Don’t forget about this!

I really don’t want my reports from the Donbass to be only about sad things. Or, rather, I’d prefer that, when you saw my posts in your feed or on your wall, your heart did not shrink with sadness and you did not think that it’s another awful story about how someone died, is dying, or has lost everything. Yes, there are many such stories. War is a tragedy, broken lives, pain, and our shame.
But in reality, the history of the war in these posts is not only a story of suffering, unlucky people. It’s also stories about heroes, about strong people. About closely knit families, about people with unbelievable willpower and–most importantly–this blog’s story is the story of mutual assistance. Of the great cycle of goodness. And I want you to know that hundreds of people are behind our goodness. Various people. And all of them have enormous hearts.
Please remember this when you read my stories and reports.
Here, for example, is Anya from Moscow. She is in a very difficult situation–her daughter is disabled. I first encountered her in my life when I read about Vika whom we then took to Moscow for eye treatment. It turned out she has TB. She then lost her boyfriend, her grandmother died, and she had already lost her brother before that. Vika was greatly depressed and I didn’t know how to improve her mood. She needed strength and hope.

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Another Life

The village of Molodezhnoye is on the very border. One can’t call it a “grey zone”, strictly speaking, but it is a dead zone without shops or any other life. This is the very border. There is fighting, shells come from this and that side. Fields along this entire road between the last Pervomaysk checkpoint and toward this tiny village are littered with collapsed power transmission towers.
When we entered the village which consists of several streets, we found ourselves in complete silence.
It was the end of March, LPR was under a blanket of snow. I sat in the back seat and, as usual, photographed everything. We stopped opposite of a small destroyed building with a few gaping holes made by shells. I for some reason lowered the window and took a couple of photos. I can’t say I saw something unusual. An ordinary building, one of thousands bombed-out buildings on the Donbass. The camera clicked, when Lena suddenly tugged at me:
–Did you photograph them?
–Whom?
–See?
And she was pointing at the corner of the house, where a man with an assault rifle stood. At that moment he started to wave his hand and walk in our direction. Then he hastened his pace and started to run. As he was running, several other armed men came out of the building and came toward us.


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Maybe I’ll tell you about Seryozha?

Stories Seryozha are simply stories about a distant uncle. Perhaps that’s why I’ve written fewer and fewer stories about him. Some stories are not suitable for public consumption, others have been written so many times it’s becoming awkward. Seryozha Kutsenko probably got the biggest chapter in my “People Live Here” book.
So, how’s Seryozha?
Seryozha is sad and is very bored in the retirement home. Even though one can’t call it an ordinary retirement home.
Beautiful trails, benches, bridges, all fixed up, great food, but…

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Bellflowers

In spite of our frequent trips to the war zone, we are not in contact with any fighters. We usually work with “civilians”, administration services, social services, etc. Although, if LPR becomes Ukraine and the reunification our liberals want takes place, all of these civilian workers will be lumped together with the militiamen and charged with “separatism” and “treason.” Whether you just helped the elderly or sat in the trenches, you aided terrorists.
But we do have friends among the militia. I briefly mentioned one of them, a fellow student from MGU, wounded near Debaltsevo.
There is also Kolya. We met in Chernukhino in the spring of ’15. Zhenya invited Kolya to be our escort. I wanted to write about him then, but it didn’t happen.

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My accidents

My father always said one should write right away. When the impressions are fresh, when it still hurts, and when it’s still with you.
That’s the truth.
There is much that I haven’t written down. Even for myself, even when I had the strength.
For example, I did not write about accidents.
It would seem they are trivial. But I didn’t write because of my mother. We carefully tried to conceal from her what happened. There were hints, there were euphemisms, but never a direct description.

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Donbass Humanitarian Aid, Part 19

Here is the report on the trip to the Donbass in December of 2017 and everything we’ve done since then until mid-March.
I wanted to write this was one of the hardest trips, but then I read earlier reports and realized they are all like that. Though the first visits were dangerous in the direct meaning of the word, since we saw rocket fire and were practically making deliveries under fire as in the besieged Pervomaysk. Just being in LPR was dangerous. Now, of course, it’s different, though things tend to get…complicated. But now we face other problems. Mostly psychological in nature.
We are ordinary people, and our entire team consists of people who were never psychologists or physicians or even volunteers. and sometimes it’s hard to come to grips with the reality of what’s happening. Like human villainy and treachery. Many other things. It’s hard to accept things you can’t change.

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The Right to Choose

I rolled out a huge post about the elections, but then erased it all to hell.
It’s boring, although, to be honest, it’s also boring for you.
Let me tell you one story about being convinced of the rightness of your ideas.
There is a woman, Lyubov Mikhailovna Chernykh from Lugansk. I wrote about her in 2015. This woman lost a leg and an arm during the summer of 2014 when she was scooping out dead chickens. The chicken farm was hit by several shells, the chickens all died and started to rot. To prevent the plague from spreading to other parts of the farm and to the city itself, the chickens had to be removed as quickly as possible. It was unusually hot, and the corpses were decomposing, turning into a plague- and maggot-ridden sludge. The workers and local inhabitants all went out to clean up the mess. It was impossible to remain inside the farm sheds for long–the women (and it was mostly women) were collapsing from the heat and the stench.

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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: littlehirosima@gmail.com. Paypal address: littlehirosima@gmail.com.

Writer

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.

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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.