.
Kolya is very different. With his sense of humor, Kolya is somehow special, self-contained. As if he appeared there by chance.
He lay on his bed, quietly playing.
–Kolya, do you like sugar?
Kolya carefully moved his inert arm to the side and smiled:
–That’s self-understood.
And then he laughed. Just look at him.

The only thing that can save Kolya is removing him from this family. Courts in LPR don’t work, so they can’t deprive this creature of parental rights. No way to do so.
With her, Kolya has no chance to survive. Why? Because she’s not thinking of anyone. She’s an animal. She drank away the money we gave her for medications that very same day.
I’m not even particularly angry at her–how can you do about a cat who poached an intruding piece of meat? So we brought aid, so what? So they are saving my child, so what? But the camera could be traded for vodka right here and now. He’s not just living for today. She’s so thick that she’s living in the hour, not even thinking that we might ever come back again with aid.

Zhenya will try to rock the boat with the child care agencies and attempt to have him removed.
But the situation appears to be at a stalemate.
Which means that Kolya’s time is up.

At the precinct, the police asked me five times–how did we end up there?
I was only crying, and the young officer kept looking at me with his blue eyes, and all I saw in his face was incomprehension…
It’s beyond my comprehension too…

Когда мы были в отделении, миллиция раз пять меня спросила – как мы там оказались?
Я лишь рыдала, а молодой миллиционер смотрел на меня своими голубыми глазами, и всё, что я видела в его лице – одно непонимание.
Вот и я не понимаю….


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