Last night, somewhere along the Moscow Beltway, I was eating country fries at a McDonald’s and was fine. Two awful screaming kids sat right next to me, to the other side a pair of lovers was kissing. I felt fine, warmth was spreading to my legs.
We were sitting with Zhenya, were chewing this food after having driven 1,000 km, and were thinking about how everything was changing.
“Three years ago, I returned from Pervomaysk right before the New Year. I returned to Moscow and couldn’t leave the house. I just heard Dud’s interview of Shevchuk where he talked about how he just came from Chechnya and couldn’t understand what was happening. How he felt two worlds existed, one where there is slaughter and people are dying, and the other with people just leading normal lives–going to restaurants, celebrating, laughing, and going on with their lives. And how in that second world there was no room for the first.”
I heard the musician’s every word, and it resonated strongly with me. They say this is PTSD–post-traumatic stress disorder.
Back then, in 2014, I went to see my friends at a dacha but I was kept in check only by my willpower and daughter. I wanted to squeeze my temples and just sit, sit, sit. I didn’t want to see anyone or anything. I felt so bad that the world had collapsed, overturned, and there were no words that could describe the horror which gripped me. Exactly like what Shevchuk described. It was pain about which nothing could be said–all words turned into something trite and banal. It defied description. Shevchuk wrote the song Love after his experiences, and it saved him.
I don’t know what saved me, but it was probably this blog into which I poured a lot. Although likely only 1/10th. Perhaps I was also saved by two accidents. Perhaps that we were helping people. But it was very hard.
Yesterday we sat at McDs’ and talked about that. About how we returned to Moscow and now everything was different, there wasn’t this sense of overload. Not like three years ago.
The horror lies in that in Lugansk, even in Pervomaysk, this sensation has vanished.
We were in Kalinovo where there was fighting two days before our arrival, and on that same day we had coffee in Lugansk, at Shpara, with kids running around and women picking out cosmetics and shoes. Pervomaysk, which still gets hit by shells, the whole center was decorated with lights–trees were swaying and blinking, and if it weren’t for the empty houses in which only a few windows were lit, one would not realize where we were.
I was not succumbing to anguish, and it wasn’t just about being used to it.
Back then, when Shevchuk drove to war, in the ’90s, the world was different. There was no Facebook, VI, and a phone in every pair of hands which constantly interacted with the surrounding world.
These boys who died there were isolated. Chechnya was isolated and we learned about it only from TV. Now my whole newsfeed consists solely of people from Gorlovka, Pervomaysk, Lugansk, and Donetsk. Every day I read what hit where. I became one with this war. And the people there have merged too, while being in contact with us, people from Big Earth, still do not fully realize where they are. Their war is now shared with us, those who worry about them, but living far away.
It seems PTSD is the most appropriate thing there is. It should exist, it is alive, this reaction saves. When it leaves, nothing but emptiness remains.
In spite of denials, people perish. Their self-perception changes. People stop feeling normal and they write a thing or two on Facebook during bombardments about what came and where it exploded.
It’s not even force of habit. Facebook and other networks gave an impression of semi-security. I don’t feel odd in Moscow because I haven’t felt that way in Lugansk or Pervomaysk.
All the destruction is almost immediately fixed. And while in ’14 Pervomaysk was half-destroyed and empty, now it’s different. Inna’s (I’ll write about her separately) house was hit a couple of days before our arrival. She, at home, in the very kitchen which was hit by a shell at night while she and two children slept on the other side of a thin wall, described what happened without tears or drama. She pointed at the ceiling which was patched up on practically the same day. She described it as if she was describing water flowing. And I couldn’t understand–did she not fully understand what happened, or did we all stumble into a parallel reality.