We’ve been helping Vika for over three years now. We’re helping her and her mom. They live in Lugansk, LPR.
She has diabetes and lost her eyesight. Had TB. Lost a brother, also a diabetic.
That’s the short version.
Why did she lose her eyesight?
Sometime ago I wrote a post about how my nephew asked about her and her eyesight, why she lost it, I curtly replied “war”.
It’s probably the most accurate answer and it’s hard to add anything to it. Even though my posts about Vika are visited by the “all-knowing” who tell me the war had nothing to do with it, it’s Vika own fault and her mom’s too. That they inject insulin improperly, monitor blood sugar improperly, etc. I even stopped getting angry reading these comments. Although initially I would try, with shaking hands, explain how difficult it was to get insulin in LPR in ’14 and ’15. Explain what it’s like to live with no money and ability to buy even test strips. When you are alone, without a husband, with a bedridden mother, and your son is dying. When there is bombing, when you are sitting in a cellar. But I stopped.
You read a post about Vika about once a month on this blog. We’ve been through a lot in these three years. If you want to know more, click on the “Vika” tag at the bottom of this post.
Oksana’s husband went off to the militia almost at once, in ’14. He died on May 9, 2015. This was too much to bear for Oksana, she cut herself away from the outside world. No, she did not go insane. She feeds her kids, talks. But it’s as if she’s living in her own world, not ours. I didn’t see her, our friends went to visit. Zhenya was naturally struck taken aback when he met her. He says that it’s as if he wasn’t talking to her but to a shroud. “Quiet, monotonous, correct speech. But without emotion, empty…”
On the photo, her kids, Masha born in 2010, and Kolya, 2012.
Elena Vasilyevna has 4 children.
It’s a big family, where the oldest son Kolya has Down Syndrome.
And you can probably guess where they are from, since they are on my blog.
Yes, from LPR.
Why didn’t they leave?
Well, they did leave.
They managed to leave within 24 hours when the city was closed by a blockade. And you know how many didn’t manage to leave? How many tried but couldn’t? Or were killed or wounded while trying to leave?
Elena Vasilyevna and her family escaped to Crimea and remained there until the ceasefire.
Then she returned home. And thank God the home was whole, though neighboring ones were hit. And they were not plundered, which is not a rarity either, alas…
Why did they return?
This can’t be answered with a single sentence, I’m afraid.
Do you know how many returned? How many families tried to find work and housing but couldn’t? And it’s hard for a family with 4 kids, one of whom is disabled. Very hard. Incidentally, we returned many families with multiple children who returned. “Who needs us there”. Many kids, all have to be accommodated, fed, work has to be found…And one doesn’t have one’s own house or garden…
Because, you know, they simply went back home.
Friends, here’s the thing.
Lyosha was an ordinary child until the age of 3. Then he had a vaccination and problems began. In the end, he was diagnosed with “mental deficiency, emotional instability”. I don’t know about the vaccination, we’ll leave these debates for the appropriate venues, but it’s a fact he’s 14 and disabled. He lives in Lugansk with his mom who can’t work because she takes care of him. His mood can change in an instant and he loses control. The mom tried to work but it did not end well so she’s afraid to leave him alone for long. They live on a 2,000 ruble pension. Lyosha has to spend the rest of his life taking medications without which things are worse still. He gets fits so extreme that he damages furniture…
I wrote about him in mid-September. I wrote quickly, as an afterthought. But we, or rather Lena and Zhenya, only just got to know them and didn’t realize how complicated things are.
Here’s the crux of the problem.
–Dunyash, how are things?
–Oh, I published a book!
–You don’t say! What kind of book?
–It has something about you, too.
–About me? A book?
–Not the book, but a whole chapter?
–And what do I look like in it?
–As you are. With a mustache?
Have you seen him lately, the devil?
My book about the Donbass was written during the 2015-16 winter. At that time we were busy taking Vika from Lugansk to Moscow to try to save her sight.
Vika was taken in by one of the best opthalmological wards in Moscow. The hospital at FMBA.
While Zhenya and I were driving around Moscow, Vika was smiling from ear to ear and listened to our descriptions of what we saw. We drove through the center, and Our Bellflower kept listening to the street noise. It was her first time in Moscow so she wanted to know every detail.
So I’ve been writing about families whom we’ve been helping. Here’s Katya, and here’s Ulyana, Taisiya, Serhozha. They are like a cartoon flicking in front of one’s eyes, making these texts a monotonous routine for you, and a similar routine for me when it comes to writing them.
There are already over 700 texts on the blog with the “donbass” tag, and there aren’t many reports or thoughts about the war among them. The majority are people stories. Reports. Dear Lord, what word can one use in this context. But they are reports. About aid, but they are also at the same time people stories. Stories of lives of those who are over there. In the midst of war.
I’m literally a typewriter, mechanically cataloguing what I overhear. It’s not pleasant to write these reports. One has to say why we are helping. What happened to the family. Fit it all into simple phrases, without waxing eloquent. Which means it’s very repetitive: “shelling began”, “they escaped only with clothes on their back”, “lived in a cellar”, “husband left”, “a stroke after 2014”, “heart attack”, “the house was destroyed.” And how many stories where children saw their parents die? How many abandoned women? Elderly?
Over 400 (and perhaps more?) on this blog alone.
Not for the typewriter.
She only catalogues. And you read.
That’s just a statement of fact.
This is Lyosha. 14, disabled, lives in Lugansk. Lyosha is a big boy who will never become a responsible adult. Spent the whole life with his family in Lugansk. Yes, shelling, bombing, major deterioration due to the stress.
And yes, Lyosha’s life depends on strong medications he has to take every day. Which were not available in the summer of ’14. There wasn’t even food or electricity. And there is nothing more terrifying than empty pharmacies.
Katya is 13 and she has a class 2 disability. She and her mom lived in Trekhizbenka until 2014. Now it’s controlled by UAF.
When “it began”, shells came every day but they sat in the cellar to the last. And when the “breakthrough” began, they escaped to Lugansk with only their clothes on their backs.” But when they got to Lugansk, it was under fire too. Nobody could believe this would last a long time, or that it was “for real.” Everyone thought it would end any day now. But you yourselves know what it was like in Lugansk. The city was being “killed” from every available weapon. There was no phone service, electricity, the city was “closed.”
After all that, the girl didn’t speak for three months. Nearly all of her problems got worse. She has a whole range of them, including epilepsy, cognitive problems, kidney and sight issues.
When the girl said “mama, I want borshch,” mother started to cry…
Ulyana is a tiny and charming girl with a heart flaw. She is in the hospital every two months.
When she was one, she slept in cellars, dropped to the ground at any sound, and already know that “Hail” and “Hurricane” are not merely “weather problems.” And as any other child from Lugansk, Pervomaysk, or Donetsk, she’s still terrified of any loud noise. Their building was hit many times but their apartment miraculously was untouched.
Across the street, there was a huge construction materials store, Epitsentr. It’s no longer there, nothing was left after 2014. There was a fire station next to it which was deliberately targeted, like other infrastructure sites which were the first to be taken out.
Sasha looks like a hero from Gaidar’s tales. Or perhaps not Gaidar’s, but there is something about him that’s positive and attractive. The pressed lips, the modest but penetrating gaze.
A beautiful boy with a terrible fate.
Sasha lives in Lugansk with his grandmother Taisiya. His mother was wounded by a shell fragment in 2014. They managed to put her entrails back together at the hospital, but she died two years later. He hasn’t seen his father for many years but he has not formally abandoned him and is not about to. Therefore Taisiya cannot obtain any child care benefits. She herself was in a hospital not too long ago following a stroke, with two days in intensive care.